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Effective interrogation without torture 101 from retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington
Hugh Hewitt Show ^ | 2/13/07 | Colonel Stuart Herrington / Hugh

Posted on 02/13/2007 7:18:08 AM PST by Valin

HH: This hour, don’t go anywhere. I’m joined by Colonel Stuart Herrington, retired from the United States Army. He’s a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I don’t know who taught him how to read. They had to send out of state for that, then. He’s a graduate of Duquesne University, University of Florida. He has had a career in human and counterintelligence that few can rival in the United States. Most recently, July of 2006, he was asked by the U.S. Army to train a new organization of Army interrogators, which was being prepared for deployment to Iraq. He has been called back to the service of the flag a couple of times to help with various interrogation related matters. I believe he’s also a consultant to ‘24’. Col. Herrington, welcome to the program.

SH: Thank you very much, Hugh. It’s good to be here.

HH: You’re not a Steelers fan, are you, Colonel?

SH: Oh, I have to say I am.

HH: You know, that’s…it’s a very sad thing when I find otherwise upright Americans who lack football sense.

SH: But my credibility would be zero if I said no.

HH: No, that’s true, but it’s sort of like an accident of birth.

SH: (laughing)

HH: Yeah, I’m from Cleveland, by the way. I still maintain my Browns season tickets, and it’s just, I very rarely meet literate Pittsburghians, so I’m glad to have you here. Colonel, help me out first on the ‘24’ thing. Are you a consultant to the series, or you just talk to them occasionally?

SH: I’m not a consultant. I went up there voluntarily at the behest of an organization called Human Rights First to network with them, and to speak with them a little bit about the interrogation discipline that I grew up in, in the United States Army, and knowing that their show centerpieces interrogation, or what some people would call interrogation, and the fact that they maybe had never met a real interrogator. So I’ve been up there and spoken with the producer and the writers, but I am not retained by them.

HH: Now you know, I think it must be very frustrating for you, given how often interrogation is discussed by people who don’t know what they’re talking about. For example, last week we spoke with the president of the Society For Ethnomusicologists who were upset with the use of music in interrogation. Is…does anyone ever get it right, Colonel?

SH: Regrettably, it’s one of those disciplines that everyone seems to think they know a lot about it, but very few people do, and even fewer have ever really done it.

HH: I know I absolutely know nothing about it, which is why I have never commented on other than asking other people questions. So I’d like to know, how do you think we ought to educate our audience about this, Colonel? What do they need to know first about interrogation when it’s being done by either the American military or American intelligence agencies?

SH: I think the first piece of advice for anyone who really wants to understand interrogation is to zero out and ignore virtually everything that they’ve ever seen on either television or in Hollywood movies, because that’s not interrogation as we know it, as professional interrogators, at all.

HH: And Colonel, how many interrogations have you conducted?

SH: I couldn’t begin to count, but between my service in Vietnam, my interrogation centers that I ran in Panama, another one in Desert Storm, and my current job where I do a lot of interrogation and debriefing, it’s in the thousands.

HH: All right. And you’ve trained a lot of the current American military interrogators who are deployed around the world as well. From the time you began in this human and counterintelligence business to today, how much of the techniques changed as to effective interrogation?

SH: Well, we thought we had it pretty well on track, and that there was a consensus in the discipline that interrogation is a very professionally demanding discipline that requires an understanding of human nature, and essentially how to outsmart and outfox a source who has information that he really doesn’t want to tell you, but it’s your job to get it. And I’d thought for some time that we had a good consensus on that until the Iraq thing came along, and something happened, and people took a wrong turn at the intersection, if you will.

HH: And how did they do that?

SH: Well, there became a notion of what, and I think part of it was because of official policy emanating from the Department of Defense, and then part of it was just that plus osmosis plus the influence of television and the overall pop culture, that interrogators are inquisitors, and that the best way to get information out of people is to “take off the gloves.” And that’s the wrong turn that we took, and it’s a very serious wrong turn, because for a whole variety of reasons, torture and brutality in interrogations is counterproductive.

HH: Does the United States military torture people?

SH: Well, I think if you ask the question has it happened, or have things taken place that are wrong, and that went well over the line, I think the answer is yes, regrettably. Was it a controlled policy, i.e. that what they were doing was something that was sanctioned from on high, my own personal opinion is that some of it was, especially the things that the task force was doing in Iraq with respect to the top fifty of Saddam’s henchmen that they caught, and al Qaeda types. And in some cases, it was just stupid young people with bad leadership and bad skills essentially behaving in an extremely counterproductive and undisciplined fashion, and that’s more what applies to Abu Ghraib.

HH: And has order been restored, in your opinion, to the interrogation techniques of the United States military?

SH: Well, I certainly hope so. I can tell you, Hugh, that I was asked to go to Fort Hood this past summer and spend three straight days, 24 hours on the platform, teaching an entire new generation of young Army interrogators. And the thrust of the invitation was that we needed to get it back on track. I thought after I visited Iraq in December, ’03, and saw some things going on that weren’t right and reported them that they’d fix it right away, and I was disappointed in that they took some measures, but there were still a lot of pretty counterproductive and stupid conduct that took place even after I had reported on it and had come back to the States. But I think by now even the dullest and the thickest of skulls has gotten the message that that’s just not the way to do it.

HH: Now specificity matters a lot when we’re talking about terms like this, so I’d like to run down some of the “interrogation techniques” that people have debated, people who don’t know what they’re talking about, and get your opinions on them.

SH: Okay.

HH: Prolonged periods of standing.

SH: Generally speaking, stupid, as are virtually all techniques that involve making a person, you know, trying to get information from a person by making the person physically in a hurt.

HH: Do you consider that, as a professional, torture?

SH: No, I don’t think that’s torture. I don’t think that’s torture, but I think it’s stupid.

HH: How about sleep deprivation?

SH: I never did it, never had to do it. I realize that it’s in the “repertoire” of a lot of people who fancy themselves interrogators in that it breaks down the defenses, the physical and they hope the psychological defenses of a subject. But again, I never had to resort to that stuff in Vietnam, Panama or the Desert.

HH: Is it torture?

SH: I don’t think it’s torture, not in the sense of torture as commonly understood, i.e. water boarding, pulling out fingernails, electric shock, and stuff like that. I just think it’s counterproductive and stupid.

HH: How about the playing of music, either loudly or repeatedly?

SH: I think that’s stupid as well.

HH: Torture?

SH: Depends on how loud, I guess. I mean, I could conceive of a level of decibels in a speaker right next to someone’s ear which is causing…

HH: Physical pain, yeah.

SH: …physical pain, and possibly irreversible damage, and I certainly wouldn’t go there. A lot of these techniques that are on various lists, some of which, you know, have to be approved at a certain level in order to be carried out, I don’t sign up to, even if someone else has.

HH: What about temperature deprivation, you know, extremes of hot and cold, though not of course the sort of extremes that kill people?

SH: Cruel and stupid.

HH: Torture?

SH: Could be, depending on how cold, depending on how hot.

HH: So how do you define torture, Colonel?

SH: Well, everybody’s got their own definition, I guess, but to me, torture is brutal, possibly physically and or psychologically extremely damaging treatment, demeaning, but demeaning to the extreme. And it’s one of those things that as the pundit once said, for me, anyway, I know it when I see it.

HH: Yeah, Justice Stewart in being asked to define pornography said that, I know it when I see it.

SH: Exactly. That’s the famous quote.

HH: Now given all that, do you believe that the military is consistently applying what you believe to be good judgment now in its interrogations at Guantanamo and in Iraq?

SH: You know, I really can’t speak from firsthand experience in Guantanamo or Iraq right now, because my Guantanamo visit was within three months after they started it in ’02. My Iraq trip was in December, ’03. That said, there have been so many visitors, including a lot with a lot of credibility, to Guantanamo, who have pronounced that it’s the most human, cleanest, high tech, safest incarceration facility that in some cases, the inspectors have ever seen, that I would tend to believe that in the wake of everything that’s happened, and in the wake of huge investment in Guantanamo, that the American people don’t have to worry about how people are being treated there.

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HH: A little bit more background on Col. Herrington. His military awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, five awards of the Legion of Merit, two Bronze Stars, the Air Medal, Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry with two Bronze Stars. He was also twice awarded the CIA’s Agency Seal Medallion in connection with key national counterespionage cases in his actions during Operation Desert Storm. He’s the author of several books, including Stalking the Vietcong: Inside Operation Phoenix, and Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catchers’ World. Colonel, is it true you were on the Embassy roof in 1975 in Vietnam?

SH: That’s very true, and very sad, yes.

HH: What were you doing there?

SH: I was assigned to Saigon at the time during the ceasefire as an intelligence officer in the missing in action negotiation team that was formed as a result of the Paris Accords of January, ’73, and that put me in Saigon. And so when the situation began to deteriorate, why I, and a very small handful of other American military, were still in country under the terms of the treaty, so that put us in a position of being the executors of the evacuation.

HH: So you’ve…I want to get back to interrogation, but you’ve seen America lose wars before, and the aftermath.

SH: Yeah.

HH: With that experience, what do you think about the situation in Iraq today?

SH: Well, it’s somewhat distressing, because you know, during my four years in Vietnam, the last two being during the time when we were defeating that insurgency, and finally broken the code on how to do it, and it was obvious that insurgencies could be defeated, there was a huge body of knowledge of insurgencies imparted to a lot of people like myself. We’ve gone down the road in Iraq as if all that experience didn’t exist. And now, they find themselves up against the wall, facing the possibility, if they don’t get their act together, that some poor American captain, just like I was back then, is going to have to leave the roof of the Embassy in the Green Zone, and say to the Iraqis who trusted us, sorry about that. We changed our mind. That is a very depressing thought to me.

HH: John Burns, the New York Times reporter who I’ll be interviewing next hour, it’s a replay of Friday’s interview, suggested that the casualties in Iraq in November, December, were 3,700, but that the night we leave, it’ll be 3,700 in one night, that the bloodbath will be extraordinary, and that we just have to look that squarely in the eyes. Do you agree with that assessment?

SH: I think it’s probably even worse than that, but I agree with him that the consequences of our country vacillating in its commitments, and promising people we’re with you all the way, just stand up and vote for democracy, and then turning around after a few years, and saying gee, sorry about that, that’s a pretty bleak prospect, and it says not much good about our country.

HH: What do you think about General David Petraeus?

SH: I think he’s a really enlightened, bright guy who embodies a lot of the institutional knowledge that was so often forgotten in the Army. I think he proved it when he commanded the 101st in the northern part of Iraq at the beginning by the way, his troops comported themselves. I think he’s the right man for the right job. I desperately, desperately hope and pray that he can pull it off.

HH: Have you read the new counterinsurgency manual he superintended when at Leavenworth?

SH: I have not seen the new counterinsurgency manual, but because I participate actively in the counterinsurgency inner circle of people out there who do know about it, and a lot of them worked with it, I know that it’s a pretty good manual.

HH: How important is intelligence to counterinsurgency success?

SH: It’s critical.

HH: And how do you get it?

SH: You get it from people, and ideally, the best sources of information are people, prisoners and detainees exploited humanely in conjunction with documents, and that was the lesson learned of the Vietnam War, that the very best source of intelligence was from defectors and prisoners who were exploited very carefully in conjunction with documents.

HH: Can we talk a bit about humane exploitation, Col. Herrington?

SH: Sure.

HH: What’s it look like?

SH: Well, you know, it doesn’t look like Abu Ghraib, I can tell you that.

HH: Well, sure, but I think we agree with that. I mean, I don’t think I know of anyone who has endorsed that, and it’s…

SH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Basically, when a guy is captured, he’s stressed, he is frightened, and he’s probably expecting to be mistreated, because in most societies in the world, that’s the way it works. Disarming him psychologically, by treating him in a manner the opposite of what he expects, extending decent, humane treatment to him, showing concern for himself, his needs, being nimble in assessing and evaluating the person, and recognizing that getting information from someone is developmental, i.e. you won’t get information from someone, generally speaking, just by saying okay, I’m the captor, you’re the prisoner, tell me what you know. You earn it. I like to say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed probably didn’t give up a lot of the information that he gave up because somebody started water boarding him and beating him up. Instead, they used a very clever approach, and played to his ego and his psychological need to be recognized as the architect of 9/11, and the guy talked. In all of the successful interrogation projects that I’ve ever had anything to do with, extending fundamentally decent treatment to the detainees, we even used to call them guests. And you know, the guards would salute a prisoner if he was an officer, and we give them good food, and we would tell them it was unconditional, regardless of whether they chose to talk with us or not. And that type of an approach has a very high batting average.

HH: Now at Guantanamo Bay, there are some pretty hard cases, people who have been trained, obviously, who are motivated not by ideology but by religious fanaticism, and I distinguish between secular are religious…

SH: Right.

HH: And they’re not talking, are they, Colonel?

SH: There’s a lot of talking going on at Guantanamo. I can’t give you firsthand, you know, a matrix of successes and how many sources, but there’s a lot of talking going on down there. And my own take on it is that in talking with sources, you’ve got to be developmental, and you’ve got to understand that when they’re religiously motivated and fanatical, as a lot of the Islamists are, your batting average might not be what our batting average was in Vietnam, Panama, or Desert Storm. And by the way, our batting average was always 80-90% talked.

HH: And that means credible, reliable information that proved accurate?

SH: Credible…that’s right. Instead of spitting in your eye and saying you know, I’m a general officer in the army of Iraq, and I don’t talk to my captors, I’ll give you my name and my service number, as opposed to that approach, the person agrees to talk, engage in a dialogue, talks day after day after day, never sure what you don’t know and what you do know, and in doing that, he makes your day, because basically, you’re gathering excellent assessment data about him as a person, you’re being able to evaluate what a good approach might be to get further, and you get information. When you’re dealing with religious fanatics, let’s just say the batting average goes down to say four out of ten, instead of eight or nine out of ten that we traditionally got, the reason being the fanaticism and the religious motivation. You know what? Four out of ten, you know, when Ted Williams hit four out of ten, he was a hero. Four out of ten for an interrogator is a very good batting average. He’s getting good information.

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HH: Col., I’m getting a couple of standard questions. Number one, from pilots who have gone through water boarding training in their survival courses, why do you consider it torture?

SH: Well, water boarding is very much like another technique that was used during the Vietnam War by the Vietnamese, where they put a poncho over the head of the person, and then poured water through the poncho into the mouth, simulating drowning. It’s an inhumane…it’s inhumane treatment, it’s the kind of treatment that is essentially trying to extract information from someone by creating a fear of imminent death, not unlike and analogous to mock executions. We will have made progress in this arena when people realize that the way you get information from someone is to outsmart them, and use guile and stealth and chicanery to trick them into information, or secondarily, and the best way, is to persuade the person that it’s the right thing to do to talk.

HH: Is it effective? Is water boarding effective?

SH: Boy, you know what? I can’t tell you that. I’ve never practiced it. I consider it to be abhorrent, a practice that shouldn’t be practiced by any professional interrogator, and you’re going to have to ask someone other than me. But I, generally speaking, know from experience that when you levy brutality against a person in order to get that person to talk, even if the person hasn’t got anything to say, or doesn’t know what it is that you want, they’ll come up with something to say just to get you to quit doing it.

HH: Do you play on fears of family and their safety, not reprisal, but you know, going back to be with them? Is that effective?

SH: You know, the developmental approach involves engaging someone in conversation and evaluating them. And certainly, I’ve had cases where family played a big part. I once had a prisoner in Panama, for example, who was on his second day of captivity, was in tears, and was depressed, and the guards told me they were worried about him. When I went to see him, it turned out that you know, he’d been captured for three days, his wife didn’t know if he was dead or alive. He had an 18 month old child at home, and he was just totally depressed and in a deep funk over it. I got a cell phone, and we called his wife. I was his friend for life after that.

HH: Now an e-mail. Mr. Hewitt, can you ask the Colonel if we would authorize torture regarding someone who knows of a nuke about to go off in minutes or hours.

SH: Yeah, that’s the so-called ticking time bomb scenario. The difficulty with that is that that question poses a hypothetical which in my experience, I never ran into a hypothetical like that. If you pose the rectitude, or lack thereof, of torture based upon that hypothetical, you’re not really dealing in the real world. That’s my answer to that.

HH: In an era when we’ve had attempted dirty bomb importation into the United States, and we’ve had WMD used here, in anthrax, at least, are there some circumstances where at least at a classified lever, people ought to walk through those scenarios, to have the rules laid down in stone, Colonel?

SH: I’m sorry, but I didn’t get the thrust of that.

HH: The thrust is, should…I don’t know whether you want to do it publicly, but shouldn’t the military be walking through those scenarios, and establishing the guidelines right now, so that they’re not improvised when and if such hypotheticals occur?

SH: You mean the interrogation guidelines?

HH: Yeah.

SH: Yeah, well I think the answer to that is that you know, the type of information you’re trying to get is obviously situation dependent, and sometimes the situation is more critical than others, but there’s got to be, and that’s what’s going on now, a healthy deliberation, and a laying down of here are the procedures…and this has been done already, here are the procedures that are authorized, here are some more aggressive procedures that are not authorized without the approval of so and so, and here are procedures that you will never do, and so that everyone knows basically what the ground rules are, so there’s no room for hot doggery, you know?

HH: I’ll take calls after the break. I’m going to give you the e-mail before we go to break. Mr. Hewitt, just heard the Colonel mention the tactic of deep respect as a way of getting what one wants from prisoners. Can you ask him if he really believes this will work with our current enemy, who engage in torture as a daily occurrence, and sees anything less used on them as a sign of weakness. He appears to be an idealist living in another era when the convention of Geneva might have meant something to our enemy. Well, not really when you think of the North Koreans, Japs, Germans, Viet Cong or other enemies for that matter. We go to break in 30 seconds, Colonel. You want to start?

SH: I basically understand why your viewer, or listener would say that, but my sense of it is that there’s quite a lot of successes that he’s never heard of, of people talking, and people whom you would never think would talk because they are fanatical Islamists or what have you, and that just never makes the headlines.

- - - -

HH: Col., one more e-mail, and then to the phones, Col. Hugh, please ask the Colonel is sodium pentothal or other sedative anesthetics are okay? That’s from a doctor. What do you think, Colonel?

SH: Again, foreign to my experience. They’ve been toyed with, tampered with and played with by intelligence agencies around the world. Generally speaking, though, not a reliable way to get good information. They tend to relax the person’s stresses and senses, and put them in a little bit of a less inhibited mode, but they’re not a substitute for professional exploitation. Hugh, I’d like to add something here…

HH: Go ahead.

SH: …to your e-mailer who talked about the seeming idealism of what I’ve said.

HH: Right.

SH: Listeners shouldn’t get the impression that this is one giant love fest, and that you set up this resort facility and bring these people in, and you know, treat them unconditionally well for nothing. It’s a very cleverly constructed approach to essentially deal with people in a fashion that enables you to evaluate and assess them, and then go for the weak points. It could be, for example, an Iraqi general who’s captured, and he’s humiliated, and he’s a very hard core Saddamist, and you might just spend some time showing him photographs of the scope of the catastrophe that Saddam’s 42 divisions just met, and direct his anger not at the United States or the coalition, but at Saddam…

HH: Interesting.

SH: …at which point in time he starts to talk. So there’s a lot of very, very specialized effort to turn a person by showing the person information that causes the person’s frustrations and anxieties and anger to be directed against his leader, his country, instead of against the interrogator or the capturing powers.

HH: How long does it take to train an interrogator, Colonel?

SH: They train them in Arizona, and it’s a pretty long course, months and months in length with a lot of practices on approaches. And probably not as much about human nature and psychology as I think they ought to include, but it’s a pretty thorough, and it’s a pretty rigorous course, and of course, one of the things that they’re really emphasizing now is, even though it feels good to say let’s take the gloves off, and some of your listeners have alluded to that…

HH: Oh, I’m getting lots of that, yup.

SH: Yeah, you get a lot of that. The reality is that number one, we condemn everyone else when they do that, and why should we do it and lower ourselves to that level. And number two, apart from the fact that it’s illegal and immoral, it’s a lousy way to get good information.

HH: How effective are the jihadists’ anti-interrogation trainings turning out to be?

SH: I’ve read the manual, you know, the so-called Manchester document that was seized several years back. It’s very evident to me that that manual was produced with the assistance of a professional intelligence service, probably the Pakistani, in my opinion, you know, feigning knowledge, lack of knowledgeability, feigning illness, claiming that they don’t know anything, and a lot of the other techniques that they use are…they’re common, they’re common, but again, a good interrogator smells that and has to get around it. And there are ways to do it.

HH: Dear Hugh, please, please ask your guest what he would say to the Congress regarding the meaningless resolutions that are currently be debated in relation to additional troops being sent to Iraq.

SH: It’s déjà vu all over again, 1974, 1975 in Vietnam. And if that’s what they want, that’s what they’ll get.

HH: Jim in Atlanta, you’re on with Col. Herrington. Go ahead, Jim.

Jim: Thank you. Colonel Herrington, I’m largely persuaded by what you said. I still need a little more persuading in one little area. Let’s say you have somebody like Osama or al-Zawahiri, and you knew he knew where some really big terrorist hits were going to be. Would you then…plus, they’re fanatics, and they’re much less likely to talk. Would you then use some coercion, or even a lot? Or could you?

SH: Like you, Jim, I’m no fan of Ayman al-Zawahiri’s. But when you get a guy who’s at fanatical as he is, and let’s suppose that he, let’s grant the hypothetical that he has this information between his ears. Rather than try and brutalize it out of him, I’d try every other approach that I could think of, including in his case, ego. That said, no I wouldn’t brutalize him. And my sense of it is that in most cases like that, people who are fanatical jihadists, if you start to really, really apply torture and that sort of stuff to them, if it’s a ticking time bomb scenario, they’re just going to give you false information, send you down a wild goose chase to use up the time that you might have to get where you want to go. So no, I’m not, I won’t cave on that, even though I share your sentiments about this guy.

HH: Thank you much, Jim. Let’s go to Allen in Sherman Oaks. Hi, Allen, you’re on the Hugh Hewitt Show with Col. Herrington.

Allen: Hi. Say, when I relate this story to some friends of mine, they tell me that I’m an idiot. It had to do with a book that I read a while back on the Russian interrogation techniques during the 1934-35 show trial period…

SH: Yeah.

Allen: And the story was there was a defector to moved to Canada and then the United States, and the story was that they were prohibited, or that the rules were you never laid a hand on a prisoner, you never exerted any physical pressure on him, and that in fact, that there was a system of interrogators, some of them were stars, and some of them were dunces.

HH: All right. Let’s find out. Thank you, Allen. What do you think, Colonel? Is that how the Russians did it?

SH: You know, I’ve also heard about that book, and I’ve heard that the techniques of the then-MGB were surprisingly psychological versus brutal. It doesn’t surprise me, though. All professional interrogation organizations have somebody who sees the best way to do it. The Germans who interrogated our pilots at Oberursel, Germany, during World War II, had an interrogator named Hans Scharf who treated them so well that even though they all spilled their guts, he was a member of their club after World War II, came to the States, became a citizen, and a beloved member of their veteran’s association.

- - - -

HH: Before I get a couple more calls in, Colonel, anything that you’ve wanted to say that we just didn’t find the opportunity to say, or you want to say a second time?

SH: Oh, I think you posed a tantalizing question about Jack Bauer, and my sense of this one is that the readers should stay tuned, because I have a feeling he’s going to get it right, eventually.

HH: Oh, how interesting. Now by the way, how am I doing as an interrogator?

SH: I think you’re doing real well. You’re eliciting in a cheerful, good-natured fashion, disarming my natural defenses so that I feel compelled to say whatever it is you wish.

HH: You know, it just didn’t work with Andrew Sullivan. That’s the…do you read his stuff, by the way, Colonel?

SH: No.

HH: Okay, just checking…San Diego, Frank. You’re on with Colonel Herrington.

Frank: Yes, hello, Hugh, This is Miramar Frank. We haven’t talked in a while.

HH: Good to talk with you, Frank. Good to have you.

Frank: Yeah, good to talk with you. Listen, a couple of things. One, I wanted to touch on what Colonel Herrington was saying. I spent three years as a training officer at the Navy Survival Evasion Resistance Escape School. I did not conduct operational interrogations while I was there, but the Colonel will understand that I certainly had a great opportunity to conduct many simulated issues where we raised the bar for the young pilots and high risk personnel that go through there on interrogation techniques, and he’s absolutely right. There’s no doubt about it that the soft approach, though we don’t have as much time, months and months and months, but the soft approach often is much more effective, and I have water boarded, personally, several hundred people, and I can tell you over time, it is the ability to…it’s why it’s called intelligence. We need to take an intelligent approach to taking this interrogation, especially with the bad guys.

HH: Frank, thanks for your service. I’ll give the last minute to the Colonel to respond to that.

SH: Well, Frank’s my kind of guy. He’s from San Diego here. It’s always good to get a vote of yeah verily on something like this. I would only say to all of your listeners that there is a very, very sophisticated way of exploiting human sources that’s time tested as being the most effective, and it is not brutalizing people. And when we go the wrong road and we brutalize people, we take an episode, or a series of episodes at a very low level like that stupid Abu Ghraib prison, and we escalate the impact of that conduct to the detriment of our country. And look what has happened to our country and to the support for the war effort simply because of the stupidity of Abu Ghraib. So it’s right to do it the way I’ve proposed, it’s worked, it’s time tested. Almost all professional interrogators know that. And we should go that way.

HH: Colonel Herrington, thank you. Next time around, we’ll work on your Steelers problem. I appreciate your service, Colonel.

End of interview.

TOPICS: Extended News; Government; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: counterintelligence; gitmo; touture; waterboarding
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1 posted on 02/13/2007 7:18:15 AM PST by Valin
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To: Valin

Audio Here
Col. Stuart Herrington

Hewitt: Hour 2 - Hugh spends the hour discussing torture and interrogation, separating reality from television and movies, with one of the leading experts in the field of intelligence and interrogation, retired Army Colonel Stuart Herrington

2 posted on 02/13/2007 7:19:19 AM PST by Valin (History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
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To: Valin

I'm sort of curious as to the reaction this article gets on FR.

3 posted on 02/13/2007 7:29:17 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Valin
SH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Basically, when a guy is captured, he’s stressed, he is frightened, and he’s probably expecting to be mistreated, because in most societies in the world, that’s the way it works. Disarming him psychologically, by treating him in a manner the opposite of what he expects, extending decent, humane treatment to him, showing concern for himself, his needs, being nimble in assessing and evaluating the person, and recognizing that getting information from someone is developmental, i.e. you won’t get information from someone, generally speaking, just by saying okay, I’m the captor, you’re the prisoner, tell me what you know. You earn it. I like to say that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed probably didn’t give up a lot of the information that he gave up because somebody started water boarding him and beating him up. Instead, they used a very clever approach, and played to his ego and his psychological need to be recognized as the architect of 9/11, and the guy talked. In all of the successful interrogation projects that I’ve ever had anything to do with, extending fundamentally decent treatment to the detainees, we even used to call them guests. And you know, the guards would salute a prisoner if he was an officer, and we give them good food, and we would tell them it was unconditional, regardless of whether they chose to talk with us or not. And that type of an approach has a very high batting average.

Hummm.... Why not take the 'guests' to Dinseyland, maybe they will share and like us more?

4 posted on 02/13/2007 7:29:29 AM PST by TexasCajun
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To: Valin

I have a good friend who debriefed captured Iraqis during the Gulf war, and I can tell you he would never even consider torturing anyone. In fact, it was common practice to announce over loudspeakers that the Iraqis should surrender to avoid getting killed in the attack we were about to launch. That was not only smart of us but an awfully humanitarian approach. He would then debrief the soldiers who surrendered.

5 posted on 02/13/2007 7:29:58 AM PST by Williams
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To: Valin

No no no. You see, under the new liberal, "do anything to ensure we can't fight a war," definition of torture, interrogation and torture are one and the same. For example, asking a captured terrorist what he had for lunch without his lawyer present is torture,pure unadulterated torment of the highest kind. Hell, according to the left, you might as well stick him in the Iron Maiden, what is the difference?

6 posted on 02/13/2007 7:30:15 AM PST by FlipWilson
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To: TexasCajun

Question: What do you want? do you want to win this war, and get the intel we need to do that or make yourself feel good?

7 posted on 02/13/2007 7:41:26 AM PST by Valin (History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
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To: TexasCajun

The old manual read: "when there's too much fat, do not heat the hook as the fat would cool it. Instead, take the pincers and tear the lard away"

8 posted on 02/13/2007 7:45:34 AM PST by GSlob
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To: Valin
Question: What do you want? do you want to win this war, and get the intel we need to do that or make yourself feel good?

As mentioned deep in the article this is one of those areas of knowledge where what people THINK it is, is so completely defined by TV and films that have nothing to do with reality it's probably going to be hopeless to even discuss the issue with people.

9 posted on 02/13/2007 7:46:00 AM PST by Strategerist
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To: Strategerist
probably going to be hopeless to even discuss the issue with people.

And yet I continue to try. I thrive on hopeless tasks! :-)

So many people don't THINK. They are angry and impatient, always a bad combination.
10 posted on 02/13/2007 7:52:31 AM PST by Valin (History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
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To: Valin

I'll go with what works in a timely fashion, though I think torure works. I know I'd spill my guts quickly...

And an awful lot of the people we let go show up fighing us again. I don't think I'd do a catch and release program - unless I was relasing 'em from 10,000 feet up, over the ocean, with no parachute.

11 posted on 02/13/2007 7:59:31 AM PST by Little Ray
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To: Valin
The Man in the Snow White Cell No Respite

As Tai must have anticipated, his confession did not end his ordeal. After giving him a short rest as a reward, his South Vietnamese interrogators came back with a request that he provide details about his personal background and history. Tai refused, and the torture resumed. He was kept sitting on a chair for weeks at a time with no rest; he was beaten; he was starved; he was given no water for days; and he was hung from the rafters for hours by his arms, almost ripping them from their sockets. After more than six months of interrogation and torture, Tai felt his physical and psychological strength ebbing away; he knew his resistance was beginning to crack. During a short respite between torture sessions, to avoid giving away the secrets he held in his head during the physical and psycho-logical breakdown he could feel coming, Tai tried to kill himself by slashing his wrists. The South Vietnamese caught him before he managed to inflict serious injury, and then backed off to let him recuperate.

Tai says he sustained himself during this period by constantly remembering his obligations to his friends and his family. At one point, when he was shown a photograph of his father, he swore to himself "that I will never do anything to harm the Party or my family's honor."22

Exactly what motivated him is difficult to say, but the key appears to be the reference to "my family's honor." As the educated son of an intellectual rather than a member of the favored "worker-peasant" class, it is likely that Tai's loyalties to the Party had been questioned many times. Tai does not disclose, nor does any outsider really know, what happened between Tai and his family when his father was criticized and fell out of favor with the Party shortly after the communist takeover of North Vietnam in 1954. He may have felt a need to prove his loyalty at that time. If, as Snepp wrote and Tai's interrogators believed, Tai helped prosecute his father during this period, his memoir suggests that he subsequently reconciled with his father and appears to have resolved never to cause such pain to his family again. Human psychology is a tricky business, of course, but in this case what appeared on the outside to be an exploitable weakness--Tai's apparent betrayal of his father--had been turned into a strength.

Lest anyone be too quick to condemn Tai's South Vietnamese interrogators, we should remember that the prisoner had just spent five years directing vicious attacks against these same men, their friends, their colleagues, and their families. They knew that if Tai escaped or was released, he would come after them again. During 1970, the last year of Tai's freedom, in spite of the losses his organization had suffered during the Tet offensive, communist accounts boast of at least three bombings and several assassinations conducted by Tai's personnel against South Vietnamese police and intelligence officers in Saigon.23 It was as if members of the New York Police Department were suddenly handed Osama bin Laden and asked to extract a confession. If things got "a little rough," that certainly should not have come as a surprise to anyone. In addition, accounts by US prisoners of war of their torture by North Vietnamese interrogators at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" reveal that the methods of physical torture used on them were identical to methods Tai says were used on him. The war was vicious on all sides; no one's hands were clean.

The White Cell

What might have happened if the torture had continued can only be guessed. In the fall of 1971, Tai's superiors made a move that ensured his survival. On 9 October, US Army Sgt. John Sexton was released by his communist captors and walked into American lines west of Saigon carrying a note written by Tran Bach Dang, the secretary of the Saigon-Gia Dinh Party Committee. The letter contained an offer to exchange Tai and another communist prisoner, Le Van Hoai, for Douglas Ramsey, a Vietnamese-speaking State Department officer who had been held by the communists since 1966 and whom the communists believed was a US intelligence officer.24 Tai's torture and interrogation immediately ended. Even though the negotiations for an exchange quickly broke down, Tai had suddenly become, as his communist superiors intended, too valuable for his life to be placed in jeopardy.25 He was now a pawn in a high-level political game.

In early 1972, Tai was informed he was being taken to another location to be interrogated by the Americans. After being blindfolded, he was transported by car to an unknown location and placed in a completely sealed cell that was painted all in white, lit by bright lights 24 hours a day, and cooled by a powerful air-conditioner (Tai hated air conditioning, believing, like many Vietnamese, that cool breezes could be poisonous). Kept in total isolation, Tai lived in this cell, designed to keep him confused and disoriented, for three years without learning where he was.26

Tai's interrogation began anew. This time the interrogator was a middle-aged American whom Tai knew as "Paul." Paul was actually Peter Kapusta, a veteran CIA Soviet/Eastern Europe counterintelligence specialist with close ties to the famed and mysterious chief of CIA counter-intelligence, James Jesus Angleton.27 Even by Tai's account, Kapusta and the other Americans who interrogated him ("Fair," "John," and Frank Snepp) never mistreated him in any way, although Tai was always suspicious of American attempts to trick him into doing something that might cause his suspicious bosses back in the jungle to believe he was cooperating with the "enemy." Kapusta and the other American officers tried to win Tai's trust by giving him medical care, extra rations, and new clothing (most of which Tai claims to have refused or destroyed for fear of compromising his own strict standards of "revolutionary morality"). They also played subtly on his human weaknesses--his aversion to cold, his need for companionship, and his love for his family.28

According to his memoirs, Tai decided he would shift tactics after learning that he was being returned to American control. Rather than refusing to respond with any answers other than "No" or "I don't know," as he had with the South Vietnamese, he now resolved: "I will answer questions and try to stretch out the questioning to wait for the war to end. I will answer questions but I won't volunteer anything. The answers I give may be totally incorrect, but I will stubbornly insist that I am right."

In other words, Tai would engage in a dialogue, something he could not trust himself to do when being tortured by the South Vietnamese out of fear that his weakened condition and confused mental state might cause him to slip and inadvertently reveal some vital secret. He would play for time, trying to remain in American custody as long as possible in order to keep himself out of the hands of the South Vietnamese, whom he believed would either break him or kill him. This meant he would have to engage in a game of wits with the Americans, selectively discussing with them things they already knew, or that were not sensitive, while staying vigilant to protect Public Security's deepest secrets: the identities of its spies, agents, and assassins. This was, however, a tricky strategy, and even Tai admits that it led him into some sensitive areas. Interestingly, Tai blames the communist radio and press for broadcasting public reports on some sensitive subjects, thereby making it impossible for him to deny knowledge of such areas. Sounding not unlike many American military and intelligence officers during the Vietnam War, Tai writes:

I had always been firmly opposed to the desires of our propaganda agencies to discuss secret matters in the public media....Now, because the "Security of the Fatherland" radio program had openly talked about the [Ministry's] "Review of Public Security Service Operations," I was forced to give them [the Americans] some kind of answer.30

Peter Kapusta worked on Tai for several months and believed he was making progress. Then he was reassigned. Washington sent Frank Snepp to take over the case.

Snepp decided to try a new ploy to crack Tai's facade. Like other American officers who had interrogated Tai, Snepp did not speak Vietnamese. Interrogations were always conducted using a South Vietnamese interpreter, usually a young woman. Snepp decided to cut the South Vietnamese completely out of the interrogation to see if this might lead Tai to speak more freely. One day he brought in a Vietnamese-speaking American interpreter to take over the duty.

Tai, ever suspicious, believed that as long as Vietnamese were directly involved in his interrogation, there was a chance that word about him might leak out to his "comrades" on the outside. If the Americans took over completely, Tai's superiors would have no chance of locating him, or of verifying his performance during the interrogation. Tai was always desperately concerned with leaving a clear record for his superiors to find that would prove he had not cooperated with his interrogators. He believed this was essential for his own future and that of his family. As a professional security officer, Tai was well aware of the Vietnamese communist practice of punishing succeeding generations for the sins of their fathers. He decided to force the Americans to bring back the South Vietnamese interpreter by pretending not to be able to understand the American, whom he admits spoke Vietnamese perfectly well.

The ploy worked in the end. Meanwhile, however, it led to the author's only involvement in this case. As Tai had planned, Snepp became angry and frustrated, blaming the American interpreter for the lack of results. After the session, Snepp came to see me (we had become friends during his first tour in Vietnam), told me of his unhappiness with the "performance" of the interpreter (who was a close colleague of mine), and asked if I would be free to interpret for him in future sessions with Tai. As it happened, I was not available, and Snepp was forced to return to the use of an ethnic Vietnamese interpreter. I always wondered what could possibly have caused the problem that Frank described to me that afternoon. Thirty years later, when I read Tai's memoir, I finally understood.

12 posted on 02/13/2007 8:04:34 AM PST by vbmoneyspender
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To: Little Ray

The question is, is it effective? (example: what the NV's did to American POWs, what information did they get?) From what I've read about it torture is not and never has been effective in getting intel. Also I wonder what torture does to the interrogator? nothing good I suspect.

13 posted on 02/13/2007 8:06:41 AM PST by Valin (History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
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To: Strategerist
I'm sort of curious as to the reaction this article gets on FR.

The whole point is the intelligence. If one technique results in more and better intelligence than another, then that's the way to go. If harsher methods don't produce, and I believe him when he says they don't, then they shouldn't be used.

I have no soft spot for terrorists at all. If cutting off fingers one at a time produced good intel, I'd probably be OK with it. But it just doesn't.

14 posted on 02/13/2007 8:07:29 AM PST by TChris (The Democrat Party: A sewer into which is emptied treason, inhumanity and barbarism - O. Morton)
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To: Valin


15 posted on 02/13/2007 8:07:53 AM PST by dennisw (What one man can do another can do -- "The Edge")
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To: Valin

If torure not effective, don't do it, make sure the enemy knows you don't do it, and make sure the troops know not to do it, and emphasize to them what you gain by not torturing the scumbags you capture.

That said, I still think this "torture is not effective" stuff is wishful thinking - for something that doesn't work, folks have been doing it for a long time! (Sorta like man-made "global warming" today. Its "true" because it fits a lot of folks agendas.)
And I think the NVA got whatever their prisoners had to tell them (including, IIRC, false confessions), which might not have been much.

16 posted on 02/13/2007 8:15:35 AM PST by Little Ray
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To: Little Ray

People have been doing stupid things for a very long time..that doesn't make them right or effective.
I want the intel, and if treating the terrorist good gets it...all the better.

17 posted on 02/13/2007 8:25:31 AM PST by Valin (History takes time. It is not an instant thing.)
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To: FlipWilson

This may be one of the most important posts on FR in a while in terms of understanding the process and successful means of doing interrogation, but you are right about the defining role of words in the media battle. The 'new speak' has blurred the lines between what is to be called 'torture,' and to our peril.

18 posted on 02/13/2007 8:38:41 AM PST by Amalie (FREEDOM had NEVER been another word for nothing left to lose...)
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To: Valin

Yup. Better for them, but much, much better for us.

19 posted on 02/13/2007 9:40:54 AM PST by Little Ray
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To: Valin

They didn't mention Colonel Herrington's memoir of his Vietnam service, Silence Was A Weapon. This book is a classic, and deserves a place in any counterinsurgency/CT library.

20 posted on 02/13/2007 12:12:38 PM PST by tanuki
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