As I have discussed before in parts one, two, and three, proper military interrogations require a substantial degree of personal insight, training, certifications, and techniques. As a result, this series was not intended to be an all-encompassing guide for every type of scenario an interrogator may face. Rather, it should be viewed as a very general guide or introduction to individuals who may be interested in entering the field. Ideally, we would have the best recruits always eager to join and ready to be trained. But reality isn’t like that, and as such it is best to dispel any inaccurate per-conceived notion for future quality growth.

The Art of the (Perceived) Deal

Another article talked about how interrogations are based on the “Art of the Deal”. Which is true, but I will caveat that with one additional word: perceived. The perception that you give me what I want, and I’ll reciprocate with something you may want. This goes along with the incentive approach I talked about last time.  Even if it doesn’t happen or you can’t fully uphold your end of it, just the idea you are working toward upholding your end may be good enough to keep the detainee’s cooperation. Always say “I’ll work on it, but I can’t make promises” or “That decision is not entirely up to me, but I’ll push for it”. But if the detainee wants that extra blanket for his cell, don’t hold out on that. I always told my team not to make specific promises they know they could not keep. If you cannot uphold something as specific and simple like that, it gives the detainee more excuses not to cooperate. On the other hand, don’t make unrealistic promises either, because the detainees will often claim you promised something you know you didn’t. Hell they will do it anyways, but at least you will know you didn’t give them the idea.

Generally, the best type of deal is the perception that his information will bring forth a better future. For example, that cooperation with the U.S. or the host nation government will look favorable toward early release. Or that his actions now will help bring peace to his neighborhood so that his children can go to a school free of violence. Or a calm, secure country can help him grow his business. These type of incentives, the prospect of hope, will always go farther than the immediate here and now.

Culture and Language

Ideally, the military will give you an extensive course in culture and language before deploying overseas. But in most cases, this doesn’t really happen. Like every other training, it falls to time, money, and priorities. During my last mobilization at Fort Hood before heading for Afghanistan, we received history classes on Afghanistan, rudimentary language training in Farsi and Dari (The two official languages in Afghanistan), and some cultural lessons. But many Soldiers took the opportunity to learn some of this on their own accord, because the Army doesn’t have enough time or experts to teach everything. A question was asked if this ever helped during interrogations. It can’t hurt. One time, as a way to keep throwing off the interrogation or stall for time, several detainees kept parroting the statement were only in Afghanistan to steal their land and women. I countered that if he has anyone to blame for that, blame the Taliban for harboring Al Qaeda after 9/11. We were only following the tenets found in Pashtunwali, the ethical and cultural code of the Pushtu people. The attackers were initially guests in our country. The 9/11 hijackers violated the trust we gave to them and attacked us from within. We were only seeking rightful retribution against the organization that funded and directed the attackers, which the Taliban was willing to shelter. And according to his code of conduct, seeking revenge was permissible under Pashtunwali. The detainee didn’t bring up that accusation again. Another positive thing about cultural training is if a Middle East detainee constantly touches your knee or wants to hold hands, it won’t freak you out too much. Maybe.

Now that being said, there is a certain limitation that one needs to realize that no matter how long or extensive your cultural training is, you won’t be fully accepted. Unless you look similar, learned the exact mannerism, and lived for some time in the society you are trying to converse with, there will always be a certain amount of trepidation or wariness you will face. This type of rapport isn’t something a few weeks of cultural and language training will achieve. It’s only natural that the most successful interrogators in the “War on Terror” have generally been individuals who have either come from or spent considerable time in the Middle East and can speak the language.

Keep in mind there are universal cultural traits that will be persistent, regardless of where you find yourself. This may seem obvious, but topics such as family ties, (and as I mentioned before) a better future for the children and ample job opportunities will always strike a positive chord with anyone you are talking to. Also, don’t forget the role the individual has in the their society. Social stature is always an important but overlooked trait to take advantage of during interrogations.