What is Interrogation? (Might Surprise You)


According to the Merriam Webster online dictionary, interrogation means to question formally and systematically.

In other words, interrogation is using almost any means to acquire information from a person that does not want to give it up freely. Whether a murder suspect or a prisoner of war, there is a wide range of techniques may be used to gather the information. What can and cannot be used on America’s civilian population is debatable; however, national security and the war on terror have given interrogators of military origin the ability to do anything short of organ damage. Such techniques have pressed the boundaries of legality, and even warranted considerable backlash from both the American public as well as those of rank within the military and police.

Police interrogation is, in many ways, different from military interrogation. Before formal questioning is conducted a civilian must be read his or her Miranda rights. These rights inform the civilian of his or her right to remain silent and not give information to the police. They also inform the civilian that anything he or she says or does will be recorded and used in court. If a civilian wishes for the interrogation to end he or she need only ask for a lawyer.

Television shows such as The First 48, display live recordings of murder suspect interrogations. Among the many techniques used by both the police and military is a technique called cornering. Cornering is using the environment to your advantage. The suspect may be seated in the corner of a small windowless room. When the officer(s) enter, they sit directly in front of the suspect with their backs to the only available door. This technique serves to help break down the suspect and remove him or her from their comfort zone. As in interviewing, the officer may use direct eye contact and prolonged periods of awkward silence during the questioning in order to achieve the same result as cornering. The officer may use cross interrogation where he or she uses the testimony of another suspect to get answers out of the current suspect.

Military interrogation is different because more techniques are readily available. The suspects or captive terrorists do not get Miranda warnings and are not subject to the same laws governing searches and seizures of US citizens. Modern interrogation techniques in use may vary depending on the information that must be gained. If the person being interrogated is an enemy and threat to the military or American public it may be vital to gather information using tactics that may been seen as torture. Though the United States is anti-torture, some of the techniques just barely fall short of physical bodily harm. Techniques used at the famous Guantanamo Bay prison include waterboarding, white noise treatment, confinement, and sleep deprivation. Waterboarding is when the suspect is strapped to a chair; water is then slowly dripped on his or her face until the person is compelled to talk.  White noise treatment is when a prisoner is confined in a room blindfolded. He or she is then given headphones that play only white noise static at high volumes for long periods of time. Confinement and sleep deprivation include being locked in cells that are barely big enough for a human. The guards may periodically wake up the prisoners with noise or ordered movement. Over time without sleep the body as well as the mind breaks down.

Almost every technique used is meant to take the prisoner out of his or her comfort zone. In some rare cases these techniques have gotten out of hand and have shocked most Americans. The incident involving Abu Ghraib was spurred because of the leakage of pictures and video to the public. These videos showed prisoners being stripped naked and tortured. In many pictures and videos these naked men are forced by their guards to pose in homosexual positions with other inmates, some of the inmates were even collared like dogs by their guards. The public was outraged over the pictures and conduct of the guards, but seemed to be ok with the techniques previously mentioned.

It is debatable whether military tactics fall under the sphere of torture. Depending on your point of view, torture may be either wrong or acceptable. On one hand we have terrorists that are willing to kill thousands of American civilians as well as conduct suicide bombing operations against their own people. On the other hand, there are humans that are going through misery, without a trial.

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