The Army Field Manual

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Brennan Linsley / AP

Guantanamo Bay detention center

Human Intelligence Collector Operations
"The Army Field Manual"
Department of the Army
September 2006

The Gist:

On the second day of his presidency, Barack Obama wanted to send a clear message: The United States does not torture. An executive order signed by Obama now requires that interrogations of anyone in U.S. custody follow what's known as the Army Field Manual. The 384-page book lays out 19 interrogation techniques permitted by law and prohibits nine categories of others, including waterboarding, used by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush Administration, as well as forcing prisoners to be naked, as happened in the Abu Ghraib prisoner scandal. The Army Field Manual itself is specific; it includes precise instructions on the steps U.S. interrogators are to follow when trying to get information out of detainees, right down to how to establish rapport and when to take advantage of the emotional attachments of a prisoner.

(See photos of the Abu Ghraib torture incident)

Highlight Reel:

1. On the disadvantages of torturing people in U.S. custody: "Use of torture is not only illegal but also it is a poor technique that yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say what he thinks the [interrogator] wants to hear. Use of torture can also have many possible negative consequences at national and international levels."

2. Prohibited interrogation methods that many would say constitute torture: "Forcing the detainee to be naked, perform sexual acts, or pose in a sexual manner; Placing hoods or sacks over the head of a detainee; using duct tape over the eyes; Applying beatings, electric shock, burns, or other forms of physical pain; "Waterboarding"; Using military working dogs; Inducing hypothermia or heat injury; Conducting mock executions; Depriving the detainee of necessary food, water, or medical care."

3. On how to tell if a prisoner is lying: "Body language does not match verbal message. An extreme example of this would be the source relating a harrowing experience while sitting back in a relaxed position ... If the source's physical appearance does not match his story, it may be an indication of deceit. Examples of this include the source who says he is a farmer but lacks calluses on his hands..."

4. On the limits of deceiving a prisoner in the name of getting information: "[The interrogator] may, according to international law, use ruses of war to build rapport with interrogation sources, and this may include posing or "passing himself off" as someone other than a military interrogator. However, the collector must not pose as: A doctor, medic, or any other type of medical personnel; Any member of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) or its affiliates. Such a ruse is a violation of U.S. treaty obligations; A chaplain or clergyman; A journalist; A member of the U.S. Congress."

5. On the "Emotional Love Approach" interrogators can use to get information from prisoners: "Love in its many forms (friendship, comradeship, patriotism, love of family) is a dominant emotion for most people. [The interrogator] focuses on the anxiety felt by the source about the circumstances in which he finds himself, his isolation from those he loves, and his feelings of helplessness. The [interrogator] directs the love the source feels toward the appropriate object: family, homeland, or comrades. If the [interrogator] can show the source what the source himself can do to alter or improve his situation or the situation of the object of his emotion, the approach has a chance of success."

6. On the "File and Dossier" approach to getting a prisoner to give up information: "The [interrogator] prepares a dossier containing all available information concerning the source or his organization. The information is carefully arranged within a file to give the illusion that it contains more data than actually there. The file may be padded with extra paper if necessary. Index tabs with titles such as education, employment, criminal record, military service, and others are particularly effective ... As the source becomes convinced that all the information that he knows is contained within the dossier, the [interrogator] proceeds to topics on which he has no or little information. In doing so, he still refers to the appropriate section of the dossier and may even nod his head knowingly or tell the source that the information the source is providing still matches what is in the dossier."

7. On the "Silent" approach: "[The interrogator] says nothing to the source, but looks him squarely in the eye, preferably with a slight smile on his face. It is important not to look away from the source but force him to break eye contact first. The source may become nervous, begin to shift in his chair, cross and re-cross his legs, and look away. He may ask questions, but the [interrogator] should not answer until he is ready to break the silence. The source may blurt out questions such as, "Come on now, what do you want with me?" When the [interrogator] is ready to break silence, he may do so with questions such as, "You planned this operation for a long time, didn't you? Was it your idea?"

The Lowdown:

The United States government may no longer be permitted to use dogs, cold temperatures or waterboarding to get terrorist suspects to reveal their plans, but the Army Field Manual offers a myriad of other interrogation methods that encourage U.S. personnel to lie to prisoners, mislead them, manipulate them and use their personal and emotional attachments as weaponry. As official prescriptive military documents go, the Army Field Manual is surprisingly readable. And with all the contentious debate over torture and detainees during the past eight years, the manual — which is publicly available on the U.S. Army web site — is worth reading. Even if the United States doesn't torture, shouldn't its citizens know what the U.S. does do to terrorist suspects in custody?

The Verdict: Read

See A Photographic Farewell to Bush

Read "Extracts from an Interrogation Log"