FBI Interrogation Techniques You Can Actually Use -The FBI is the United States’ premier law enforcement agency, and has responsibilities that range from counter-terrorism to drug interdiction and investigating financial crimes. With such a broad range of responsibilities, it’s only natural that FBI agents are going to come across a wide variety of suspects, and this makes FBI interrogators some of the most skilled in the world.
Today we’re going to teach you some basic interrogation techniques used by the FBI and other agencies that you can use in everyday life to get to the truth of the matter, or perhaps figure out when someone is lying to you or not. First though, it’s important to note that there’s a difference between an interrogation and an interview. An interview is typically a fact-finding mission, while an interrogation is much more focused.
In an interview, the interrogator is typically not fully aware of most of the elements of a crime, and is seeking more general information about the events that took place. Interviews are commonly undertaken with witnesses, though sometimes suspects can be interviewed as well, and based off information gleaned, an interview can later turn into a full-blown interrogation.
An interrogation on the other hand is a quest for specific information, or an attempt to gain a confession. In an interrogation, the person conducting the proceeding is typically aware of most facts of a case or incident, and is simply seeking specific key pieces that may still be missing. An interrogation can also serve to force a suspect into admitting that they lied in a previous interview, or to encourage them to divulge facts they are reluctant to.
Finally, an interrogator may be perfectly aware of all the facts of a case, and simply use an interrogation to gain a confession. Despite what you might think, the FBI does not endorse overly aggressive interrogations,and instead it is department policy that establishing a rapport with an individual is far more productive to fact gathering than intimidation, misdirection, or threats.
In the early 2000s when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke out and the world learned that the CIA and the US military had been beating prisoners to gain information, The United States Inspector General announced that the FBI had always conducted itself according to department guidelines. In fact, many FBI interrogators flat-out refused to take part in interrogations that used, as the CIA and the military put it, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’, and walked out of interrogations, then reported the individuals to their superiors.
This integrity from the FBI is what helped bring the scandal to light, and put a stop to the abuses by military and CIA personnel. So how can you better get at the truth in your own life? What techniques can you learn and apply to use day to day? First, a former FBI agent and interrogator warns that you should always be aware of as many of the facts of what you’re seeking information on as possible.
If a suspect believes that the interrogator is grasping at straws or not fully aware of events, then the tone of the interrogation dramatically changes. This might encourage a suspect to be deceitful, or embolden them to withhold facts. So say that you’re interrogating your co-worker, Kelly, because your food has gone missing from the refrigerator and you suspect it was her.
First, make sure you’re as well informed as you can possibly be before you start your interrogation. This means gathering intelligence on Kelly- what does she typically eat? What does she like to eat? When does she typically eat? Are there witnesses that can perhaps let you know if she was at her desk or not around the time your lunch went missing? More mundane details are important as well, such as the general state of the refrigerator when the sandwich went missing, how many other people brought food, how many ordered in. . . basically the more facts you’re aware of, the better.
When most people are confronted in a situation where their interrogator is obviously well-informed,it can act as an intimidating force, making them feel that deceitfulness will not work on you. Also, the more obviously well-informed you are, the more the suspect will realize that you’re willing to sit down for an extensive discussion, and might make them feel like it would just be better to give up the goods early.
You’ve probably seen cop shows on tv where the investigator will lay out a cunning trap for a suspect they’re sure committed a crime. Typically the detective will lie about evidence they possess, making the suspect fear that he’s about to be discovered and might as well give himself, or herself up. While there are some instances where lying is allowed for police interrogators, it’snot recommended that you do so.
Your lie may work, but if it doesn’t and the suspect realizes you’re lying, it can back fire in a major way. Once you’ve lied to a suspect and they’ve realized it, they’ll become convinced that they can’t trust you, and clam up. They could also assume that any plea deals or offers of amnesty are also lies, and you effectively take away any leverage you might have over them.
You know Kelly took that sandwich, you can see the crumbs on the corner of her mouth and smell the chicken parmesan on her breath- but if you lie to her and tell her that you have security camera footage of the deed, she might realize you’re full of it. In that case, your interrogation is over, and Kelly is walking away a free woman- or,a woman that doesn’t owe you a sandwich since we’re pretty sure sandwich theft isn’t a criminal offense.
Rather than trying to trick or intimidate a suspect, former FBI interrogators state that you should build a rapport with the suspect instead. If the suspect learns that they can trust you, or at least respect you, they might be more prone to sharing information they wouldn’t with anyone else. Also, in the criminal system a suspect that has good rapport with the interrogator may believe that the interrogator will later tell the prosecutor that they were helpful, and thus reduce their criminal penalty.
You want to slam a book down on the table, maybe toss a chair or two. It’s time for good cop, bad cop, because now Kelly burped and you could practically taste the chicken parm yourself. Yet she won’t admit it, she steadfastly refuses to take the blame for the missing sandwich. So rein in your anger and center yourself.
Be courteous, ask her about her typical lunch, share some of the same interests that you have together as far as food is concerned. You’ll be working to drop Kelly’s guard and at the same time she’ll be thinking that if you’re this nice to her now, maybe you’ll put in a good word with the boss when it comes time to punishing the person responsible for chicken parm theft.
Now it’s time to turn up the heat, it’s time for the Reid technique. Developed by a professional consultant and polygraph expert named John E. Reid, the Reid technique is one of the most widely adopted interrogation techniques across the world. The first step is to confront the suspect with the facts, as well as the evidence against them.
Tell Kelly that your sandwich went missing, and that during the fifteen minutes that it went missing, she was not at her desk according to fellow co-workers. Further, let her know that you’re aware of the fact that last friday she ordered chicken parmesan from Grubhub. Be confident and start letting Kelly know that you know she was involved in the theft.
Her stress levels will begin to rise, and if she’s being deceitful you should be on the lookout for fidgeting, licking of lips, or touching of hair- these are all signs that Kelly ate your damn chicken parm and is lying to you about it. Next step is called theme development, and here is where you’ll weave a story about why Kelly committed the crime that she did.
You’ll re-tell the criminal act, but with Kelly as the main character. You should speak to her in a soft, soothing voice, appearing non-threatening and lulling Kelly into a false sense of security. Be aware of how she reacts to your theme as you lay it out, and if it becomes clear that she isn’t responding at all, change the story up and try again.
This will make up the bulk of your interrogation, and you’ll be using the other techniques to reinforce this step. Kelly forgot her lunch that day, so she figured, well I’ll just order something on my phone again. Then lunch time came though and Kelly realized that she has T-mobile as a cell provider,and that means she doesn’t have service ever, anywhere.
Oh no, Kelly thought, what am I going to do for lunch now?! That’s when she went to the employee refrigerator, opening it and hoping that perhaps there was a stray cup of yogurt someone never ate, perhaps something close to expiration date, left alone and forgotten. Nobody would miss that lonely cup of yogurt.
But that’s when she saw it, your delicious chicken parmesan on sourdough bread. Next to the refrigerator, the microwave. . . and down the hall, an unused storage closet-the perfect place to hide and enjoy an ill-gotten chicken parmesan sandwich. Kelly could practically taste the melting cheese. . . it was either this, or eat nothing at all, and her stomach was rumbling.
She’s not a bad person, she just had a small breakfast is all. . . See what we did there? We created a theme that was sympathetic to Kelly’s plight, recreated events from a point of view that didn’t treat Kelly like the dirty, rotten criminal that she actually is. We excused her theft, appealed to her sense of helplessness in the situation, let her believe that we understood and were sympathetic to the theft.
Throughout your building of the theme though, you’ll have to stop Kelly’s denials on the spot. Once a suspect is allowed to voice a denial, it increases their confidence. Every time Kelly tries to object and voice a denial, simply cut her off and let her know it’ll be her turn to talk in a minute. Don’t let her start to voice denials or she’ll become emboldened and immune to your tactics.
Be polite, but very firm. Next, you’ll have to be ready to overcome objections, which differ from denials. Denials are basically just brief, “I didn’t do it!” statements. Objections however offer logic-based reasons for why the suspect simply couldn’t have committed the crime. Kelly might say, “I could never have stolen your sandwich, my father died of starvation because someone stole his sandwich!”
It’s your job to use the information she gives you and turn it around on her. You can for instance reply with, “I understand that you could never plan to do something so awful after what happened to your father, it was just a one-time mistake, you were hungry, and out of control. I understand”. You should turn objections into admissions of guilt.
At this point, Kelly is frustrated, she’s literally marinating in her own guilt. It’s your job to vent some of that pressure, and earn more of her trust. This whole time you should have been either across the table from Kelly, or walking around the room, towering over her. That makes her feel smaller, and vulnerable, but now you’re going to sit down on her side of the table, lower yourself to her level and draw close.
Put a hand on her shoulder and offer physical gestures of concern. Now it’s time to get your confession, it’s time to build alternatives. At this stage, you offer two different motives for the crime. One should be more reasonable, so as to nudge the suspect along, while the other should be more morally repugnant- this will help the suspect agree to the more reasonable motivation and lead to confession.
It doesn’t matter if this motivation is real or not, all that matters is the almighty confession. Tell Kelly that perhaps she stole the sandwich because she just couldn’t resist the temptation, heck you couldn’t resist the temptation of that snicker’s bar you ate last night even though you’re supposed to be dieting!
This motive is understandable, and relatable, it’s something that a rational, reasonable person could excuse. It’s just a mistake, that’s all! Then tell Kelly that perhaps she stole the sandwich because it was her that stole her father’s sandwich which led to his death by starvation. Perhaps Kelly loves to starve people to death, one sandwich at a time, and she thought she could get away with it again today!
This motive is outrageous, and morally repugnant, likely causing Kelly to object loudly to it-that’s good, that’s what you want her to do, because you’re going to backtrack and lead her down the road of the first motive. I know you’re not a sandwich-killer, Kelly, I’ve known you for months now, you seem like such a nice person.
You were just hungry, it was a mistake, I understand. At this point, Kelly’s probably in tears, and more than ready to confess. Congratulations! Because you’ve just used FBI interrogation techniques to get your co-worker to confess to stealing your sandwich- and it’s good that you have a solid grasp on these techniques because everything you just did to your co-worker is basically one giant super-fireable offense, and you’re going to need a new job after you get canned.
Think you could use these techniques in your real life? Have you ever been a dirty office food stealer? Let us know in the comments.