A police interrogation room in Switzerland

Interrogation (also called questioning) is interviewing as commonly employed by law enforcement officers, military personnel, intelligence agencies, organized crime syndicates, and terrorist organizations with the goal of eliciting useful information, particularly information related to suspected crime. Interrogation may involve a diverse array of techniques, ranging from developing a rapport with the subject to torture.[1]



Deception can form an important part of effective interrogation. In the United States, there is no law or regulation that forbids the interrogator from lying about the strength of their case, from making misleading statements or from implying that the interviewee has already been implicated in the crime by someone else. See case law on trickery and deception (Frazier v. Cupp).[2]

As noted above, traditionally the issue of deception is considered from the perspective of the interrogator engaging in deception towards the individual being interrogated. By the 2000s, information began appearing in research studies on effective interview methods used to gather information from individuals who score in the medium to high range on measures of psychopathology, and who exhibit deception with interrogators.[3][4]

Verbal and non-verbal cues

The major aim of this technique is to investigate to what extent verbal and non-verbal features of liars' and truth-tellers' behaviour change during the course of repeated interrogations. It has shown that liars display significantly fewer smiles, self-manipulations, pauses, and less gaze aversion than truth-tellers. According to Granhag & Strömwall, there are three approaches to non-verbal deceptive behavior. The first is the emotional approach, which suggests that liars will alter their behaviors based on their own emotional feelings. For example, if a subject is lying and they begin to experience guilt, they will shift their gaze. The second approach is the cognitive approach, which suggests that lying requires more thought than telling the truth, which in turn, may result in a liar making more errors in speech. Lastly, the attempted control approach suggests a subject who is lying will attempt to be seemingly normal or honest, and will try to adjust their behaviors to make themselves believable.[5]

Good cop/bad cop

Omar Khadr pulling his hair in frustration during a February 2003 interrogation by Canadian officials

Good cop/bad cop is a psychological tactic used in negotiation and interrogation, in which a team of two interrogators take apparently opposing approaches to the subject.[6] One adopts a hostile or accusatory demeanor, emphasizing threats of punishment, while the other adopts a more sympathetic demeanor, emphasizing reward, in order to convince the subject to cooperate.[7]

Rotating interrogators

In the People's Republic of China, the "wheel battle" (chelunzhan) tactic involves "unrelenting continuous interrogation by multiple rotating interrogators".[8]: 252 

Mind-altering drugs

The use of drugs in interrogation is both ineffective and illegal. The Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment (adopted by the UN General Assembly as resolution 43/173 of 9 December 1988)[9] forbids "methods of interrogation which impair the capacity of decision of judgment." Furthermore, the World Medical Association and American Medical Association, for example, both forbid participation by physicians in interrogations.[10]


Main article: Torture

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Half-hanging of suspected United Irishmen by government troops in 1798

The history of the state use of torture in interrogations extends over more than 2,000 years in Europe. It was recognized early on that information extracted under duress was deceptive and untrustworthy.[11] The Roman imperial jurist Ulpian in the third century AD remarked that there is "no means of obtaining the truth" from those who have the strength to resist, while those unable to withstand the pain "will tell any lie rather than suffer it."[12]

The use of torture as an investigative technique waned with the rise of Christianity since it was considered "antithetical to Christ's teachings," and in 866 Pope Nicholas I banned the practice. But after the 13th century many European states such as Germany, France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain began to return to physical abuse for religious inquisition, and for secular investigations.[12] By the 18th century the spreading influence of the Enlightenment led European nations to abandon officially state-sanctioned interrogation by torture. By 1874 Victor Hugo could plausibly claim that "torture has ceased to exist." Yet in the 20th century authoritarian states such as Mussolini's Fascist Italy, Hitler's Third Reich, and Lenin's and Stalin's Soviet Union once again resumed the practice, and on a massive scale.[13]

During the Cold War, the American Central Intelligence Agency was a significant influence among world powers regarding torture techniques in its support of anti-Communist regimes.[14] The CIA adopted methods such as waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and the use of electric shock, which were used by the Gestapo, KGB, and North Koreans from their involvement in the Korean War. The CIA also researched 'no-touch' torture, involving sensory deprivation, self-inflicted pain, and psychological stress.[15] The CIA taught its refined techniques of torture through police and military training to American-supported regimes in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia during the bloody Phoenix Program, and throughout Latin America during Operation Condor.[16] In some Asian and South Pacific nations, such as Malaysia and the Philippines, torture for interrogating and terrorizing opponents became widespread. "In its pursuit of torturers across the globe for the past forty years," writer Alfred McCoy notes, "Amnesty International has been, in a certain sense, following the trail of CIA programs."[17]

After the revelation of CIA sponsored torture in the 1970s and the subsequent outcry, the CIA largely stopped its own interrogations under torture. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, it "outsourced" such interrogation through renditions of prisoners to third world allies, often called torture-by-proxy.[18] But in the furor over the September 11 attacks, American authorities cast aside scruples,[19] legally authorizing some forms of interrogation by torture under euphemisms such as "enhanced interrogation techniques"[20] or "interrogation in depth"[21] to collect intelligence on Al Qaeda, starting in 2002.[22] Ultimately the CIA, the US military, and their contract employees tortured untold thousands at Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and other secret CIA black site prisons scattered around the globe, according to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture and the bipartisan U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee report[23][24] Whether these interrogations under torture produced useful information is hotly disputed.[25]

The administration of President Barack Obama prohibited so-called enhanced interrogation in 2009, and as of March 2012 there is no longer a nation which openly admits to deliberate abuse of prisoners for purposes of interrogation.[26][27]

By country

Film set of a Japanese police interrogation room

United Kingdom

Statutory law and regulatory law, various legal precedents called 'case law' also impact interrogation techniques and procedures. One of the first attempts by British Courts to guide and set standards for police officers interrogating suspects was the declaration of the 'Judges' Rules' in 1912 by the judges of the King's Bench Division in England. These rules, although not law, still have weight in the United Kingdom and Canada.[28]

British military personnel were found to have misused a number of techniques during the detention of suspects in Northern Ireland in the early 1970s.[29] Police deception in interrogation was banned in the UK in 1984 with the passage of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE).[30]

United States

Police interrogation

In the United States, police interrogations are conducted under an adversarial system, in which the police seek to obtain material that will aid in convicting a suspect rather than discovering the facts of the case. To this end, a variety of tactics are employed.[31]

The Reid technique is widely used by U. S. law enforcement officers for interrogation purposes. It involves steps to obtaining a confession and methods for detecting signs of deception in the suspect's body language. The technique has been criticized for being difficult to apply across cultures and as eliciting false confessions from innocent people.[32] An example is described in the analysis of the Denver police's January 2000 interrogation of 14-year-old Lorenzo Montoya, which took place during its investigation of the murder of 29-year-old Emily Johnson.[33]

Constitutional protections

The Fifth Amendment, which states that one cannot be made to be "a witness against himself", prohibits law enforcement from forcing suspects to offer self-incriminating evidence.[34]

As a result of the Miranda v. Arizona ruling, police are required to read aloud to suspects under interrogation their Miranda Rights afforded to them by the Fifth Amendment, such as the right to remain silent and the right to seek counsel. If the police fail to administer the Miranda rights, all statements under interrogation are prohibited from being used as evidence in court proceedings.[35]

Inquisition torture chamber. Mémoires Historiques (1716)

Push for mandatory recording of interrogations in the U.S.

By the 2000s, a growing movement calls for the mandatory electronic recording of all custodial interrogations in the United States.[36] "Electronic recording" describes the process of recording interrogations from start to finish. This is in contrast to a "taped" or "recorded confession," which typically only includes the final statement of the suspect. "Taped interrogation" is the traditional term for this process; however, as analog is becoming less and less common, statutes and scholars are referring to the process as "electronically recording" interviews or interrogations. Alaska,[37] Illinois,[38] Maine,[39] Minnesota,[37] and Wisconsin[40] are the only states to require taped interrogation. New Jersey's taping requirement started on January 1, 2006.[41][42] Massachusetts allows jury instructions that state that the courts prefer taped interrogations.[43] Neil Nelson of the St. Paul Police Department, an expert in taped interrogation,[44] has described taped interrogation in Minnesota as the "best tool ever forced down our throats".[45]

See also


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  2. ^ Obenberger, J. D. (October 1998). "Police Deception: The Law and the Skin Trade in the Windy City". Archived from the original on 8 July 2008.
  3. ^ Perri, Frank S.; Lichtenwald, Terrance G. (2008). "The Arrogant Chameleons: Exposing Fraud Detection Homicide" (PDF). Forensic Examiner. All-about-psychology.com. pp. 26–33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2022.
  4. ^ Perri, Frank S.; Lichtenwald, Terrance G. (2010). "The Last Frontier: Myths & The Female Psychopathic Killer" (PDF). Forensic Examiner. All-about-forensic-psychology.com. pp. 19:2, 50–67. Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 July 2022.
  5. ^ Granhag, Pär Anders; Strömwall, Lief A. (April 2002). "Repeated interrogations: Verbal and non-verbal cues to deception". Applied Cognitive Psychology. 16 (3): 243–257. doi:10.1002/acp.784.
  6. ^ Brodt, Susan; Tuchinsky, Marla (March 2000). "Working Together but in Opposition: An Examination of the "Good-Cop/Bad-Cop" Negotiating Team Tactic". Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. 81 (2): 155–177. doi:10.1006/obhd.1999.2879. PMID 10706812.
  7. ^ Shonk, Katie (January 7, 2020). "The Good Cop, Bad Cop Negotiation Strategy". Program on Negotiation Daily Harvard Law School Blog. Harvard Law School. Archived from the original on March 18, 2019. Retrieved June 10, 2021.
  8. ^ Kiely, Jan (2014-05-27). The Compelling Ideal: Thought Reform and the Prison in China, 1901-1956. Yale University Press. doi:10.12987/yale/9780300185942.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-300-18594-2. JSTOR j.ctt13x1t56.
  9. ^ "Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any Form of Detention or Imprisonment". United Nations. 9 December 1988. Archived from the original on 5 April 2016.
  10. ^ American Medical Association. "Physician Participation in Interrogation Code of Medical Ethics Opinion 9.7.4". Archived from the original on 2017-12-25.
  11. ^ McCoy, Alfred (2007). A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Henry Holt & Co. pp. 16–17. ISBN 978-0-8050-8248-7.
  12. ^ a b (McCoy 2007, p. 16)
  13. ^ (McCoy 2007, p. 17)
  14. ^ (McCoy 2007, pp. 11, 59)
  15. ^ (McCoy 2007, p. 59)
  16. ^ (McCoy 2007, pp. 18, 60–107)
  17. ^ (McCoy 2007, p. 11)
  18. ^ (McCoy 2007, pp. 99, 109–10)
  19. ^ Froomkin, Dan (7 November 2005). "Cheney's Dark Side is Showing". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  20. ^ "Transcript of interview with CIA director Panetta". NBC News. 2011-05-03. Archived from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 2011-08-21. Enhanced interrogation has always been a kind of handy euphemism (for torture)
  21. ^ (McCoy 2007, p. 152)
  22. ^ (McCoy 2007, pp. 108, 117, 120–23, 143–44)
  23. ^ "Report of the Committee on Armed Services United States Senate Inquiry into the Treatment of Detainees in US Custody" (PDF). NY Times. United States Senate Committee on Armed Services. 20 November 2008. Archived from the original on 12 November 2021. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  24. ^ Knowlton, Brian (April 21, 2009). "Report Gives New Detail on Approval of Brutal Techniques". New York Times. Archived from the original on 8 March 2022. (report linked to article)
  25. ^ Will, George (1 November 2013). "Facing up to what we did in interrogations". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 12 January 2013. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  26. ^ "Obama: U.S. will not torture". NBC News. AP News. 2009-01-09. Archived from the original on 22 February 2022. Retrieved 2014-04-23.
  27. ^ Stout, David (2009-01-15). "Holder Tells Senators Waterboarding Is Torture". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 23 June 2022.
  28. ^ Van Allen, Bill (2012). Criminal Investigation: In Search of the Truth. Canada: Pearson Canada. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-13-800011-0.
  29. ^ Mumford, Andrew (March 2012). "Minimum Force Meets Brutality: Detention, Interrogation and Torture in British Counter-Insurgency Campaigns". Journal of Military Ethics. 11 (1): 10–25. doi:10.1080/15027570.2012.674240. ISSN 1502-7570. S2CID 144565278.
  30. ^ Griffiths, Andy (December 21, 2012). "How the UK Police Interview Suspects". Innocence Project. Archived from the original on May 13, 2023. Retrieved May 13, 2023.
  31. ^ Leo, Richard A. (June 2009). Police Interrogation and American Justice. Harvard University Press. p. 119. ISBN 9780674035317.
  32. ^ Kassin, Saul; Fong, Christina (1999). "'I'm Innocent!': Effects of Training on Judgments of Truth and Deception in the Interrogation room". Law and Human Behavior. 23 (5): 499–516. doi:10.1023/a:1022330011811. S2CID 53586929.
  33. ^ Gaines, Philip (July 1, 2018). "Presupposition as investigator certainty in a police interrogation: The case of Lorenzo Montoya's false confession". Discourse & Society. 29 (4): 399–419. doi:10.1177/0957926518754417. S2CID 148639209.
  34. ^ Solan, Lawrence; Tiersma, Peter Meijes (2005). Speaking of crime the language of criminal justice. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226767932.
  35. ^ Candela, Kimberlee (June 24, 2011). "Miranda Rights". In Chambliss, William J. (ed.). Courts, Law, and Justice. SAGE Publications, Inc. ISBN 9781412978576.
  36. ^ "REPORT ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE REQUIREMENT FOR RECORDATION OF CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS" (PDF). NJCourts.gov. 30 May 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2022. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  37. ^ a b "Electronic Recording of Interrogations". Center for Policy Alternatives. Archived from the original on 1 June 2006.
  38. ^ "Text of the new Illinois law (SB15) requiring electronic recording of custodial interrogations in murder case (The Illinois Criminal Justice Information Act)" (PDF). Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-09-26. Retrieved 2007-09-26.
  39. ^ "GENERAL ORDER: RECORDING OF SUSPECTS IN SERIOUS CRIMES Number: 2-23A & THE PRESERVATION OF NOTES & RECORDS". Maine Chiefs of Police Association. 11 February 2005. Archived from the original on 15 November 2005. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  40. ^ "Wisconsin Supreme Court rules that all custodial interrogations of juveniles must be recorded. (In the Interest of Jerrell C.J.) (05-3-25)". Texas Juvenile Probation Commission. Archived from the original on 2010-08-20. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  41. ^ Poritz, Deborah T. (14 October 2005). "Notice to the Bar" (PDF). New Jersey Courts. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 July 2022. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  42. ^ "RULE 3:17. Electronic Recordation" (PDF). New Jersey Courts. 14 October 2005. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 June 2022. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  43. ^ See Commonwealth v. DiGiambattista, 813 N.E.2d 516, 533–34 (Mass. 2004).
  44. ^ "Neil Nelson & Associates". Neil Nelson & Associates. Archived from the original on 14 March 2009. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  45. ^ Wagner, Dennis (December 6, 2005). "FBI's policy drawing fire". The Arizona Republic. Archived from the original on October 16, 2013. Retrieved October 16, 2013.