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While glancing through the latest copy of The Atlantic Monthly I came across the cover story entitled The Dark Art of Interrogation. It details methods used both in the past and in present times that are used to extract intelligence information from individuals. I found it quite fascinating. The article then mentioned something called the Kubark Manual. Published (internally) way back in 1963 by our friends at the CIA, it basically provided the “rules” for the United States when it comes to interrogating a prisoner or group of prisoners. Released under the Freedom of Information Act (with certain “sensitive” issues deleted), it is kind of a scary read. I never realized that the “Dark Art of Interrogation” was such a science.

The following are some excerpts lifted directly from the Kubark Manual. I don’t know what all of the acronyms and references mean but I think there is enough meat in there for the reader to get the picture.

The Interrogator

A number of studies of interrogation discuss qualities said to be desirable in an interrogator. The list seems almost endless - a professional manner, forcefulness, understanding and sympathy, breadth of general knowledge, area knowledge, "a practical knowledge of psychology", skill in the tricks of the trade, alertness, perseverance, integrity, discretion, patience, a high IQ, extensive experience, flexibility, etc., etc. Some texts even discuss the interrogator's manners and grooming, and one prescribed the traits considered desirable in his secretary.

A repetition of this catalogue would serve no purpose here, especially because almost all of the characteristics mentioned are also desirable in case officers, agents, policemen, salesmen, lumberjacks, and everybody else. The search of the pertinent scientific literature disclosed no reports of studies based on common denominator] traits of successful interrogators or any other controlled inquiries that would invest these lists with any objective validity.

Perhaps the four qualifications of chief importance to the interrogator are (1) enough operational training and experience to permit quack recognition of leads; (2) real familiarity with the language to be used; (3) extensive background knowledge about the interrogatee's native country (and intelligence service, if employed by one); and (4) a genuine understanding of the source as a person.

approx. 1/2 line deleted stations, and even a few bases can call upon one or several interrogators to supply these prerequisites, individually or as a team. Whenever a number of interrogators is available, the percentage of successes is increased by careful matching of questioners and sources and by ensuring that rigid prescheduling does not prevent such matching. Of the four traits listed, a genuine insight into the source's character and motives is perhaps most important but least common. Later portions of this manual explore this topic in more detail. One general observation is introduced now, however, because it is considered basic to the establishment of rapport, upon which the success of non-coercive interrogation depends.

The interrogator should remember that he and the interrogatee are often working at cross-purposes not because the interrogates is malevolently withholding or misleading but simply because what he wants from the situation is not what the interrogator wants. The interrogator's goal is to obtain useful information -- facts about which the interrogatee presumably have acquired information. But at the outset of the interrogation, and perhaps for a long time afterwards, the person being questioned is not greatly concerned with communicating his body of specialized information to his questioner; he is concerned with putting his best foot forward. The question uppermost in his mind, at the beginning, is not likely to be "How can I help PBPRIME?" but rather "What sort of impression am I making?" and, almost immediately thereafter, "What is going to happen to me now?" (An exception is the penetration agent or provocateur sent to a KUBARK field installation after training in withstanding interrogation. Such an agent may feel confident enough not to be gravely concerned about himself. His primary interest, from the beginning, may be the acquisition of information about the interrogator and his service.)

The skilled interrogator can save a great deal of time by understanding the emotional needs of the interrogates. Most people confronted by an official -- and dimly powerful -- representative of a foreign power will get down to cases much faster if made to feel, from the start, that they are being treated as individuals. So simple a matter as greeting an interrogatee by his name at the opening of the session establishes in his mind the comforting awareness that he is considered as a person, not a squeezable sponge. This is not to say that egotistic types should be allowed to bask at length in the warmth of individual recognition. But it is important to assuage the fear of denigration which afflicts many people when first interrogated by making it clear that the individuality of the interrogatee is recognized. With this common understanding established, the interrogation can move on to impersonal matters and will not later be thwarted or interrupted -- or at least not as often -- by irrelevant answers designed not to provide facts but to prove that the interrogatee is a respectable member of the human race.

Although it is often necessary to trick people into telling what we need to know, especially in CI interrogations, the initial question which the interrogator asks of himself should be, "How can I make him want to tell me what he knows?" rather than "How can I trap him into disclosing what he knows?" If the person being questioned is genuinely hostile for ideological reasons, techniques of manipulation are in order. But the assumption of hostility -- or at least the use of pressure tactics at the first encounter -- may make difficult subjects even out of those who would respond to recognition of individuality and an initial assumption of good will.

Another preliminary comment about the interrogator is that normally he should not personalize. That is, he should not be pleased, flattered, frustrated, goaded, or otherwise emotionally and personally affected by the interrogation. A calculated display of feeling employed for a specific purpose is an exception; but even under these circumstances the interrogator is in full control. The interrogation situation is intensely inter-personal; it is therefore all the more necessary to strike a counter-balance by an attitude which the subject clearly recognizes as essentially fair and objective. The kind of person who cannot help personalizing, who becomes emotionally involved in the interrogation situation, may have chance (and even spectacular) successes as an interrogator but is almost certain to have a poor batting average.

It is frequently said that the interrogator should be "a good judge of human nature." In fact, approx. 3 lines deleted (3) This study states later (page "Great attention has been given to the degree to which persons are able to make judgments from casual observations regarding the personality characteristics of another. The consensus of research is that with respect to many kinds of judgments, at least some judges perform reliably better than chance...." Nevertheless, "... the level of reliability in judgments is so low that research encounters difficulties when it seeks to determine who makes better judgments...." (3) In brief, the interrogator is likelier to overestimate his ability to judge others than to underestimate it, especially if he has had little or no training in modern psychology. It follows that errors in assessment and in handling are likelier to result from snap judgments based upon the assumption of innate skill in judging others than from holding such judgments in abeyance until enough facts are known.

There has been a good deal of discussion of interrogation experts vs. subject-matter experts. Such facts as are available suggest that the latter have a slight advantage. But for counterintelligence purposes the debate is academic. approx. 5 lines deleted It is sound practice to assign inexperienced interrogators to guard duty or to other supplementary tasks directly related to interrogation, so that they can view the process closely before taking charge. The use of beginning interrogators as screeners (see part VI) is also recommended.

Although there is some limited validity in the view, frequently expressed in interrogation primers, that the interrogation is essentially a battle of wits, the CI interrogator who encounters a skilled and resistant interrogatee should remember that a wide (deleted).

*The interrogator should be supported whenever possible by qualified analysts' review of his daily "take"; experience has shown that such a review will raise questions to be put and points to be clarified and lead to a thorough coverage of the subject in hand.

A variety of aids can be made available in the field or from Headquarters. (These are discussed in Part VIII.) The intensely personal nature of the interrogation situation makes it all the more necessary that the KUBARK questioner should aim not for a personal triumph but for his true goal -- the acquisition of all needed information by any authorized means.

The manual then goes on to describe certain, shall we say, “personality types” that an interrogator is likely to encounter. To me, some of them are quite laughable but then again, it is the CIA. Ready, here goes…
The nine major groups within the psychological-emotional category adopted for this handbook are the following.

1. The orderly-obstinate character. People in this category are characteristically frugal, orderly, and cold; frequently they are quite intellectual. They are not impulsive in behavior. They tend to think things through logically and to act deliberately. They often reach decisions very slowly. They are far less likely to make real personal sacrifices for a cause than to use them as a temporary means of obtaining a permanent personal gain. They are secretive and disinclined to confide in anyone else their plans and plots, which frequently concern the overthrow of some form of authority. They are also stubborn, although they may pretend cooperation or even believe that they are cooperating. They nurse grudges.

The orderly-obstinate character considers himself superior to other people. Sometimes his sense of superiority is interwoven with a kind of magical thinking that includes all sorts of superstitions and fantasies about controlling his environment. He may even have a system of morality that is all his own. He sometimes gratifies his feeling of secret superiority by provoking unjust treatment. He also tries, characteristically, to keep open a line of escape by avoiding any real commitment to anything. He is -- and always has been -- intensely concerned about his personal possessions. He is usually a tightwad who saves everything, has a strong sense of propriety, and is punctual and tidy. His money and other possessions have for him a personalized quality; they are parts of himself. He often carries around shiny coins, keepsakes, a bunch of keys, and other objects having for himself an actual or symbolic value.

Usually the orderly-obstinate character has a history of active rebellion in childhood, of persistently doing the exact opposite of what he is told to do. As an adult he may have learned to cloak his resistance and become passive aggressive, but his determination to get his own way is unaltered. He has merely learned how to proceed indirectly if necessary. The profound fear and hatred of authority, persisting since childhood, is often well-concealed in adulthood, For example, such a person may confess easily and quickly under interrogation, even to acts that he did not commit, in order to throw the interrogator off the trail of a significant discovery (or, more rarely, because of feelings of guilt).

The interrogator who is dealing with an orderly-obstinate character should avoid the role of hostile authority. Threats and threatening gestures, table-pounding, pouncing on evasions or lies, and any similarly authoritative tactics will only awaken in such a subject his old anxieties and habitual defense mechanisms. To attain rapport, the interrogator should be friendly. It will probably prove rewarding if the room and the interrogator look exceptionally neat. Orderly-obstinate interrogatees often collect coins or other objects as a hobby; time spent in sharing their interests may thaw some of the ice. Establishing rapport is extremely important when dealing with this type.approx 3 lines deleted (3)

2. The optimistic character. This kind of source is almost constantly happy-go-lucky, impulsive, inconsistent, and undependable. He seems to enjoy a continuing state of well-being. He may be generous to a fault, giving to others as he wants to be given to. He may become an alcoholic or drug addict. He is not able to withstand very much pressure; he reacts to a challenge not by increasing his efforts but rather by running away to avoid conflict. His convictions that "something will turn up", that "everything will work out all right", is based on his need to avoid his own responsibility for events and depend upon a kindly fate.

Such a person has usually had a great deal of over-indulgence in early life. He is sometimes the youngest member of a large family the child of a middle-aged woman (a so-called "change-of-life baby"). If he has met severe frustrations in later childhood, he may be petulant, vengeful, and constantly demanding.

As interrogation sources, optimistic characters respond best to a kindly, parental approach. If withholding, they can often be handled effectively by the Mutt-and-Jeff technique discussed later in this paper. Pressure tactics or hostility will make them retreat inside themselves, whereas reassurance will bring them out. They tend to seek promises, to cast the interrogator in the role of protector and problem-solver; and it is important that the interrogator avoid making any specific promises that cannot be fulfilled, because the optimist turned vengeful is likely to prove troublesome.

3. The greedy, demanding character. This kind of person affixes himself to others like a leech and clings obsessively. Although extremely dependent and passive, he constantly demands that others take care of him and gratify his wishes. If he considers himself wronged, he does not seek redress through his own efforts but tries to persuade another to take up the cudgels in his behalf – "let's you and him fight." His loyalties are likely to shift whenever he feels that the sponsor whom he has chosen has let him down. Defectors of this type feel aggrieved because their desires were not satisfied in their countries of origin, but they soon feel equally deprived in a second land and turn against its government or representatives in the same way. The greedy and demanding character is subject to rather frequent depressions. He may direct a desire for revenge inward, upon himself; in extreme cases suicide may result.

The greedy, demanding character often suffered from very early deprivation of affection or security. As an adult he continues to seek substitute parents who will care for him as his own, he feels, did not.

The interrogator dealing with a greedy, demanding character must be careful not to rebuff him; otherwise rapport will be destroyed. On the other hand, the interrogator must not accede to demands which cannot or should not be met. Adopting the tone of an understanding father or big brother is likely to make the subject responsive. If he makes exorbitant requests, an unimportant favor may provide a satisfactory substitute because the demand arises not from a specific need but as an expression of the subject's need for security. He is likely to find reassuring any manifestation of concern for his well being.

In dealing with this type -- and to a considerable extent in dealing with any of the types herein listed -- the interrogator must be aware of the limits and pitfalls of rational persuasion. If he seeks to induce cooperation by an appeal to logic, he should first determine whether the source's resistance is based on logic. The appeal will glance off ineffectually if the resistance is totally or chiefly emotional rather than rational. Emotional resistance can be dissipated only by emotional manipulation.

4. The anxious, self-centered character. Although this person is fearful, he is engaged in a constant struggle to conceal his fears. He is frequently a daredevil who compensates for his anxiety by pretending that there is no such thing as danger. He may be a stunt flier or circus performer who "proves" himself before crowds. He may also be a Don Juan. He tends to brag and often lies through hunger for approval or praise. As a soldier or officer he may have been decorated for bravery; but if so, his comrades may suspect that his exploits resulted from a pleasure in exposing himself to danger and the anticipated delights of rewards, approval, and applause. The anxious, self-centered character is usually intensely vain and equally sensitive.

People who show these characteristics are actually unusually fearful. The causes of intense concealed anxiety are too complex and subtle to permit discussion of the subject in this paper.

Of greater importance to the interrogator than the causes is the opportunity provided by concealed anxiety for successful manipulation of the source. His desire to impress will usually be quickly evident. He is likely to be voluble. Ignoring or ridiculing his bragging, or cutting him short with a demand that he get down to cases, is likely to make him resentful and to stop the flow. Playing upon his vanity, especially by praising his courage, will usually be a successful tactic if employed skillfully. Anxious, self-centered interrogates who are withholding significant facts, such as contact with a hostile service, are likelier to divulge if made to feel that the truth will not be used to harm them and if the interrogator also stresses the callousness and stupidity of the adversary in sending so valiant a person upon so ill-prepared a mission. There is little to be gained and much to be lost by exposing the nonrelevant lies of this kind of source. Gross lies about deeds of daring, sexual prowess, or other "proofs" of courage and manliness are best met with silence or with friendly but noncommittal replies unless they consume an inordinate amount of time. If operational use is contemplated, recruitment may sometimes be effected through such queries as, "I wonder if you would be willing to undertake a dangerous mission."

5. The guilt-ridden character. This kind of person has a strong cruel, unrealistic conscience. His whole life seems devoted to reliving his feelings of guilt. Sometimes he seems determined to atone; at other times he insists that whatever went wrong is the fault of somebody else. In either event he seeks constantly some proof or external indication that the guilt of others is greater than his own. He is often caught up completely in efforts to prove that he has been treated unjustly. In fact, he may provoke unjust treatment in order to assuage his conscience through punishment. Compulsive gamblers who find no real pleasure in winning but do find relief in losing belong to this class. So do persons who falsely confess to crimes. Sometimes such people actually commit crimes in order to confess and be punished. Masochists also belong in this category.

The causes of most guilt complexes are real or fancied wrongs done to parents or others whom the subject felt he ought to love and honor. As children such people may have been frequently scolded or punished. Or they may have been "model" children who repressed all natural hostilities.

The guilt-ridden character is hard to interrogate. He may "confess" to hostile clandestine activity, or other acts of interest to KUBARK, in which he was not involved. Accusations leveled at him by the interrogator are likely to trigger such false confessions. Or he may remain silent when accused, enjoying the "punishment." He is a poor subject for LCFLUTTER. The complexities of dealing with conscience-ridden interrogates vary so widely from case to case that it is almost impossible to list sound general principles.

Perhaps the best advice is that the interrogator, once alerted by information from the screening process (see Part VI) or by the subject's excessive preoccupation with moral judgements, should treat as suspect and subjective any information provided by the interrogatee about any matter that is of moral concern to him. Persons with intense guilt feelings may cease resistance and cooperate if punished in some way, because of the gratification induced by punishment.

6. The character wrecked by success is closely related to the guilt-ridden character. This sort of person cannot tolerate success and goes through life failing at critical points. He is often accident-prone. Typically he has a long history of being promising and of almost completing a significant assignment or achievement but not bringing it off. The character who cannot stand success enjoys his ambitions as long as they remain fantasies but somehow ensures that they will not be fulfilled in reality. Acquaintances often feel that his success is just around the corner, but something always intervenes. In actuality this something is a sense of guilt, of the kind described above. The person who avoids success has a conscience which forbids the pleasures of accomplishment and recognition. He frequently projects his guilt feelings and feels that all of his failures were someone else's fault. He may have a strong need to suffer and may seek danger or injury.

As Interrogatees these people who "cannot stand prosperity" pose no special problem unless the interrogation impinges upon their feelings of guilt or the reasons for their past failures. Then subjective distortions, not facts, will result. The successful interrogator will isolate this area of unreliability.

7. The schizoid or strange character lives in a world of fantasy much of the time. Sometimes he seems unable to distinguish reality from the realm of his own creating. The real world seems to him empty and meaningless, in contrast with the mysteriously significant world that he has made. He is extremely intolerant of any frustration that occurs in the outer world and deals with it by withdrawal into the interior realm.

He has no real attachments to others, although he may attach symbolic and private meanings or values to other people.

Children reared in homes lacking in ordinary affection and attention or in orphanages or state-run communes may become adults who belong to this category. Rebuffed in early efforts to attach themselves to another, they become distrustful of attachments and turn inward. Any link to a group or country will be undependable and, as a rule, transitory. At the same time the schizoid character needs external approval. Though he retreats from reality, he does not want to feel abandoned.

As an interrogatee the schizoid character is likely to lie readily to win approval. He will tell the interrogator what he thinks the interrogator wants to hear in order to win the award of seeing a smile on the interrogator's face. Because he is not always capable of distinguishing between fact and fantasy, he may be unaware of lying. The desire for approval provides the interrogator with a handle. Whereas accusations of lying or other indications of disesteem will provoke withdrawal from the situation, teasing the truth out of the schizoid subject may not prove difficult if he is convinced that he will not incur favor through misstatements or disfavor through telling the truth.

Like the guilt-ridden character, the schizoid character may be an unreliable subject for testing by LCFLUTTER because his internal needs lead him to confuse fact with fancy. He is also likely to make an unreliable agent because of his incapacity to deal with facts and to form real relationships.

8. The exception believes that the world owes him a great deal. He feels that he suffered a gross injustice, usually early in life, and should be repaid. Sometimes the injustice was meted out impersonally, by fate, as a physical deformity, an extremely painful illness or operation in childhood, or the early loss of one parent or both. Feeling that these misfortunes were undeserved, the exceptions regard them as injustices that someone or something must rectify. Therefore they claim as their right privileges not permitted others. When the claim is ignored or denied, the exceptions become rebellious, as adolescents often do. They are convinced that the justice of the claim is plain for all to see and that any refusal to grant it is willfully malignant.

When interrogated, the exceptions are likely to make demands for money, resettlement aid, and other favors -- demands that are completely out of proportion to the value of their contributions. Any ambiguous replies to such demands will be interpreted as acquiescence. Of all the types considered here, the exception is likeliest to carry an alleged injustice dealt him by KUBARK to the newspapers or the courts.

The best general line to follow in handling those who believe that they are exceptions is to listen attentively (within reasonable timelimits) to their grievances and to make no commitments that cannot be discharged fully. Defectors from hostile intelligence services, doubles, provocateurs, and others who have had more than passing contact with a Sino-Soviet service may, if they belong to this category, prove unusually responsive to suggestions from the interrogator that they have been treated unfairly by the other service. Any planned operational use of such persons should take into account the fact that they have no sense of loyalty to a common cause and are likely to turn aggrievedly against superiors.

9. The average or normal character is not a person wholly lacking in the characteristics of the other types. He may, in fact, exhibit most or all of them from time to time. But no one of them is persistently dominant; the average man's qualities of obstinacy, unrealistic optimism, anxiety, and the rest are not overriding or imperious except for relatively short intervals. Moreover, his reactions to the world around him are more dependent upon events in that world and less the product of rigid, subjective patterns than is true of the other types discussed.

What was presented above was just a random sampling of the advice offered up to would be interrogators from the Kubark Manual. If you’re serious about pursuing a career in the rapidly growing field of interrogation, I suggest you read the whole thing. You may find it at:


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