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Information Gathering in Law Enforcement and Intelligence Settings: Advancing
Theory and Practice
University of Gothenburg, Sweden
University of Portsmouth, UK
Iowa State University, USA
The gathering of human intelligence (HUMINT) occurs
across the globe 24/7. In the wake of terrorist attacks in
New York, Madrid, and London, and the increased threat
of terror worldwide, the need for effective HUMINT tech-
niques is more critical than ever (Brandon, 2011; Loftus,
2011). Some of these interactions may require little in terms
of tactical reasoning, whereas other interactions may require
advanced strategic considerations and elaborate tactical
skills. In light of this it is rather remarkable that such little
research has been conducted on how such interactions are
conducted and the comparative effectiveness of different
HUMINT gathering techniques. This special issue will begin
to remedy this serious gap in the research literature.
While the general body of literature underpinning the eld
of legal psychology continues to show a steady expansion, it
remains silent with respect to techniques aimed at eliciting
human intelligence. The existing literatureincluding re-
search on memory-enhancing techniques (e.g. Fisher &
Geiselman, 1992), confessions (e.g. Lassiter & Meissner,
2010), and deception detection (e.g. Granhag & Strömwall,
2004; Vrij, 2008)address vital elements in the overall in-
telligence gathering process, but there is very little research
that informs on how intelligence interviews are conducted
today and how such interviews could be improved. Turning
to the literature on human intelligence, there are writings on
the recruitment of informants (e.g. Fitzgerald, 2007), ethics
and informants (e.g. Andrew, Aldrich, & Wark, 2009), and
analyzing intelligence (e.g. George & Bruce, 2008). But the
literature on intelligence interviewingis very slim. This is
noteworthy considering the prominent role of human intelli-
gence collection operations in historical terms, and even
more so given the renewed interest of intelligence collection
in the period following 9/11 (Brandon, 2011). Although
operational experiences have given rise to a wide array of
techniques and procedures within the HUMINT domain,
these methods have rarely been subjected to scienticevalu-
ation. On a more positive note, researchers and practitioners
from the intelligence eld have begun to acknowledge this
gap and advocate for a more comprehensive future research
agenda (e.g. Evans, Meissner, Brandon, Russano, & Kleinman,
2010; Loftus, 2011). We believe that the papers in this special
issue add positively to such an agenda.
The Special issue contains 12 papers, and we are proud to
have received contributions from North America, Europe and
Australia. A closer look at the papers reveal that they cover
(a) experienced interrogators(and analystsand interpreters)
views regarding their own practices (Redlich, Kelly, & Miller,
2014; Russano, Narchet, & Kleinman, 2014; Russano,
Narchet, Kleinman, & Meissner 2014), (b) empirical tests
and systematic eld observations of different interview
approaches and tactics promoting the elicitation of human
intelligence (Evans et al., 2014; Luke, Dawson, Hartwig, &
Granhag, 2014; Goodman-Delahunty, Martschuk, & Dhami,
2014; Oleszkiewicz, Granhag, & Kleinman, 2014; Shaw
et al., 2014; Vrij, Mann, Jundi, Hillman, & Hope, 2014), (c)
memory enhancing techniques to assist sources who are
willing to share information (Leins, Fisher, Pludwinski,
Rivard, & Robertson, 2014; Rivard, Fisher,Robertson, & Hirn
Mueller, 2014), and (d) an overview of current research on
techniques for interviewing to elicit information and assess
credibility (Vrij & Granhag, 2014).
We would like to thank all of the external reviewers who took
on their task in such a serious manneryour efforts pushed the
issue in the right direction. Finally, we would like to thank Mark
Fallon, Susan Brandon, and Majeed Khader for offering such
encouraging and insightful comments on the issue.
Andrew, C., Aldrich, R. J., & Wark, K. W. (2009). Secret intelligence: A
reader. New York: Routledge.
Brandon, S. (2011). Impacts of psychological science on national security
agencies post-9/11. American Psychologist,66, 495506. doi: 10.1037/
Evans, J. R., Houston, K. A., Meissner, C. A., Boss, A. B., Labianca, J. R.,
Woestehoff, S. A., & Kleinman, S. M. (2014). An empirical evaluation of
intelligence-gathering interrogation techniques from the United States Army
Field Manual. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3065
Evans, J. R., Meissner, C. A., Brandon, S. E., Russano, M. B., & Kleinman,
S. M. (2010). Criminal versus HUMINT interrogations: The importance
of psychological science to improving interrogative practice. Journal of
Psychiatry and Law,38, 215249.
Fisher, R. P., & Geiselman, R. E. (1992). Memory-enhancing techniques for
investigative interviewing. The cognitive interview. Springeld, MA:
Charles Thomas.
Fitzgerald, D. G. (2007). Informants and undercover investigations. Boca
Raton, FL: CRC Press.
George, R. Z., & Bruce, J. B. (2008). Analyzing intelligence: Origins,
obstacles & innovations. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.
Goodman-Delahunty, J., Martschuk, N., Dhami, M. (2014). Interviewing
high-value detainees: Security cooperation and reliable disclosures.
Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp.3087
Granhag, P. A., & Strömwall, L. A. (2004). The detection of deception in
forensic contexts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lassiter, G. D., & Meissner, C. A. (2010). Police interrogations and false
confessions. Current research, practice and police recommendations.
Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
*Correspondence to: Pär Anders Granhag, University of Gothenburg, USA.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Applied Cognitive Psychology,Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 28: 815816 (2014)
Published online in Wiley Online Library ( DOI: 10.1002/acp.3093
Leins, D. A., Fisher, R. P., Pludwinski, L., Rivard, J. R., & Robertson, B.
(2014). Interview protocols to facilitate human intelligence sourcesrecol-
lections of meetings. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3041
Loftus, E. F. (2011). Intelligence gathering post-9/11. American Psycholo-
gist,66, 532541. doi: 10.1037/a0024614
Luke, T. J., Dawson, E., Hartwig, M., & Granhag, P. A. (2014). How aware-
ness of possible evidence induces forthcoming counter-interrogation
strategies. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3019
Oleszkiewicz, S., Granhag, P. A., & Kleinman, S. M. (2014). On eliciting
intelligence from human sources: Contextualizing the Scharff-
technique. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3073
Redlich, A. D., Kelly, C. E., & Miller, J. C. (2014). The who, what, and why
of human intelligence gathering: Self-reported measures of interrogation
methods. Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3040
Rivard, J. R., Fisher, R. P., Robertson, B., & Hirn Mueller, D. (2014).
Testing the Cognitive Interview with professional interviewers:
Enhancing recall of specic details of recurring events. Applied Cognitive
Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3026
Russano, M. B., Narchet, F. M., & Kleinman, S. M. (2014). Analysts, inter-
preters, and intelligence interrogations: perceptions and insights. Applied
Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp.3070
Russano, M. B., Narchet, F. M., Kleinman, S. M., & Meissner, C. M.
(2014). Structured interviews of experienced HUMINT interrogators.
Applied Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp.3069
Shaw, D. J., Vrij, A., Leal, S., Mann, S., Hillman, J., Granhag, P. A., &
Fisher, R. (2014). Well take it from here: The effect of changing
interviewers in information gathering interviews. Applied Cognitive
Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3072
Vrij, A. (2008). Detecting lies and deceit: Pitfalls and opportunities (2nd
ed.). Chichester: John Wiley and Sons.
Vrij, A., & Granhag, P. A. (2014). Eliciting information and detecting lies in
intelligence interviewing: An overview of recent research. Applied
Cognitive Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3071
Vrij, A., Mann, S., Jundi, S., Hillman, J., & Hope, L. (2014). Detection of
concealment in an information-gathering interview. Applied Cognitive
Psychology. doi: 10.1002/acp3051
816 P. A. Granhag et al.
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Appl. Cognit. Psychol. 28: 815816 (2014)
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Purpose. In previous laboratory-based work, the Scharff technique has proved successful for gathering intelligence from human sources. However, little is known about whether the technique can be taught to practitioners, and whether Scharff-trained practitioners will interview more effectively than colleagues using their conventional approaches and tactics. Method. We examined professional handlers from the Norwegian Police (n = 64), all experienced in interacting with informants. Half received training in the Scharff technique, and their performance was compared against handlers receiving no Scharff training and free to use the approaches they saw fit. All handlers received the same case file describing a source holding information about a future terrorist attack and were given the same interview objectives. Police trainees (n = 64) took on the role of semicooperative sources and were given incomplete information about the attack. Results. The trained handlers adhered to the Scharff training as they (1) aimed to establish the illusion of 'knowing-it-all', (2) posed claims to collect information, and (3) asked few (if any) explicit questions. In contrast, the untrained handlers tried to evoke the sources' motivation to reveal information and asked a high number of explicit questions. Scharff-trained handlers were perceived as less eager to gather information, but collected comparatively more new information. Conclusions. The Scharff-trained interviewers utilized more specific elicitation tactics (e.g., posing claims) and fewer general interview strategies (e.g., evoking motivation), and they collected comparatively more new information. This captures the essence of the Scharff technique: It is subtle, yet effective. Gathering information from human sources is a fundamental and unceasing endeavour in the prevention of crime. However, researchers have only recently begun to develop and evaluate methods for gathering human intelligence (Evans et al.,
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The discovery of many cases of wrongful conviction in the criminal justice system involving admissions from innocent suspects has led psychologists to examine the factors contributing to false confessions. However, little systematic research has assessed the processes underlying Human Intelligence (HUMINT) interrogations relating to military and intelligence operations. The current article examines the similarities and differences between interrogations in criminal and HUMINT settings, and discusses the extent to which the current empirical literature can be applied to criminal and/or HUMINT interrogations. Finally, areas of future research are considered in light of the need for improving HUMINT interrogation.
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Although analysts and interpreters have been recognized as critical members of human intelligence (HUMINT) interrogation teams, their perceptions of the interrogation process have yet to be explored in any systematic way. In a series of two studies, we interviewed a small number of highly experienced HUMINT analysts and surveyed a group of interpreters with experience supporting interrogations, about their experience with and perceptions of the interrogation process. We explored a variety of topics with each group, including training and selection, role and function, how best to utilize an analyst/interpreter, logistics (e.g., analyst models and interpreter placement), third-party observations/feedback, perceived effectiveness of interrogation techniques, and team dynamics. The results of these studies may be used to establish, for the first time, baseline knowledge and reported best practices about the HUMINT interrogation process from the analyst and interpreter perspectives, which may ultimately influence training and practice models. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Three techniques for eliciting intelligence from human sources were examined. Two versions of the Scharff-technique (conceptualized as four tactics) were compared against the Direct Approach (open and direct questions). The Scharff confirmation technique used correct claims to elicit information, and the Scharff disconfirmation/confirmation technique used a mix of correct and incorrect claims. The participants (N = 119) took the role of ‘sources’ holding information about a terrorist attack and tried not to reveal too much or too little information during an interview. The Scharff confirmation resulted in more new information than the Scharff disconfirmation/confirmation and the Direct Approach. The sources in the Scharff conditions had a more difficult time reading the interviewer's information objectives. The sources in the Scharff conditions underestimated, whereas sources in the Direct Approach overestimated, how much new information they revealed. The study advances previous work and shows that the Scharff-technique is a promising intelligence gathering technique. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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The task force that led to the creation of the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG) recommended that the HIG fund a program of research aimed at establishing scientifically supported interrogative best practices. One of the ways to identify ‘best practices’ is to rely on direct reporting from subject-matter experts. In this study, 42 highly experienced military and intelligence interrogators were interviewed about their interrogation-related practices and beliefs, including such topics as training and selection, the role of rapport, perceptions regarding the techniques employed, lie detection, and the roles of interpreters and analysts. Interrogators indicated that excellent interpersonal skills on the part of an interrogator, an emphasis on rapport and relationship-building techniques, and the assistance of well-prepared interpreters and analysts are key components of a successful interrogation. It is our hope that the results of this study will stimulate research, influence training models, and ultimately contribute toward an interrogative best-practice model. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
People are generally poor at detecting deceit when observing someone’s behaviour or listening to their speech. In this chapter I will discuss the major factors (pitfalls) that lead to failures in catching liars: the sixteen reasons I will present are clustered into three categories: (i) a lack of motivation to detect lies; (ii) difficulties associated with lie detection; and (iii) common errors made by lie detectors. Discussing pitfalls provides insight into how lie detectors can improve their performance (for example, by recognising common biases and avoiding common judgment errors). The second section of this chapter discusses 11 ways (opportunities) to improve lie detection skills. Within this section, I first provide five recommendations for avoiding common errors in detecting lies. Next, I discuss recent lie detection research that introduces novel interview styles aimed at eliciting and enhancing verbal and nonverbal differences between liars and truth tellers. The recommendations are relevant in various settings, from the individual level (e.g., “Is my partner really working late?”) to the societal level (e.g., “Can we trust this suspect when he claims that he is not the serial rapist the police are searching for?”).
Four types of coercive and noncoercive interview strategies (legalistic, physical, cognitive and social) used to facilitate disclosure by high value detainees were examined in an international sample of practitioners and detainees (N = 64). Predictive analyses confirmed that the accusatorial approach was positively correlated with physically coercive strategies (rs = .58) and negatively with forms of social persuasion (rs = −.31). In response to social strategies, detainees were more likely to disclose meaningful information [odds ratio (OR) = 4.2] and earlier in the interview when rapport-building techniques were used (OR = 14.17). They were less likely to cooperate when confronted with evidence (OR = 4.8). Disclosures were more complete in response to noncoercive strategies, especially rapport-building and procedural fairness elements of respect and voice. These findings augmented past theory on interactional processes and the evidence-base of international best practices in suspect interviews. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Traditional police–suspect interviews differ from intelligence interviews in several important ways, and these differences merit new research activities. This article presents an overview of recent and innovative research into eliciting information and cues to deceit in intelligence interviews, and discusses research into new domains including ‘lying about intentions’, ‘undercover interviewing’, and ‘collective interviewing’. Although that research is still in its infancy, the findings reveal that truth tellers' and liars' answers can be distinguished from each other if the correct interview protocols are implemented, such as asking unexpected questions and introducing forced turn-taking. In addition, this new research also shows that the so-called Scharff technique is more effective for eliciting human intelligence information compared with more traditional techniques. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
A common strategy in interviewing is to repeatedly focus on the same topics, for example by asking to recall an event first in chronological order and then in reverse order. We examined the effect of changing interviewers between the two questions or keeping the same interviewers throughout on cues to deception. Truth tellers may be most encouraged to recall again what they have witnessed when confronted with new interviewers, as these new interviewers have not heard their story before. Liars may be most encouraged to recall again their story when confronted with the same interviewers, realising that these interviewers will check for consistency in their answers. The impact of changing interviewers should lead to more pronounced differences between truth tellers and liars in terms of detail and repetition in the ‘Changed Interviewers’ condition compared with the ‘Same Interviewers’ condition. Participants were interviewed by two interviewers about a mock security meeting they attended. In half the interviews, the same two interviewers remained throughout, and in the other half, two new interviewers took over half-way through. As predicted, differences between truth tellers and liars in terms of detail and repetition were most pronounced in the ‘Changed Interviewers’ condition. Changing interviewers during an interview effectively differentiates liars and truth tellers with respect to detail and repetition. We discuss this finding and its place within investigative interviewing and deception detection literature. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.