THE MAGAZINE

Effective Interviewing and Interrogation Techniques, Second Edition

By Ross Johnson, CPP

*****Effective Interviewing and Interrogation Techniques, Second Edition. By Nathan J. Gordon and William L. Fleisher; published by Academic Press; available from ASIS, item #1690, 703/519-6200 (phone), www.asisonline.org (Web); 312 pages; $70 (ASIS members), $77 (nonmembers).

Have an important interrogation to do? Reading Effective Interviewing and Interrogation Techniques will make you feel faint. Well, FAINT, actually. FAINT is the acronym for the interview and interrogation technique championed by the authors, which stands for Forensic Assessment Interview Technique.

This is a “toolbox” book about detecting deception. It clearly and logically explains how to prepare for, structure, and conduct interviews and interrogations using the FAINT model. It explains, among other things: the tactics of questioning; the use of relevant, irrelevant, and comparison questions; and the use of questions that will get an innocent person to lie and a guilty person to tell the truth. The book also describes psychological tests that can be administered prior to an interview. Such tests can provide a baseline upon which truthfulness of responses can be measured and upon which body language can be read.

Effective Interviewing has had an interesting evolution. Nathan Gordon and William Fleisher first published a short version as a book in 2001. Gordon expanded on the concept for his Master’s of Arts thesis in criminology at the University of South Africa in November 2004; that version, entitled Validation of the Forensic Assessment Interview Technique, is available on the Internet.

Fleisher and Gordon have now come out with a new edition, with additional information inspired by the war on terror and the Iraq war. For example, it contains a chapter on torture and false confessions. It distinguishes between using “coercive techniques” to solve crimes that have already occurred and to prevent terrorist attacks that have yet to materialize.

The authors note the difficulty of determining when coercion ends and torture starts, and they conclude that, generally, the more coercive the interrogation technique, the less valuable the result.

The weakness of the chapter is contained in how it comes to its conclusion. It warns against excessive coercion, summing up with the assertion that, “regardless of the situation, you should never do anything at the expense of your soul.”

This misses the point, and by a wide margin. Prohibitions against torture exist to protect a powerless subject against excesses by the state, not to preserve the soul of the interrogator. And if that isn’t enough to dissuade would-be torturers, the authors need have only reemphasized their conclusion that torture provides unreliable results.

Students of interrogation are the intended audience of this book, and they should not be left with any ambiguity whatsoever when it comes to torture.


Reviewer: Ross Johnson, CPP, is corporate security manager for EPCOR in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is a member of ASIS and serves on the Oil, Gas, and Chemical Industry Security Council.

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