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Ethics of Interrogation


Research has recently resulted in an emerging scientific agreement about best practices to be applied in interrogation. Different government agencies and countries have started training their personnel in scientific interrogation methods that can be applied practically, and improvements in morality are made on old approaches that try to avoid the will of an interrogatee through emotional deception. There are different types of interrogation techniques, the negative arguments associated with them, and how they can be assessed either practically or morally.

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Types of Interrogation Methods

Coercive Interrogation/ Torture

This technique tries to destroy the suspect’s will by employing several physical and psychological measures. In one of its paradigms, torture may be used for creating a motivation for the suspect to collaborate and overpower the ability to keep secrets since the situation will be made to seem urgent. This type of interrogation usually serves to deteriorate one’s psychological state, especially when the suspect appears rational and independent. This is when they go back to responding to questions and instructions as a child and cannot show resistance.

Some rules are against torture as an interrogation approach, even though they are not clear. These rules are put in place to regulate the abuse that the use of the coercive technique has been subjected to. Coercion has to be adequately monitored and controlled when applied against prisoners to minimize the possibility of justifying its setbacks (Salvati & Houck, 2019). There are prominent issues that need to be addressed when setting up an interrogation system for intellectual purposes. One must identify steps that are allowed to be followed in coercion, circumstances that authorize the use of coercion steps legally, and the person responsible for coming up with questions to ask. Knowing how to manage the process has to be understood to ensure that laid down rules be followed, with none of them ignored.

Coercive interrogation methods that are considered extreme belong between those prohibited by the treaty and those conventionally permitted to seek a willful confession by the constitution. There is a determination to confirm that government officials have met possible causes either in writing or affirmations. The extreme methods also fall between those banned as torture by statutory obligations and those that would rather be acceptable so that confession can be found as stipulated by the constitution. Techniques falling under this category of interrogation are many and require an expert to recommend an exact list of allowed techniques.

Some standards are applied before using coercive approaches to any case since some can be very restrictive and may require grounds to believing that the information gathered would protect lives. Some may be more lenient to the extent that the coercion techniques are freely applied to an individual. On every occasion, it is believed that the person possesses essential information that may be used to overpower terrorists. The standards lie at the central and are complemented by other ways of collecting information; they may not achieve the same goals. The decision on what techniques is permissible is found in the statutory obligations, and standards are to be applied when using the authorized techniques for individual cases in a decentralized manner.

In emergency exception, no officials, workers, or any other person standing in on behalf of the nation are allowed to use unauthorized interrogation techniques unless there is written approval from the concerned person. This can only be allowed when the need is considered to be urgent and unusual. The discovery needs to be presented to the relevant committees within a reasonable period while specifying why the condition is deemed to be critical and by what means it poses a threat to people’s lives.

Individuals are exposed to highly coercive interrogation for individual solutions and relevance when conditions stated are not adhered to and may be compensated. Any information acquired when using highly coercive methods is not allowed to be used at any trial whatsoever, nor can it be used against the person from which it was obtained. There is also a universal Convention Against Torture that needs legal remedies by nations to those who have suffered from torture (Cleary & Bull, 2019). There is a need to acknowledge the demands of the rules and the amendments made to them over time. This helping in understanding differences between inexact products of interrogation strategies and adequately trustworthy information permitted to be used in criminal proceedings.

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Critiques of Coercive Interrogation Technique

It is argued that catastrophic situations rarely occur, making it hard to justify allowing the police to use coercive interrogation. The interrogation is usually justified only when there are reasonable convictions that the suspect will deliver appropriate information that can be used to save lives. Apart from war, scenarios like these are tough to find and are in most cases viewed as questionable by the authorities. This reality makes the benefits associated with coercive interrogation slowly fade away.

Another critique is that the costs involved in carrying out coercive interrogation are very high. This makes it hard to include officials in the interrogation process since many of them are prone to making errors, and sometimes they wrongly employ this technique by applying it to people who are in no way associated with terrorist attacks. This needless imposing of pain is an inherent cost regardless of the innocence or guilt of some crime. Since the first thing seen about coercive interrogation is its high cost and low benefits, justification of banning this technique becomes so easy.

There have been claims that if the primary reason for using coercive interrogation is obtaining lives, in case such information is not found, the technique becomes costly with no benefit. This is due to its failure to work as expected, and it would mean that the easy way to go about it is doing away with it. No adjustments would be needed, and the ethical and institutional questioned would have to be answered on the grounds of evidence available.

Coercive interrogation is considered to be ineffective by many people. People are unwilling to believe that this technique works, and they encourage themselves ethically; evil deeds are unproductive. When considering how the police chaotically mistreat suspects to get information from them, they decide to doubt the technique (Harries, 2018). People also claim that cost of coercive interrogation is high, especially when it comes to lives that have been lost for the failure of the technique to work. Banning the use of the coercive technique is considered beneficial in some circumstances.

Confession-Based Interrogation Techniques

This is a non-coercive technique intended to overwhelm the will of the suspect of refusing to make confessions by mounting pressure on their emotions. The method is also done by causing confession to look like the only sensible reply to the information presented by the interrogator. The Reid method is a confession-based technique where the interrogator comes up with ways of convincing the suspect how futile resistance is since sufficient evidence is already available to the interrogator. A confession can be made accessible to the suspect depending on how the interrogator judges the personality of the suspect. This confession presented serves as a way of negotiating or maybe allowing him a chance to investigate a crime in a manner that weakens its nature.

The interrogator can decide to trick the suspect by overstressing the evidence available against him. Confession can instead be presented to the accused to exert emotional pressure that would make the suspect follow the commands given by the interrogator. The Reid technique has three components: analysis of facts, conducting interviews, and interrogation. A factual analysis component is an approach to evaluating the suspect depending on observations made concerning the crime. The analysis is done to identify the suspect’s features and the offense to be used during interrogation.

Behavior Analysis Interview involves a session containing questions and answers to find symptoms of the truth or deceptions from the interviewee. The interviewer begins by asking background questions to gather the suspect’s personal information and then evaluates behavior by asking behavior-provoking questions. The final component in Reid is interrogation, and its occurrence is tied to the certainty of the suspect had taken in the matter under investigation. It entails confronting positively, developing a theme, handling denials, conquering objections, and retaining the suspect’s attention. The process then continues with taking care of the suspect’s mood, offering a different question, receiving an oral response from the suspect, and then writing the confession.

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Critiques of Reid/ Confession-Based Interrogation Technique

The first critique is that of discerning the truth or dishonesty since many investigators are not trained to separate lies and facts from the suspect. Those who are trained still find it hard to judge these two aspects (Verhoeven, 2018). This inability to differentiate between lies and truths makes interrogators make false judgments concerning serious matters. This exposes a significant risk to society as many lives may be affected by the wrong conclusions.

Another critique is that false confessions can be made from this technique. There are some instances where innocent suspects are forced to confess and bear the burden that they are not involved in any way. When guilt is presumed, it can lead to misclassification where the police ascribe dishonesty to honest suspects, coercion, and presenting private information confessed by the suspect to the public (Nirider et al., 2021). False confessions result from interrogators misbehaving, separate from the restrictions of the Reid technique.

Another controversy surrounding the Reid Interrogation technique is that of bluffing. This technique may backfire since it is prone to trickery and scamming where interviewers make up pieces of evidence that are not unrealistic. The unrealistic pieces of evidence made prove to the suspect that the information available to the interrogator against him is minimal. It is therefore suggested to apply this technique as the last option only when every other approach fails. Interrogators have to develop a creative ability to create examples to avoid confronting suspects with incorrect information.

In conclusion, it is essential to interrogate in an ethical manner such that the wellbeing and feelings of people are given priority above every other thing involved. Careful attention has required the selection of the technique to be used during interrogation. Interrogators have to try their level best to gather accurate information that can be helpful to reduce crimes, while, at the same time, saving lives. Interrogators can decide to collect relevant and adequate knowledge on the techniques to avoid making mistakes. The command can increase their skills when interrogating and give them an ability to discern.


Cleary, H. M., & Bull, R. (2019). Jail inmates’ perspectives on police interrogation. Psychology, Crime & Law, 25(2), 157-170. Web.

Harries, E. (2018). The CIA and enhanced interrogation techniques in the war on terror. Intelligence and National Security, 33(1), 151-156. Web.

Nirider, L., Davis, D., & Leo, R. A. (2021). A history of interrogation and interrogative suggestibility. The Litigator’s Handbook of Forensic Medicine, Psychiatry and Psychology (Thomson Reuters, forthcoming 2021).

Salvati, J. M., & Houck, S. C. (2019). Examining the causes and consequences of confession-eliciting tactics during interrogation. Journal of Applied Security Research, 14(3), 241-256. Web.

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Verhoeven, W. J. (2018). The complex relationship between interrogation techniques, suspects changing their statement and legal assistance. Evidence from a Dutch sample of police interviews. Policing and Society, 28(3), 308-327. Web.

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