Psychology: As Powerful As A Rubber Hose (and Riseup, Satoshi/Szabo, NSA-GCHQ/poisoning)

An old article, but a good one.

Screw xkcd — you don’t need a wrench. Modern interrogation psychology is good enough to do the job with just talking. In an experiment, psychologists showed they could use interrogation techniques to convince 65% of people they had committed a crime of which they were innocent.

The experiment involved having subjects type a letter that was being dictated to them, under strict instructions not to hit the ALT key. They were told the ALT key would trigger a bug and make the computer crash.

The computer crashed anyway. Under pressure, 100% of subjects signed a “confession,” 65% actually believed they’d done the “crime,” and 35% actually made up details to support this false confession!

Before you lot cry “just a lab experiment,” there’s evidence from the Real World this kind of thing happens there too. (Like a sheriff who under interrogation recalled “repressed” memory of having committed sex abuse crimes for which there was no evidence the crimes had been done.)

Anyway, do yourself a favor. Go pick up an interrogation handbook. I most highly recommend:

Inbau, “Essentials of the Reid Technique”
Zulawski et al, “Practical Aspects of Interview and Interrogation” Navarro and Karlins, “What Every BODY is Saying”

(Plus, anything you can get that’s published by Charles C. Thomas ( is almost certain to be good.)

Who knows, knowing this stuff might save your ass one day.

Particularly critical is being able to spot the turning point, where an interrogator feels: a) he or she has the upper hand
b) you’re guilty of something or other
c) it’s worth trying to get you to confess.

At this point, the interrogator moves out of “info gathering” and into “confession extracting” mode. The “vibe” of the conversation goes from give-and-take to dominating… and you’re not the one doing the dominating. This is not the same kind of dominating that takes place in the “informational” part of the interview.

Let me make an analogy to transportation. Informational interviewing is like driving. You can change lanes, make a turn at random places, etc. The interrogation is like jumping on a train. The conversation is now “on rails,” specifically, an express train to pain.

It’s a subtle shift, but as an interviewee it’s critical to derail their flow at this moment — lest you get backed into a corner with highly unjust and even more unpleasant consequences!

Derailing basically takes the form of reaching into yourself and pulling out enough energy to take the wheel and steer things onto another track. How this actually plays out will depend on the content of the interview; I’m very much speaking in meta-terms here.

(One example would be referencing an earlier point in the conversation as a cognitive anchor point, and doing so strongly enough — and at enough length — that the interviewer drops out of interrogation mode and goes back to informational interviewing mode. But really anything that will “jam up the wheels” will do. Just beware presenting actually new information here could be counterproductive, as then the interviewer may smell blood and press on even harder.)

RiseUp: a US-based email service marketed to political activists? One commentator stops just short of asking whether it’s run entirely by the FBI, or merely as a joint FBI-private sector collaboration. Note even Wikileaks hosted their internal mailing list (the one that’s now, ah, “hosted” publicly on Cryptome) on RiseUp.

Satoshi Nakamoto is probably Nick Szabo.

Wayne Madsen claims NSA/GCHQ poison heads of state in their hotel rooms using ROYAL CONCIERGE. “Do NSA’s Close Access Tech Ops and ROYAL CONCIERGE involve poisoning heads of state in their hotel rooms? Today at http://WayneMadsenReport.com

“Dr. Kassin cites several historical cases of people giving
false confessions to escape aversive interrogation, to gain a promised reward or because they came to believe they had committed the crime. The most recent and well-documented case of false confession was Paul Ingram, a former deputy sheriff in Olympia, Washington who “after 23 interrogations, which extended for five months, was detained, hypnotized, provided with graphic crime details, told by a police psychologist that sex offenders typically repress their offenses, and urged by the minister of his church to confess,” eventually “recalled” raping his daughter, sexual abuse
and satanic crimes that included the slaughter of newborn babies. There was no physical evidence to suggest that the crimes had even occurred, Dr. Kassin notes, but Paul Ingram was sentenced to 20 years in jail, where he remains.

While Paul Ingram may have suffered from an unusually high
degree of suggestibility, Dr. Kassin describes laboratory
experiments involving college students that demonstrate the
relative ease with which innocent persons can be induced not only to admit guilt, but to adopt the false belief that they are guilty and even confabulate details to fit that newly created belief (at least in a low-stakes, non-criminal situation).

In the experiment, participants were instructed to type
letters into a computer as they were read off by a confederate at either a slow or fast pace. The participants were warned not to touch the ALT key on the keyboard or else the computer would malfunction and data would be lost. In each case, the computer suddenly “crashed” and the experimenter accused the participant of hitting the ALT key. In all cases, the participant at first denied hitting the key (and none actually had hit the key), but half the time the confederate claimed to have witnessed the participant hitting the key and half the time the confederate claimed not to have seen what happened. The experimenter then hand-wrote a
standardized confession and prodded the partipants to sign it. Overall, 69 percent signed it and 28 percent believed they were actually guilty. Compliance was highest among those who had been typing the letters at the faster pace and whose “witness” claimed that they had hit the ALT key: 100 percent of them signed the confession, 65 percent believed they were guilty and 35 percent confabulated details to fit their belief.

This is important, Dr. Kassin says, because confession
evidence — even confession evidence that has been withdrawn or recanted — can have enormous influence on juries. Even when a judge rules that a disputed confession was coerced and not
voluntary and instructs the jury to discount it, evidence from mock juror experiments suggests that jurors will often be persuaded by it anyway. “In short,” Dr. Kassin notes, “confession evidence is so inherently prejudicial that people do not fully discount the information even when it is logically and legally appropriate to do so.”

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