Reduced Fear interrogation techniques

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Reduced Fear interrogation techniques, the term used in Guantanamo guidance,[1] are also called Fear Down. They are the antithesis of coercive, and subtly different than Pride and Ego Up interrogation techniques; they are focused on reducing fear that is overriding any other discussion, rather than overcoming a more depressed attitude. The core doctrine is that this is no more than calming, reassuring him of humane treatment and that he is free of the dangers of war. Indeed, the discussion, when this method is in use, should avoid pertinent questions that might re-trigger the fear. "[2]

A more subtle aspect is that it must be tied to the prisoner's perspective, not the interrogator's perspective. "If a prisoner is so frightened that he has withdrawn into a shell or regressed back to a less threatening state of mind, the interrogator must break through to him. This may be effected by the interrogator putting himself on the same physical level as the source and may require some physical contact." [2]

Interrogators and interrogation planners must realize that not everyone can be calming. Mackey wrote that he found it a challenge to use, but observed that his female colleagues often could use it very effectively. [3] Nevertheless, a gender-based approach has to consider the prisoner's culture; it could be unwise to use with a male subject conditioned to believe that he should not talk to women, or one in which he would have no respect for one.

Gender is not the only way to pick a calming interrogator. Multiple interrogator techniques can be used here, not in the Mutt and Jeff model, but simply bringing in an interrogator to whom the prisoner may relate. This is an area where behavioral science consultants may help; FBI interrogator Jack Cloonan cited their value in planning the establishemt of rapport with Jose Padilla. They advised "You know what he needs? He needs a father figure," leading to Cloonan being selected as the preferred interrogator, because he was the oldest man on the FBI team. [4]

Reducing pressure too much may be counterproductive, but, if the prisoner's personality was such that he needed Fear Down, changing to a more confrontational technique is likely to be effective.


  1. Jerald Phifer (October 11, 2002), Memorandum for Commander, Joint Task Force 170: Request for Counter-Resistance Strategies, Joint Task Force 170, Department of Defense
  2. 2.0 2.1 , Appendix H: Approaches, Field Manual (FM) 34-52: Intelligence Interrogation, U.S. Army, 8 May 1987
  3. Chris Mackey & Greg Miller (2004), The Interrogators: inside the secret war against al Qaeda, Little, Brown & Co., ISBN 0-316-87112-5, pp. 482-483
  4. The Torture Question: Interview, Jack Cloonan, Public Broadcasting Service