Were you ever taught about the use of drugs?
Yes. Sodium pentothal.
What did they teach you?
That it works, to a certain extent. That you can resist it. But that we were never to use it.
How would you resist it?
Depends on the individual. All depends to a certain extent on the willpower of the individual and the state of mind of the individual. I’ve not talked to anyone who’s been under it but the psychologists that we had said ‘Yeah, it’s going to affect some people’ but it’s more to do with the fear of the needle than the drug. And by the way when you’re under and you surface, did you say anything anyway? Then the doubt factor comes into play.
What was the atmosphere like in the army after the Interrogation in Depth incident hit the headlines in 1971? ‘Stupid bloody politicians’? ‘Stupid bloody press’? or ‘We went too far’?
‘Stupid bloody press.’ We had a similar problem in Aden. Every time that the Brits have gone into action – Cyprus, Aden, Ireland, Falkands, Gulf – our attitude was ‘stupid bloody press.’ The press was shallow, wanted a story, a nice juicy thing to write about: interrogation – something that the press knows a bit about because they often have to extract information for themselves. But I did an exercise in 1972, and I don’t recall that we were going to recall that we were going to change our techniques just because some bloody journalist had screwed things up.
You weren’t allowed to do it to the IRA but you could still do it to your own guys in training…
Absolutely not but that was because we’d been found out, if you like. It was deemed by a couple of judges to be counterproductive. But what the judges couldn’t see was that if you remove the particular skill to question people who are members of an ARMY, and lived up the ideals of an army – they followed the four principals – but they managed to outflank the army. I don’t think the army was terribly upset. They just had to rethink…
Were you yourself in Northern Ireland during Internment?
No, I came to Northern Ireland about 9 months after, but one of my jobs was to gather information on what was going on in Long Kesh.
It’s been suggested that the RUC had very carefully targeted the top 12 they wanted for Interrogation in Depth?
Absolutely. That’s what you do with a prisoner. You have a bunch of people, and – don’t forget that those 12 who were lifted were not just lifted for the sheer hell of it. An intelligence document file would have been built up on each. Had the army been allowed to continue that, the IRA in Londonderry would have been brought to a standstill within days. If we had been allowed to use the full weight of military intelligence techniques, including interrogation. Because these people were not used to it. These 12 guys were not used to it, and suddenly they were confronted by interrogators. Proper, grown-up interrogators.
Can you see why the press goes bananas about this sort of thing, though? Some of these guys ended up psychologically damaged…
Of course. So what? Don’t join the army! Play the big boys’ rules. I don’t care if they’re shit-scared later on. Don’t join a terrorist organisation! I don’t have a problem with it. If they’re shit-scared 12 or 20 years later, I haven’t got a problem. I can show you people who do, too. I still wake up sometimes at night. I don’t give a toss about them. If you’re going to be a terrorist, I don’t say ‘play by the rules’, but ‘expect the full weight of the security force reaction’.
But that sounds like a slippery slope that might end up justifying anything – including the extraction of fingernails. Why not electrocute them all?
Because it’s pointless. Then they start to resist. Pain doesn’t work. Pain actually induces resistance. There is a limit to the amount of pain you can take, no doubt about that, but it does induce resistance. We used to equate it to playing a game of rugby or soccer. If you deliberately hurt the opponent, he’s going to get fired up… and you get worse back. There are plenty of examples of people who were interrogated by the Gestapo and who resisted for days and days and days. But there IS a point at which you can’t take any more pain.
Then what happens?
By that time probably the information is too late. What information you’re going to get from the prisoners has got to be of value. Timely. One of the things we said to the SAS and the others was ‘Hold out for as long as you possibly can. 24 hours at least, 36 hours good, 48 hours great’.
Do SAS come to the Intelligence Corps for their R2I training, or do they do it themselves?
There’s a thing called the All Arms Combat Survival course held near Hereford. And because they exercise in the wilds of Wales, it’s useful to go there and there’s a purpose-built interrogation centre there.
The interrogation is done by Intelligence Corps guys?
Yes. Generally, it used to run at the end of the long interrogation course – it culminated in the combat survival course, so the two knitted together.
How many men attended the Long Interrogation Course at a time?
No more than 12 or 15 people. 3 weeks for regulars and 2 weeks for TA. … We used to do SBS, anywhere in the UK. SBS: excellent, very tough! SAS not so good. Then we used to do Greeks, Americans, French, Belgians in Europe. Then RAF aircrew in Plymouth, then exercises in southern Germany near Munich. Then we’d go to the States. I went to the survival school at Spokane, the JFK special warfare centre in Fort Bragg), the FBI Academy – because they were very interested in how we went about it. Then the US army school up in the north somewhere.
If there is a key to interrogating, is it fear?
Yes. Keep him thinking ‘What is going to happen to me? If I don’t do this, what are the implications?’ When you end an interrogation, you leave the guy with a thought: ‘It really is time you started to chatting because there’s a lorry coming in a couple of hours and if you don’t, you’re going to go through the next few hours again. Is it worth it?’ Or you blame an officer for letting down his men. That’s a great one for officers: ‘you’ve let down your men’. Great one.
Tags: Abu Ghraib, All Arms Combat Survival Course, Brainwash: The Secret History of Mind Control, Brainwashing, British Army, Camp 020 Film, Counter-Interrogation Training, Escape and Evasion, Five Techniques, Geneva Convention, Guantanamo Bay, Hooding, Interrogation Techniques, IRA, Iraq, JFK Special Warfare Centre, Joint Services Interrogation Wing, Korean War, MI5, Northern Ireland, Royal Intelligence Corps, RUC, Sensory Deprivation, Sodium Pentothal, Stress Positions, The Shock of Capture, Torture, US Military, USAF Survival School, White Noise