Interrogators Without Pliers



The Chinese strategist and philosopher Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War that 'If you know others and know yourself you will win a hundred battles.' Which is obviously good advice but finding out about the 'others' is not straightforward. What if they don't want to talk and share their secrets with you?

Much of the debate about the interrogation of suspects in America's War on Terror has been about whether the methods used, such as waterboarding, could be described as torture. In this programme, Julian Putkowski sets aside all moral questions and instead thinks about efficiency. What is the most effective way to extract high quality information out of the enemy - the 'other'? If we are civil to our captives might we get them to cooperate? Could we get as much - or even more - information in exchange for a lot less pain?

Julian's unlikely role model is the Master Interrogator of the Luftwaffe Hanns Scharff. He gently extracted information from downed US fighter pilots by being friendly and never appearing to show interest when a new piece of the mosaic fell into place. Scharff summed it up as 'a display of information and persuasion appealing to common sense'.

Julian interviews:

Dr Gavin Oxburgh, at the University of Teeside who is an international expert on police questioning.

Ali Soufan, an FBI special agent, interrogator at Guantanamo Bay and author of 'The Black Banners.'

Claudius Scharff, Hanns' son, who tells us about how his dad took POWs for trips to the zoo and shows us a fascinating 'visitor's book' Hanns asked the downed pilots to sign.

The programme also includes extracts from lectures by Hanns Scharff to US pilots in California in the 1970's.

Producer: Matt Thompson

A Rockethouse production for BBC Radio 4.