The word interrogation comes, ironically from the Latin root word “interrogatus”, which means “to ask”. At no time in Amanda’s “interrogation” was any she truly ‘asked’ anything, or was any information truly solicited. This interrogation was simply planned coercion to force her to say what the police needed her to say. No true “interrogation” took place. What took place bore more resemblance to the Inquisition than to an interrogation.
I have said in an earlier article that if any FBI Agents who reported to me had conducted this interview, I would have had them prosecuted. I stand by that.
In my quarter-century with the FBI, I became very adept at interrogation (or ‘interviewing’; the Bureau’s kinder and gentler phrase for interrogation.) In the majority of my cases that went to trial, I had already obtained a confession. On one occasion, I listened and took notes for eight hours as a murderer confessed in disturbing detail. On another occasion, I interviewed a man for 8 hours before he confessed and provided corroborating information on a murder he had assisted in.
In the instance of the latter confession, I met with the suspect at about noon at the FBI office. I read him what are known by the public as “Miranda Rights”, and then immediately took him to lunch at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant down the street. The conversation got more serious as the evening went on, and I ordered take-out for dinner. Later that evening, the suspect tearfully confessed. However, because the interview went 8 hours, and occurred in the FBI office, the United States Attorney’s Office refused to enter the confession into evidence because they believed any federal court would consider the circumstances of the confession “inherently coercive”. The individual was never prosecuted for that crime. This is the diligence with which federal courts protect an individual from even possible coercion.
Amanda Knox was interrogated for 8 hours. Overnight. Without food or water. In a police station. In a foreign country. In a foreign language. By a dozen different officers. Without being allowed a lawyer.
In my cases in the FBI, I have seen agents conduct masterful interviews, and I have had to deal with intelligence operatives of other countries torturing suspects. I know my way around good and bad interrogations.
The Inquisition Amanda Knox experienced in Perugia was no more legally or morally defensible than the Salem Witch Trials. No rational person should believe that the results of what she went through are reliable evidence.
THE 40-HOUR INTERROGATION WEEK:
How many hours do you work a week? If you’re like almost everybody, you work 40 hours in five days. In the five days after the murder of Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox was interrogated by detectives for 43 hours. Think about that for a minute. That’s not a number in dispute. 43 hours of sitting at a table being badgered by questions from detectives in five days. 8 hours a day for an entire work week. In a foreign country. In a foreign language.
Of even greater ignominy are the last eight hours of the interrogation. This took place from 10:30 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. All night. Why would detectives schedule an interrogation overnight? Detectives are for the most part different from other policemen in that their regular schedule is 8a-5p or 9a-5p or something similar. Sure, they get called out in the middle of the night, but all things equal, unless you are in a department like NYPD or LAPD where a skeleton crew covers the evening shift; normal schedules for detectives are not overnight.
But that night, Amanda was interrogated all night. And by not just one or two detectives, but by a dozen (12) detectives. Again, the police not only do not dispute this, but they have entered this evidence into court. Perugia has a population of approximately 165,000 people. I live in a town of 100,000 and there are less than ½ a dozen detectives to cover the city, much less work an all-night shift. Perugia had to call in resources from Rome to help that night. It was not a spontaneous interrogation. It was pre-planned, and pre-planned to be an all-nighter.
Why interrogate all night? There are few legitimate reasons:
· It’s a rapidly unfolding case where lives are at risk, such as a bombing spree
· It’s the only time the suspect is available
· There is a deadline
If you are going to have 12 detectives available all night for an interrogation, you need to let them know well in advance. You need to schedule them, to change their days off, etc. You have to pay them overtime. In the real world, 12 detectives all night is something that has to be signed off by higher-ups. What does this tell us? It tells us the interrogation was NOT a rapidly unfolding case where lives were at risk—they planned this interview well in advance, and INTENTIONALLY overnight. They knew Amanda was available all day (as they had interviewed her for 35 hours in the past four days). There was no deadline. The lead detective in the case, Giobbi, had already said they “knew” Amanda was the murderer by this point. So they did not believe there was a murderer on the loose “out there.” (And yet there was).
No, the reason they interrogated Amanda all night was to break her. Not get the truth, not get answers, not make Perugia safer; but to break her so that she would say what they wanted her to say.
They used a technique that I unfortunately became aware of while serving overseas in counter-terrorism. We used to call it “tag-teaming”. I am aware of its use by intelligence/law enforcement officers of other countries. It takes dozens of operatives/officers to make it work. Two officers are assigned for approximately an hour at a time to the suspect. Their prime responsibility is simply to keep the person awake and agitated. They do this for only an hour, because it takes a lot out of the detectives. After an hour, a fresh pair of “interrogators” come in. Again, the questions they ask are secondary to their main task—keep the person awake and afraid. By tag-teaming every hour, the interrogators remain fresh, energetic and on-task. The suspect, however, becomes increasingly exhausted, confused by different questions from dozens of different interrogators, and prays for the interrogation to end. In extreme cases, people can become so disoriented that they forget where they are. Interrogation such as this for more than four days has resulted in death.
As evidence of the effectiveness of this technique, I provide excerpts from a de-classified CIA document published by Research Publication Woodbridge, CT 06525. This document was from the Director of the CIA to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1956, and described techniques for brainwashing used by Communists in North Korea:
CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
WASHINGTON 25, D. C.
OFFICE OF THE DIRECTOR 25 APR 1956
MEMORANDUM FOR: The Honorable J. Edgar Hoover
Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation
SUBJECT : Brainwashing
TECHNIQUES AND THEIR EFFECTS:
5. Induction of Fatigue. This is a well-known device for breaking will power and critical powers of judgment. Deprivation of sleep results in more intense psychological debilitation than does any other method of engendering fatigue. The communists vary their methods. "Conveyor belt" interrogation that last 50-60 hours will make almost any individual compromise, but there is danger that this will kill the victim. It is safer to conduct interrogations of 8-10 hours at night while forcing the prisoner to remain awake during the day. Additional interruptions in the remaining 2-3 hours of allotted sleep quickly reduce the most resilient individual .
Fatigue, in addition to reducing the will to resist, also produces irritation……forgetfulness, and decreased ability to maintain orderly thought processes.
That is what happened to Amanda that night. You do not need 12 detectives all night in a station in order to conduct a normal interrogation. All you need are two. It is an aberration for a detective not on the case to interview another detective’s subject. It’s kind of like a car salesman cutting in on another salesman’s customer halfway through the deal. So, they were there for a reason.
ELICITATION v. COERCION
1. Elicitation is the attempt to determine information one does not already have.
2. Coercion is the attempt to cause a person to say or do something by force or threat.
If you’re trying to determine facts and truth, you want your suspect clear, lucid and awake. If you want to coerce your suspect into saying what you want them to say, you want them disoriented, groggy and confused.
From the same CIA document on brainwashing:
“There is a major difference between preparation for elicitation and for brainwashing . Prisoners exploited through elicitation must retain sufficient clarity of thought to be able to give coherent, factual accounts. In brainwashing , on the other hand, the first thing attacked is clarity of thought.”
What do you think the police were attempting to do that night? Determine the truth? Or force a scared American college girl to create a case for them?
Amanda was given nothing to eat or drink during the interrogation. No coffee. Nothing until she signed the statement they wanted her to sign. The entire interrogation was in Italian, which she did not functionally speak at the time. She was threatened with never seeing her parents again, with a 30 year prison sentence, and repeatedly called ‘stupid’. Does any reasonable person really doubt she that she was also slapped in the head when the interrogators didn’t like what she said? When she asked for a lawyer, she was told that a lawyer would only “make it worse” for her.
WHY DID IT END WHEN IT DID?
There are two reasons an interrogator stops an interrogation:
1. He/she gets what they want, or
2. He/she gives up.
If the interrogator gives up, there is no written statement by the suspect. Therefore, if the interrogation ends with a signed statement, you know the interrogator got what they wanted, and can easily determine what that was. And what did Amanda say that satisfied her inquisitors? “I confusedly remember seeing Patrick come out of Meredith’s room”. So what did they want? They wanted to implicate Patrick Lumumba.
Amanda did not bring up the name Patrick Lumumba. The police did. And they repeatedly told her to “imagine” Patrick and herself being at the cottage that night.
Amanda did not give in to the brainwashing. But the police achieved enough with her to obtain a statement that let them do what they had intended to do all along: Arrest Patrick Lumumba.
But Amanda’s note the next day to police indicates that the techniques they used were effective nonetheless. The same CIA document described the techniques used to brainwash a person, as well as the desired results. If you compare Amanda’s note to the police just hours after her interrogation with the techniques and goals of brainwashing, the results speak for themselves. (The excerpts from Amanda’s note are in italics):
“The most important aspect of the brainwashing process is the interrogation. The other pressures are designed primarily to help the interrogator achieve his goals. The following states are created systematically within the individual . These may vary in order, but all are necessary to the brainwashing process:”
1. A feeling of helplessness in attempting to deal with the impersonal machinery of control.
“Please don't yell at me because it only makes me more confused, which doesn't help anyone. I understand how serious this situation is, and as such, I want to give you this information as soon and as clearly as possible.”
“Honestly, I understand because this is a very scary situation. I also know that the police don't believe things of me that I know I can explain.”
“I have a clearer mind that I've had before, but I'm still missing parts, which I know is bad for me.”
"In regards to this "confession" that I made last night, I want to make clear that I'm very doubtful of the verity of my statements because they were made under the pressures of stress, shock and extreme exhaustion. Not only was I told I would be arrested and put in jail for 30 years, but I was also hit in the head when I didn't remember a fact correctly.”
2. An initial reaction of "surprise."
“What I don't understand is why Raffaele, who has always been so caring and gentle with me, would lie about this.”[He hadn’t]
“My boyfriend has claimed that I have said things that I know are not true.” [He hadn’t]
3. A feeling of uncertainty about what is required of him.
“If there are still parts that don't make sense, please ask me. I'm doing the best I can, just like you are. Please believe me at least in that, although I understand if you don't. All I know is that I didn't kill Meredith, and so I have nothing but lies to be afraid of.”
“Please don't yell at me because it only makes me more confused, which doesn't help anyone.”
4. A developing feeling of dependence upon the interrogator.
“I understand that the police are under a lot of stress, so I understand the treatment I received.”
“I'm doing the best I can, just like you are.”
5. A sense of doubt and loss of objectivity.
“The police have told me that they have hard evidence that places me at the house, my house, at the time of Meredith's murder. I don't know what proof they are talking about, but if this is true, it means I am very confused…”
“This is very strange, I know, but really what happened is as confusing to me as it is to everyone else.”
“I have been told there is hard evidence saying that I was at the place of the murder of my friend when it happened. This, I want to confirm, is something that to me, if asked a few days ago, would be impossible.”
6. Feelings of guilt.
7. A questioning attitude toward his own value-system.
8. A feeling of potential "breakdown," i.e.,that he might go crazy.
“However, it was under this pressure and after many hours of confusion that my mind came up with these answers. In my mind I saw Patrik (sic) in flashes of blurred images. I saw him near the basketball court. I saw him at my front door. I saw myself cowering in the kitchen with my hands over my ears because in my head I could hear Meredith screaming. But I've said this many times so as to make myself clear: these things seem unreal to me, like a dream, and I am unsure if they are real things that happened or are just dreams my head has made to try to answer the questions in my head and the questions I am being asked.”
“I'm very confused at this time. My head is full of contrasting ideas and I know I can be frustrating to work with for this reason. But I also want to tell the truth as best I can.”
"In these flashbacks that I'm having, I see Patrik (sic) as the murderer, but the way the truth feels in my mind, there is no way for me to have known…”
9. A need to defend his acquired principles.
“I want to make very clear that these events seem more unreal to me that what I said before, that I stayed at Raffaele's house.”
“Who is the REAL murder [sic]? This is particularly important because I don't feel I can be used as condemning testimone [sic] in this instance.”
10. A final sense of "belonging" (identification).
What the inquisitors did not achieve however, speaks volumes of Amanda’s character and innocence. No matter how hard they tried, and how manipulative and coercive they were, Amanda repeatedly denied ANY involvement in the murder, and the police could develop no feelings of guilt in her. This is not sociopathy, this is innocence. Note that in her note, she expresses empathy for the officers who had just subjected her to this abomination.
Never once did she question her own innocence (value system). And never did she experience any sense of identification with the accusations of the police.
This is an innocent college girl subjected to the most aggressive and heinous interrogation techniques the police could utilize (yet not leave marks.) She became confused, she empathized with her captors, she doubted herself in some ways, but in the end her strength of character and her unshakable knowledge of her innocence carried her through. It’s time that the real criminals were prosecuted.