The Basics of HUMINT Collection: Tactical Questioning

TQGuerrillamerica – by SAMUEL CULPER III

Before we get into TQ, I’ve updated the Training page to reflect a few classes.  We have the first ICAC scheduled for the Atlanta area on 17-18 August.  We already have a nice sized class shaping up.  I’m going to limit these classes to 10 pax because there will be a lot of questions, and because everyone benefits from one-on-one interaction.  We have a few spots left, so email me if you’re interested.  

Seeing as how the new Intelligence Collection and Analysis Course (ICAC) is going to cover interviewing and tactical questioning, I figured now’s a good a time as any to provide a brief primer on the mystical skills of “interrogation”.

In keeping with our motto that “Every Patriot is a Sensor”, it’s incumbent on all Patriots to collect information of intelligence value when able.  On a tactical or community level, most collection should be passive instead of active.  By passive collection, I mean collecting information that you overhear or come into contact with in the normal course of your duties; you’re not going out of your way to gather information.  If everyone was James Bond, there’d be thousands of 007 movies.  The best thing to do is unless you’ve been tasked to satisfy an intelligence requirement, to stay out of the way.  There’s no sense in fifteen “collectors” asking the same individual about the same information.  Chances are good that you’ll screw up the source, especially an unwitting source.

So it’s up to the ACE to task out collection to specific collectors on specific topics.  Task the sheriff’s deputy to collect on the activities of the sheriff’s department.  Task the armory neighbor to collect on the activities of the local National Guard armory.  Don’t task the grocery store clerk to collection on what the sheriff’s department or the National Guard armory is doing.  The grocery store clerk doesn’t have the placement and access to the information we’re looking for (unless we want to know of anyone making exceptionally large purchases, say, to sustain a force in the field).

Active collection – tactical questioning, interviewing, and “interrogation” – should be done by trained collectors, or at least with people with a modicum of understanding of what they’re doing and how it should be done.  They must have placement and access to the information we’re looking for.  It’s the same as the “gunfighter” concept: just because you have an AR-15 doesn’t make you a gunfighter.  In fact, just like a guy who doesn’t know his way around a rifle who has a higher chance of causing or sustaining a casualty than being effective, so does the average person have a higher chance of spooking or tipping off an unwitting source than successfully collecting information of intelligence value.

Tactical questioning.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, Tactical Questioning (TQ) is a daily occurrence.  Scenarios include rolling up local nationals (LNs) after a firefight or IED strike in order to determine their association to the event; or patrolling into a village and inquiring about daily life or the location and activities of the Taliban.  TQ is conducted on the objective and once the scene is secure, if after an engagement.

TQ in post-SHTF would likely present itself in the same manner.  If the local militia, security, or community defense element was alerted to a criminal or gang attack/event, then TQing the populace or suspicious persons would be in everyone’s best interest.  That’s how we generate actionable intelligence and follow-on missions to kill/capture bad people.  Maybe during TQ, the locals point out an individual who was acting suspiciously before the attack started.  Maybe we roll him up and determine from previous intelligence that he’s a lookout for the local criminal element.  He’s likely a treasure trove of information of intelligence value.

Getting effective at conducting TQ is going to pay big dividends in the fight to gain the edge on information in a vacuum.  Here are a handful of steps to prepare yourself for conducting TQ.

1) As a team, write a list of basic questions.  What happened, what did you see, who did you see, what did he/she look like, were there any identifying characteristics, how many were there, what were they driving, in what direction did they leave, what weapons were they carrying?  (Keep in mind that getting a SALUTE report is acceptable if there are time constraints or security concerns.)  Try to use open-ended questions instead of simple yes/no questions.  The list can go on and on, and there might be several lists tailored to specific events.  If there are frequently occurring events, then you should get really good at making the list more efficient.  Practice and don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions.  Ask for greater detail, if necessary.  “He had tattoos” might become “he had a shield tattoo on his arm with the letters LJG.”  (Leroy Jenkins Gang, for those of you who have read the blog from some time.)  TQ is a “direct” approach.  We are simply asking questions as opposed to using “approaches” typically associated with interrogation.  Leave the interrogation to people who are trained or best equipped to hand it.

2) Know the ACE’s Intelligence Requirements.  Know the things they want to know so that you can collect that information during TQ.  If the ACE is trying to form a running estimate of the disposition and strength of the Leroy Jenkings Gang, be sure to ask how many individuals there were during the event in question and how they were armed.  If the ACE is using predictive analysis of soft targets to predict future attacks, ask locals for their opinions.  They’re sensors, too, and great sources of information.  “Do you think this house will be hit again, and why?  Do you know of another home or area vulnerable to an attack like this?  Where is it, and what makes you think that?”  Utilize them.  If you discover that they have placement and access to interesting or useful information, take down their contact info and pass it back to the ACE.  You have just identified a potential source.

3) Learn indicators of deception.  Most humans naturally and automatically emit identifiable physiological responses when asked uncomfortable questions or when thinking of an untrue but viable answer to an incriminating question.  Refusal or reluctance to maintain eye contact, crossing of arms or feet/legs, tapping of fingers, hands, or feet, scratching or touching the face or neck, grooming gestures, marked changes in demeanor or behavior, and a myriad of other actions in conjunction with a line of questioning could indicate deception.  None of these actions by themselves mean that an individual is lying, but in the background of the situation and context of the information, indicators of deception are significant clues and should be considered.

4) Develop roles before hand.  Who’s going to question, and who’s going to record/take notes?  Determine if those notes are going to be written or recorded.  Then determine how that information is going to make its way back to the ACE so analysts can include this new information to the puzzle.  Every bit of information is a puzzle piece and analysts need every single piece to see the whole threat picture in the operation environment.

5) If conducting TQ of enemies, criminals, gangs, anyone other than friendlies, practice with your team the Five S’s: search, silence, segregate, safeguard, and speed to the rear.  There may be a situation where you must arrest an individual and take to the police station for committing a crime.  If the police are still around and trustworthy, there might be so few of them that it takes them 45 minutes to get to the scene.  How are we going to fulfill the 5th S, “speed to the rear”, that is, get our detainee back to the rear and into custody?

Learning TQ isn’t going to turn you into James Bond or a spy or a bona fide intelligence collector, but it will give you the tools to collect information on the tactical level that would otherwise be missed.  TQ is a critical component of the “Every Patriot is a Sensor” model.

In the future articles, we’ll cover interviewing and then interrogation.

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