Joe Narvarro, a former counterintelligence agent and interrogator for the FBI joined played Hardball with Chris Matthews on Tuesday.
Navarro has been involved in many of the major terrorism and espionage investigations over the past 20 years. He has also written a book about interrogation, “Advanced Interviewing Techniques.”
To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the “Launch” button to the right.
CHIRS MATTHEWS, HOST, ‘HARDBALL’: Is that meant to be sarcastic or what? Interviewing techniques—I mean, if somebody has their thumbs in screws, is that an interview technique?
JOE NAVARRO, FMR. FBI INTERROGATOR: Well, I think it reflects both authors, Jack Schafer and myself, who decided that to be effective interviewers and collectors of information, you really don’t have to interrogate. It’s reflected in the material in the book.
MATTHEWS: We’ve talked about this many times, but let’s start from the basics here, because I think a lot of people are curious about this. They may have attitudes; they don’t have understanding. Torture, does it ever work?
NAVARRO: You know, I suspect that it may, but in reality, you know, the only thing that torture guarantees is pain. It never guarantees the truth. It’s a technique that we in the FBI have never used, we don’t need. Professional interviewers have never subscribed to it.
The American Association of Marine Interviewers don’t subscribe to it. In fact, most of the military interviewers that I’ve worked with don’t subscribe to it. And so we are not sure where the need for this is coming from.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me get a little graphic here. You see a snake pit in front of you, all these snakes down there, killer snakes, horrible looking creatures, and you say to a person, if you don’t answer the next three questions, you are going in that, and you are going to die in that pit. That doesn’t work?
NAVARRO: It doesn’t, because what may happen is, what that will generate is, they may just begin to provide superfluous information.
MATTHEWS: Well, then you say that is not good enough, buddy. You’re going in the pit unless you tell us the truth.
NAVARRO: You need to establish the truth. For instance, if you harass someone long enough or even torture them, one of things that happens is it attenuates our ability to detect deception. The best way to detect deception is to establish some sort of norm. If we are torturing somebody or harassing them, we are, in fact, affecting their limbic system and our ability to read them. So it works against us.
MATTHEWS: If it doesn’t work, why does the mob use it? Don’t they use it to find out who ratted whom out? They used to do it in the movies.
NAVARRO: They use it because they are psychopaths, Chris.
MATTHEWS: So they just like to hurt people?
NAVARRO: They just like to hurt people. For 40 years, the FBI have been fighting terrorism. We fought the KKK, the Macheteros, the FALN. We didn’t need any of these techniques, we used traditional techniques that stand up to judicial scrutiny, and that’s where we should be.
MATTHEWS: What about sodium pentathol, truth serum?
NAVARRO: Well, you know, there is a lot of speculation that there may be some drugs coming down the line that we may be able to use, I think, and it has been debated in the intelligence community, perhaps if there is a court we could go to and say, last case scenario, we have got a ticking time bomb, perhaps a judicial officer would grant us an opportunity.
It’s the least intrusive. But there is no guarantee. All it does is relax you. All it does is permit you to relax enough so you are not fighting the interrogator, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything.
MATTHEWS: OK, suppose you were the officer in charge, you were the special agent in charge in Minnesota. And you picked up Moussaoui, the guy who was taking flying lessons who was apparently going to be or could have been one of the—would have been the 20th hijacker, and you had a reason to believe that he knew something was up, something big. What would you have done with him?
NAVARRO: Number one, get the best interviewer that we have got in the bureau; number two, make sure that we create the right theater to be able to evince the information from him and psychologically seduce him into cooperating. Have we done that before? Absolutely. I can’t give you the cases, but we’ve done it.
MATTHEWS: Would you say that we picked up the other guys and they are already ratting you out? Would you stay we’ve already apprehended certain people? Can you say it’s next Tuesday? They’ve already had the disaster? Can you fake the day?
NAVARRO: We could. We could have. We could have tried any different kinds of techniques, but it’s based on a personality assessment of that individual.
MATTHEWS: So you don’t buy the Alan Dershowitz, the professor at Harvard, who says if you’ve got somebody in the 11th hour and they know that it’s going to be doomsday for the planet like a nuclear weapon in New York, a real nuclear bomb in New York, in the subway system, you don’t think you would go to extreme measures?
NAVARRO: Look, Dershowitz is a brilliant attorney. He is not a world-class interviewer. I have talked to world class interviewers, I have taught these individuals. We don’t need to torture these individuals.
MATTHEWS: What is the risk though in doing it? If you’re really brutal about it, you needed to get the information, what’s wrong with torturing somebody if it’s a million people or 100,000 people are going to die the next day.
NAVARRO: Number one, the person may die. Number two, he may lie to us. Number three, he may lead us astray.
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you have to lose at that point, if they’re not talking?
NAVARRO: What do you have to lose? A lot. Because what if he has other information?
MATTHEWS: What about in the 11th hour situation, though?
NAVARRO: Eleventh hour information, you know, that’s often bantered about.
MATTHEWS: OK, we don’t do it. Let’s talk Turkey, and in fact literally Turkey. We send people at renditions. We send them to parts of the world that don’t have this intellectual approach to this. They may have some psychopaths on the payroll down in the basement of some truth ministry in Cairo or Amman or somewhere else over there in that part of the world. Why do we do that if we don’t think torture works? Why do we have these renditions to these dark basements in the third world?
NAVARRO: I’ve never been party to it. And if it is going on, I don’t agree to it. I think everything that we do should stand up to judicial scrutiny. And I think rendering individuals so that they are somehow softened up by another government works against us.
MATTHEWS: Why do you think that the agency, as we call it in Washington, is asking—why is CIA asking for this? Or is it CIA, or is it just the vice president wants it?
NAVARRO: Well, I’m not sure if it is the CIA. And if it is the CIA, I would like to know, because I teach occasionally at the CIA. I’ve dealt with their instructors, and none of the ones I dealt with have asked for this.
And once again, Chris, I’ll tell you, good interrogators don’t need these techniques, they don’t want these techniques. We just absolutely don’t need them.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you about the best—the country figured that has maybe the best intelligence service, because it’s such a small country and surrounded by hostility: Israel. How tough is Masad when they catch somebody, a terrorist? How do they deal with them?
NAVARRO: Well, interestingly enough, having worked with individuals from our sister services over there, they use psychological techniques.
MATTHEWS: Give me an example if you can?
NAVARRO: They will isolate the person and surround them in such an environment that they feel that for—to attend to any need that this individual has, they have to cooperate with.
MATTHEWS: I read that in our pre-interview that they have to come—let’s talk about what time you want to have diner tonight, would you like to have dinner today or tomorrow?
NAVARRO: We make the mistake of setting a schedules of feeding these individuals and bathing them. And you can change the table by saying, if you want to be fed, if you want to be bathed, if you want recreational time, you have got to come to us and talk to us about it.
MATTHEWS: Do the Israelis keep their prisoners naked for weeks at a time, like in “Little Drummer Girl,” that movie?
NAVARRO: That I don’t know.
MATTHEWS: Do they turn the lights on, like in “Darkness at Noon?”
NAVARRO: You know, a lot of books have been written about some of the techniques. I think they have gotten away from that because the Israeli Supreme Court said knock it off.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that it’s torture to keep a person awake for long periods of time, to use sleep deprivation to weaken their resistance? Is that torture?
NAVARRO: Yes I do. I do. I don’t think it works.
MATTHEWS: It doesn’t. I bed you become very hallucinatory and weak-minded if you are awake for days after days without getting enough night time.
NAVARRO: Look, if I have a subject I’m working on I want his mind to be lucid.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you, you worked for the FBI for 25 years.
NAVARRO: Yes, sir. I did.
MATTHEWS: Is there anybody who disagrees with you on this, who thinks torture works?
NAVARRO: There may be, but I’ll tell you what, it’s not something the FBI has ever taught and I still teach there. And we don’t teach that. And we never will.
MATTHEWS: No thumb screws, no electric charges, nothing like that?
NAVARRO: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: God, it makes me surprised. I’m amazed there is no effort like that, even in extreme cases?
NAVARRO: We don’t want it.
MATTHEWS: Well, thank you very much, Joe Navarro. You know what you are talking about. Twenty-five years at the FBI. Good luck with the book, it’s name is “Advanced Interviewing Techniques.”
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