US Army Course – IT0601 – Interrogation Course – Questioning Techniques

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Subcourse Number IT 0601 Edition C

United States Army Intelligence Center Fort Huachuca, AZ 85613-6000

2 Credit Hours

Edition Date: May 1997


This subcourse provides information on the proper use of questioning techniques during an interrogation in order to gain the maximum amount of enemy prisoner of war (EPW)/detainee information in the minimum amount of time. To understand how to effectively lead the EPW/detainee through his memory to obtain enemy dispositions.

Non-MOS 97E personnel should complete USAICS subcourse IT 0606 prior to taking this subcourse.

This subcourse reflects current doctrine at time of preparation. In your own work situation, always refer to the latest publication.

The words “he,” “him,” “his,” and “men,” when used in this publication, represent the masculine and feminine genders unless otherwise stated.


TASKS:    To apply direct questioning techniques to obtain all information pertinent to interrogation objective(s). To identify spot reportable information during the interrogation. To access and control the EPW/Detainee through proper use of repeated and control questions.

CONDITIONS:    Performed in a tactical environment. Given a EPW/detainee, captive tag, documents captured with the EPW/detainee, screening reports, previous interrogation reports, interrogation plan, map(s) of the area where EPW/detainee was captured, interrogation notes, and a pencil/marker capable of recording dispositions on a map’s surface, satisfy assigned collection requirements, maintain control of the interrogation, and correctly prepare written interrogation reports.

STANDARDS:    To demonstrate competency of this task, you must achieve a minimum of 70% on the subcourse examination.


Subcourse Overviewi
LESSON 1:Questioning Techniques1-1
Questioning Techniques1-2
Practice Exercise1-11
Answer Key and Feedback1-14
LESSON 2:Map Tracking2-1
Assess Map Skills2-2
Practice Exercise2-7
Answer Key and Feedback2-10



CRITICAL TASKS: 301-337-1401 301-337-1501



This lesson will enable you to apply direct questioning techniques, and assess and control the enemy prisoner of war (EPW) /detainee through use of repeated and control questions.







To ensure questions are comprehensive enough so topic of interest is thoroughly exploited.

To select topics in which the EPW/detainee is knowledgeable.

EPW/detainee answers should establish the who, what, where, when, and how.

The material contained in this lesson was derived from the following publication:

FM 34-52


Although there is no fixed point at which the approach phase ends and the questioning phase begins, the questioning phase generally commences when the EPW/detainee begins to answer questions pertinent to specific interrogation objectives. The tactical commander requires the maximum amount of usable information in the minimum amount of time to make decisions on how to best employ his combat resources.

Questions should be comprehensive enough to ensure the topic of interest is thoroughly exploited. Answers should establish the who, what, where, when, and how. Questions should be presented in a logical sequence to ascertain significant topics are not neglected. A series of questions, followed by a chronological sequence of events, is frequently employed, but this is by no means the only logical method of asking questions. Sequence adherence should not deter the interrogator from exploiting informational leads as they are obtained.

The interrogator must consider the probable EPW/detainee response to a particular question or line of questioning and should not, if possible, ask direct questions that will evoke a refusal to answer or to antagonize the EPW/detainee. Experience has shown, in most tactical interrogations, the EPW/detainee is cooperative. In such instances, the interrogator should proceed with direct questions.

During planning and preparation, the interrogator uses his estimate of the type and extent of pertinent knowledge possessed by the EPW/detainee to modify the basic topical questioning sequence. He selects only those topics in which he believes the EPW/detainee has pertinent knowledge. In this way, the interrogator refines his element’s overall objective into a set of specific topics for exploitation. The major topics that can be covered in an interrogation are shown below in their normal sequence. The interrogator is, however, free to modify this sequence as he deems necessary.

★    Missions.

★    Organization.

★    Strength/personnel.

★    Strength/weapons and equipment.

★    Dispositions (map tracking).

★    Tactics.

★    Training.

★    Combat effectiveness.

★    Logistics.

★    Electronic technical data.

★    Miscellaneous.


During the questioning phase of the interrogation, the interrogator attempts to obtain all the information the EPW/detainee possesses pertinent to interrogation objectives. In order to perform this task effectively, interrogators must be able to-

★    Employ good questioning techniques.

★    Recognize spot reportable information.

★    Exploit leads.

★    Maintain the modified questioning sequence established during planning and preparation.

★    Employ map tracking skills.

★    Record information obtained.

In a tactical environment, using a foreign language and operating under severe time restraints, the direct questioning technique is the best choice. The direct questioning technique–

★    Uses only properly formed, direct questions beginning with a basic interrogative, for example, who, what, when, where, why, how, plus qualifier.

★    Properly uses follow-up questions for complete information.

★    Properly uses repeated, control, prepared, and nonpertinent questions for interrogation control and to assess the EPW/detainee.

★    Avoids confusing, ambiguous, and time-consuming questions.

★    Uses logical topical questioning sequence.

Direct question characteristics are–

★    Brief, concise, simply worded, and address the looked-for information.

★    Asks for a narrative response (cannot be answered by just yes or no).

★    Produces the maximum amount of usable information, and gives a greater number of leads to new questioning avenues.


For obvious reasons, it is prudent to use good questioning techniques throughout the questioning phase. The interrogator must know when and how to use the different types of questions, and be able to use the following types of questions–

★    Direct.

★    Follow-up.

★    Nonpertinent.

★    Repeated.

★    Control.

★    Prepared.

Direct questions are brief, precise, and simply worded. They specifically address the information which the interrogator wants to obtain. They use vocabulary and grammatical structure understood by the EPW/detainee. Direct questions are preferred during interrogations because they most likely obtain the desired response. Direct questions are formulated with the basic interrogatives who, what, when, why, where, and how. They will elicit a narrative informational response (what, how, or why) or a specific informational response (who, when, or where).

Below is a sample of how correctly worded direct questions are used.

I – Interrogator.

E – EPW.

I – How many officers are in the third motorized rifle company?

E – Three.

I – What are the duty positions of these officers?

E – Commanding officer, rear services officer, and political officer.

I – What was your most recent past mission?

E – I was assigned to a recon patrol.

Follow-up questions are designed to obtain additional information on a specific subject or topical area. Questions usually flow one-from-another based on the answers to previous questions. Interrogators ask a basic question and based on the answer, use follow-up questions to exploit leads provided by the EPW/detainee to ensure all pertinent information in each topical area has been obtained.

Below is an example of using good follow-up questions.

I – You mentioned having been in BRAUSTEIN. Why were you there?

E – To pick up more supplies.

I – What kind of supplies did you pick up?

E – Ammunition and food.

I – When – did you pick up the supplies?

E – December second.

I – What time did you pick up the supplies?

E – Eight in the morning.

Nopertinent questions are used to conceal the interrogation’s objective(s) or to strengthen EPW/detainee rapport. They may also be used to break the EPW/detainee’s concentration or trail of thought, particularly if the interrogator suspects the EPW/detainee is lying. It is hard for an EPW/detainee to be a convincing liar if his concentration is frequently interrupted.

By carefully blending pertinent with nonpertinent questions, the interrogator can lead the EPW/detainee to believe some relatively insignificant matter is the interrogation basis by asking questions in a casual manner. The EPW/detainee may be reluctant to discuss the matter of interest, but quite willing to discuss more pleasant things. The interrogator may relax the EPW/detainee by first discussing irrelevant topics using nonpertinent questions, then switching back to pertinent questions for desired information.

Below is a sample dialogue where the interrogator uses nonpertinent questions.

I – I can understand you might be hesitant to talk to me, but these are just routine administrative questions. Everything you tell me will be kept in strict confidence.

E – Well, I do not know.

I – I notice you are rubbing your head. Do you have a headache?

E – No, I am just tired.

I – Are you having trouble sleeping?

E – Well, it is hard to sleep in a strange place, and I can never forget I am a prisoner.

I – I can understand that. Let me ask these questions, and then you can go and get some rest.

E- Okay.

Repeated questions ask the EPW/detainee for the same information obtained in response to earlier questions. They may be exact repetitions of the previous question, or the previous question may be rephrased or otherwise disguised. Repeated questions may be used to check the consistency of the EPW/detainee’s previous responses. They may also be used to ensure accuracy of important details such as place names, dates, and component parts of technical equipment.

Since a lie is more difficult to remember than the truth, especially when the lie has been composed on the spur of the moment, the interrogator can establish errors by rephrasing and disguising the same question(s) which the EPW/detainee has already answered. The interrogator spaces his repeated question(s) to prevent the EPW/detainee from anticipating what will be asked.

The use of repeated questions may develop a topic the EPW/detainee refused to talk about earlier. They may also be used as a means of returning to a topical area for further questioning.

Below is a dialogue where the interrogator uses repeated questions to ascertain information previously obtained was accurate.

I – What type of armored vehicles are in the anti-aircraft battery?

E – There is the ZSU 23 and the BRDM.

I – What is the full military nomenclature of the ZSU 23?

E – It is the ZSU 23-4.

I – How many ZSU 23-4’s are in the battery?

E – Four.

I – What armament is on the ZSU 23-4?

E – It has four 23mm anti-aircraft machine guns.

I – How are the five ZSU 23-4’s distributed within the battery?

E – What do you mean five? There are only four ZSU 23-4’s in the battery.

I – How are the ZSU 23-4’s distributed within the battery?

E – There Is one in each gun section.

Control questions are developed from information which the interrogator knows to be true. Control questions should be based on information which has been recently confirmed, and is not likely to change since that confirmation. Control questions are used to check the truthfulness of the EPW/detainee’s responses, and should be mixed in with other questions throughout the interrogation. Failure to answer these questions or wrong answers indicates the EPW/detainee may not be knowledgeable on the topic or his answers to other questions are also false.

An example of a control question is to ask the EPW what type of individual weapons his unit had. You know from other confirmed sources his unit had AK-74’s. If the EPW answers with anything other than AK-74, you have a good reason to disbelieve him. This opens the door for repeated questions.

Prepared questions are developed in advance of an interrogation 😮 gain precise wording or the most desirable questioning sequence. They are used primarily for interrogations which are technical in nature, require legal precision, or cover a number of specific topics.

In cases where the interrogator will touch or several fields of interest, it may be desirable to prepare an interrogation guide or outline to ensure all topics are explored. In the use of prepared questions or interrogation guides, the interrogator must be careful to avoid restricting the interrogation’s scope and flexibility.

Leading questions may prompt the EPW/detainee to answer with the response he believes the interrogator wishes to hear. As a result, the response may be inaccurate or incomplete. A leading question starts with: Did you….. , Could you….., Are you….. This type of question does not require a narrative answer. For example, a question such as: “Did you go back to your unit’?” The EPW can answer “yes” or “no.” You have wasted a question, but more important, precious time by having to rephrase the question using a proper direct question. Leading questions are generally avoided during interrogations, but can be used by experienced interrogators to verify information. This is especially true during map tracking.

The interrogator avoids vague questions as they do not have enough information for the EPW/detainee to understand exactly what is being asked. They may be incomplete, “blanket” or otherwise nonspecific, and create doubt in the EPW/detainee’s mind. Vague questions tend to confuse, waste time, are easily evaded, and result in answers that may confuse or mislead the interrogator.

The interrogator must be proficient when using different types of questions. Active listening and maximum EPW/detainee eye-to-eye contact will provide excellent indicators when to use follow-up, repeated, control, and nonpertinent questions. The interrogator must use direct and follow-up questions to fully exploit subjects pertinent to interrogation objective(s). He should periodically include control, repeated, and nonpertinent questions to check the sincerity and consistency of EPW/detainee responses, and to strengthen rapport. A response which is inconsistent with earlier responses or the interrogator’s available data is not necessarily a lie. When such a response is obtained, the interrogator should reveal the inconsistency to the EPW/detainee and ask for an explanation. The EPW/detainee’s truthfulness should then be evaluated based on the plausibility of his explanation.

There are two types of questions the interrogator should not use-compound and negative. Compound questions ask for at least two different pieces of information. They are easily evaded hard to understand, and bring an incomplete answer.

An example of a compound questions is: “What type of training did you receive at the basic training center and what type of training did you receive at the advanced training center?” The EPW/detainee may answer both, only one, or neither one. The answer received may be ambiguous, incomplete, or both. Definitive answers to compound questions are seldom received.

The interrogator avoids asking negatively phrased questions because they are confusing, and may produce misleading or false information. Suppose for a moment the interrogator poses a question such as this: “You do not know whether Smith went to the headquarters last night?” The reply is “Yes.” Did the EPW/detainee intend to say, “Yes, I know,” or did he mean, “Yes, it is true I do not know,” or did he mean, “Yes, Smith was there.” The ambiguity is caught when the answer is received, but another question must be asked to clarify the doubt. If the interrogator fails to note the negative question, in all probability he will elicit an answer the EPW/detainee never meant to give. In either case, the delay or the resulting loss of an important point detracts from the interrogation’s effectiveness.

Just knowing what the types of questions are, how to identity them, and something about how they can be used is not enough to make a proficient interrogator. A good interrogator has incorporated this theoretical information into his performance in every interrogation, and doing that requires practice.


Spot reportable information is any information critical to the successful accomplishment of friendly courses of action. Information may be spot reportable even when an interrogator cannot determine its immediate intelligence value. Spot reportable information is always time-sensitive, answers supported, higher, or adjacent unit’s priority intelligence requirements (PIR) and information requirements (IR).

NOTE: The interrogator may have to temporarily terminate the interrogation to report the information.

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