Consult: Jose Rivas


A Military Intelligence Consultation with Jose Rivas

January 19, 2009

75-minute teleconference

Transcribed by Jean Maria Arrigo

Edited by Ray Bennett

Reviewed by Jose Rivas on January 31, 2009

Teleconference Participants:  Jean Maria Arrigo, Ray Bennett, Jancis Long, Jose Rivas (pseudonym), and Stephen Soldz

Note:  The transcript has been streamlined a bit.

Military Intelligence Consultation with Jose Rivas on

Psychologists' Assistance to Interrogators in Afghanistan in 2008

ARRIGO:  [Usual instructions for the session.] 

     Let’s take the introductions in this order.  We’ll start with Ray, then Stephen, then Jancis, then Jose.

BENNETT:  Jose, I’m Ray Bennett.  I’m a retired U.S. Army interrogator.  I was a CW4.  That’s a Chief Warrant Officer Four, for you civilians.  As I said [to Jose before others joined the call], I retired three years ago.  I had deployments as an interrogator in the first Gulf War, in Bosnia, and in Iraq, the second time around.  I joined this group out of my concerns, at the time, 2005 - 2006, about the abuse of interrogation methods, techniques that were being used that I didn’t feel were appropriate, to include the use of BSCT  [Behavioral Science Consultation Team] psychologists — which, in a roundabout way, is how I came to be associated with this lot.  [Laughter.] 

     It’s been very rewarding.  Many great and insightful discussions are had.  This is the first time that we’ve had one of my fellow interrogators on one of these calls from recent experience.  We’ve had an interrogator from World War II on.  But certainly this is the first time we’ve had someone of recent vintage.  Welcome!  I’m so glad that you’re willing to do this.

SOLDZ:  Hi.  I’m in Boston.  I’m a psychologist who has been very involved, in the last several years, in the  struggle to get psychologists out of interrogations.  Through that I’ve come to know Ray, and I’m glad for the opportunity to get to know another interrogator.

LONG:  I’m Jancis Long.  I’m a clinical psychologist.  I’m currently the President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility.  And I also got into this around 2006 – 2007, when there was the whole question of the APA [American Psychological Association] and psychologists being involved in designing torture.  I’ve been involved with that and a number of other things, including other unethical uses of psychology.

ARRIGO:  Everyone here knows me.

     Before we start though: Jose e-mailed me that he wasn’t able to talk about use of psychologists in selections because they were also used to select other people than interrogators.  I don’t quite know the meaning of that objection, but we’ll have to follow along with him.  I also want to say that this call, although recorded, is confidential with respect to Jose’s name and anything that he doesn’t want us to pass along.  Because he’s on active duty, we have to especially appreciative to him but also we’re going to be especially sensitive about not trespassing.

     So, Jose, wherever you want to start.  Maybe with your own training to give us a little background before you go on to the psychologists.

RIVAS:  Okay.  I’ve been in the military for approximately five years.  I was in the Reserves at first, and I reclassified, to 35M, which is human collector - interrogator.  After that I deployed to Afghanistan for a short deployment, and just did interrogations over there.

ARRIGO:  You were trained at Fort Huachuca?

RIVAS:  Yes. 

After that I came back and just went to my regular duty station.  And now we’re currently getting ready to deploy sometime in the fall of 2009. 

BENNETT:  Could you just give us a date-timeline for those months you were in Afghanistan?

RIVAS:  Early 2008

BENNETT:  So it’s last year then.

RIVAS:  Yes.  I graduated from Fort Huachuca in 2008.

     I used psychologists while I was interrogating, not during the sessions but just for advice on how to approach certain people in terms of — Maybe this guy was feigning some type of — just not acting like he should be acting, if it was just counter interrogation technique or was he actually mentally unstable, that type of deal.  Or if we had a personality match, the personality of the interrogator with the detainee, those types of things.  He would also provide training, [9:14, check the block quarterly training that other people we know, like JAG provides for us, the lawyers, which basically covers the Law of Land Warfare, Geneva Conventions.  He would also cover some stuff on maybe the cultural aspects and — I can’t recall what the other training was —mostly stuff like that, in very open discussions, just to expose interrogators to maybe more creative ways of how to deal with, and how to associate with, the detainee.

ARRIGO:  Could you give us an example of a case in which you would go to a psychologist and what kind of help he would give you in that case?

RIVAS:  Okay.  Well, I had this one case.  He was very knowledgeable on religious matters, extremely knowledgeable compared to the regular people that we normally get.  He was very well read.  He was a teacher also.  My chosen method of dealing with him was to act as if was the pupil, that he was teaching me things about his side of how things were, his religion, culture.  I put myself in that situations because I was also younger than him, so it was it easier to approach him as if I was learning from him.  He would just talk and talk some more, therefore opening up.  So I consulted with a psychologist basically on this as the sessions progressed, if it seemed like it would be effective with his personality and that he would be open to do such a thing.  That was the consultation I had with that case.

ARRIGO:  Did you also have senior interrogators that you could consult?

RIVAS:  Yes, we had a senior interrogator per shift.

ARRIGO:  Why would you go to a psychologist for this as opposed to a senior interrogator?

RIVAS:  Actually, I went to both, not at the same time, but to get the opinion from the psychologist and also from the senior interrogator.  He provided good feedback.

ARRIGO:  Could you give us an idea of what psychologists would tell you in a situation like this?

RIVAS:  Well, I would expose him with my ideas, and he would opinion on that, on his basic knowledge of the individual, maybe from observing him.  “Yes, that could possible work,” or “That couldn’t possibly work.”  That type of advice.  And also what other things I could possibly help to make it seem more believable that I was the people I could do to make better rapport with the detainee.

SOLDZ:  How did you experience the advice that you got from the psychologist versus the senior interrogator?  Were they similar?  Did they give you different types of advice?  Have different perspectives?

RIVAS:  Actually, the advice was very similar.  First of all, they were both in agreement with what I was doing.  It took a lot of time to do this.  It wasn’t short sessions.  They were six or seven -hour sessions that I was doing with this person, mostly rapport building with him.  So it was a sensitive case with him.  They both offered the same type of advice.  The psychologist was a little bit more technical, and the senior interrogator was more helpful in talking over approaches.  Which is something I didn’t really go into detail [about] with the psychologist.  Just basically his personality type and what kind of things could make that personality type, being a detainee, open up more to me. 

ARRIGO:  What did the psychologist know of the detainee apart from what you told him?  Did he have records, contact, observation?

RIVAS:  He could observe him, if he wanted to.  He could actually just sit in on one of my sessions, not in the booth but watch it from the video camera and get a feel for how this detainee was.  He wouldn’t sit in the booth with me or ever expose himself to the detainee.

ARRIGO:  Would you know when people were watching?

RIVAS:  No, I wouldn’t because that would take away from the whole point of the case that anybody would do something illegal.  The cameras were running 24-7.  Anybody could just sit there and watch.

SOLDZ:  Did the cameras record?  Were the recordings kept?

RIVAS:  I don’t know.

LONG:  Did the psychologists ever come to you after having watched a session and make any comments on the session.

RIVAS:  Yes.  I had this one person who was — He seemed to be a little bit mentally unstable, maybe he was also, we deduced from his information, a heavy drug user.  We weren’t sure if he was just lying about things he was saying.  Like he was hallucinating a bunch of crazy, outrageous things.  And we weren’t sure if he was just doing some counterinterrogation resistance technique or he was actually just not here.  He [the psychologist] was very helpful in that, because we couldn’t give him a urinalysis or something to see if he was a drug user. But from what he said, and the other people who came with him said, and also observing what the psychologist observed, we deduced that this guy really isn’t mentally stable.  He’s actually not lying about it.

ARRIGO:  Why couldn’t you give him a urinalysis?  Because it was too long after the fact?

RIVAS:  We just didn’t do that.  It wasn’t an option. 

SOLDZ:  You didn’t have the resources?

RIVAS:  I didn’t even ask about it.  The time was limited, so it wasn’t worthwhile.  After a while, it became really obvious, from withdrawals, because he was a poppy farmer.

ARRIGO:  Before, Jose, when we talked on the telephone, you explained that there could be different reasons for drug addiction in the case of the farmers.  Do you want to explain that again here to my colleagues?

RIVAS:  Yes.  In their religion, it’s not kosher to consume drugs.  But it’s kind of okay, especially in Southern Afghanistan, to grow poppy, due to the fact that it’s so easy to grow and not many resources are needed in terms of water.  And it makes them much more money than, let’s say, growing wheat.  Therefore, as we all know — it’s in the news — there’s a very large poppy crop in Afghanistan.  The people that grow it, some actually habitually use it, like they smoke and consciously use opium.  But the other ones, when they’re actually doing the crops, they have to cut the bulb of the poppies, and the sap comes out, which is what they use to make the opium, the heroin.  So this gets into their pores, and it’s really hot so their pores are open.  Therefore they’re unwittingly addicted to opium, without actually smoking it consciously, just from the fact of them being in the fields for such a long time, and cutting it, and then it gets into their blood system through their fingers which are cut up from the knives that they use.

ARRIGO:  Was this common among the people that you would be interrogating that they would be opium farmers? 

RIVAS:  Depends from what area they were.  But the ones from the specific province, like Helmand Province, yes, most of them did grow it. Also, once they’re done with the opium, collecting the sap, they cut it all down, mush the stems, and feed it to the livestock.  So it’s well in their system.

ARRIGO:  This sounds like the livestock are addicted!

RIVAS:  Yes, well, I’ve heard that they have a peculiar taste to them.  [Laughter.]

ARRIGO:  You were telling me on the telephone also about the personality tests, trying to coordinate interrogators’ personalities in some way with detainees’ personalities.  Could you tell us more about that?

RIVAS:  At first it was more people of lesser experience — All detainees, in every facility, as far as I know, they are all prioritized, based on cooperation and  knowledgability.  Therefore, the ones with higher priority would probably go to the interrogators who have much more experience.  The senior interrogator assigns who gets who.  But later on, after the screening, you can actually, with your experience, kind of notice what interrogator could possible fit well with a certain — Like, I had colleague that was Asian.  Pashtuns, which is a major ethnic group that are part of also the Taliban in Afghanistan don’t take well to Asian-looking people because they’re Shi’a, them being Sunnis, and they call them Hazaras.  Therefore, he wouldn’t be a very good match for a hard-line Taliban guy, because he’s Asian and he can’t grow a beard like they do.  And that’s another big thing, the whole beard-growing thing.  So if you look very young and you couldn’t grow a full beard, there would be some kind of issues in terms of how they see it.  Because it’s a big deal to have a beard.

ARRIGO:  So interrogators actually grow beards?

RIVAS:  In Afghanistan, yes, they do.  It is very, very important to have a beard over there, for a number of reasons.  First, these very hard-line people believe that if you even trim your beard you’re going to hell.  Second, if you don’t have a beard, there’s a lot of areas in Afghanistan where homosexuality is very prevalent.  So those who do not have beards are like the guys or the kids that you take as your boy lover.

ARRIGO:  Wow! But none of this sounds like it takes a psychologist to work out.

RIVAS:  No, no.

ARRIGO:  So what about the personality matches that you were speaking of?

RIVAS:  For personality matches, in terms of using psychologists, we didn’t really use the psychologists for that.  The senior interrogator and all of us, we could pretty much figure that out by ourselves without having to use a psychologist.  The only times that I did use a psychologist were for those specific cases of assistance, in terms of what approaches and also the mental stability of the detainee.

SOLDZ:  Did the psychologist have a particular title?  We’ve heard of BSCTs, Behavioral Science Consultation Teams.  Was there any title like that?  And also what was their rank, do you know?

RIVAS:  No, I’ve heard of BSCTs also, but I don’t think it was part of that.  The title?  We just knew them as psychologists. 

SOLDZ:  I know.  I’m not asking the name.

RIVAS:  But his rank, he was a mid-level officer.

ARRIGO:  That means captain or major?

RIVAS:  Around that range.

SOLDZ:   Not a BSCT.  You just called him a psychologist?

RIVAS:   Yes.  That is what he was.  We didn’t call him, as we were talking to him, “Hey, psychologist,” but that’s what he was.  I’m sure he had a specific title to his job position, but I didn’t know what it was. 

ARRIGO:  Did you have other mental health professionals there, in enlisted ranks, for example?

RIVAS:  No.  

SOLDZ:  Did the psychologists only consult on interrogations, or did they do other things in the unit?  Also, pardon my non-military lingo, but how large a unit was a psychologist assigned to?

RIVAS:  That last one I can’t answer. 

SOLDZ:  Okay.

RIVAS:  Besides doing the consultation with interrogators, obviously, it’s a war zone so they’re not just going to use them for that.  He was there also for our personal needs.  I never used him though for that.

SOLDZ;  So he was responsible for assessing or treating you guys as well as for aiding on the interrogations?


RIVAS:  Right, if you needed that, on a personal level.

SOLDZ:  Did he have any role like saying, “This guy seems to be losing it,” or anything like that?

RIVAS:  In my time there, that never happened.  But I’m sure he would have a role in that.

And there’s other guys who go on patrol and what not, people die.  That happens.

ARRIGO:  Did he do a sort of grief counseling?  I’m not sure what to call it when somebody in the military dies.

RIVAS:  He could, I guess.  But, at least as far as I’m concerned, in the military that’s more the role of a chaplain.  And there were chaplains out there for that type of support, also, which I didn’t use either.  So I wouldn’t know what to say about them.  But I know that they came around, you know: “Hey, we’re here, we’re available.  At any time that you need to talk to us you can come over and stop by our office and we can talk confidentially.  Don’t worry about anything.  If you have any issues, come talk to us about it.  We offer support.”  Whatever.

LONG:  When you were doing the interrogation, did you develop a sense of what really felt like good interrogations, or what produced information that you were looking for?  Did you have a sense of what were some of the keys to what made an interrogation successful in whatever way?

RIVAS:  Yes, I did.  Those would be respect for the individual, not shaming him — it was very important not to shame people in their culture — not being aggressive, no.  Yelling isn’t very effective.  It’s much more effective to be extremely nice to the person and treat him like a human being, as if they were your friends eventually, or make them become your friends, that type of deal.  Be like that rather than be aggressive and accuse them of things.  That doesn’t really get you anywhere, even though you dislike the individual once you get out of the booth, and he’s done a bunch of terrible things that you know about now.  But you can’t really show that type of emotion, like you’re disgusted about the things he’s done, like decapitating people.  That’s just part of life over there.  So it’s much more produc[tive] to get intelligence to not be aggressive — not to be negative, I would say, because “aggressive” can be misconstrued to be [only] physically aggressive — not to be verbally aggressive.

LONG:  Would there be other people around that you know of, that you ever got to observer, that were aggressive to those same people that you were being polite and respectful to?

RIVAS:  Not to the same ones I talked to because that was my case.  It was me and one more person, so we pretty much knew what the strategy was.  Sometimes you would yell at people for different things.  Sometime you align them back to where they’re supposed to be.  Sometimes they’re just going to fool with you.  They’re going to play games with you also.  They might try to collect on you.  They might try to figure out you know certain information, go around things....  Every little piece of information you get has been misconstrued in a certain way to make them look good or to get them out of the picture.  Therefore, every little advance you get, you have to deconstruct the story, and then they’ll divulge a little more with another 99.9% of extra stuff that is really irrelevant.

     Are you familiar with the German interrogator from World War II, Hans — I forget his name.

ARRIGO:  Hans Scharff.  Yes, we’ve been educated by now.  Ray and others ....

RIVAS:  That book specifically goes over that kind of questioning method.  The “loop-to-loop”, I think, is what it’s called.  At least myself, I developed it in my own mind without knowledge of this.  I was informed about this after I came back.  But I was basically doing the same thing, visualizing something in my mind.  Instead of loop-to-loop, it looks like a big spiral.  Once you get to the middle of the spiral, it all opens up, and there you go again, bigger or small.

ARRIGO:  Could you describe the counterinterrogation tactics that you would see?

RIVAS:  The most basic one was the simple statement of “I don’t know,” and just not saying anything, anything, anything.  They know the rules as good as we do, for the most part.  They know that nothing’s really going to happen to them.  In fourteen days they’re going to get released or extended, but, for the most part, if they don’t say anything they’ll just get released in fourteen days.  So they’ve just got to tough it for fourteen days of getting talked to and, basically, kind of wined and dined for fourteen days.  And some of them actually kind of like it because it’s better than being out in the cold and having to work for your food, when you get fed three times a day.

     There’s the basic “I don’t know.”   Then not association with anybody, not knowing certain types of information, and questioning how you get it.  A lot of it was questioning how you got certain information, which we couldn’t divulge because it would reveal how we collect stuff.  So that made it much more creative and a little bit more unbelievable on certain topics.

LONG:  But most of the people that you would have dealt with were people that were going to get released in fourteen days, not shipped off to another prison or something?

RIVAS:  It depends.

LONG:  So there were some that were continued in a different place or were there for more than fourteen days?

RIVAS:  Either the were extended where we were at with the process, or they were sent to another prison in Afghanistan, our regular prison, not theirs.

ARRIGO:  Could you run us through the regular routine of somebody coming in, how long the interrogations would run, and so on?

RIVAS:  He’s picked up somehow.  They bring him either to us or maybe to somewhere that’s closer to where he got picked up from.  And then they screen him.  And if things don’t go well in the screening process, things seem suspicious, obvious signs of deception, and also the analysts do a little bit of work and run his name, whatever, then he gets sent to a regular facility, like what I would be working in.  He gets screened again.  Then we begin interrogations.

ARRIGO:  But you had that one person for several days?

RIVAS:  Yes.  I had him for several days and we were doing some long sessions. 

     You have three, four, or five interrogations to do on your shift.  So you can’t spend so much time with one, because you have to write reports after each interrogation and then interrogate other guys.

BENNETT:   I’d like to ask you a few questions about the interface of the psychologist with the interrogation effort.  I’m sure you had to fill out an interrogation plan before you went into your session, right?

RIVAS:  Yes.

BENNETT:  Did the psychologist have any input into that plan by default?

RIVAS:   Umm.  No.

BENNETT:  Okay.  Was he available to consult if you had a question about your IP [interrogation plan] or something you wanted to consider about your interrogation plan?

RIVAS:   Yes.

BENNETT:  How would you describe the interaction between the senior interrogator and the psychologist and how well they worked together or how much they worked together?

RIVAS:  The interaction was excellent.  The interaction with everybody was very good.  It was a kind of small personnel setting, so everybody knew each other.  If anybody had a question, you’d know where to go.  There were people who’d been there a much longer time than we are because we’re in the military.  There were contractors.  So they could spend extended periods of time up there, therefore making them the subject-matter experts.  So there was multiple places to get good advice from, via the people who had been there a long time, the senior interrogator, the psychologist. 

     But, honestly, the psychologist, I used him five times.  It wasn’t like everybody went to talk to him for any issue because you kind of get used to what’s going on, you understand the concepts, so it’s not like “Yeah, I really need to go talk to the psychologist” because I don’t know what’s going on here.  After a while you just catch on to how they are, their culture and stuff like that.

BENNETT:  Did the psychologist take an active role in providing input to an interrogation plan, or did he hang back and wait until someone asked him something?

RIVAS:  He pretty much hanged back until someone asked him.  He didn’t really want to get in your stuff..

BENNETT:  Okay, good.  And this all just to get a feel for the environment.  I don’t know whether there was an occasion where you went to the senior interrogator and the psychologist and had a three-way discussion and you were asking for advice and you got two sets of advice, one from the senior interrogator and one from the psychologist [35:21 (intelligible due to background noise)] to one over the other?

RIVAS:  That situation never did happen.  When I did consult with both, the lead interrogator and also the psychologist, it was at separate times because one was eating and one was readily available.  But the advice was pretty much the same because it was more like, “What’s your opinion on what I’m about to do?”  I knew what I was going to do.  I just wanted, “Hey, that sounds good, that sounds like a good work,” but I wasn’t really asking for, “What would you do in my case?”  Because I knew what I was going to do already, and I just wanted some more confirmation, I guess, that type of reassur[ance], not directly in terms of, “You should do this approach instead of that approach.]  Does that make sense?

BENNETT:  Sure, absolutely.

     Was the psychologist, was part of his duty description, not as some kind of ancillary function, but really part of that’s what he was there for, was part of that to be a kind of watchdog for abuses of detainees?

RIVAS:  No, I don’t think he was there for being a watchdog for abuse. Before you leave, there’s a long session of briefings.  Well, let’s start with the schoolhouse [Fort Huachuca].  At the schoolhouse they start with a class so you know the Law of Land Warfare, all those things that are illegal, things that you can’t do.  So once you get to your other station, or before leaving, you get the same briefs all over again.  Once you get in country, before you even start interrogating, you get the same briefs all over again. You’ve got to sign for each of these things that you understand everything that’s been briefed to you, etc.  And, through the course of being there, quarterly, or how much time in between, you get the same briefs over again.  So it’s pretty much reiterated:  this is what you can and can’t do.  It’s very, very obvious. 

     If you were to do something illegal, then either you were in another world, coincidentally, every time you had to listen to these briefs, or you just don’t care, you just don’t care about the consequences.  I think it’s impossible to not understand the concepts anymore.  So he wasn’t there to ensure that these things weren’t happening because everybody knew how to do this.  The guards are there.  They know their role, what they can and can’t do.  They’re watched meticulously.  There’s cameras everywhere.  Everything is seen.  There is no where that they can’t see you. 

BENNETT:  Well, not to be argumentative, but everybody knows not to run a stop sign and yet tickets are written everyday.  So I understand that you folks do a lot of training, as did I.  I knew my right and left limits.  And yet these abuses can happen in a nanosecond.  You can step over that line so quickly, especially if you get emotionally involved and all that.  So it could happen.

RIVAS:  You’re right.

BENNETT:  The background for my asking is that part of the argument for having psychologists, specifically psychologists, in interrogation settings is that they could function, or would function, as kind of a watchdog.  But you’re describing — You didn’t have the impression that that’s what he was there for?

RIVAS:  Well, not really, because he was not sitting there watching each interrogation as it was going on.  I understand that, yes, possibly having a — Someone could, in the heat of the moment, just cross that line.  It just never happened when I was there, never came close to happening, not once.

BENNETT:  I’ll put one last question in and stop monopolizing your time.  And that is, given the fact that we wear uniforms that don’t exactly have everything spelled out on them, how certain are you that you were dealing with a psychologist versus a psychiatrist?

RIVAS:  Because I think someone said a joke one day about psychiatrists and he kind of got offended about them.  I’m pretty sure it was a psychologist.  I remember somebody said something about the psychiatrist and he was like, “No, no, I’m a psychologist.”  But I’m pretty sure it was a psychologist.  I don’t know what the difference is exactly.

SOLDZ:  Do you know if he had a doctoral degree?  Was he referred to as “doc” or anything like that?  Because there are people with masters degrees and people with doctors degrees called psychologists.

RIVAS:  Yes, he was.

ARRIGO:  Do you know whether he had gone to school on a military scholarship, whether his graduate education was funded by the military or he came through ROTC or anything like that?

RIVAS:  That I do not know.  I never asked him about his education.

LONG::  It sounds to me as though the unit that you were in was very, very disciplined it its treatment of the prisoners.  I was wondering whether this was just in the interrogations or when they were being handled or given food or whatever other contacts were being made with the soldiers who were not interrogators.  Do you have any impression as to what kind of treatment? — For example, you talked about the need for treating a person with respect if you want to get information from him.  Did the other people who interacted with the prisoners, did they also have rules about treating them with respect, or was there rougher treatment when they were not in interrogation. 

RIVAS:  It was the same basic treatment.  It was different because these guys [the guards] don’t talk to them much.  They don’t interact with them besides giving them their food.  And if a detainees asks, say, “I’ve got to go to the bathroom,” “Okay, let’s go to the bathroom.”  Or if “I want water,” they’ll give them water.  But that was as much conversation as they had with these guys.  But it was also very, very disciplined.  They were, I think, being watched more closely than we were, due to the fact that — different things.  But I think that they were watched a lot closer than we were, because they weren’t necessarily police-type guys.  They might have been from somewhere else, in terms of other military jobs, not specifically being military police.  That happens in a lot of other military facilities.  They don’t have enough military police to go around, so they just get from other units.  They can be artillery or infantry or any other MOS [military occupational specialty]. 

ARRIGO:  Well, you seem to have been in an exemplary facility.  But at the same time you were there we had people in the current administration defending, say, extraditions and CIA waterboarding and so on.  Did your command have any implicit or explicit relation to these other, less positive aspects of interrogation?

RIVAS:  No relation.

ARRIGO:  Nobody talked about it? 

RIVAS:  It wasn’t really mentioned at all.  It wasn’t an issue for us.  We never talked about that much, maybe in terms of what was going on in the news.   But we knew what was right, and I don’t think any of the guys I worked with would do that kind of thing.

BENNETT:  Were you aware of any other interrogation facility in your vicinity?

RIVAS:  That did what?  That did the water boarding?

BENNETT:  No, no, just another interrogation facility run by the —

RIVAS:  Yes, yes, because when we got to Afghanistan we had to certify at the regional prison interrogation facility.

BENNETT:  But that was also a military affair?

RIVAS:  Yes.

BENNETT:  Did that psychologist who was with you, was he always with you, or did he serve other facilities as well?

RIVAS:  I don’t know.  I know that he wasn’t always where we were at.  He could have gone to any other facility.  But the only facilities I know of were military facilities.  And I didn’t have any contact with interrogators in those facilities.

LONG:  What were the most stressful aspects of your tour in Afghanistan for you?

RIVAS:  The most stressful aspects?

LONG:   That you can talk about, yes.  What were the stresses on you when you look back on it?

RIVAS:  Honestly, it wasn’t very stressful.  I like what I do, and I think I did a really good job.  It was seven days a week.  It wasn’t like a lot of other facilities where regular schedules were five days a week and they had two days off.  We worked seven days a week, nonstop.  But had a cohesiveness of the people working there, was beneficial to us, because we could leave, go out in the middle of the day, and you’d have twelve hours to go to sleep, and you go, hang out, and maybe watch some TV.  But I think, honestly, in retrospect, the most stressful thing that happened was when I came back to the United States.  You go from doing something consecutively, every day, and the seriousness of what’s going on, to the carelessness.  Over here they care more about celebrities and who’s dating who, whatever, just garbage.  It’s all relevant, but that was a little bit more stressful, the change of scenery, from serious environment to, “Okay, you’re back here,” and nobody really cares.  Not just the military but the civilian populace.

ARRIGO:  That’s the point one hears from peace activists who’ve gone to Third World countries.  That’s a place where the peace activists and the military are united, I would say.

RIVAS:  Right.

ARRIGO:  They’re in Guatemala with people who are living in the dirt, where everything counts, and they come back here....

RIVAS:  Over here, where I’m currently in my station, I’m one of a few  interrogators that have actually interrogated.  The others, either they reclassified like I did but never deployed as an interrogator, or they’re just coming out of AIT [Advanced Individual Training. This is the next step after Basic Training].  I can really see the difference there between what I’m teaching them, certain things, and — You just can’t really appreciate what I’m saying until you’ve been through that.  You can put it into context because you can’t practice it.  You can’t really practice interrogation.  It doesn’t give you that real feeling, in terms of role-playing interrogation at the school house:  the seriousness of what’s going on, how serious it is that you do your job right, that you don’t mess it up, in terms of this whole Abu Ghraib thing that’s looming over our heads, and also the question of intelligence to save American lives and also destroy networks.  It’s very serious when you’re over there.  But when you come here it’s more about training to save face and come back from deployment.  It’s kind of disappointing. 


ARRIGO:  When you deployed, could you have been sent to Guantanamo Bay, for instance?

RIVAS:  Not that I know.  I’m not sure if we have army interrogators over there.  I don’t even know what command they would fall under or what units they pull from.

ARRIGO:  Do you know, Ray?

BENNETT:  Well, I don’t think that active-duty army folks from army units are being used at Guantanamo Bay anymore.  What you have are people mostly from DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency.  It’s a joint unit so it’s comprised of servicemen from all the services and portions of the Department of Defense civilians.

At the beginning of Guantanamo, they sent an army reserve unit there, as the first unit to do interrogations.  But that was 2002 - 2003.

ARRIGO:  Jose, could you speculate, suppose the psychologist were withdrawn, what effect that would have?

RIVAS:  Umm.

ARRIGO:  I just mean from interrogation consulting.  I don’t mean from selection processes or—

SOLDZ:  mental health.

RIVAS:  I think there would be a little bit of a negative effect.  I think they really can help out.  I used them five times, but some people used them a lot more than I do.  At least with the person I worked with, he always had very good professional advice.  You wanted to hear from a professional person, like a psychologist.

ARRIGO:  Well, let me tell the problem that’s facing us, and maybe you can advise us.  Our problem is that psychologists helped design abusive interrogation techniques, to reverse engineer SERE [Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training], and so on.  So we have the example of psychologists in these nefarious schemes, and, at the same time, we have examples of psychologists supposedly acting as leash holders or as good advisors in the situation you’re talking about.  We don’t know any way of separating the situations, you know, of giving psychologists license to be there but somehow assuring that they’re only working on the good side and not on the other side.  That’s a professional problem we have as psychologists.

RIVAS:  I can’t talk for other agencies and what they do.  But as far as from the military, from what I’ve heard, from people that have deployed to different places, like Iraq, recently, and me being in Afghanistan, I just really haven’t heard of psychologists taking part in torture or reverse SERE techniques or anything like that.  I think they just wouldn’t be there anymore.

ARRIGO:  [overlapping talk] at the design level.  But that’s our problem.  And some dissident psychologists have been protesting the presence of psychologists at all in these settings because of the abuses that occurred.  Others have been saying, “No, we need them there.”  We’re at a loss to distinguish [the concomitants of] a good situation from [the concomitants of] a bad situation, how to distinguish them institutionally.

RIVAS:  Honestly, I don’t know what to say for that.  I’m using my experience for my opinion base.  You could put any psychologist there and it wouldn’t really change anything, at least for where I was at.  His role wouldn’t change.  He wouldn’t someday think about, “Hey, let’s do this crazy idea that I have.”  It just wouldn’t happen.

ARRIGO:  And why wouldn’t it happen?  What would be the brake on it in your situation?

RIVAS:  Well, he wasn’t in the chain of command, for example, in terms of directing anything.  In terms of his rank, he could be parallel to someone in the chain of command, but he wouldn’t be directing anybody.  He wouldn’t tell us what to do.  He wouldn’t tell us our shifts.  He wouldn’t be directing.  He would just be there for consultation.  Therefore, his power over anybody was, I guess, nothing.

ARRIGO:  That’s refreshing to hear.  [Laughter.]

So who did have this power?

RIVAS:  The person in charge of the facility.

ARRIGO:  So are you saying that your high level officer was a person of good character and procedure, and he just made sure things went well?

RIVAS:   Pretty much.

And I just don’t see things happening like that because, even if he were to conjure up some crazy idea like that, there’s too many people around to say, “Okay, yes, let’s do that.”  There’s too much control.  There’s too much information out there.  There’s too much:  “You do something wrong and you’re going to get punished for it.  There is no excuse.  You can do one of those certain things that we’ve told you that you can’t do, like water boarding, physical contact with detainee — unless like shaking his hand, as a greeting....”  There was no physical contact.  I think, twelve inches to a detainee, you couldn’t do that, coercion, threatening, all those kind of things.  So I couldn’t imagine that happening, at least at the place where I was working.

BENNETT:  Your experience is very recent, which is good, in the sense that we acknowledge that the worst of the abuses are behind us and this is somewhat of a historical documentation rather than an ongoing affair.  However, our effort is focused on preventing those things from happening again, even if they’ve been curtailed and they’re not happening right now.  And it sounds like you were in a very good facility that did everything by the book and did it right.  Our effort is to not let it get off the rails again.

RIVAS:  Right. Even at the other facility, I told you before, we all had to certify in country.

ARRIGO:  Could you run that down for us?  The civilians here don’t understand what it means “to certify in country.”

RIVAS:  When you arrive in country as an interrogator, you have to go — at least we did —  to a facility to certify.  You have to go through all the classes again, the Law of Land Warfare, the Geneva Conventions, that type of deal, and then do an interrogation with someone supervising you.  And you have to check off the block.  You have to go, starting from the beginning of writing the IP, that you do it correctly, you know the standard.  Then, when you select your interpreter, you brief the interpreter on what he can and can’t do, and check that block.  Then, interrogating the person, check that block.  And then writing a report when you’re done, you check that block, too.  Then you’re certified to interrogate in country.

ARRIGO:  How long does that all take?

RIVAS:  One day, or a couple days before.  It was like a half day worth of classes.

LONG:  Were those procedures in place at the time of the Abu Ghraib pictures?  Or were they all developed afterwards to try to keep things humane?

RIVAS:  That I do not know.

BENNETT:  I can tell you that it’s all afterwards.  These are all checks that were instituted afterwards.

ARRIGO:  We’re running into the period of last comments and questions.  I think I will ask mine first while other people are reflecting on theirs. 

Jose, we’re all considerable older than you are —

BENNETT:  Speak for yourself!  [Laughter.]

ARRIGO:  Well, I think that Jose is about twenty-five, right?

BENNETT:  I’m insignificantly older.

ARRIGO:  Anyway, I find it quite remarkable that somebody your age would have as much self-mastery as you talk about going into these interrogations.  That seems a lot to demand of anybody, especially somebody very young and in a war zone — not to be vicious with people who are multiple murderers and decapitators and so on.  How did you prepare for this, or when did you come by this kind of self-control and humaneness?

RIVAS:  I think that’s my general personality.  People are either intimidated by me, just because I don’t really smile that much.  Actually, I don’t really show that much emotion per se, unless I have to.  So I guess that worked to the benefit of my choosing a job as an interrogator, because I could just choose an emotion and replicate it but not really be attached to that emotion mentally.  Therefore it wouldn’t be that big of a deal of me.  I guess for some people it’s more taxing on their minds when they have to make believe that they actually like these people that are, what you said, mass murderers, or whatever they did.  It didn’t really faze me that much. 

ARRIGO:  So, before becoming an interrogator, you weren’t given to street fights or road rage or jealous tirades to begin with?

RIVAS:  No, not really.  I guess I could say I’m a balanced individual in terms of having equal amounts of evil and good in me....

ARRIGO:  But did your training — or your selection, to whatever extent you can refer to it — enter in in any way between the time you signed up to be an interrogator and the time you were in the booth, so to speak?

RIVAS:  Did they train me to do this?

ARRIGO:  I’m thinking of where psychologists might well come in, for instance, would be helping people with tolerance and self control and so on.

RIVAS:  Actually, I wished they had more psychologists at the Fort Huachuca course.  As we all know, there’s a big push to get more people in the army, especially in the certified military intelligence career field.  I think the push is to get to 7000 by 2011 or something.  So if they did have psychologists working there they could actually — even when you’re doing these role-playing interrogations over there — just to get to know you better and to see what aspects of your personality you can use in the booth.  They have advisors but they’re not psychologists.  They’re ex-interrogators or ex- other intel-type fields.  That would be great actually to have psychologists down there, working permanently to work with the students as they come in.

ARRIGO:  Help us one more step.  What would it mean to use an aspect of your personality successfully?  Could you give us an example of that?

RIVAS:  Let’s see.  My arguments are more or less logical, A to B, B to C.  Some people don’t think like that.  They might do more links through association.  But my counterarguments to pretty much anything that you would tell me would be some sort of a logical sequence of how either you make sense or you don’t make sense or I don’t agree or I do agree with you.  So that’s something that I use for my benefit, a logical countering to an argument.  Does that make sense?

ARRIGO:  Yes, a sort of self-awareness practice [in observation of your own process].

RIVAS  Some people can cry easily, which can work for their benefit in the booth.  I can’t cry easily. 

ARRIGO:  Okay [laughing], I think we should all hang up on this guy.

LONG:  You have a great career [laughing].

SOLDZ:  Don’t worry [laughing].

ARRIGO:  Let’s take other questions or comments.  Let’s go in this order:  Jancis, Stephen, and give the last to Ray.

LONG:  I would be interested in, not necessarily in the interrogations, but in being in Afghanistan and anything that really did disturb you when you saw it or heard it or learned about it in some way.

RIVAS:  I wouldn’t say “disturbed.”  I would say more of, “Wow!  I just saw something happen,” like the first I saw someone got killed.  I wasn’t there but I was watching it live on a video.  So I just saw someone blown to pieces.  I said, “This is happening right now as I speak and drink coffee.  It’s happening.  Death.” 

     I guess I got desensitized to a lot of things.  Having to identify a bunch of dead bodies with each interrogation, if there were any.  Or watching beheading videos and trying to pretend it was all fine and dandy.  Instead of showing your weakness, because that would not be good if you showed to this guy you’re weak and you can take watching this beheading.  But he doesn’t care.  He might have done them himself.

ARRIGO:  You would be watching it with the detainee?

RIVAS:  Why?  Different purposes.  You are identifying those people.  Why would they have these things on them?  Some of them, they came with them.  It’s not like we just have a storage of beheading videos.  We watch the ones that come right off their personal stuff, along with a bunch of other crazy videos, pictures, documents, or whatever.

ARRIGO:  And you would also be identifying dead bodies with the detainees?

RIVAS:  With pictures, not going to the morgue.  Say there was patrol.  They go to his house.  They start getting shot.  They return fire, kill a couple of people, capture the rest.  We have to identify who was dead, because it might have been someone who’s important to us.  So that’s a regular thing, identifying these dead bodies.

LONG:  Thank you.

ARRIGO:  Okay, Stephen.

SOLDZ:  We’ve been told that psychologists who consult on interrogations never play any role in mental health, that that’s a potential conflict.  You’ve said that that’s not the case.  So wonder if you could say a little bit about how a psychologist being a consultant on interrogation or a mentor, how that might affect your willingness — you generically, not you personally — your willingness to consult that person for mental health issues.  Say you were felt you were getting anxious and depressed.  If you talked to him about your personal problems, that might affect your interrogation relationship.

RIVAS:  As I said before, I never used them for that purpose.  But, if I was to use a psychologist for that purpose, I think it’s excellent that he’s also the same guy that knows what’s going on and what we go through.  I think that’s my biggest issue with psychologists.  You go to this random person.  I could go talk to my co-worker and I get the same feeling.  If you don’t know what I’m into, how are you going to opinion on them?  How are you going to help me out if you don’t know what I do on a daily basis, if you haven’t been there and lived through it?  So I think it’s excellent that he’s doing dual roles. 

     Over there, you have a low tolerance for BS, I guess I could say.  I’m not there to chitchat with this guy.  If I did have a problem, I’d say, “I need a solution.  I need help.”  Or whatever.  So if he knows what’s going on, how to relate to me in a much more effective way, then I’m all for it.

SOLDZ:  Okay.  Thank you.


RIVAS:  Does that make sense?

ARRIGO:  Yes, especially when you mention having to identify dead bodies and watch beheadings.  A psychologist who wasn’t up on that could seem irrelevant, especially as you people in the military move outside of the experiences that psychological science has studied.


BENNETT:  I really have no further questions of you, Jose.  I’d just like to say, thanks for joining us.  It sounds like you had an exemplary experience, you conducted yourself in an exemplary manner, and everything in my cherished field of interrogations is on track in that experience that you had.  That’s great.  I’m very glad to hear it.

RIVAS:  Yes, I’m happy that I did get that experience and that it was a professional as could be and not something that a lot of here could be worried about.  Whenever we hear about this Abu Ghraib thing, it’s just looming over us.  It seems like it’s never going to go away.  People ask, “What do you do?”  “Well, I’m an interrogator.”  “Oh, do you torture people?”  That’s the second, automatic question that comes out of everybody’s mouth.  I know it’s difficult to clear that, but, at least where I was, that wasn’t an issue anymore.  We were striving to be professional, instead of resorting to Medieval type things that don’t give back good information.

LONG:  It sounds like some lessons were learned, at least in some places.

ARRIGO:  We need to be careful ourselves not to have the Casebook completely reactive [to the torture stories] and to take into consideration the sort of situation you’re talking about.  So we’re really grateful for this consult, Jose.  And as we go along further, closer to publication, to drafting this, we’ll get back to you to make sure that we’ve acknowledged that some of the wisdom has been incorporated into military settings and see if we can articulate the means of preserving that. 

For us, on the telephone, I that that’s what we’re a little bit missing in talking to you.  We had one scene [previously] where things went the other way, and [now] we had one scene with you where things seemed to go a good way, and it seems that your commander is a right-thinking person, but we don’t quite understand what makes it go one way or the other.  That’s a piece we’ll need to get hold of.

SOLDZ:  I think also that the military has learned a lot and the leadership has changed.

ARRIGO:  That may be the bigger issue.  But, anyway, certainly at some point we will surely get back to you on that.

     Let me just talk about for a minute what’s going to happen with what you’ve told us.  Ordinarily, as I wrote to you, I will transcribe this and Ray will anonymize it.  He’s a “professional anonymizer” [laughing].  We’ll send it to you for your remarks.  If there’s anything you want to leave out or correct, you can do that.  We’re following not journalists’ style of dealing with conversations or interviews but oral historians’ style, where the person who is the main speaker has control over things along the way.

RIVAS:  So you said that before you do anything official with it, you’re going to—

ARRIGO:  Send it back to you, yes.

RIVAS:  That would be good.

ARRIGO:  We can give you a whole pseudonym, if you like.

     The other thing is that I will ask if we can put an original transcript or a name into Hoover Institution Archives, but that can be sealed until 2000 — whatever you like — 2010, 2020, 2030....  I’ll run that by you separately.  That’s not anything that’s going to happen very soon. 

RIVAS:  Okay, that sounds good. 

[Further discussion of transmission and of the draft transcript and dates for review.]

ARRIGO:  We’re very grateful to you for reaching out and also to your security professionals at your facility and to your commander or whoever else made this possible.

SOLDZ:  It was very illuminating.

[Thanks all around.]

BENNETT:  And I’d just like to say to the two mathematicians that trigonometry made me cry more often than anything I did in the military.  [Much laughter.]

ARRIGO:  Okay, we’ll put that on the list of tortures that you can’t do.



Further questions answered separately from this conversation, at a later date:

1.  Any education or experience relevant to interrogation besides Ft. Huachuca training program?  I think you mentioned some college education in political science.

I am currently studying Intelligence Operations, but I did not study anything having to do with interrogations before I deployed.

2.  You became an interrogator after the Abu Ghraib scandal.  Your thinking around this?

I think that it was a serious mistake that completely reversed and hurt the perception of the U.S. and also the whole interrogation process. 

3.  The senior interrogators available for consultation — how much experience had they had?  Did any speak the language of the detainees?

They for the most part had each been there for no less than a year.  Some knew a little of the local language.

4.  You said that the contractors tended to be more experienced and to provide continuity.  Were there any contract interrogators or contract psychologists?

There are contract interrogators at almost all interrogation facilities in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  I do not know of any contract psychologists.