Tradecraft Primer: A Framework for Aspiring Interrogators, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Tradecraft Primer

A Framework for Aspiring Interrogators, 1st Edition

By Paul Charles Topalian

CRC Press

140 pages | 29 B/W Illus.

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Tradecraft Primer: A Framework for Aspiring Interrogators is a timely and relevant reference manual for a new generation of professionals as we enter a new era in our nation’s interrogation programs. A must-read for anyone thinking of entering the interrogation profession, whether in law enforcement, the military, or intelligence, it provides fresh insights from the latest empirical-based studies that will enhance your results and contribute to best practices. It challenges past beliefs and legacy interrogation practices of previous generations by capturing novel approaches that no longer rely on physical and psychological coercion, unethical or questionable ruses, or abusive mistreatment.

Importantly, this primer also opens the door to valuable lessons from contemporary experts in human motivation and more effective social influence methodologies and tactics while you learn of the art and science behind rapport-building, effective communication constructs, and the influence of interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics for use inside the interrogation room. In addition, it captures the "interrogation cycle" as a handy reference graphic. By reading this primer, you will learn how to reduce incidences of false confessions, mitigate eyewitness misidentification, and gain simple contemporary insights to outsmart liars and discern truth-tellers from deceivers.

As an advocate for a sea change in the way our nation’s interrogation programs are run and managed, this primer encourages a team approach to interrogations and emphasizes active engagement and oversight by supervisors in efforts to corroborate interrogation outcomes. It also asserts the need for the adoption of a common code of ethics shared among all practitioners—an ethical code created in deference to our nation’s Constitution, statutes, international treaties, and the policies of our nation’s leaders. One that encompasses the pledge and built on two underlying principles: Do no harm and respect human rights.


This book, as the title suggests, is a primer for those who aspire to practice interrogation as a vocation. It is a solid reference for any interrogator. The books and articles referenced are outstanding for further study and suited for in-depth study accompanied by practical experience.

Mark Roberts, Subject Matter Expert—book review in the Journal of Strategic Studies, Vol. 9, No. 4, Winter 2016

There is a great deal of information in this relatively small book, and it updates the reader on new theories of interviewing for the 21st century. An excellent bibliography of military and psychological references will be especially welcome to researchers and the academic community. The author's concluding thoughts ring true: "Do no harm—respect human rights." The book is highly recommended for investigative and intelligence specialists.

Adrian A. Barnie, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), CAMS (Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist)—book review in ASIS International, April 2018

Table of Contents

Getting Our Terms Straight

The Need to Seek Common Ground

Redefining the Term "Interrogation"

Comparing Law Enforcement and Intelligence Interrogations

Other Associative Terms to Understand

Law Enforcement Custodial Interrogations

Law Enforcement Noncustodial Interrogations


Strategic Debriefing

Tactical Questioning



Interrogation’s Tortuous Past

Snapshots from Distant History

The Qin Dynasty

The Roman Empire

The Dark Ages

Salem Witch Trial

Napoleon Speaks Out!

The Wickersham Commission

Evolving Case Law

Brown v. Mississippi (1936) and Chambers v. Florida (1940)

Rochin v. California (1952)

Miranda v. California (1966)

Lessons from World War II

The Cold War Era

The U.S. Experience in the Korean War

On the Heels of the Vietnam Conflict

The U.S. Experience in the Vietnam Conflict

Enter the Global War on Terror


Black Sites

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

The Evolving Army Field Manual

A Major Force for Change

Rights of Persons in Custody

Constitutional Provisions Influencing Custodial Interrogations

Fifth Amendment

Sixth Amendment

Eighth Amendment

Fourteenth Amendment

International Treaties Opposing Torture

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Geneva Conventions and Common Article 3

UN Convention against Torture

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

Istanbul Protocol

U.S. Laws, Statutes, and Executive Orders against Torture

Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA)

War Crime Act (WCA) – 18 USC §2441

Federal Torture Statute – 18 USC §2340-2340B

Detainee Treatment Act (DTA)

Military Commissions Act (MCA)

Executive Order 13491

Challenges Yet Ahead

On Being Human

Understanding Memory

Associated Factors Influencing Outcomes


Reality Mapping


Passage of Time

Suggestibility and Memory Distortion

Situational Dynamics of Capture

Physical and Emotional Isolation


Guilt, Shame, and Humiliation

Physiological and Cognitive Factors


Physical Setting


Infliction of Pain and Threats of Bodily Injury

Interpersonal and Intrapersonal Dynamics

The Science of Rapport

Choose Your Words, Demeanor, and Tenor Wisely

Six Key Elements of Influencing Interpersonal Dynamics

Five Core Needs Influencing Interpersonal Dynamics

Put These Concepts into Action

The Interrogation Cycle

The Law Enforcement Interrogation Cycle

Collect Relevant Background Information

Frame Initial Questions

Noncustodial Interview and Assessment

Decision to Release or Detain in Custody, Mirandize, and Isolate

Develop Your Interrogation Strategy

Seek the Miranda Waiver

The Custodial Interrogation

Corroborate Outcomes

Decision to Refer to a Prosecutor, Release or Detain, and Repeat Cycle

The Intelligence Interrogation Cycle

Identify Threats and Priority Intelligence Gaps

Screen Detainees

Frame Initial Questions

Perform Pre-Interrogation Interview

Craft and Execute Your Interrogation Strategy

Corroborate Responses

About Confessions

Three Factors Influencing Confessions

Strength of Evidence

Time Commitment

Number of Tactics

Other Factors Influencing Confessions

Wrongful Convictions

Interrogation-Induced False Confessions

Eyewitness Misidentification

Jailhouse Informants

Facing Up to the Problem

Minimizing False Confessions

Eyewitness Reforms

Unmasking Deception

Outsmarting Liars

Integrity Is Not a Stable Trait

People Make Poor Lie Detectors

The Big Four of Nonverbal Cues

Content Analysis

Statement Analysis

Linguistic Markers

Facial Expressions

Uncovering Deception in a Co-Conspiratorial Context

Other Ways to Outsmart Liars

Time Well Spent

Being a Good Listener

Other Techniques

Calling for a Code of Ethics

The Need for a Code of Ethics

Leading the Change

Final Thoughts

About the Author

Paul Charles Topalian possesses nearly 30 years as an intelligence professional with considerable overseas experience in Asia and Europe. His foundational expertise in this primer is built on assignments with the United States military, the intelligence community, and law enforcement. He holds a BA from Norwich University and earned his MS from Salve Regina University and his MA from the US Naval War College. He is proud recipient of several national-level intelligence awards for both personal and team achievements in support of some of our nation’s top intelligence requirements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
COMPUTERS / Security / General
LAW / Forensic Science
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Freedom & Security / Terrorism