Ritz: Humiliation is part of interrogation
Former Army interrogator Mike Ritz
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(CNN) -- A former Army interrogator who now owns Team Delta, a company whose most popular course is Prisoner of War Interrogation/Resistance Training, says the photos showing abuse of Iraqi prisoners indicate a "classic prison guard syndrome."
Mike Ritz talked about methods and danger signs with CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.
COOPER: One of the charges that has been put toward the six members of the military police who are currently facing charges is that they were asked to "soften up" these prisoners for later interrogation. Does that actually work?
RITZ: I think what you're looking at is these terms are very vague, aren't they? And you can take them for what they're worth. Geneva Convention doesn't outline exactly how to treat prisoners. It's a very vague term. So it's kind of up to the leadership to determine what "softening up" means.
But I think the MPs, one of the great assets we have in military police is that they can be our eyes and ears when the interrogation element isn't present.
As far as abusing the prisoners, this isn't allowed. It can't happen.
COOPER: But the people who are defending these MPs say look, these are -- in some cases one was a private. They're pretty low-level officers if they're officers at all. They're not the ones coming up with these techniques, in their defense their lawyers are going to argue, look, somebody told them to do this.
Let's talk about these techniques. I mean, what is the technique of having prisoners naked? Of having a prisoner wear women's underwear? I know it may not be exactly legal, but is there some sort of method to it?
RITZ: Well, I mean, humiliation has been used in the interrogation process for quite some time. But, in this case, what you're looking at is some people that went to extremes. And I think that shows the immaturity of those people involved. And the lack of having any sort of standard operating procedures as far as what they can and can't do.
COOPER: So how do you try to use humiliation?
RITZ: Well, there are other ways to do it. I mean every prisoner has to go through a strip search, for example. Now an interrogator can be present at that strip search, and that can be a humiliating experience for the individual.
Can an interrogator put their hands on them? When an interrogator starts to show emotion in this process, when they start to look like they're having a good time, and there's joy, I mean I think that's when we know we have a serious problem here. It's a maturity issue. It's a lack of experience...
COOPER: And a lack of oversight it would seem to be, as well.
I'm interested in this notion of humiliation. What does it do, specifically what does it do to the prisoner? What is the purpose of it from the interrogator's point?
RITZ: You're making a prisoner feel vulnerable and letting -- you know getting the prisoner to have his guard down.
Now what we could have done that would have been more acceptable from Geneva Convention standard is we could have had a female behind a sheet while prisoners were going through the strip search and she could have been making comments, but never having truly viewed the prisoner.
And that could have been a humiliating experience that, in my eyes would have been an acceptable way to create that vulnerability in the prisoner so that they would cooperate.
COOPER: Did it surprise you, seeing these pictures, obviously these individuals, things went too far. Whether or not it was a systematic policy, we don't know.
There was sort of a sexual nature to all of these, not only in the pictures, but a lot of the allegations about some of the other things that were going on in this prison. Does that surprise you, the sort of sexual component to it?
RITZ: Yes, I mean, I think what you're really looking at is a classic "Prison Guard Syndrome."
There was an experiment in 1971 that Stanford University did in the psychology department. They took students, half of them were made guards in a mock prison and the other half were made prisoners.
It was supposed to take place for the period of two weeks to see what was the psychology involved in that and within six days they cut it short, because those students, regular college students, were already starting to behave in a bit of a sadistic manner toward those prisoners. So they had to end the study altogether.
This thing happens if you do not have the proper monitoring and supervision going on. Or you don't have seasoned interrogators.
I think the good remedy for this situation would be to bring in some seasoned interrogators that aren't involved in the interrogation process but can assist with the overview, along with a psychiatrist or a psychiatric team that not only analyzed what's going on with the prisoners themselves mentally, but they're also looking at what's going on with the staff in dealing with the prisoners.
Because it's very natural for this type of thing to happen.