Breaking Down U.S. Interrogation Tactics

Whether the term torture or the phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” is used, it refers to a specific set of techniques that the Department of Justice told the CIA were permissible when interrogating detainees after the attacks on September 11, 2001.

Some of the 10 techniques listed are self-explanatory such as “facial slap” and “sleep deprivation.” Waterboarding has received a great deal of attention over the last decade. However, others may not be as well known to people. Here are some of the descriptions, per a previously released government memo, of the less familiar techniques:

Attention Grasp

“The attention grasp consists of grasping the detainee with both hands, with one hand on each side of the collar opening, in a controlled and quick motion. In the same motion as the grasp, the detainee is drawn toward the interrogator.”


“During the walling technique, the detainee is pulled forward and then quickly and firmly pushed into a flexible false wall so that his shoulder blades hit the wall. His head and neck are supported with a rolled towel to prevent whiplash.”

Wall Standing

“During wall standing, the detainee may stand about 4 to 5 feet from a wall with his feet spread approximately to his shoulder width. His arms are stretched out in front of him and his fingers rest on the wall to support all of his body weight. The detainee is not allowed to reposition his hands or feet.”

Those three techniques along with the other seven are not listed in the methods that President Obama endorsed in his January 2009 executive order that points to the Army Field Manual as the guideline for the interrogation of detainees.

The Army Field Manual’s list contains 19 techniques. Only one of which, “separation,” is an overtly physical tactic. The other 18 are various forms of psychological interrogation.

But it’s that 19th technique known as separation that still gives human rights activists pause. Here’s how the Army Field Manual explains it:

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