The Interrogation Room

Inside the minds of an Israeli interrogator and a Palestinian prisoner

| March-April 2005

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  • interrogationroom-sm.jpg

Given enough time, Michael Koubi tells New Scientist editor Michael Bond, he could make almost anyone talk. Koubiworked for Shin Bet, Israel’s security service, for 21 years and was its chief interrogator from 1987 to 1993. He interrogated hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, including renowned militants such as Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the former leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, who was killed in an Israeli attack last year. Koubi claims that intelligence gained in interrogation has been crucial to protecting Israel from terrorism.

After speaking to Koubi, Bond traveled to the Palestinian territories and interviewed a woman Koubi had interrogated. The woman, who does not want her name revealed, was arrested when she was in her 20s while she was trying to smuggle sensitive photographs across the border. She was held in solitary confinement in a detention center in Jerusalem and interrogated over the course of a week.

The Interrogator

What cut you out to become an interrogator? 

Being an interrogator is 70 percent character, 30 percent learned. You have to know instinctively how to use intonation when you speak to a prisoner—when to shout, when to speak loudly, when to speak quietly, or when not to speak at all and just sit and look at him, for hours if necessary. You have to let him feel you are the boss, always. Not many interrogators can do that, because they don’t have the self-assurance. I was born with that.

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