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Sep 28, 2011 | 13:42 GMT

3 mins read

Above the Tearline: The Intelligence Value of Hostage Debriefing

Vice President of Intelligence Fred Burton discusses the value of hostage debriefings in light of the release of the American hikers from Iran.

Editor’s Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

In this week's Above the Tearline, we're going to look at the American hikers recently released from Iran and examine the intelligence value of why it's important to debrief hostages held in captivity. When hostages are released from extended stays in captivity, there is a coordinated process that takes place behind the scenes that first begins with an extensive decompression period where hostages are afforded a comprehensive medical, dental and psychiatric assessment as to their mental state. The psychological assessment is done for two primary purposes. One is to help understand the traumatic effect that takes place while an individual is held against their will. The second purpose of the psychological assessment is to afford the debriefing team an opportunity to understand the psychological state the hostage is in, which allows the debriefing team to formulate their best avenue of approach in their line of questioning. Before the team begins, priority intelligence requirements are addressed behind the scenes. For example, the first thing you're always after is perishable intelligence. In this case, it would be Robert Levinson — he is the retired FBI agent that went missing in Iran. So the debriefing team is going to ask the hostages if they have seen Mr. Levinson and they're going to show pictures of Mr. Levinson to the hostages to see if perhaps they might have had a glimpse of him while in captivity. After the perishable intelligence is obtained, there are four primary national intelligence subjects that are addressed, and they are: security, law enforcement, intelligence and military. For security purposes, you're going to want to know details about the abduction: how it took place — with an eye towards lessons learned to prevent other hostage takings from occurring. From the law enforcement aspect, a crime has been committed, so the interview process is one geared toward a potential criminal prosecution. On the intelligence aspect, this is the catchall for everything that occurred while in captivity — with an eye towards gleaning as much intelligence about the ordeal as can possibly be captured. From a military perspective, the broad-brush motive for the debriefing process is for the potential hostage rescue. These hostages were held in an Iranian jail and the military wants to know everything possible about that physical structure — details as granular as which way the doors swing, whether or not there was light, could hear airplanes taking off or landing, were children on the streets, were horns honking, could you hear animals, were dogs barking. All of this data is put together to help paint a picture of the entire scene with an eye towards the potential of formulating a hostage rescue plan at some point in time. The Above the Tearline aspect with his video is the debriefing of the American hostages held inside an Iranian prison will afford Washington a very unique window into the mindset of the Iranian captors and should help Washington formulate their overall policy towards Iran.

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