An interrogation is a questioning session in which a questioner attempts to get information from someone who is believed to be involved with a situation or who may have information which could be of use. In a well conducted interrogation, the questioner remains in control at all times. There are a number of techniques which can be used in interrogations, some of which are highly controversial.
A classic situation in which an interrogation might be used is in a criminal case where someone is arrested on suspicion of having committed a crime like murder or rape. The suspect is taken to an interrogation room for questioning by law enforcement. The goal of the law enforcement officers is to determine whether or not the suspect committed the crime and to gather evidence which can be used in a trial to convict the accused. Interrogation is also used by the military to gather intelligence, by intelligence agencies investigating security issues, and in various other government applications such as internal investigations of government agencies.
Historically, interrogation was often brutal. Torture was utilized to quickly extract information, even though that information was not always accurate. Numerous studies in the 20th century demonstrated that people will say anything when they are tortured if they think that their words will get the torture to stop, which makes this technique less than ideal for cases in which law enforcement officers want to get valid information.
Good interrogation practices involve utilizing psychological techniques to keep the person being questioned uneasy so that he or she will be more likely to answer questions, without crossing a line into torture and eliciting a false confession. One popular method in North America is the Reid technique, which stresses establishing a rapport with the person being questioned, keeping the interrogation room psychologically unfriendly, and being highly alert to speech patterns and body movements which indicate that the person being questioned is acting deceptively.
Concerns about dubious interrogation practices have led many nations to pass laws which protect the rights of people being questioned. These rights vary from nation to nation, and people should familiarize themselves with their rights in the event of an interrogation so that they can be prepared. Travelers in particular should research the laws in countries they are visiting because rights taken for granted in one country may not be extended to people in another, although generally foreign citizens are entitled to consular representation at interrogations.