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Book Review: Tradecraft Primer

Tradecraft Primer: A Framework for Aspiring Interrogators. By Paul Charles Topalian. CRC Press. 140 pages. $59.95.

Never has it been more important for interrogators to understand how to manage an interrogation or interview and the legal implications. Tradecraft Primer: A Framework for Aspiring Interrogators provides an excellent outline of those procedures and legal reminders. Aimed primarily at government and military interrogators rather than law enforcement, it is highly relevant to academics and others as a general guide.

A summary of U.S. and international laws as they pertain to the interrogation process includes, of course, the Geneva Convention and U.S. Executive Order 13340 relating to lawful interrogations. Also discussed as high points are several U.S. constitutional amendments.

Author Paul Topalian summarizes techniques for interrogations, including analysis of stress, memory, fear, and other psychological factors in the overall process. While working from a modern perspective, he covers the history of interrogations from ancient China and the Dark Ages to the Cold War era and the Global War on Terror. Topalian has an extensive military intelligence and academic background, which qualifies him as an authority on the subject.

There is a great deal of information in this relatively small book, and it updates the reader on new theories of interviewing for the 21st century. An excellent bibliography of military and psychological references will be especially welcome to researchers and the academic community. The author's concluding thoughts ring true: "Do no harm—respect human rights." The book is highly recommended for investigative and intelligence specialists.

Reviewer: Adrian A. Barnie, CFE (Certified Fraud Examiner), CAMS (Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist), is a contract senior investigator with the U.S. Attorney's Office in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a member of ASIS International.