This brief paper addresses the common sense proposition that policies designed to counterterrorism must necessarily rest on a sophisticated understanding of the psychology of terrorists, and that the optimal path to understanding “what makes terrorists tick” is to ask them. But this in turn means talking with them, not interrogating them. The authors, both of whom have had extensive experience in talking with terrorists, present a number of guidelines for conducting productive interviews with terrorists. Observing that terrorists are not psychologically disturbed, and that it is their social psychology which is critical to understand, the paper emphasizes the importance of establishing empathy with the interview subjects in the service of seeing the world through their eyes. Examples are provided of language from terrorists which shed light on their psychology and motivations for entering the path of terrorism, with implications for counter-terrorism.
J. Post, Anat Berko
Democracy and Security