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Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions


Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions

Biderman, A. D. (1957). Communist attempts to elicit false confessions from Air Force prisoners of war. Air Research and Development Command, Maxwell AFB AL.  View PDF here.

Abstract : This journal article discusses the coercive methods used by Chinese Communists to extract false confessions from U.S. Air Force men who were captured during the Korean War. Specifically, the methods were meant to induce compliance -- to undermine the resistance of the prisoner. The article includes a chart showing an outline of these methods, classified into eight general types, some illustrations of the specific forms these methods take, and the author's judgment of the effect of each. The methods are as follows: isolation, monopolization of perception, induced debilitation or exhaustion, threats, occasional indulgences, demonstrating "omnipotence" and "omniscience," degradation, and enforcing trivial demands. The kind of "confession" discussed consists of considerably more than the signing of a piece of paper which says "On such and such a date I committed such and such a crime-signed John Jones." It consists of considerably more than making an equivalent oral statement in a court. These "confession"-extortion efforts involve the attempt to manipulate the individual so that he behaves over an extended period as if: (1) he actually committed certain concrete acts which he can "describe" with meticulous detail; (2) these acts were "criminal," in the sense of being violations of the most fundamental standards of human decency; (3) these acts were not isolated transgressions but manifestations of a "criminal" pattern in his thought and action; (4) his "crimes" were part and parcel of a larger nefarious political conspiracy; (5) his "criminal" role was motivated by a self-seeking alignment with this political conspiracy, of which he was only a pawn; (6) he is now remorseful and repentant; and (7) his changed attitude is due to a new-found political conviction for which he is indebted to his patient captors.
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