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File:Abu ghraib feces 06a.jpg

An Iraqi prisoner at Abu Ghraib prison forced to pose for photographs while naked and covered in feces.

Pride-and-ego down is a US army term that refers to humiliation techniques used by captors in interrogating prisoners to encourage cooperation, usually consisting of "attacking the source's sense of personal worth" and in an "attempt to redeem his pride, the source will usually involuntarily provide pertinent information in attempting to vindicate himself." [1]

Official documents state that such techniques should not go "beyond the limits that would apply to an EPW [enemy prisoner of war].", although there is evidence that these guidelines have not been adhered to in the past, particularly from testimony and images by US soldiers released to the public as part of the Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal.[1]

US army Definition from FM 2-22.3

8-45. (Interrogation) The emotional-pride and ego-down approach is based on attacking the source's ego or self-image. The source, in defending his ego, reveals information to justify or rationalize his actions. This information may be valuable in answering collection requirements or may give the [human intelligence] HUMINT collector insight into the viability of other approaches. This approach is effective with sources who have displayed weakness or feelings of inferiority. A real or imaginary deficiency voiced about the source, loyalty to his organization, or any other feature can provide a basis for this technique.

8-46. The HUMINT collector accuses the source of weakness or implies he is unable to do a certain thing. This type of source is also prone to excuses and rationalizations, often shifting the blame to others. An example of this technique is opening the collection effort with the question, "Why did you surrender so easily when you could have escaped by crossing the nearby ford in the river?" The source is likely to provide a basis for further questions or to reveal significant information if he attempts to explain his surrender in order to vindicate himself. He may give an answer such as, "No one could cross the ford because it is mined."

8-47. The objective is for the HUMINT collector to use the source's sense of pride by attacking his loyalty, intelligence, abilities, leadership qualities, slovenly appearance, or any other perceived weakness. This will usually goad the source into becoming defensive, and he will try to convince the HUMINT collector he is wrong. In his attempt to redeem his pride and explain his actions, the source may provide pertinent information. Possible targets for the emotional-pride and ego-down approach are the source's—

  • Loyalty.
  • Technical competence.
  • Leadership abilities.
  • Soldierly qualities.
  • Appearance.

8-48. There is a risk associated with this approach. If the emotional-pride and ego-down approach fails, it is difficult for the HUMINT collector to recover and move to another approach without losing his credibility. Also, there is potential for application of the pride and ego approach to cross the line into humiliating and degrading treatment of the detainee. Supervisors should consider the experience level of their subordinates and determine specifically how the interrogator intends to apply the approach technique before approving the interrogation plan.


Sexual Abuse

  • Mild-to-extreme sexual violation. For example, having a homosexual act forced on the subject -- either by the interrogator, other (willing or unwilling) subjects, or a third party brought in for that purpose.
  • A subject is put in a position where he is tempted into sexual acts which he would not have otherwise chosen. Sometimes this will be recorded, and later used to blackmail the subject.
  • Attractive members of the opposite sex are brought in to look at and ridicule the naked subject.


  • As the subject conforms to the smallest of the interrogator's demands, those instances are used against him to convince him he's already lost his integrity, and therefore it doesn't matter whether he conforms "a little bit more." Incrementally each conformity sets the stage for the next, until the subject does give away all his integrity.


  • The subject is induced to report on fellow subjects, who may otherwise have been friends, comrades, or even family members. Again, this is done incrementally, starting small with each successive instance being larger than the previous. Usually threats to expose his deceit are what induces further compliance. Eventually the subject loses his self-respect.
  • Similar to this is the subject being induced to participate in the interrogation and abuse of other subjects. The participation could range from merely encouraging another subject to comply, to actively physically abusing a subject, to conducting parts of an interrogation on his own while the actual interrogator watches. Eventually the line between "us" and "them" is blurred for the primary subject, and again he loses his self-respect.


  • A subject will be prevented from bathing and attending to other hygienic needs. This affects the subject's feelings about himself, as well as provides another opportunity for humiliation from others.
  • In extreme cases the subject is forced to suffer human waste or other highly objectionable material in his environment, on his body, or even to be ingested.


The approach techniques listed in FM 2-22.3 do not allow the collector to abuse or mistreat any source. The goal of an interrogation is truthful and accurate information. Abuse of any kind compromises the intelligence value of the source; therefore, there is no advantage to using the Hollywood-style techniques that are often referenced by the uninformed.

See also

  • Resistance to interrogation (R2I)
  • FM 34-52 Intelligence Interrogation


  1. includeonly>Conason, Joe. "Still to blame", Salon, May 27, 2005. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.

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