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Smoking with the Jackal

Developing an Interview Strategy for a Detainee

It could happen to any of us. In the course of our work in law enforcement, we can be called upon to interview a terrorist. In my case the terrorist was a self-declared Muslim convert and that day came for me on February 27, 2014, in a prison in Poissy, a distant suburb of Paris.

I had done my homework. I was prepared. The problem was that, as we drove toward the prison, I was still not sure if I would be allowed to conduct the interview. That's because in France, as you would expect, the FBI has no jurisdiction. Our work there is done through our liaison relationship with the French police and intelligence services.

A formal request must be submitted in order to conduct an interview of anyone other than a consenting U.S. citizen that might be used for evidentiary purposes in the U.S. The request is based upon a bilateral agreement between France and the U.S. and is commonly referred to as a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty request or an MLAT. Such requests from the U.S. to France are typically carried out by French authorities who would then share with us the written report of their interview. The terrorist I wanted to interview was a Venezuelan citizen, so there was no assurance that I would be allowed to conduct the interview.

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