Debate continues over FBI policy forbidding taped interrogations


While several states and hundreds of law enforcement agencies have adopted policies on recording of custodial interrogations, the Federal Bureau of Investigation still forbis the practice, according to reports. This controversy has been at the center of the recent dismissal of eight U.S. attorneys.

One of the fired attorneys, Paul Charlton of Arizona, has said that the policy against recording is hindering law enforcement and justice.

Mr. Charlton said the problem was particularly acute in Arizona, a state with 21 Indian reservations, where federal law enforcement officials handle major felony cases. In essence, he said, differing investigative practices have resulted in two distinct criminal justice systems. If a crime occurred off the reservation, the confession would be taped, but if it happened on tribal land, it would not.

“That disparity in justice is unacceptable,” Mr. Charlton said in an interview.

The F.B.I., in documents defending its policy, argued that taping was not always possible, particularly when agents were on the road, and that it was not always appropriate. Psychological tricks like misleading or lying to a suspect in questioning or pretending to show the suspect sympathy might also offend a jury, the agency said.

“Perfectly lawful and acceptable interviewing techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as proper means of obtaining information from defendants,” said one of the once-secret internal Justice Department communications made public as part of the investigation into the dismissals of the United States attorneys.

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. (New York Times, 4/2/07, free registration required)

Recording of interrogations has been proven to prevent false confessions from happening.

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