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For more information, see: Eduction.
See also: Elicitation
See also: Interrogation

Debriefing is the process of obtaining information from willing human sources, and is assumed to be consistent with the rules, laws, and policies of the debriefing organization. It is admittedly an awkward term, since the subject rarely will be recounting the contents of a formal briefing or legal brief. People being debriefed are defined as willing to cooperate, although it is possible to obtain information through casual conversation (i.e., elicitation). While it is usually face-to-face, it can be done by voice, video, or computer messaging. Interrogation, however, deals with unwilling sources.

In current U.S. military and intelligence policy, it is defined as "the process of using direct questions to elicit intelligence information from a cooperative detainee to satisfy intelligence requirements."[1]

Second World War

The term came into common use in the Second World War, when intelligence officers would debrief returning combat aircrews, about their experiences during a combat mission, to acquire information about enemy tactics, techniques, equipment and procedures, as well as lessons learned about the capabilities and limitations of friendly resources.[2]

Current techniques

Types of people being interviewed include both "tasked" and "non-tasked" individuals. Tasked individuals are, in some way, part of the interviewer's organization.[3]


  1. Gordon England, Deputy Secretary of Defense, U.S. Department of Defense (October 9, 2008), Department of Defense Directive 3115.09, DoD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense (Intelligence), U.S. Department of Defense
  2. Guide to the T. Hamilton Lokey Papers, 1905-1951 (Manuscript Collection #739), Joyner Library, Eastern Carolina University
  3. US Department of the Army (September 2006), FM 2-22.3 (FM 34-52) Human Intelligence Collector Operations. Retrieved on 2007-10-31, p. 7-5