Is everyone really considered a suspect?
December 2, 2007 6:51 PM   Subscribe

After a successful resolution to a hostage situation, is it SOP to detain and question everyone involved (not just the perps)?

This isn't hypothetical: last Thursday a failed putschist holed up with an armed posse in a five-star hotel. After a reasonable deadline, a SWAT team rammed an APC through the front door, teargassed the place... and everyone they found inside was brought to police headquarters, questioned, and the innocent were released.

The local media is livid. Their reporters had been caught in the dragnet, and some of the older ones have been having flashbacks of the bad old days. Understandably, nobody in the media mentions that hostage screening is common practice in many hostage situations. Columbine. Singapore Airlines 117. Air France 8969.

I've tried searching for "hostage screening" on Google, but no luck. I'd just like to know if there are any Special Forces/SWAT manuals or texts that explain the virtues of "overwhelming force", "speedy resolution", and "question everybody, even the hostages". (Bonus points for manuals that explain how questioning catches perps disguised as hostages.) Help me get a more balanced picture.
posted by micketymoc to Law & Government (5 answers total)
I'd imagine the reasoning is based on the fact that they have a black box with a bunch of people in it. At least some of them are dangerous armed criminals. Generally no one was courteous enough to submit a C.V. and statement of their intentions before things began. And given that the hostage takers involved feel it necessary to resort to holding people by force it's not inconceivable that some of their number and/or their collaborators would use deception to escape capture.
However a bigger concern at that point, I would imagine, would be getting accurate statements from witnesses/victims before they had an opportunity to talk to each other. Eyewitnesses are notoriously unreliable as it is, taking statements from witnesses who had a chance to discuss events and agree on some kind of consensus "story" would be even less useful.
The situation you are referencing in the Philippines
you mentioned might not really be analogous to a hostage taking standoff type situation we would face in the states. While generally they seem to fall along the lines of either very small groups of fringe political activists or fugitive criminals painted into a corner this seems to be a more of a conflict between somewhat well established political groups. I would imagine that political, as opposed to tactical or legal considerations factored well into the decision to detain all the reporters in question. That said, groups of people of unknown provenance carting lots of gear waiting immediately outside of a hostage situation are certainly something I would be concerned about in a tense tactical situation in the midst of political upheaval.
posted by frieze at 7:22 PM on December 2, 2007

I wish I could find something online about the SAS operation which ended the Iranian Embassy siege in London; I saw a documentary which specifically addressed this question, showing that all the hostages were cuffed and laid out on the lawn immediately after the siege, and explaining the reasoning behind it. There was one hostage-taker among the rescued in that situation and the SAS had to identify every hostage and confirm who they were before letting them go.

I can't seem to find anything online which specifically details it, alas. Sorry.
posted by andraste at 7:33 PM on December 2, 2007

I think this is the video andraste is referring to.

I know in Navy anti-terrorism training we're told to expect to be detained if we're ever in a hostage rescue situation. Basically, you're told to stay down, keep your hands visible, don't make any sudden moves and don't do anything until told by one of the rescuers. Once the initial breach is over, we're told to expect to be handcuffed and questioned to determine if any of the hostage takers are trying to blend in with the hostages.
posted by macfly at 8:28 PM on December 2, 2007

Inside Man was a recent Hollywood movie that shows this happening, and why.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:46 PM on December 2, 2007

I'm thinking of that given the premise that hostages may actually be accomplices or perpetrators, all hostages become suspects that are flight risks.
posted by WCityMike at 1:26 PM on December 3, 2007

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