The Interrogator | Documentary Idea

by Ken Carroll
(Near Philadelphia)

I am a psychologist, age 63, mostly working with the elderly. In 1997, I met a man in one of my nursing homes. After our brief professional interaction, I asked if he’d mind if I came and talked to him regularly, recording our conversations. He consented, and we met for an hour or so a week, for almost two years.

Jack was an interrogator of high-profile German POW’s in WWII. He served at the secret interrogation center at Ft. Hunt (near Alexandria, Va.) and later worked with the RAF intel. interrogating Luftwaffe personnel at their interrogation center in Latimer, England.

After the war, he was a “charter member” of the CIA, one of the first polygraph operators, was second chief of station in Vienna and Seoul, (among other places) during the height of the cold war, and back in Wash., he was head of the South and Central America desk (except for Cuba, which had a desk all to itself.) Among other tasks, he was in charge of investigating possible foreign involvement in JFK assassination.

I have about 70 hours of recording. Plus my notes. I have been in contact with Jack’s family. I have verified all his claims.

In addition, I have done considerable research, at the Nat’l Archives and elsewhere. Read many actual WWII interrogation reports, etc. Learned how the Germans did it.

It is fascinating stuff. Just one example: He told me, several times, that torture doesn’t work. He was no great moralist; he was pragmatic. Torture makes the guy tell you what he thinks you want to hear. You have no way of checking reliability (before the fact, at least.) There are better ways to get info and have confidence in its accuracy. He explained in detail, with lots of examples, described the “nuts and bolts” of interrogation. He and his colleagues pretty much wrote the book as they went along. (Jack died in Jan. 2000, before 911 and Gitmo).

It has been my intention to write a book. I’ve done a couple of chapters, picking it up and putting it down over the years. Maybe I’ll finish someday. But in the meantime, I feel guilty and obligated. I have been sitting on a great deal of interesting information, so pertinent to recent history, and owe it to Jack to make proper use of it.

I have become a fan of This American Life, listening to podcasts while driving, and through that, I have become acquainted with the larger worlds of podcasting and radio documentary. It occurred to me in a flash, that maybe this is the way to go with my “book.” Hearing the actual recordings of Jack’s words would be much more interesting than reading my feeble efforts to present it all on paper.

I have no idea how to proceed with this. I am hoping that you might steer me in the right direction.

Thanks for all your time.

Ken Carroll
Phone/fax 610 328 6768
krpcarroll (at) gmail.com

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Aug 18, 2015
by: Desktop Documentaries

Hi Ken,

Thank you for sharing your amazing story. You're right, this is a story that should be shared!

Here are some ideas:

1) Create an "archival" website where you upload all 70 hours of the recordings to share with the public. Post photos and any other relevant materials. Perhaps create a way for others to upload and share their own stories.

2) Hire a documentary writer to help you combine all the best material into an interesting storyline. Visuals will be needed to cover the audio which could come from all kinds of sources: Jack's family, archive.org or even filming recreations of scenes with actors. See the documentary "Resurrect Dead: The Mystery Of The Toynbee Tiles" for inspiration.

3) Contact This American Life and offer them your story.

Hope that helps!

If you want tips on how to find a documentary crew, go here: How To Find Filmmakers To Help Make Your Documentary.


Feb 12, 2016
Interested filmmaker
by: Harry

Hello, I am a film-maker currently looking for a documentary subject. The story you have detailed seems very interesting and I was wondering if we could go to further contact to discuss more, my email is Harry-heath@hotmail.co.uk

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