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Machine space: mass interrogation and later modern American wars Child, Elliott Callan


This dissertation examines the use of mass interrogation by military intelligence agencies during later modern wars. It draws from state, non-government, and military archives, as well as extensive primary and secondary records. The research focuses on the activities of the US military intelligence branches and the CIA since 1945, with empirical analysis centring on key episodes from the early cold war, the American war in Vietnam, and the ‘war on terror’. Together they demonstrate that interrogation apparatuses have been crucial means by which these agencies have produced the geographical and other intelligence needed to know the enemy and spaces of war in order to extend power over them. Much more than an interpersonal encounter in a tightly delineated zone, I argue that intelligence interrogation should be conceived of as an extended spatial practice. The research shows that mass interrogation recurrently takes form as large-scale ‘technopolitical apparatuses’. Their political geographies are infrastructural, material, and performative. As military technologies, they facilitate control over enemy bodies and territories by indexing the geographies of both; as political technologies, they produce new specialist subjects, disclosing interrogation as an expert-bureaucratic problem of maximising data production. The study establishes that mass interrogation is not singular; it takes radical new forms as the geographies of later modern war transform. Nonetheless, whether contributing to an industrial-economic cold war, a neo-imperial counterinsurgency, or as part of an ‘everywhere war’ by a counterterror state in the twenty-first century, American interrogators and their supporting personnel continue to be confronted by the imperatives of ‘machine space’. In it, military interrogation is not ‘a science and an art’, as commonly presented, but instead appears to demand the mechanical coordination of forces against material objects by military workers, each with strictly compartmentalised responsibilities. In machine space, the collective challenge of interrogation is to process a maximal number of human sources, to ‘break’ them so that ever greater volumes of data may be extracted and reassembled as new informational forms. This dissertation finds that, in doing so, mass interrogation has helped to activate some of the violent circuits necessary to perform later modern American war.

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