pageok
pageok
pageok
CIA Interrogation Techniques:
ABC News has an important report on CIA interrogation techniques used on major Al Qaeda suspects in U.S. custody. An excerpt:
  CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

  1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
  2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
  3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
  4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
  5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
  6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
  The article has lots of interesting and important details about how the techniques are used. Check it out.
alkali (mail) (www):
Note the following ambiguity:

Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours.

I imagine that "forced" means something here other than "sent a stern letter on the topic."
11.18.2005 7:26pm
Cornellian (mail):
1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

Hard to work up much moral outrage over this one.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

Getting kinda creepy

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

Apparently also a medieval torture technique, if I recall correctly. Certainly not a good idea from the point of view of America's image in the world.

In reading about things like this I often wonder about the people inflicting this sort of thing on the prisoners. Assuming that Americans are doing this sort of thing (and not contracting it out to surrogates), can they just go home afterwards and live a normal life? I'd have to think it's likely to have some kind of long term effect on them.
11.18.2005 7:36pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
Personally it's only fear of a "slippery slope" (to other people, not to more severe methods) that keeps me from applauding the torture of "a dozen top al Qaeda targets."
11.18.2005 7:41pm
fred (mail):
One of the things that has poisoned this whole debate is the refusal of some to distinguish, as the Convention against Torture does, between things that are really "torture' and things that are merely "cruel and inhumane treatment" which is a lesser category (and amounts to, basically, roughing someone up)

As you can see, the list contains things that are clearly not torture - slapping, making them stand, cold rooms.

We need to have a debate about when and where aggressive techniques should be authorized and when they are not authorized. But that debate never occurs because too many polemicists are screaming "torture" at every turn.

In addition, too many take the claims of Al Qaeda prisoners who claim to have been tortured at face value, when we know they have been trained to claim to have been torture when they are released.

By now, I think most would be willing to grant that some aggressive tactics might be acceptable if the stakes were high enough- if it could avert an attack on the United States that would result in significant casualties, and if no other technique worked.

Congress should have carefully considered the exact circmstances under which aggressive techniques are usable, and should have laid it all out by statute. That statute should required either the President or Secretary of Defense to sign off whenever they are used, giving the reasons.

I suspect that the freaky chant of "Torture, Torture" has stifled all of the productive work that could have gone on.

It is fundamentally different to use these aggressive techniques when trying to save life, than when third world dictators use them to suppress their populations. If you have pledged allegiance to a group that uses mass murder as its only real tool, your right to claim the privileges of civilization should have been at least diminished somewhat.
11.18.2005 7:51pm
USMC Paralegal (mail):
I don't begin to have problems with these techniques until we come to number six and I don't get too worked up about that one. I do think that the stakes need to be pretty high to water-board one of these guys and there should certainly be some safeguards in place (medical personnel standing by outside the view of the prisoner for example) and it should be approved a very high level (director of CIA or higher) before it is used.

The television report said that KSM held out the longest (2.5 minutes) when waterboarded. Given who he is and what he is responsible for I won't be losing any sleep or his alledged "torture".

I do agree that this sort of treatment (torture it ain't) is a slippery slope though. The agency needs to be very very careful using number 5 and 6.
11.18.2005 8:02pm
Pritesh:
The Attention Grab:

This technic was banned in Israel, after several prisoners died of hemorrhaging.
11.18.2005 8:17pm
ken anthony (mail) (www):
I'm sure glad we're not using that inhuman panties on the head torture.
11.18.2005 8:21pm
SomeJarhead (mail):
Why have a discussion about the issues? How is objectivity relevant?

The whole idea is to shriek our feigned outrage and demand the cancellation of all the elections we lost (er, I mean that were stolen from us).

Right?
11.18.2005 8:21pm
Humble Law Student:
Seriously, the first four techniques are hardly "torture".

In reference to technique number 5, my only concern would be if this tactic lead to prisoners dying of pneumonia or the like. However, I have no idea if that is happening or not.

As for the last one, I believe it differs quite a bit from the practice that I think people are associating it with. If I remember correctly, the "medieval" technique involved actually drowning the individual, then pumping the water out of them and resuscitating them. This current practice falls well short of that older practice and hardly seems dangerous to their health. The cellophane is wrapped around them to prevent them from intaking too much water. They don't actually drown in this case. They AREN'T being hurt. Its just a nice little demonstration of playing mind games on them, hardly torture.
11.18.2005 8:23pm
Hank:
All of you previous posters, please keep in mind as you debate which of these six forms of abuse constitute torture, that more than 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody, so these six forms are obviously only the tip of the iceberg. Please also keep in mind that these "suspects" have had no due process, with respect to either their arrest or their imprisonment. The Red Cross estimated that 80 to 90 percent of our Abu Ghraib prisoners were innocent. No wonder we use secret prisons that the Red Cross can't investigate. If any other nation were doing what the U.S. is now doing, everyone of you would be calling for an international war crimes tribunal to try the leaders of that nation.
11.18.2005 8:25pm
MAB (mail):
I don't begin to have problems with these techniques until we come to number six and I don't get too worked up about that one.

I certainly hope that you never find yourself in a position where "No. 6" is being applied to you, even if it's Not Really Torture. Back at the turn of the century, waterboarding was known as "the water cure" and US troops used it routinely against Filipino insurgents. This caused an awful stink in the US press - apparently they weren't as attuned to the finer points of defining "torture" back then as we are today.

Question - why is it that when the NVA or other adversaries apply these methods to US POWs or other captives, it's torture, but when we apply them to our enemies, it's "aggressive interrogation?"
11.18.2005 8:28pm
Humble Law Student:
Once again, MAB, how we are practicing "water-boarding" is quite distinct from how you all seem to imply it is carried out. From what I understand, we don't actually drown them, just really scare them. Hardly, torture.

In all seriousness, the utter nonsense of the article is displayed when it discusses in such dreadful and worrisome tones how the poor terrorists are subjected to Eminem. Oh my God!!! Those poor terrorists! Seriously, how could any serious journalist put that in a column discussing "torture" and harsh interrogation techniques. Doesn't this strike anyone else as completely foolish?!?!

The real crime then is modern America. All of our youth are constantly "tortured" every day that they turn on MTV and VH1 and see an Eminem video. Its utterly ridiculous.

No one is going to take you terrorist cuddlers seriously until you actually bring your heads back down to earth.

On another note, when I was rushing a fraternity (that will remain nameless) we were subjected to quite a bit of "torture." Quite a bit of it was just as or more severe than what was mentioned in the article. But hey, we were men - we could handle it. If the terrorists can't, then we've won already.
11.18.2005 8:41pm
Iforgot (mail):
Isn't it funny that the people that approved these techniques, just three or four years ago were participating in OCI, and glad-handing at Federalist Society events with forced smiles? Many of them went to TTTs (like GMU) and really needed to gladhand because they didn't have the grades for BIGLAW.
11.18.2005 8:43pm
MikeC&F (mail):
Humble Law Student: Based on your comment, you are obviously someone of great physical and mental strength. After all, I used to box, I have a black belt, I have been in over 100 street fights. Though I was never shot at, I am ex-military. Yet techniques nos. 1-4 scared the crap out of me.

The military is looking for a few people with your fortitude. Send me an e-mail and I'll hook you up with a recruiter. Seriously, I have a lot of contacts. We'll have you in Ranger School in no time. Just let me know.
11.18.2005 8:44pm
MikeC&F (mail):
To those of you who think torture is "no big deal":

Have you read any classics on military warfare? Have you been in combat or spoken to those who have been in combat? Here's why I ask...

If I learned that those techniques noted in the story would be applied to me, I would fight to the death rather than surrender. Think about how this impacts American soldiers. Someone who thinks he will be tortured to death will be more likely to take some American soldiers with him. He will fight relentelessy since, thinking he will be tortured to death, he has nothing to lose.

Which is why I oppose torture. I don't have too much of a moral problem with using nasty techniques on people who want to detonante nukes in the city I live in. But I do have a problem with needlessly torturing people, because it means those who will be tortured, instead of surrending, will fight to the death. This puts American soldiers at risk.
11.18.2005 8:47pm
Argle (mail) (www):
Seriously, the first four techniques are hardly "torture".

I don't begin to have problems with these techniques until we come to number six and I don't get too worked up about that one.

I fully sympathize. I myself punish my children according to this sliding scale, where 1 is triggered by backchat, 2 by failure to do the washing up, 3 by an overly messy room, 4 by inappropriate dress, 5, by an inability to make the school team in the sport of my choice, and 6 by a GPA below 3.9. I think you'll agree this is a reasonable and not excessive approach. Saddam Hussein routinely electrocuted his children and I would never do such a thing (unless strictly necessary to preserve freedom within the homeland and garage areas).

Recently, increased anti-social behavior by my children has led me to issue an executive order allowing the employment of each of these techniques on the "reasonable suspicion" that the banned activities have been taking place. I am fully confident of my intelligence-gathering capabilities, however, and I am 100% sure that the kids fully deserve it, because those little tykes are evil.
11.18.2005 8:52pm
Agricola (mail):
Is there a link to more information about the "100 died in captivity" figure? I assume some large percentage are those who died of the wounds they suffered when they were captured on the battlefield, or from wounds they suffered when they tried to escape.

As for the idea that having Americans perform these acts will corrupt them in some way...it wasn't that long ago when lots and lots of cops probably slapped much less vicious people on a fairly regular basis. Maybe they still do. I wouldn't want to do it, but members of the military must find a way to do unpleasant things--like killing people--without breaking down all the time. Perhaps they say to themselves, this unpleasant task is necessary to ensure the security of the U.S.

As for whether it makes terrorists less likely to surrender peacefully if they fear a serious slapping upon capture...I'll leave this judgement up to the people doing the capturing.
11.18.2005 8:59pm
Humble Law Student:
Mike,
First, I would completely be against applying the 6 elements listed on regular individuals we capture, even insurgents. From my understanding, those practices are only used on "high-value" targets. I would be completely against them being used in general, as I believe most people would be.

Second, while I am of impressive fortitude and strength (380 bench), it is irrelevant.

Here are some of the practices undergone by many who join fraternities (because some of you seem to have no idea).

1. Forced PT - Usually 2-3 hours. Starts off with making you run 3-5 miles. Followed by numerous pushups and situps. My favorite was when some of the older brothers had mixed cans of old tuna into trashcans full of water and left them in the sun for several days. It was then drenched all over us during out PT, causing most of us to throwup several times. You would have the occasional individual pass out due to heat exhaustion.

2. Forced Eating and Drinking - We would have digusting foods and alcoholic drinks forced down us, making us throw up numerous times.

3. Forced to stand in a dark room, blindfolded. Then we were forced to bend at our waists till our heads touched the wall - making out bodies take a 90 degree angle. We were forced to maintiain that positition for 3-4 hours. And yes, we had music blasted at us the whole time. The worst was when they left an annoying alarm clock go off for 2 hours. I wanted to tear my ears off.

Yes, all that stuff is pretty bad, but hey just in our fraternity, there were 40 each year that took that. We all survived just fine. Those kinds of practices go on across the country. Some places its easier - other places its harder. One fraternity at my school used to brand their pledges.

But, in the end, we all turn out just fine. Granted, we don't undergo 4, 5, or 6. But we went through some pretty bad stuff, but none of us are complaining.

My point isn't that what I have talked about wasn't bad, and shouldn't be going on. But, if we could take it, those terrorists sure as hell can.
11.18.2005 9:00pm
Hank:
Here's an article about 26; I'll next post an article about 108.

U.S. Military Says 26 Inmate Deaths May Be Homicide
By Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt
The New York Times

Wednesday 16 March 2005

Washington - At least 26 prisoners have died in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002 in what Army and Navy investigators have concluded or suspect were acts of criminal homicide, according to military officials.

The number of confirmed or suspected cases is much higher than any accounting the military has previously reported. A Pentagon report sent to Congress last week cited only six prisoner deaths caused by abuse, but that partial tally was limited to what the author, Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III of the Navy, called "closed, substantiated abuse cases" as of last September.

The new figure of 26 was provided by the Army and Navy this week after repeated inquiries. In 18 cases reviewed by the Army and Navy, investigators have now closed their inquiries and have recommended them for prosecution or referred them to other agencies for action, Army and Navy officials said. Eight cases are still under investigation but are listed by the Army as confirmed or suspected criminal homicides, the officials said.

Only one of the deaths occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, officials said, showing how broadly the most violent abuses extended beyond those prison walls and contradicting early impressions that the wrongdoing was confined to a handful of members of the military police on the prison's night shift.

Among the cases are at least four involving Central Intelligence Agency employees that are being reviewed by the Justice Department for possible prosecution. They include a killing in Afghanistan in June 2003 for which David Passaro, a contract worker for the C.I.A., is now facing trial in federal court in North Carolina.

Human rights groups expressed dismay at the number of criminal homicides and renewed their call for a Sept. 11-style inquiry into detention operations and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. "This number to me is quite astounding," said James D. Ross, senior legal adviser for Human Rights Watch in New York. "This just reflects an overall failure to take seriously the abuses that have occurred."

Pentagon and Army officials rebutted that accusation. Lawrence Di Rita, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said that he was not aware that the Defense Department had previously accounted publicly for criminal homicides among the detainee deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq, but insisted that military authorities were vigorously pursuing each case.

"I have not seen the numbers collected in the way you described them, but obviously one criminal homicide is one too many," said Mr. Di Rita, who noted that American forces had held more than 50,000 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past three years.

Army officials said the killings took place both inside and outside detention areas, including at the point of capture in often violent battlefield conditions. "The Army will investigate every detainee death both inside and outside detention facilities," said Col. Joseph Curtin, a senior Army spokesman. "Simply put, detainee abuse is not tolerated, and the Army will hold soldiers accountable. We are taking action to prosecute those suspected of abuse while taking steps now to train soldiers how to avoid such situations in the future."

In his report last week, Admiral Church concluded that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan had been the result primarily of a breakdown of discipline, not flawed policies or misguided direction from commanders or Pentagon officials. But he cautioned that his conclusions were "based primarily on the information available to us as of Sept. 30, 2004," and added, "Should additional information become available, our conclusions would have to be considered in light of that information."

In addition to the criminal homicides, 11 cases involving prisoner deaths at the hands of American troops are now listed as justifiable homicides that should not be prosecuted, Army officials said. Those cases included killings caused by soldiers in suppressing prisoner riots in Iraq, they said. Other prisoners have died in captivity of natural causes, the military has found.

An accounting by The New York Times in May 2004, based on reports from military officials and a review of Army documents, identified 16 cases of confirmed or suspected homicide involving prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. At that time, however, just five were listed as confirmed homicides, with 11 of the cases still under investigation.

The Army defines a homicide as "a death that results from the intentional (explicit or implied) or grossly reckless behavior of another person or persons."

"Homicide is not synonymous with murder (a legal determination) and includes both criminal actions and excusable incidents (i.e., self-defense, law enforcement, combat)," according to an Army statement.

The new total of 26 cases involving prisoner deaths confirmed or suspected of being criminal homicides includes 24 cases investigated by the Army and two by the Navy, spokesmen for those services said. Two of the Army cases have since been referred to the Navy, and one to the Justice Department. The Navy said each case included a single prisoner death, but the Army said it was possible that at least some of the cases investigated by the service involved the death of more than one prisoner.

The Marine Corps said that nine Iraqi detainees had died in Marine custody, but that none of the deaths were homicides. It is unclear if this number includes the death of an Iraqi captive shot by a marine in a mosque in Falluja last November, an incident filmed by a television crew.

Neither the Army nor the Navy would provide a precise accounting of all of the cases now regarded as confirmed or suspected homicide.

At least eight Army soldiers have now been convicted of crimes in the deaths of prisoners in American custody, including a lieutenant who pleaded guilty at Fort Hood, Tex., this month to charges that included aggravated assault and battery, obstruction of justice and dereliction of duty. A charge of involuntary manslaughter in that case was dropped.

An additional 13 Army soldiers are now being tried, according to Army officials. They include Pfc. Willie V. Brand, who is facing a hearing at Fort Bliss, Tex., next week on charges of manslaughter and maiming in the deaths of two prisoners at Bagram Control Point in Afghanistan in December 2002.

But in some of the cases, including the death of an Iraqi, Manadel al-Jamadi, in Abu Ghraib in November 2003, most of those initially charged with crimes by the military have ended up receiving only nonjudicial punishments, and neither their names nor the details of those punishments have been disclosed.

Altogether, Army criminal investigators had conducted 68 detainee death investigations with 79 possible victims as of February 2005, said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman. Of those investigations, 53 have been closed and 15 cases remain pending, Colonel Hart said.

In addition to the 24 Army cases listed as criminal homicides and the 11 cases listed as justifiable homicides, 28 cases are listed as confirmed or suspected deaths from accidents or natural causes. An additional five are cases in which the cause of death has not been determined, Colonel Hart said.

Over all, the Army's criminal investigators have examined 308 cases involving allegations of mistreating detainees. They include the 68 death investigations and 240 other allegations of potential misconduct, like allegations of assaults, sexual assaults and thefts, Colonel Hart said. Of the 308 cases, 201 cases are closed and 107 cases were pending as of mid-February 2005.

In addition to the number of detainee deaths, other conclusions in the Church report have drawn scrutiny. The report, for instance, also asserts that psychiatrists and psychologists advising interrogators did not have access to detainees' medical files. That is in sharp contrast to reports from the Red Cross and interrogators interviewed by The Times.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said in a confidential report last July that the detainees' medical files were open to all. The report said that was unethical and that it diminished the medical care given the detainees, because it discouraged them from seeking medical attention as they knew the information would be shared with interrogators.

One interrogator said in interviews that the files were initially open to all and that it was a regular practice for interrogators simply to go into the detainee hospital and review the records. The interrogator said that when the hospital staff became more reluctant to share the files, the interrogators found that they could ask the psychologists and psychiatrists to obtain them.
11.18.2005 9:14pm
Hank:
More Than 100 Die in U.S. Custody in Iraq
- By JOHN J. LUMPKIN, Associated Press Writer
Wednesday, March 16, 2005


(03-16) 11:16 PST WASHINGTON, (AP) --


At least 108 people have died in U.S. custody in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and roughly a quarter of the cases have been investigated as possible U.S. abuse, according to government data provided to The Associated Press.


The figure, far higher than any previously disclosed, includes cases investigated by the Army, Navy, Central Intelligence Agency and Justice Department. Some 65,000 prisoners have been taken during the U.S.-led wars, most later freed.


The Pentagon has never provided comprehensive information on how many prisoners taken during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have died. The 108 figure, based on information supplied by Army, Navy and other government officials, includes deaths attributed to natural causes.


To human rights groups, the deaths form a clear pattern.


"Despite the military's own reports of deaths and abuses of detainees in U.S. custody, it is astonishing that our government can still pretend that what is happening is the work of a few rogue soldiers," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "No one at the highest levels of our government has yet been held accountable for the torture and abuse, and that is unacceptable."


To the Pentagon, each death is a distinct case, meriting an investigation but not attributable to any single faulty military policy. Pentagon officials point to military investigations that have found that no policy condoned abuse.


Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. John Skinner said the military has taken steps to reduce the chance of violent uprisings at its prisons and the use of excessive force by soldiers, and also has improved the health care available to prisoners.


"The military has dramatically improved detention operations, everything from increased oversight and improved facilities to expanded training and the availability of state-of-the-art medical care," he said in a statement.


Some death investigations have resulted in courts-martial and convictions, others in reprimands. Many are still open. In some cases, during riots and escape attempts, soldiers were found to have used deadly force properly.


The most serious sentence handed out in the completed cases is three years imprisonment, which was given to two soldiers in separate cases.


Pfc. Edward Richmond was convicted of voluntary manslaughter for shooting Muhamad Husain Kadir, an Iraqi cowherd, in the back of the head on Feb. 28, 2004; Richmond said he saw Kadir lunge for another soldier.


Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne pleaded guilty to killing a critically wounded Iraqi teenager in Sadr City, Iraq, on Aug. 18, 2004. Horne described it as a mercy killing.


In Iraq, the military is currently holding around 8,900 people at its two largest prisons, Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca.


At least two prisoners died during interrogation, in incidents that raise the question of torture. Human rights groups say there are others:


_ Manadel al-Jamadi, a suspect in the bombing of a Red Cross facility in Baghdad, died Nov. 4, 2003, while hanging by his wrists in a shower room at Abu Ghraib prison. Nine SEALs and one sailor have been accused of abusing al-Jamadi and others in Iraq. The CIA and Justice Department are also investigating the death.


_ Four Fort Carson, Colo., soldiers, including three in military intelligence, are charged with murder for the death of an Iraqi major general who died in November 2003. The CIA has also acknowledged that one of its officers may have been involved and referred the case to the Justice Department for investigation.


Of the prisoner deaths:


_ At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving possible abuse.


_ At least 29 are attributed to suspected natural causes or accident.


_ 22 died during an insurgent mortar attack on April 6, 2004, on Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.


_ At least 21 are attributed to "justifiable homicide," when U.S. troops used deadly force against rioting, escaping or threatening prisoners and investigations found the troops acted appropriately.


The majority of the death investigations were conducted by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division, as most prisoners are held in Army-run facilities.


In many of the cases, resolution has not been swift. Military officials have attributed this in part to the difficulties of conducting investigations in war zones, and they say accuracy is more important than speed.


"Our special agents have literally been mortared and shot at while going about investigative duties," said Army spokesman Christopher Grey.


Grey said Army investigators have looked into 79 deaths in 68 incidents. Most were in Iraq. No prisoners have died at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the third major site for prisoners since the Sept. 11 attacks.


A Navy official said the Navy Criminal Investigative Service has investigated eight deaths. One of those, of al-Jamadi, has also been investigated by the Army and is counted among their numbers, officials said.


The CIA and Justice Department have looked into four deaths that may have involved agency personnel or contractors. One CIA contractor has been charged with assault in connection with a third death investigation in Afghanistan. The fourth death was attributed to hypothermia, not mistreatment.
11.18.2005 9:16pm
Al Maviva (mail) (www):
Hank – “so these six forms are obviously only the tip of the iceberg.”

I don’t see how that follows. The list of detainees who have died in custody includes those who have died of natural causes as well as those captured wounded and sick. Surely, there have been some abuses, but it is a fairly gross error in logic to look at the list of interrogation techniques, the list of those who died in custody and presume causation. It seems to me that it behooves us to be accurate in our facts when we are slinging around accusations of war crimes and capital crimes, as if the facts showed such crimes and as if it was a proved matter.

I Forgot – You say “Isn't it funny that the people that approved these techniques, just three or four years ago were participating in OCI, and glad-handing at Federalist Society events with forced smiles?” Like John Yoo? Like Jay Bybee? Like Chief Justice Alberto Gonzales? Viet Dinh? Ted Olson? Yeah. Not good enough for biglaw. Mediocrities. Second raters. Nobody smart ever came out of a second rate school like GMU, or UCLA, or Emory, or Texas, or UC Davis, or Fordham, or GWU. Not to mention those Harvard-ites and Yalies that chose government work - guys like Alito, just Federalist glad-handers, not good enough for BigLaQ. Everybody knows that anybody who doesn’t work for a big firm must be dumb. Um, that would include most law profs, but who's counting.

It seems to me, I Forgot, that “I Don’t Know” might be a better pseudonym for you. You should look into it.
11.18.2005 9:26pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
Boo hoo for them. If I wasn't so disappointed in the fact that they weren't just killed on the battlefield I'd possibly shed a tear or two.
11.18.2005 9:30pm
Chukuang:
They don't actually drown in this case. They AREN'T being hurt. Its just a nice little demonstration of playing mind games on them, hardly torture.

What an odd definition of "being hurt." So if I stick some guy's penis in a pair of hedge clippers and scream at him that I'm going to cut it off, it's just a mind game if I don't really intend to do so? What if we give the people a drug or stimulate their brain so they actually experience that pain (a closer analogy to the waterboarding) without the cut? Is that all right? Pain and misery are in the mind, HLS. Just because someone doesn't really get physically injured doesn't mean that it doesn't hurt and that it's not torture.

But one important question that I haven't seen addressed in these comments is whether or not the treatment, torture, or whatever, actually works. Does it get people to tell the truth rather than simply say what they think their captors want hear. Everything I've ever read on torture has said that it has a very poor record of getting those types of results. It's good at crushing one's spirit and destroying one emotionally, but it doesn't get true facts. And if that's the case, then we're just punishing people horribly without a trial, not exactly behavior to be proud of.
11.18.2005 9:32pm
Matt Barr (mail) (www):
We did that Belly Slap thing when I was growing up. I'm almost sure it had a cooler name than The Belly Slap, but I can't remember what it was. I'm surprised the CIA isn't using The Purple Nurple.
11.18.2005 9:35pm
Sam:
At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving possible abuse.

So there is a maximum of 26? While the US shouldn't kill any prisoners, spouting off about 108 seems a little inflamatory.

Seriously, what percentage of captured Americans survive? I think the people executed on Al Jazeera would have prefered #6 to decapitation. Again, we shouldn't needless torture prisoners, but I'd say we still have the moral highground.
11.18.2005 9:35pm
Hank:
The U.S. military says that there were 26. That does not mean a maximum of 26. Even if you assume that the U.S. military has no motive to understate, we don't know how many people our government has tortured to death in secret prisons.
11.18.2005 9:40pm
fred (mail):

"All of you previous posters, please keep in mind as you debate which of these six forms of abuse constitute torture, that more than 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody"


True, but incomplete. Only about 24 (if I recall correctly) required an investigation. Any prison population is going to have some deaths, people with bad hearts, etc. Some were even killed during attacks on the prison by insurgents. Some were shot during prison riots. See this link.


Please also keep in mind that these "suspects" have had no due process, with respect to either their arrest or their imprisonment.


No longer true, Combat Status Review Tribunals will get working once the Courts allow them to start again.


The Red Cross estimated that 80 to 90 percent of our Abu Ghraib prisoners were innocent.


The Red Cross's judgment in this is suspect. They can only do minimal investigation. Read "The Interrogators" which said that "They all come in pretending to be innocent goatherders" The author was dismayed to find that people he was certain were innocent, were later found to be key Al Qaeda figures, once the necessary piece of intelligence has been received. It often took a long time to find that one bit. That's why we need to keep some so long. We have good reason to believe they are bad guys, but often lack the definitive piece of evidence that proves it. Remember these are battlefield detentions, not civilian criminal detentions.


No wonder we use secret prisons that the Red Cross can't investigate.


We use Secret prisons because the Supreme Court has virtually demanded it: We were forced to keep them off US soil, lest the terrorists use the courts to constantly challenge their detentions. So we tried Guantanamo. But Hamdi / Rasul required us to give them access to the courts anyway. So we were forced to go to other nations, where the US courts can't touch them. We were then forced to keep them "secret" because we can't have open prisons on foreign soil. If we announced where they were, they would be subject to attack by Al Qaeda: They love to attack those in prison,and they will even try to kill them to keep them out of the hands of the infidels.


If any other nation were doing what the U.S. is now doing, everyone of you would be calling for an international war crimes tribunal to try the leaders of that nation.


Let's say a country, oh, let's say India, were doing the same things the U.S. is now doing. You believe there would be the same world wide outcry as there currently is against the U.S.?

Ah, but India has been routinely doing these things, (at least up until quite recently), and worse. Not a peep from the bulk of the world. From a Human Rights Watch Report:


Indian security forces, including the military, paramilitary forces, and the police, routinely abuse human rights with impunity. The Indian federal government rarely prosecutes army and paramilitary troops in a credible and transparent manner. The result has been an increase in serious violations by security forces throughout the country.

The government’s repeal of the controversial Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) was a major step forward for civil liberties in India. POTA empowered security forces to hold individuals for up to 180 days without filing charges, broadening the scope of the death penalty, dispensing with the presumption of innocence by placing the burden of proof on suspects, and admitting confessions into evidence despite the frequent use of torture. The law was often used against marginalized communities such as Dalits, indigenous groups, Muslims, and the political opposition


And check out other Human Rights Watch Reports. You will find India is far from alone.

No, we are still among the most civilized, protective nations on earth. The fact that we have taken serious measures against serious terrorists does not mean we have forsaken our commitment to rights.
11.18.2005 9:43pm
MikeC&F (mail):
Humble LS: 380? In my past life I used to post missives at weights-net, Supertraining, and lowcarb-l. (These were the days before blogs.) I've met a lot of people who could bench that on the Internet. ;^> Just razzing you. And you actually raise a very good point.

What makes what's being done to prisoners different than things done to frat boys? Two words: hope and choice.

A person taken as a POW has no hope. He has no idea what will come next, or whether what he is experiencing is a taste of what's next. He has no choice. He can't leave if things get out of control.

People rushing a frat know that if things get too rough, they can leave. Simply taking away hope from a person is a form of torture. Anyone who has ever been in a situation they felt was hopeless can relate.

So the pain will hurt a lot worse to someone who has no hope and has no choice.

Think of it this way. Imagine you're lifting really heavey weights. You feel the burn. I've literally thrown up after leg work-outs or boxing work-outs. But if things get too tough, or if you get injured, you can leave the gym. You have a choice, and you know it. You're working out to better your body, impress girls, or whatever.

A detainee can't leave. A detainee isn't expereincing the pain for a greater cause, like, say, joining a frat.

So it's not possible to compare the situations.
11.18.2005 9:46pm
PeterII (mail):
It is fundamentally different to use these aggressive techniques when trying to save life, than when third world dictators use them to suppress their populations.
If you have pledged allegiance to a group that uses mass murder as its only real tool, your right to claim the privileges of civilization should have been
at least diminished somewhat.

There are several problems with that argument. First, you have to assume as a matter of fact that the persons denied the privileges of civilization, namely freedom from infliction of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, are actually deserving of the treatment.
Even though I accept that inhuman and degrading treatment might be a tolerable and necessary evil in some narrowly circumscribed situations, where the factual record was clear, I am troubled by the logical implications of granting the government power to apply such techniques in secrecy and without judicial oversight.

How may we ever know that those subject to such techniques are actually guilty? Some may well be, But what we have is only the government's say-so.

Second, while your position doesn't constitute an explicit justification for torture,your reasoning doesn't provide much of a limiting principle, or explanation as to why the boundaries of the permissible should be mild distress techniques and not torture.
if your right to claim the privileges of civilization is diminished somewhat by allegiance to death and destruction, I hope that you could state whether there remains any principle rejecting more severe torture that even most defenders of stress techniques aren't willing to condone.


Third, I take issue with your cavalier characterization of protection against inhuman and degrading treatment as a privilege. Again, that argument would be equally applicable to criminals.
11.18.2005 9:49pm
Hank:
Al Maviva: "Surely, there have been some abuses, but it is a fairly gross error in logic to look at the list of interrogation techniques, the list of those who died in custody and presume causation."

We're not dealing just with logic here. When the government authorizes specific forms of torture, has Justice Department lawyers write memos saying that they're okay, and that the U.S. is not bound by the Geneva convention, and then prosecutes no higher-ups, it creates a climate in which other, and more deadly, forms of torture are going to be used. Ian Fishback complained that he was unable to get any directives as to what forms of interrogation soldiers were permitted to use.
11.18.2005 9:55pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
So the second article just repeats the first: At least 26 have been investigated as criminal homicides involving possible abuse.

The other 74 were accidents, natural causes, justifiable homicides, and deaths caused by insurgents.

Hardly something to hyperventilate about.
11.18.2005 10:00pm
Hank:
"Hardly something to hyperventilate about." I guess that no member of your family was among the 26. We can certainly be proud to have tortured so few people to death.
11.18.2005 10:03pm
Anon7 (mail):
Here's a resolution Congress should vote on:

"Resolved,
All members of this body approving of the six interrogations listed in part II of this resolution be made to undergo each of them for a period of one week, so as to confirm with irrefutable evidence that they are not torture."
11.18.2005 10:04pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
New Volokh Commenters' Motto: The United States, just as good as India. You people make me sick.
11.18.2005 10:13pm
anonymous coward:
Few broken eggs for our tasty anti-terrorism omelet, eh?

This thread is disgusting.
11.18.2005 10:30pm
Tom952 (mail):
Torture? Torture is pulling the wings off flies, or drowning kitties for kicks.

This is simply six things one can do to obtain important information from murderous terroists in order to save lives.
11.18.2005 10:55pm
Wince and Nod (mail) (www):
Not one of the six techniques qualifies as torture.

Yours,
WInce
11.18.2005 10:56pm
D. Fox (mail):
The "water cure" as practiced during the Phillippine Insurrection is not the same as the "waterboarding" described in this post.

The water cure involved (1) sticking a funnel in the victim's mouth and down his throat as he lay on his back, then (2) pouring a bucket of water into his stomach via the funnel, then (3) stomping on his nowdistended stomach.
11.18.2005 10:57pm
Medis:
I'm so naive. I would have thought that the CIA interrogating someone by hitting them with the intent to cause physical pain and fear is torture. And yet, here I find out that is just schoolboy pranks.

Maybe I was thrown off by that notoriously anti-schoolboy Convention against Torture, which states:

"For the purposes of this Convention, the term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Although I guess I just forgot that when they say "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental," they actually mean "death or major organ failure".
11.18.2005 11:03pm
Pete Freans (mail):
#7 : Ask a prisoner to beg for his/her life in front of a running camera. Continue filming while cutting the throat the prisoner until the knife severs the spinal cord. Decapitation would result.

I'm sorry, has that technique been banned yet?

The notion that we are concerned whether high-valued detainees are made to feel uncomfortable is utterly absurd. If we are serious about winning this war, we probably should focus our energy on how to win rather than making it easier for detainees to file habeas corpus petitions. Has Hamas or Al-Qaida offered their targets due process? If anyone has seen Hamas justice against their own, it goes as follows: you are dragged out into the street, beaten unconscious and then shot to death.

Maybe that will grab your attention.
11.18.2005 11:04pm
Humble Law Student:
This whole argument is resting on a red herring.

First, No one (or at least not I) is arguing that we should be torturing or using the 6 methods listed in the article on anyone we detain. They should be reserved only for dire situations, the worst of the worst, etc.

Second, I believe just as much as the next person that if any American forces tortured to death or murdered a prisoner, they should be prosecuted.

That being said, the debate revolves around what are the acceptance methods of interrogation for our solders. All of this hyperventilating about the detainee deaths, etc. is beside the point.

Yes, I understand the argument that allowing these methods can induce our soldiers to think other forms of "torture" are acceptable. But, they aren't. The soldiers do or should know that. If they break the law, they should be punished. It is as simple as that.

As such, all of these references to the deaths etc. are just attempts to take a weak argument and bolster it by connecting it to all of these "bad things" that everyone would agree are wrong. So, please stop. It's why people dismiss your arguments out of hand.

One poster brought up a subject that is supremely relevant - the relative efficacy of such "torture" methods vs. other methods.

I'd love to hear some informed comment on that. (not that I don't already have my own uniformed opinion)
11.18.2005 11:04pm
Humble Law Student:
D. Fox,

Thank you for reiterating that point. People still try to make it sound like the "water-boarding" of old, which it most self-evidently is not. (at least to someone who bothers to research it, rather than ranting hysterically)
11.18.2005 11:07pm
Humble Law Student:
Mike,

Good, I'm glad the terrorists don't have hope. I really do pray what they undergo is worse than what I and many fraternity men go through. Otherwise, our American system really would be messed up.

For some strange reason, I have no sympathy for their "lack of hope". Maybe its just me, but I'd rather save my sympathy for their victims. But, thats just me.
11.18.2005 11:09pm
Hank:
"Has Hamas or Al-Qaida offered their targets due process?" Great question, because it reveals what America's models of behavior have become. Not providing due process means that we torture innocent people to death. Don't you get that? (This is not to imply that it is moral, or efficacious, to torture guilty people to death.)
11.18.2005 11:10pm
Medis:
Pete,

I always think that to fight Al Qaeda, we should make a point of killing large numbers of innocent civilians. After all, that is one of their favorite tactics, so obviously we should use it too.
11.18.2005 11:12pm
Chukuangzi (mail):
Again, I have yet to see one comment with evidence that the described methods lead prisoners to reveal true facts that useful in the conflict at hand. Is there such evidence from past conflicts (that is thus declassified)? It seems that this one of the most important issues in this debate. If one does obtain useful correct information than there can actually be a debate. Otherwise, we're just talking about Sadism practiced on people who have never had access to a legal system. When most police states use torture, truth is not their goal. Is that what's going on here? I hope not.
11.18.2005 11:40pm
llamasex (mail) (www):
It is really odd to see all the small government folks, go pro giving the government the right to slap people around to get them to talk.
11.19.2005 12:18am
Markusha:

Anyone who claims that waterboarding is not torture, check the
picture on Andrew Sullivan's site.

It is clearly identified as "torture" (in the XVIth century!) and does not involve any submersion under water as one of the commenters claimed. It is a torture, no matter how you guys or WSJ whitewash it.
11.19.2005 12:32am
Justin (mail):
llamasex,

you confuse "small government types" with "nakedly self-interested partisans"

its only torture if it can happen to them.
11.19.2005 12:54am
Justin (mail):
PS at least someone (::stares at DWPitelli::) had the guts to make the above argument, though I personally believe that argument to be morally bankrupt.
11.19.2005 12:56am
Jamb (mail):
New Volokh Commenters' Motto: The United States, just as good as India. You people make me sick.

Not nearly as sickening as when they explain that "we're better than the terrorists" is a sufficient excuse. What could be sicker than using "what would terrorists do?" to draw the line between right and wrong?

A variant on this is "I'm more concerned about the victims", i.e., "as long as we're treating our prisoners better than the terrorists treated theirs, I'm not concerned". It doesn't even bother this sort of person that our prisoners sometimes turn out to include people who were entirely innocent. As long as we don't treat innocent people as badly as the terrorists treated innocent people, they can't get their conscience worked up at all.
11.19.2005 1:39am
Walker (mail) (www):
As an admitted small-government type, yeah this sort of government power frightens the hell out of me. But also, as a worked-in-a-high-rise-building-in-a-city type, the 9/11 scenario and suitcase-nuke scenarios scare the hell out of me too. What to do?

A few comments on above posts:
1- the waterboard picture on Andrew Sullivan's blog is not anywhere near what US officials do (described as number 6 above.) If we are not talking about a slippery slope, then these methods are not that awful. I am not saying they are good, but objectively everyone must admit that there is a lot worse that could be done-- and is done by a large number of other countries.
2- Arguments by liberals who are clearly offended by the use of such methods seem to be getting ad hominem. Why would you suggest using such methods on an American citizen who wants to prevent terror attacks by using extreme means? Are the folks making these arguments going to say that no physical or mental discomfort whatsoever should be used in interrogating "high-level" suspects? If not, will the blood of a future attack be on your hands?
3- Everyone who has questioned the success rate of these methods is on the right trail. The most important element in the calculus to decide when and if to use such methods is their effectiveness.
4- The points about fraternity hazing, Al Qaeda treatment of prisoners, and other reference points for how bad the methods are can be misleading. It's not that fraternities don't do bad things to pledges-- many things that they shouldn't-- or that Al Qaeda doesn't use satanic means to torture and murder prisoners-- but the more important discussion here is not what the terrorists are experiencing relative to some other torturous activity, but whether the unpleasant activity saves innocent lives. There is no way to prove that the process saves lives except hindsight. That's a faulty predictor. What we need to establish is an error rate that is acceptable-- if we know using these methods on 1000 prisoners has a 2% chance of saving 1 million people, is it acceptable? As much as I hate scary, powerful government, I'd have to say yes. (Sorry to be overly Posnerian here... but what better policy paradigm is there?)
5- A question for readers who think that these means alone are too extreme, no matter who the suspect is or what information we think he has: what methods of interrogation would be acceptable to you? I think, when framed that way, the folks who support these methods don't look so evil. It becomes a question of line drawing, and I also think it is important to remember that the US does not deserve to have its cities and civilians destroyed in terrorist attacks. Maybe some of you will disagree with my last point-- and I say that you are the real problem, the self-loathing wackos that give the American left a shady reputation these days.
11.19.2005 2:38am
Anon7 (mail):
Honest question here.

If, during the 1991 Gulf War, these 6 interrogation techniques had been used by Iraqi forces against American POWs, would our government have denounced them as "torture"?

My money says 100% YES.
11.19.2005 4:31am
JB:
6 leads to instant pleas to stop, closely followed by instant regurgitation of whatever info the prisoner thinks will make it stop, true or not.

How does that protect our country? Right, it doesn't. In all our moral outrage about torture, let's also remember that It doesn't ruttin' work.
11.19.2005 5:06am
Visitor Again:
And that concludes this evening's meeting of the Armchair Anti-Terrorist Brigade. Walter Mittys all, only some fresh from the front lines of Fraternity Row and Gold's Gym, but all making the hard decisions in the face of an unparalleled threat to our God-given freedoms from enemies who hate those precious freedoms and thus deserve to be treated like the subhuman scum they are.

What a disgraceful, disgusting and, yes, cowardly lot most of you are. The minute danger first comes to our own shores, you toss basic decency and much of what we pretend to stand for out the window and you become willing to let the ends justify the means. You're the very same people who condemned the Soviets and other regimes for putting ends before means under much greater threat to their system. Slippery slope? You're already well down the slope and I doubt you'll get off.
11.19.2005 5:31am
Public_Defender:
Some of the attacks on people who support these techniques are "ad hominem"? Good. When you support brutal near-torture techniques, you say someting pretty damning about your character.
11.19.2005 5:44am
b.trotter (mail) (www):
I question the efficacy of any of these techniques... The recent Red Alert in New York immediately comes to mind. While I don't know if any of these six methods were used to garner information from the terrorist we captured who provided the warning, it turned out that the information was faulty...


I think the argument that if we use torture, we increase the likelyhood that our own soldiers would be subject to torture when captured by enemy operatives is completely and totally incorrect. The fact of the matter is, it doesn't make a whit of difference how we treat captured terrorists. We could feed them the finest meals and put them up in the Hilton, or we could cut them up into pieces and bury them in pig fat, it would make absolutely NO difference in how they would treat our soldiers or civilians. They've demonstrated out in the open and on tape how they treat their captives. They start by getting their victims to beg for thier lives, and then they slit their throats from ear to ear and hold up the heads shouting Allahu Ackbar!.


The only reason to be concerned about using torture on our enemies is the concern of who we are becoming as a people. We are the good guys, and we should act like the good guys.

I can envision a few "hollywood style" scenarios in which torture may indeed be neccessary to deal with an imminent and explicit threat... but they'd be very rare, and very specific.
11.19.2005 5:54am
Huck (mail):
(Posting from Europe)

You are way down the slippery slope.

There are rules, and there are awful situations (the time bomb scenario) in which it may be the right decision to break the rules. But the rulesbreakers in that scenarios must know they are breaking the rules and must be aware of the fact they may be prosecuted for it.

It must be tough.

(This is exactly the kind of situation where a presidential pardon may make sense.)
11.19.2005 6:24am
Medis:
Walker,

Cost-benefit analysis of that kind may be a little too limited. Even on its own terms, you would have to consider all sorts of possible long-term and unintended consequences (eg, how will these policies affect the reputation of the United States? Will they undermine support for our cause? Will they increase support for the causes of those we torture? As a result of these long-term effects, could the price of preventing one attack in the short-term be more attacks in the long-term? And so on).

There are also long-standing moral theories that reject or supplement that sort of utilitarian approach. Deontologists, for example, will say that certain acts are immoral no matter what the consequences, and torture is frequently cited as an example of such an act.

There are also theories that bridge this gap, such as pragmatic traditionalists who would say that we should place great weight on the received wisdom represented in traditional norms (such as the norm against torture), even if the theories of the day suggest that torture might be OK.

And so on.

And incidentally, if someone is persuaded by one or more such considerations that we should have a blanket ban on torture, even in dire situations, then no, I don't think the blood of a future attack would be on their hands. Even if you think they made the wrong decision (and as noted, even on a pure cost-benefit basis, the success of a subsequent attack does not prove that they made the wrong decision, because we still have to consider the long term), I don't think you can automatically move from a wrong decision based on reasonable and justifiable considerations to moral responsibility for the bad consequences of that wrong decision. And that is particularly true when the bad consequences are the result of an intentional act by some other person.
11.19.2005 6:29am
USMC Paralegal (mail):
According to both the internet and television story aired by ABC these are CIA techniques not military techniques. ABC reported that there were 14 CIA agents that were trained and authorized to perform these techniques and that 3 refused to use them. They also reported that one prisoner died (in Kabul I believe) from hypothermia resulting from the use of technique #5.

The some of the other deaths sited earlier were the result of CIA or military personnel violating the law. There was a report of one person dying in Afghanistan that was hung by his hands from the top of a door and hit repeatedly on his legs. A blood clot later broke loose and went into his heart causing his death. I don't see that technique listed above. The Army Captain and a couple of enlisted soldiers were court-martialed for doing this. Without fail where it has been determined that a U.S. military member was most likely criminally responsible for a death or even abuse of a prisoner they have been court-martialed. They may or may not have been found guilty but they were sent to trial.

You know I yet to see Zarqawi court-martial any of his people for cutting someone's head off or killing civilians with an IED.
11.19.2005 7:44am
Public_Defender:
You know I yet to see Zarqawi court-martial any of his people for cutting someone's head off or killing civilians with an IED.
I can see the Bush spin now:
"George W. Bush, he's less depraved than Zarqawi".
11.19.2005 8:11am
Medis:
As an aside, given history, psychology, and common sense, I think approval of the enumerated techniques represents at least recklessness with respect to the improvised torture that will inevitably follow.
11.19.2005 8:19am
Bernie (mail):
From what I read on the ABC article I think we are doing things correctly. Obviously using these techniques on the rank and file enemy combatants would be wrong and useless. However the ones reported to have been "tortured" have important information that can save lives. Remember KSM planned 9/11 well over 5 years ahead of time. Finding out what other plans are in progress will save (has saved?) American lives. I believe Congress needs to act to specify when these can be used, clarify the legality of them, and approve proper oversight. When UBL or Zarqawi is captured I hope we would do these things if nessisary to save the lives of civillians. The effectiveness of these techniques is important, but just as important is if the Terrorists believe they are effective. If an AQ cell has an attack planned and cancel because they believe it has been discovered then we win that battle.
11.19.2005 8:22am
Kim Gammelgård:
No wonder the terrorists keep finding new supporters, if this stand on torture(what it is) is a normal example of things that the greatest civilisation on earth is doing.

It is so easy for them to make a case that they can make a better society, if they came into power.

And besides, just because someone says something under torture, what is the chance that it is correct? I would lie like hell, just to make the torture stop.
11.19.2005 8:31am
Medis:
Kim,

Yes, the logic of torture as an interrogation technique is highly suspect. The problem is one of verification. In time sensitive situations, it will often be impossible to verify the truth of the information before it is too late.

What the logic of torture really requires is enough time for a cycle of torture: you ask for information, and if they refuse to speak, you torture them until they talk. You then go and verify the information. If they have lied, you come back, confront them with the lie, and torture them again until they talk again, and then verify again. You keep repeating this until they give up and start telling the truth.

But, of course, during this time the prisoner's information is getting stale, particularly once the prisoner's associates know he is missing. Bernie tries to suggest that this is an advantage, but sophisticated parties tend to have a good sense of how long it will take to break someone with a cycle of torture, so they can complete immediate plans while changing long-run ones. This undoubtedly causes them some inconvenience, but rarely will it prove completely fatal to their cause.

Naturally, it is much better if the prisoner is willingly telling the truth. This can sometimes be accomplished through persuasion, bribery, and even trickery. Only rarely, if ever, will it be the case that torture is likely to work faster than any such techniques. And this is also why spies are much better sources of human intelligence than hostile prisoners.

On your broader point, the conversation in these comments is undoubtedly what evil looks like from the inside. In fact, I'm sure that after 9/11, there were some terrorist utilitarians making the argument that the loss of thousands of American lives was justified by the benefit to a billion Muslims. Other were likely making the argument that we Americans, by making war on Islam, had sacrificed our right to humane treatment. And so on.
11.19.2005 8:55am
Bernie (mail):
Medis, you said that sophisticated parties tend to have a good sense of how long it will take to break someone with a cycle of torture, so they can complete immediate plans while changing long-run ones.
I agree with you, however changing long-run plans greatly increases the liklyhood they will be caught. My understanding is that most of AQ's plans and training are done outside the US then the terrorists come here, conduct the survailence, refine the plan and then execute it. The major planning is done by the leadership and not by the people actually carrying out the attacks. Remember, Atta had to travel outside the US to confer with KSM. Every time we can force them to travel, communicate, replan, or conduct new survailence increases the likelyhood they will be caught by traditional law enforcement.
You are completly correct that other ways work in most situations, but why would we take away a tool that might work when the others fail. Additionally, the threat of knowing that we can use advanced techniques will make the traditional ones more effective. If you relize your situation is hopless, that you will talk eventually, you will be more inclined to talk without needing to be subjected to those sorts of things.
We need every advantage we can get.
11.19.2005 9:23am
jota:
I don't understand the failure to acknowledge that our torturing prisoners in effect means our soldier, when captured, will end up decapitated, hanging from minarets. No matter how righteous some of you think our cause is when compared to what you deem far more regregious than American behavior, at least they're honest about it. Hell they broadcast videos on Al Jazeera. We lie about it and ship our torture victims to be to third party coutnries to avoid our treaty obligations. As if that exonerates us morally. Give me a break. How can you seize the moral high ground when you're sleeping with the dogs?
11.19.2005 9:39am
Medis:
Bernie,

Among the reasons we might take away this tool is that it is evil. Another reason would be because we think its use, and indeed even having an official policy that creates the possibility of its use, is likely to cause us more harm than good in the long run.

The likely benefits of torture is particularly relevant to the latter point. I agree that it is implausible that torture would never have any short-term benefits in any conceivable situation. But those hypothetical benefits have to be weighed against the long-term costs, and if the likely short-term benefits are outweighed by the likely long-term costs of having a policy that allows torture, then we should not have such a policy. So, the lower the likely benefits of torture, the more reason we have to not allow torture at all.

I might note that this is something like an act- versus rule-utilitarian issue. The basic problem, say rule-utilitarians, is that people who try to apply cost-benefit analysis to each individual act tend to overweight certain considerations (those that are more immediate, or more easily imagined, or that involve their personal interests, and so on), and underweight other considerations (those which are less immediate, less imaginable, less personal, and so on). Compounded over time, this basic problem results in bad consequences in the long run.

So, rule-utilitarians suggest that before we get into specific situations, we often need to deliberate about these broader considerations (drawing on sources like our practical experience, tradition, and history) and adopt general rules that will best serve us in the long run. And we must then stick with these rules even if in specific circumstances, we are tempted to think we should abandon them.

So, the question is whether the rule against torture is such a rule. And I think a good case can be made that it is.
11.19.2005 9:43am
AppSocREs (mail):
To put things in context:

A captured senior CIA officer in Lebanon was quite literally skinned alive over the space of a week or so. It took him that long to die. Since he quickly revealed anything he knew of any intelligence value, the primary purpose of this cruelty was pure, pathological sadism. His captors made videotapes which were distributed amongst their cadres for entertainment purposes and also sent to the CIA as a taunt. The persons responsible have ties to Al Q'aida and other such groups.

Anyone who suggests that our current policies have moral equivalency with any Islamic terrorist group -- or indeed the policies of any third-world or totalitarian government -- is a moral moron or a lunatic. Anyone who thinks that current interogation techniques are in any way commensurate with the brutality of police interrogation techniques that were common and accepted in the US and everywhere else as short a time ago as the early 1950s has no knowledge of the history of the "third degree'. I quite literally don't have anything in common on this issue with anyone who is upset by the relatively mild procedures we are using in the current situation against mass-murdering criminals to obtain potentially life-saving information.
11.19.2005 9:50am
Bernie (mail):
Medis, for my clairification, when you say "torture", are you talking about all of the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" or just 4, 5, and 6? I personally agree that Water Boarding is too far across the line, Long Time Standing and The Cold Cell are questionable but if they are controlled for very few specific AQ leaders and they work, I could accept them. I was just wondering which you considered "torture"?
11.19.2005 10:14am
Pete Freans (mail):
Will providing high-valued detainees with counsel, due process, and access to our criminal and civil courts deter terrorist offensives around the globe? I understand that as a member of a profession that values civil discourse to resolve disputes, torture doesn't fit neatly into our jurisprudence. Until someone however can convince me that terrorists respect our values, and will treat me with equal dignity, I will continue to argue this barbarous line of reasoning.

Let's say a detainee has valuable information, like the location of a "ticking time-bomb" (See "Why Terrorism Works" by Alan Dershowitz for an interesting analysis, and yes, I know that the Israeli Supreme Court has condemned torture). Should a detainees' discomfort outweigh the imminent death of possibly thousands of innocent citizens? Some of the posts above suggest that we are already sliding down a slippery slope (an article of which I enjoyed by Professor Volokh) and that somehow we are becoming terrorists ourselves. The argument is again absurd as we attempt to rationalize that somehow torture can be bifurcated from killing someone in combat.

Who has the moral high ground in this case: a Canadian sniper in 2002 who killed a terrorist in Afghanistan from approximately 8000 feet, a CIA agent watching a Pakistani soldier torturing a detainee, or US soldier applying the above techniques him/herself? Again, if you are serious about fighting this war, any war, all three actions are morally acceptable. If the above scenarios make you feel uncomfortable, then you should avoid war altogether. While simplistic in my judgment, I nevertheless have great admiration for those who oppose ALL forms of warfare.
11.19.2005 10:16am
Ginko Bilboa (mail):
Since the President does not seem to want to really defend his position, the McCain Amendment will eventually pass and stuff above deemed "torture" will stop. That does not mean torture will stop, it will increase. Detainees will not go into U.S. custody, Sunni Iraqi Arabs will be sent to the Kurds and Shiites immediately, Afghan Taliban will be turned over to the warlords, and foriegn fighters will be sent back to their home countries. Real nasty torture will actually increase. We will be able to wash our hands of it. We will have less intelligence, filtered through our "allies."

Personally, I wish that Congress and the President could have this debate in a sane and rational manner, but given all the rancor that is not possible. I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain, but the vast bulk of abuse that needs to be dealt with is the DoD, not the interrogation of high profile al Qaeda. If the President was willing to explain that we don't condone torture, that the DoD will be barred from any coercive interrogations, but we will go as far as waterboarding high level al Qaeda in certain circumstances--I suspect the people would support that.
11.19.2005 10:24am
Medis:
Bernie,

I noted the definition in the Convention against Torture above. I think all six techniques above could count unless they were restricted to very mild forms. I might note that looking to something like the Convention against Torture is a good idea if you are concerned about long-term consequences.

Pete,

I would say only the Canadian sniper. I realize that to some people notions like rules of war, honorable conduct in war, civilized war in general, and so on, are implausible. But these are longstanding and traditional notions, and many people believe that they have served us well.
11.19.2005 11:11am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Jesus,I think Curley in the 3 Stooges took more punishment than we're supposedly dishing out. Why is it perfectly acceptable to shoot one of these terrorists with a machine gun prior to capturing them but not to be unpleasant to them once they are in custody? We're probably not even gettin the story of the REAL torture, having to look at naked photographs of Hilary Clinton.
11.19.2005 11:31am
Bernie (mail):
Medis, I respect your convictions. I do not agree that The Attention Grab, Attention Slap, or The Belly Slap are likely to cause us more harm than good in the long run. It is nice to be able to have a reasoned discussion about the issue. Thank you.
11.19.2005 11:33am
Anthony:
From a foreigner (Australian):

I don't know what's worse about this item. The things that America is doing to these people, or the fact that so many visitors to this blog have leapt to the defence of these techniques.

For those clowns who think that prolonged standing is a walk in the park - first, try working for 40 hours straight. I've done it, as have money others, and you have have the IQ of roughly a squid by the end of it. Then, try standing for half an hour - no walking around, no jiggling, just standing. No multiply by 80, and combine the two, at gunpoint. Fun? And as for standing naked, being sprayed with water at 50 degrees - how people don't go into hypothermic shock after a few minutes of that, I don't know.

And if you think waterboarding is a good idea, then toss Gonzales as AG and instal Tomas de Torquemada.

I don't know whether I'm more angry, or scared. Some of these people are no doubt scumbags, but many of them were just in the wrong place at the wrong time - and after 4 years of being drowned, frozen, and driven insane, nobody's listening. I have no doubt that after a day or two of this, myself, and most of you, would confess to being the Lindbergh baby if that's what the CIA wanted to hear.

You (collectively) managed to win WW2 without resorting to death marches and starvation - why stoop to the level of the enemy now?

End of rant.
11.19.2005 11:39am
byomtov (mail):
Good, I'm glad the terrorists don't have hope. I really do pray what they undergo is worse than what I and many fraternity men go through. Otherwise, our American system really would be messed up.

For some strange reason, I have no sympathy for their "lack of hope". Maybe its just me, but I'd rather save my sympathy for their victims. But, thats just me.


You've utterly missed Mike's point. Being hazed by a fraternity is optional. You can quit any time. It occurs over a known limited period of time. To compare prisoner treatment with hazing is moronic.

Are you really a law student? The only thing I can say is if your arguments here indicate your reasoning abilities there is little reason to expect that you will graduate. And that will be a good thing for the country, and especially for those unfortunates who might otherwise be your clients.
11.19.2005 11:43am
Public_Defender:
Anyone who suggests that our current policies have moral equivalency with any Islamic terrorist group -- or indeed the policies of any third-world or totalitarian government -- is a moral moron or a lunatic.
OK. Bush is not as evil as Osama. I grant you that.
Anyone who thinks that current interogation techniques are in any way commensurate with the brutality of police interrogation techniques that were common and accepted in the US and everywhere else as short a time ago as the early 1950s has no knowledge of the history of the "third degree'.
Maybe you're looking at the wrong time period. George Washington took a different view:
Not all Americans wanted to do these things [i.e. treat prisoners humanely]. Always some dark spirits wished to visit the same cruelties on the British and Hessians that had been inflicted on American captives. But Washington's example carried growing weight, more so than his written orders and prohibitions. He often reminded his men that they were an army of liberty and freedom, and that the rights of humanity for which they were fighting should extend even to their enemies. Washington and his officers were keenly aware that the war was a contest for popular opinion, but they did not think in terms of 'images' or 'messages' in the manner of a modern journalist or politician. Their thinking was more substantive. The esteem of others was important to them mainly because they believed that victory would come only if they deserved to win. Even in the most urgent moments of the war, these men were concerned about ethical questions in the Revolution.
- David Hackett Fischer, from "Washington's Crossing."

From Andrew Sullivan, but you really should read the whole book. Treating prisoners humanely is an American tradition that goes back to our founding. Bush is trashing one of the things that makes this country great.

But the commentator does have a point. If we permit these techniques against Al Qaida, why not use them in "ordinary" rape, murder and kidnapping cases?
11.19.2005 11:43am
Seamus (mail):

If, during the 1991 Gulf War, these 6 interrogation techniques had been used by Iraqi forces against American POWs, would our government have denounced them as "torture"?



Since our government insists on making the distinction between POWs (who are entitled to all the protections of the Geneva Convention) and unlawful combatants (who are entitled to bupkis), the better question would not be about American POWs, but about American commandos who might have been captured out of uniform behind Iraqi lines, where they had been sent to conduct sabotage operations to make our soldiers' advance easier. (Make them Arab-American, if you like, to make it more credible that we might imagine they could blend into the population without being noticed.)
11.19.2005 11:55am
Bernie (mail):
Public Defender, we are not talking about enemy soldiers, not the terrorist rank and file, we aren't even talking about bomb makers who manufacture the suicide belts, car bombs, and IED's. We are talking about the senior AQ leadership who are involved in planning the spectacular headline grabbing attacks on large numbers of American citizens. We have used these (according to the ABC article) 12 times on the likes of KSM. If it works, would you really limit all of the techniques from being used on UBL, or Zarqawi?
11.19.2005 12:13pm
Justin (mail):
Seamus, your argument has no logical starting point. Whether something is or is not torture is independant of who is being tortured or not tortured.

The only thing I can think of is if you are making an argument that torture if you aren't wearing a uniform, which would, congratulations, make you as morally bankrupt as the rest of your party!
11.19.2005 12:28pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Don't be such a bunch of pansies. Stress techniques are required and stress techniques will be implemented on high value interogatees. What do you expect, that someone like Zarqawi will spill the beans if you asked nicely? Get real.

As Humble Law Student was right to point out, 1-4 is hardly 'torture'. 5 might be if there's a risk of dying from some kind of cold-borne disease like pneumonia. 6 isn't. I don't know what the practice is elsewhere but anyone who has undergone so called POW training has probably had 1-6 applied in varying degrees of earnestness to them to force a 'break'. This is standard stuff people train for (and are subjected to as part of their training). It's hardly torture now is it? Clearly you can't train for amputations and having your limbs systematically broken (torture) but you can 'train' for 1-6 (within proscribed limits) precisely because it is stress and no more.

Soft-bellied outrage-niks sit in their armchairs and imagine overblown horrors in their heads with regard to these techniques, never once asking themselves if it's REALLY that bad. Or why indeed, as long as they stay within proscribed boundaries which do not result in permanent physical damage, should said techniques be classed as 'torture'.

But of course the hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.

Unfortunately this is a war. Stop pussifying it.
11.19.2005 12:46pm
Dave Hardy (mail) (www):
Gotta wonder what the objective is. You work on a guy hard enough, he'll tell you whatever he figures you want to hear. bin Laden is attending synogogue in Los Angeles? Sure, he is! I used to drive him there, he's my brother in law. Here's a list of our next targets, uh, the Capitol, the White House, and anything else that sounds plausible. We're going to use anthrax ... oh, you thought nerve gas? Yeah, it was nerve gas, I forget these things. We've got a thousand gallons in this cave ... naw, can't take you to it, they took me there at night.

I'll take you to Amelia Earhardt's grave and give you a secret, 100% effective, cure for cancer if you just let me be.... Oh, and I'm not the real big shot you want. That's Akhmet, the guy in the cell who's been giving me a hard time. He and bin Laden were thick as thieves. They used to sit up till 2 AM playing poker and planning their next strikes against the US. Told me he'd recruited a couple of Secret Service officials, too. He called you pussies, and said you didn't have enough balls to get their names out of him.
11.19.2005 12:59pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Dave,

Except that when the intel is found to be false, in which case it starts all over again, with greater intensity. There is therefore, a disincentive to tell lies.
11.19.2005 1:03pm
Huck (mail):
(posted from Europe)

The comments here are disgusting.

60 years ago, the 'greatest generation' fought without 'cold chambers' and 'waterboarding' much more dangerous foes.
11.19.2005 1:21pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Fred is right of course, as a matter of perspective.

Aside from sanctimonious reflex expressions of disgust from Crazytrain, anonymous coward et al there's not much by way of argument in response to what Fred said.

Huck yes the 'greatest generation' fought without exploying these interrogation techniques (or were they just not documented?), they merely employed summary executions.

One of the consequences of asymmetric warfare fought by combatants not bound by the rules of war is the skirting of the line by states that want to counter that asymmetry. Just as you can't reason with someone who wants to kill you, you can't extend the protection of customary laws of war to combatants who would sooner use the system against you. Some adjustment is needed. And we're not even going that far here. Why is that unreasonable?
11.19.2005 1:36pm
Anon7 (mail):
It's hardly torture now is it? Clearly you can't train for amputations and having your limbs systematically broken (torture) but you can 'train' for 1-6 (within proscribed limits) precisely because it is stress and no more.

So if you receive training against it, it isn't torture? That makes no sense.

Clearly you have not read any of the international treaties signed by the U.S. regarding torture. They all define it as the infliction of severe physical or psychological pain. It can be torture without having lasting damage.
11.19.2005 1:40pm
Brutus:
You (collectively) managed to win WW2 without resorting to death marches and starvation - why stoop to the level of the enemy now?

Yeah, we were such nice guys back then, all we had to do was drop napalm on enemy civilians and burn the Japs out of their caves with flamethrowers to the job done.

I guarantee you that plenty of German and Japanese prisoners were "tortured" (as it is defined today) as well as summarily executed. After the war, thousands of German POWs died in US custody from starvation and disease.

Other Losses - claims that a million German POWs died in US custody.

Some who do not believe Bacque say that "only" 25,000 - 50,000 German prisoners died in US and French custody, not a million. Wow, I guess that makes it all better.
11.19.2005 1:45pm
Anon7 (mail):
One of the consequences of asymmetric warfare fought by combatants not bound by the rules of war is the skirting of the line by states that want to counter that asymmetry.

Defeating terrorists militarily is only one aspect of the struggle, and I would argue, the least difficult and least important. Terrorists will exist as long as there are human beings.

Long term, the key is to win over world opinion and Arab moderates, convincing them the United States is a force for good, and thus reducing the number of possible terrorist recruits. If we condone torture, we will lose the long-term fight against terrorism.
11.19.2005 1:48pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Anon7, you're just begging just the question. WHAT is severe enough to be considered torture is precisely the question in dispute isn't it? For the conventions to specify 'severe' pain means that there are gradations of pain, some of which are not unlawful if applied. And the suggestion is that we class as 'severe' pain that which results in permanent physical or psychological damage. You assume away the criterion suggested, making no sense yourself.
11.19.2005 1:50pm
Zargon (mail):
Good lord, our country really is barbaric, judging from these comments. I suppose the same people that joke about prison rape would tell themselves that "enhanced interrogation techniques" are now different than frat hazing.

What a foul nation we're becoming.

That than be only negative, allow me to suggest my take: Respect the Conventions. Strictly. Make torture explicitly illegal. If a situation (everyone looooves the ticking bomb) warrants it, a jury can evaluate the necessity defense and let them off.

Becoming your enemy is not the way to win. Nietzsche understood this well, as do those CIA lifers that both the left and the right seem to love to bash (at different times).
11.19.2005 1:50pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
lol now stress techniques = "becoming your enemy". Good grief. In that event any army which applies these techniques in POW training are in fact torturing their own trainees. I guess we're all al Qaeda now.
11.19.2005 1:57pm
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm sure if you asked the inmates at any American prison, at least 80-90% of them would tell you they were innocent too. The Red Cross's number is worthless as actual evidence of anything.

On the pertinent question, which is whether the 6 techniques constitute torture - i.e., do they inflict severe pain or suffering, calling numbers 1 through 3 torture is downright silly, number 4 is about ache and fatigue, not severe pain, number 5 is worrisome for the possibility of causing the recipient to contract a serious disease (mainly due to the cold water) but does not seem to rise to the level of severe suffering, and number 6 is the one with the most questions about whether it does inflict severe suffering - IMO the person it's done to is actually placed into immediate fear of his own death, which I see as a serious factor in the determination of what qualifies as torture. I see this one as a case where reasonable people may differ, and where legislative guidance of the executive would be highly appropriate.

Nick
11.19.2005 2:09pm
Brian G (mail) (www):
The Red Cross is as anti-American as the U.N. and any other tinpot dictator. I don't care what they say. And, the standard for torture is so low these days that the word has become almost meaningless.
11.19.2005 2:14pm
Medis:
Translating severe physical PAIN, or MENTAL suffering, into a requirement that there be permanent physical damage (and presumably just really bad stuff like death or major organ failure ... scarring or disability is no more than what frat boys do, right?) is positively Orwellian. And I think it goes without saying that if an American captured by someone like Saddam was being subjected to such interrogation techniques, the same people currently defending these techniques would be describing them as torture.

This, again, is what evil looks like from the inside. Indeed, I again have no doubt that the 9/11 terrorists accused associates who expressed qualms about attacking innocent civilians of being "sanctimonious," and undoubtedly they also crafted rationales about the need to use such tactics given the nature of their war with the United States.

Anyway, I am hopeful that most Americans, at least, agree with Washington that it is important not just to win, but also to deserve to win.
11.19.2005 2:33pm
Mahan Atma (mail):
I get tired of people talking about their fraternity initiations as if it were comparable to torture. Only a moron or an extremely disingenuous person would ignore the overall context of an activities like these.

Consent makes all the difference in the world.

I may consent to entering a boxing ring and getting beaten to a bloody pulp. Do that to me without my consent, and it's a serious felony.

I may go to the dentist and consent to having my wisdom teeth pulled in an extraordinarily painful and miserable procedure. Do that to me without my consent, and torture is a damned good word for it.

Or I may consent to donating one of my kidneys for transplant to someone who will die without it. But take away my kidney without my consent, and you may as well be a fascist regime in China.

What kind of idiotic charade is it to pretend these activities are morally equivalent regardless of consent or the lack thereof?
11.19.2005 2:46pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Do the terrorists get taken to Poland or Israel to get 7:)"The Atomic Wedgie" 8;)"The Indian Burn" and 9" The DonkeyBite" hell,I recieved all of those in the wonderful California Public School System with a liberal democrat as governor, and turned out quite well. Youre right though, I didn't talk.
11.19.2005 3:00pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Medis,

"Translating severe physical PAIN, or MENTAL suffering, into a requirement that there be permanent physical damage (and presumably just really bad stuff like death or major organ failure ... scarring or disability is no more than what frat boys do, right?) is positively Orwellian."

The requirement is there whether you like it or not. WHAT counts as 'severe' is a not impertinent question. Is it to be left hanging in the air? Does just ANYTHING count as 'severe'? Of course not. You have to answer that requirement.

It is suggested that the criterion be permanent physical damage (which includes disfigurement, scarring, disability and the like, not just your "really bad stuff"). What exactly is Orwellian about this?

Can you do better?

Why is it unreasonable for someone not to lump any and all kinds of stress-inducing interrogation techniques into one category, and to only oppose torture worthy of the name?
11.19.2005 3:08pm
Tom952 (mail):
Suppose you hear the following:

"OK sir, we've apprehended two of the people who abducted your wife and children. We believe they know where they are being held, and are acquainted with those who threaten to disembowel your children in front of your wife before beheading her in the service of Allah."

Now, which of the six interrogation techniques will you urge them NOT to resort to in order to discover where your family is being held?

As for the assertion that prisoners will tell you what they want to hear when they are under duress, well yes they will. Nevertheless, you can corroborate the information and determine if it is fact or fiction.

We are in an extreme conflict unprecedented in the history of the United States. Al Qaeda has declared unlimited war on Americans, Jews, Jordanians, Afghans, Iraqi’s, et al, and they have demonstrated absolute ruthless willingness to kill massive numbers of innocent civilians. If our agents have in custody terrorists who likely possess information that can be used to save tens, hundreds, or thousands of lives of innocent people, they must do everything possible to extract useful information and try to prevent the murders.

This is not the old world civilized war game of 19th century Europe played between the ruling cousins, where conflicts were eventually ended at a negotiating table by a paper agreement that all would honor. This is a different paradigm altogether. The end of the struggle with this enemy might very well be the annihilation of one or the other of us.
11.19.2005 3:09pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
More to the point, how do you propose terrorist suspects with possible high value info be interrogated then. No stress techniques, no inducements of any form for anything more than talking really loudly and threateningly is construed as 'severe'. Bore these people into submission?

They laugh in your face.
11.19.2005 3:14pm
byomtov (mail):
I'm sure if you asked the inmates at any American prison, at least 80-90% of them would tell you they were innocent too.

Are you? Why?

In any case, there is no comparison, since the American prison inmates have had a lawyer, and either had a trial, or entered a guilty plea - without being tortured. And let's remember that some of them turn out actually to be innocent

The "arguments" on display here in defense of this behavior are so bad that they work against themselves.
11.19.2005 3:20pm
fred (mail):

This, again, is what evil looks like from the inside. Indeed, I again have no doubt that the 9/11 terrorists accused associates who expressed qualms about attacking innocent civilians of being "sanctimonious," and undoubtedly they also crafted rationales about the need to use such tactics given the nature of their war with the United States.

Anyway, I am hopeful that most Americans, at least, agree with Washington that it is important not just to win, but also to deserve to win.


Are you seriously suggesting that we do not deserve to win the war against terrorism because - we have waterboarded the man who masterminded the killing of 3,000 people, and we did so only in order to save more civilian lives? Do you really believe there is a moral relativism between the two cases?

By your estimation, those who blow up innocent civilians, cut heads off of prisoners and disembowel them deserve to win as a result of a waterboarding or two?

I would suggest that "how evil looks from the inside" is more akin to be willing to let innocent civilians die in order to maintain one's own self-image as being always civil to even the worst sorts. Especially when the actions complained of consist of "belly slapping".

Unfortunately, it's a rough world out there. While we should always do our best to go out of our way to act humanely, sometimes others create conditions - entirely within their own control to alter - that cause us to do things we otherwise would not do.

And a quibble: The ones among Al Qaeda who had qualms would not have been called "sanctimonious" - far from it. "Sanctimonious" has a connotation of conforming to religious rigor - and in this case the ones who wanted to do the most killing were the ones who were most sanctimonious. Those not wanting to kill would have been called apostates.

Our rationale: occasional use of extreme measures on very bad people can save innocent lives.

Their rationale: use of extreme measures can kill thousands of innocent civilians, and we like that.

There's a big difference there.
11.19.2005 3:23pm
Medis:
enthymeme,

"Severity" is a question of degree. What you are trying to do is not define a degree of physical pain or mental suffering, but rather are arguing for a change of kind--from pain or mental suffering, which are kinds of sensation, to major organ failure or death, which are not kinds of sensation, but rather kinds of physical injury.

And it is Orwellian because it is so obvious. Severe MENTAL suffering gets translated into PHYSICAL injury? It could not be more obvious that this is a change of kind, not a definition of degree. And the purpose is equally transparent: to allow interrogators to impose severe pain and mental suffering, a clear substantive violation of the terms of the Convention, by changing the standard to a question of permanent injury, since it is possible to impose severe pain or mental suffering without causing permanent injury.
11.19.2005 3:24pm
Huck (mail):
@Tom952

"OK sir, we've apprehended two of the people who abducted your wife and children. We believe they know where they are being held, and are acquainted with those who threaten to disembowel your children in front of your wife before beheading her in the service of Allah."

There was a case in Germany two years ago. A 9 year old boy was kidnapped, the kidnapper was caught and the highest police officer in Frankfurt threatened him with prison rape, to force out information about the location of the child he hoped still alive.

The child was already dead.

And the police officer was convicted of torture. He got no jail time, but he was convicted.

And rightly so.

The end does not rectify all means.
11.19.2005 3:25pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Pretty creepy to see so many people who would evidently have no trouble living under a dictatorship, provided of course that this dictatorship was effected for the purpose of better combating terrorism.
11.19.2005 3:25pm
Medis:
fred,

Who is being a moral relativist here? You seem to be suggesting we deserve to win as long as we are less evil than our enemies. I think we deserve to win only if we are not evil, regardless of how much more evil our enemies might be. So which of us is a relativist?

Incidentally, I have no doubt that terrorists have argued that killing thousands of innocent Americans was justified because of the benefit to a billion Muslims.
11.19.2005 3:29pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
You're right byomtov, there's no comparison, since the average American prison inmate does not sow murder on the highest of scales imaginable by al Qaeda, with conspiracies often ongoing.

Now, without crossing the line into what is obviously torture (electrodes, amputations and the like), is it permissible to stress them in certain ways that may NOT amount to 'severe' physical or psychological pain according to some reasonable criterion of severity? Ask yourself that question. Don't just ASSUME whatever stress techniques are employed automatically amount to torture. You're just mindlessly regurgitating a petitio principii.
11.19.2005 3:30pm
Medis:
enthymeme,

I think that in the long run, we will benefit more by not torturing than by trying to get that high value information through torture, even if we are ultimately not able to get that information at all. But I also think torture is evil, and therefore it would be wrong to torture even in most situations where there would be some benefit. In some truly extreme situation, torture might be justifiable, but I don't see any need for codifying those exceptions, and certainly no need to avoid a policy against torture just because such an extreme situation may arise.
11.19.2005 3:34pm
breakdown:
I don't have the time to read this whole thing (so my point may have already been made many times over), but whether or not you think of these techniques as "torture" or whatever, or whether or not you think that they're effective, they look really bad (esp. #5 and #6) -- no one can deny that. The U.S. has a major image problem in the mid-east, and things like this don't do much for our credibility or claims to righteousness in our prosecution of this war. The fact of the matter is that democracy must fight terror with one hand tied behind its back, or else it inevitably loses cred in the eyes of the world.
11.19.2005 3:37pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Medis,

"What you are trying to do is not define a degree of physical pain or mental suffering, but rather are arguing for a change of kind - from pain or mental suffering . . . [to] kinds of physical injury."

Huh? What bollocks. How else are you going to define degree of severity other than by recourse to other concepts. Do you define words without using other words?

Defining a concept *by definition* requires recourse to other concepts. In this case 'severity' is defined according to some objective standard - if that line is crossed the degree of physical or mental pain may then be deemed as crossing the threshold into torture.

I ask: can you do better?

If not: are we to take the interrogatee's word that even speaking at length constitutes a severe pain to him? Clearly this makes nonsense of your position.

"And it is Orwellian because it is so obvious. Severe MENTAL suffering gets translated into PHYSICAL injury? It could not be more obvious that this is a change of kind, not a definition of degree."

What are you blabbering about. According to your absurd standards I am being tortured now because of the severe mental anguish caused by your hebutudinous sophistry. You are "Orwellian" and obviously so by your own logic. Good grief.

Next you say:

"And the purpose is equally transparent: to allow interrogators to impose severe pain and mental suffering, a clear substantive violation of the terms of the Convention, by changing the standard to a question of permanent injury, since it is possible to impose severe pain or mental suffering without causing permanent injury."

Begging the question again. WHAT determines severity ought to be an objective test. Why? Because otherwise any one may claim he is being tortured and you would be none the wiser. Are you seriously suggesting that absurdity? If not, can you do better? You keep claiming some form of interrogation or another causes severe pain and mental suffering but you provide no standard for it.

Far from providing a standard by which we determine any "substantive" violation of anything you provide a criterion by which torture is anything that Ahmed says it is. Stop begging the question.
11.19.2005 3:51pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Medis,

"I think that in the long run, we will benefit more by not torturing than by trying to get that high value information through torture . . ."

I concur. But what is being disputed is that some interrogative techniques constitute 'torture'. Don't you see? You assume it is, beg the question, and repeatedly refuse to provide a standard for severity.
11.19.2005 3:57pm
Humble Law Student:
byomtov said,

You've utterly missed Mike's point. Being hazed by a fraternity is optional. You can quit any time. It occurs over a known limited period of time. To compare prisoner treatment with hazing is moronic.

Are you really a law student? The only thing I can say is if your arguments here indicate your reasoning abilities there is little reason to expect that you will graduate. And that will be a good thing for the country, and especially for those unfortunates who might otherwise be your clients.


O seriously, you shouldn't go around throwing such sophmoric comments. You are only exposing your own inadequacy.

Mike's point was that even if you had comparable "torture" between what a fraternity guy goes through and a detainee, the detainee suffers much worse because of the increased psychological pain he experiences due to the nature of his detainment, no personal control over his situation, no hope of escaping the pain, etc.

My point implicitly acknowledges his argument and contends that psychological pain based on loss of hope, etc. isn't a very merit worthy argument. Granted, its true. But a terrorists increased despair because of the hopelessness of his situation is hardly worthy of any concern. If anything, it is a good thing. Hopefully, that psychological effect enables us to get even greater information from them than having to rely purely on the physical effects of our interrogation techniques.
11.19.2005 3:57pm
fred (mail):
Medis: You suggested that we should lose because our our fairly limited "evil". This seemed a remarkable statement.

I think we deserve to win only if we are not evil, regardless of how much more evil our enemies might be.


We only deserve to win if we are entirely without evil? By that standard, you would have preferred that we lose to the Nazis. As noted by previous posters, the battlefield during world war II was the scene of lots of summary executions of prisoners, etc. We were definitely not 100% spotless then. But even with our flaws, we were miles ahead of the alternative, and miles ahead of the rest of the world.

And I am sure you are right: Terrorists justify their killing by arguing it would benefit billions of Muslims. And, for example, Charles Manson argued that his murders would benefit white people. Hitler thought he was doing good things. The simple fact that the other guy thinks he is doing good says nothing. What matters is whether they are actually doing good.

The terrorists had many other options open to them. Rather than doing everything they could to exhaust those options, they skipped right to the last step: violence against civilians. Sneak attacks. Mass Murder. These are Charlie Manson types, nothing more.

But our "evil" is of a different character. We try all the interrogation techniques short of the extreme ones first. We employ the extreme ones only to save lives. We avoid crossing over as long as we can. We strictly regulate the use of these procedures, and according to the "working paper" Rumsfeld has to sign off every time they are used.

I plead guilty to being a moral relativist if the term means that very bad people deserve to lose, when compared with generally decent people
11.19.2005 3:59pm
fred (mail):
Breakdown:

You said "The U.S. has a major image problem in the mid-east"

FYI, the latest Pew survey of the middle east found that the favorables of the US have gone up to pre-iraq war levels. Which may not have been high, but after all that has gone down (abu ghraib, iraq war, constant showing of suffering civilians by Al-Jazeera) this is significant.

Here is the link
11.19.2005 4:07pm
Bernie (mail):
It's easy to take the moral high ground and claim to be against all torture. Try this question though. Is it acceptable for a police officer to torture a suspect if he resists arrest? A suspect resisting arrest is typically thrown to the groung (sounds worse that "The Attention Grab") and/or hit with a night stick (worse than the Attention Slap or The Belly Slap). So to repeat the question, does our country specifically endorse torture of people only suspected of commiting a crime?
11.19.2005 4:09pm
Medis:
enthymeme,

Yes, you have to use words and concepts to define the degree ... but again, you aren't doing that, you are trying to change the kind.

Since we are talking about sensations, the relevant other concept is not physical damage, but intensity of feeling. And just because intensity of feeling is not a physical concept does not make it a real concept.

As for the standard: no one is saying we should use the claims of the prisoner. Instead, we can use a combination of common experience and observation to determine whether an interrogator is intentionally subjecting a prisoner to intense feelings of physical or mental pain.

But in this case there is no real issue: the interrogators are trying to cause severe pain and mental suffering, severe enough to make a deeply hostile prisoner break psychologically and obey their will. So of course that is at least severe mental suffering ... that is the whole point of the exercise.
11.19.2005 4:12pm
Medis:
Bernie,

The Convention definition of torture requires certain intentions. It says:

"For the purposes of this Convention, the term 'torture' means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

Your case doesn't satisfy these intent requirements, but these interrogations clearly do.
11.19.2005 4:18pm
Seamus (mail):

We only deserve to win if we are entirely without evil? By that standard, you would have preferred that we lose to the Nazis. As noted by previous posters, the battlefield during world war II was the scene of lots of summary executions of prisoners, etc.



So without those "summary executions of prisoners, etc.," we would have lost? Wow, you learn something new every day.
11.19.2005 4:21pm
Humble Law Student:
Many of you appear to have no concept of what pain is. Or rather, maybe you are all too aware of it and just flee in fear of any notion of it.

Being slapped with an open hand hurts. Everyone will acknowledge that. But just because it "hurts" doesn't mean it is torture. It hurts to get an "Indian burn" on your arm, but that doesn't mean it is torture.

For the several of you that think "open hand" slapping is torture, get a grip, seriously. Thankfully, most of you are kept from the realms of power, so we don't have to deal with your pathetic lamentations.

Now for the rest of you that have rational concerns over how far our nation should go along this continuum, I am right there with you. If our current practices of "water-boarding" are conducted in the "medieval" style, then I think that is probably too much. If leaving a detainee out in the cold causing them to get sick and die or suffer from some disease, then I think that is too much as well.

The rest of you can hide behind a veil of impossibility. What I mean is that it is very unlikely that you would ever be confronted by a situation that would force you to deal with the practical effects of your beliefs. You can sit in your office or ivory tower and spout your moral condemnations and bathe in the glow of your own self-righteous light and never face the reality your ideas would bring about.

Here is a little though experiment:
Let us say you are sitting in a room with one of these "detainees", you know that his comrades have your wife/husband and are threatening to kill him or her in 2 hours. American forces know the general vicinity that your significant other is in, but they don't have enough specific information to save them in time. Only if this terrorist talks, can your loved one be saved.

I'll be in there as well. I'll make sure that all you can do is sit there and ask him questions. Time will slowly tick down. As the minutes become less, you will become more and more frantic. Your little terrorist will sit there stoically, uttering nary a word. Who knows, maybe they will even have a live TV feed to your family member as they prepare to kill them. As the minutes tick away, you will naturally want to force information out of the terrorist. But, no, that's what I'm there for - to make sure you stick to your convictions.

Are you really going to tell me that you would just sit there and refuse to act? Because after all, if you do "open-hand" slap the terrorist, then you become nothing better than he is. We can't have that now can we?

While that is a very dark and impractical scenario, it is great example of the utter moral vacuousness of your position, and one that begs for an answer.

Of course, none of your will bother to stick to your principles on this. You will just either sidestep it or ignore it. More likely, many of you will just engage in ad-hominem attacks on me. But thats okay, I can deal with it. It exposes many of you for who you really are.
11.19.2005 4:25pm
Bernie (mail):
So torture is based on the expected results rather than the act? Would you say that we cannot even question them then since incarceration causes mental suffering?
11.19.2005 4:26pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Medis,

". . . the interrogators are trying to cause severe pain and mental suffering, severe enough to make a deeply hostile prisoner break psychologically and obey their will."

OK. The threat of imprisonment for perjury is, according to your logic, torture - since counsel is trying to cause severe mental suffering, severe enough to make a deeply hostile witness break psychologically and obey their will (i.e., tell the truth).

". . . no one is saying we should use the claims of the prisoner. Instead, we can use a combination of common experience and observation to determine whether an interrogator is intentionally subjecting a prisoner to intense feelings of physical or mental pain."

Who are you to speak for the common experience? Having been subject to stress techniques myself I disagree with your appeal to 'common' experience. Mine at least does not agree with yours. It was intense but not so severe as to constitute torture. In the end you are reduced to subjectivist pleas to 'intensity' of feeling (your own to be exact). According to your standard, if the merest hint of discomfort might cause an interogatee to give in, then that discomfort constitutes a severe pain that would amount to torture.

That, in a word, is absurd.
11.19.2005 4:29pm
Seamus (mail):

Seamus, your argument has no logical starting point. Whether something is or is not torture is independant of who is being tortured or not tortured.



I think the fact that "[w]hether something is or is not torture is independant [sic] of who is being tortured or not tortured" was exactly my point. If it's torture when done on American unlawful combatants, then it's torture when done on al-Qaeda unlawful combatants. I wanted to focus on a hypothetical involving unlawful combatants rather than POWs so people didn't object that the situations aren't at all comparable, and that *any* mistreatment of POWs is illegal and unjustified under international law.
11.19.2005 4:31pm
Bernie (mail):
Does this mean we could pull out their fingernails as long as the purpose isn't obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession?
11.19.2005 4:32pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Matt Yglesias pointed out a while back that torture is ideal for the Bush Administration: they want factoids to support their prechosen policies, rather than facts which must then be evaluated in order to decide upon a policy.
And that's precisely the sort of thing torture is really good for. If you already know what the truth is -- perhaps because it can be deduced from regime-type rather than boring intelligence gathering -- but just need some more evidence in order to convince others, then torture is a really, really, really good way of getting that kind of evidence. That's always been the main historical use of torture -- you have your prisoner, you want a confession, so you torture him until he confesses. It's not, after all, as if the administration was genuinely wondering about Iraq/al-Qaeda ties. They knew what they wanted to prove and they needed to make the case. Torture was an excellent way to get the job done.
This item from ABC News gives an example:
According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.

"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.

However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.
Nevertheless, Libi's "info" served its purpose, which is all that Cheney et al. really cared about.

All the pathetic discussion above about "but these are terrorists!", "what if a terrorist raped your daughter?", etc., is an excellent index to the fantasy life of the commenters, but irrelevant to what's actually going on in the name of the United States of America.
11.19.2005 4:33pm
Huck (mail):
This thread is getting worse and worse (Medis excluded).

First, in war there are other rules than in peace. But there are rules. And treaties.

Second, if you lower yourself to your enemy, you may win short time, but you will lose long time.

Third, torture or near-torture has never been acceptable in war rules since the peace of Westphalia (1648). There are some reasons to that.

Fourth, the war on terror is a small war, if a war at all. Think of the horrors of WWII, in which the US needed no torture or near-torture at all to win.

The torture question may be critical for international support. After 911, the US could have got almost everything needed. After the Iraq invasion, that support declined dramatically. If the US is seen as a nation promoting torture, maybe they get some political support for being the superpower, but they will lose the heart of other free peoples.
11.19.2005 4:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Huck, you've been in Europe too long--you're thinking too clearly. Don't they get Fox News on satellite?

"Morality," as applied to something other than sexual relations, is increasingly an obsolete concept in this country. The idea that torture might be Just Wrong, no matter what alleged advantage it might offer, is unthinkable to some of our commenters.
11.19.2005 4:53pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Anderson pwns himself as he inverts fantasy and plausible hypotheticals. That stress techniques may be misused is not in question. Instruments of state power are misused every day. Does this mean such instruments should be disposed of because they are misused? But that is not the main point of dispute is it? What is being asked is whether stress techniques amount to 'torture' and therefore should be outlawed by dint of a blanket ban on 'torture'.

Guilty of the very irrelevance he accuses others of.
11.19.2005 4:58pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
Huck and others continue to assume that stress techniques = torture. Is this intentional obtuseness of rhetorical stubborness, hoping that if they continue to beg the question long enough they won't have to address the question of whether these techniques actually do constitute 'torture' or not?

Not all pain is 'severe' pain (obviously, for otherwise the Convention requirement of 'severe' is superfluous). Not all pain that causes the interogatee to give in is severe pain either, pace Medis. For by that definition ALL pain is tantamount to torture as long as the interogatee gives in. Which is absurd on its face: the threat of perjury constitutes torture, as does mere incarceration itself, among other examples. Logic plz.
11.19.2005 5:07pm
Huck (mail):
Huck and others continue to assume that stress techniques = torture. Is this intentional obtuseness of rhetorical stubborness, hoping that if they continue to beg the question long enough they won't have to address the question of whether these techniques actually do constitute 'torture' or not?


Nr. 1 (Attention Grab) is no torture, in my opinion. Bright lights pointed at the detainee isn't either.

And that's the end of it.

Slapping a detainee is not acceptable. The rest of the list - forget it.

I think the Attention Grab was included in this list just to get a start for the slippery slope.
11.19.2005 5:16pm
Tom952 (mail):
Anderson -

"Morality," as applied to something other than sexual relations, is increasingly an obsolete concept in this country.

In your opinion.

The idea that torture might be Just Wrong

People do many things to one another every day that are Just Wrong. Lying, stealing, slandering, cheating. I think the economy would collapse if the entire country were given a rectitude pill. Being Just Wrong is not much of an inhibiting factor. However, Self Preservation is an overwhelming urge. You persevere, or you are not.

War, the organized effort to destroy the enemy by any means possible, stomps all over any civilized moral code. It is a different level, a different arena of human interaction. In the big picture, I do not know if any significant Right or Wrong exists in a war. Winning is everything, and the winner writes the history books.
11.19.2005 5:47pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Enthymeme thinks that the actual uses of waterboarding, etc. are irrelevant to whether they are "torture." I think that looking at those uses is actually an excellent guide to whether they are legitimate interrogation techniques (which aim to elicit the truth) or mere instruments of oppression (which aim to support the regime).

Techniques that beat someone into conformity with the interrogator's will are not designed to find the truth. Cf. O'Brien in 1984. He was specifically interested in securing Winston's agreement with his false propositions, not in finding out any truths from Winston. That, as Yglesias correctly noted, is what torture is all about.

Tom932 is another example of fantasy. "Self-preservation" is not aided by torturing people into supporting an evil presidency's urge to invade a country that was not threatening the U.S. America is less safe now than it would have been had the resources wasted in Iraq been devoted to really protecting America.

Anyway, self-preservation isn't the no-brainer that he supposes. The premise of "morality" is that there are some things one just doesn't do, however inexpedient. I would not kill my son to save my own life. If a terrorist told me to kill my neighbors or else he would kill my son, that would not make it right to kill my neighbors. (A jury might take pity on me if I did anyway, but that wouldn't make it "right.")

John Yoo, for one, has basically argued away every restraint on executive power, so long as it's for "self-preservation," i.e., the war on terror. No grown-up should have to have it explained to them that, in such a case, the executive would set about making sure that a permanent "war on terror" ensued. The Framers were just the kind of tough-minded people who realized such dangers.
11.19.2005 6:06pm
Tom952 (mail):
Er, Anderson,

"Self-preservation" is not aided by torturing people into supporting an evil presidency's urge to invade a country


No one is torturing people into supporting the presidency's urge. The discussion concerns CIA methods used to elicit useful information from terrorists engaged in war against the US and others.
11.19.2005 6:16pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Tom932, I hope you're not being deliberately obtuse.

The reason why Cheney et al. are arguing for "CIA methods used to elicit useful information from terrorists" is NOT to defeat the terrorists.

Were that the case, we would use the techniques developed by professional interrogators and collected in the Army Interrogation Manual, which do not include torture or abuse, and which are designed to secure the prisoner's cooperation so that he will yield what he believes to be the truth.

But when what's really wanted is propaganda that can be used to advance one's political ends, and the "right answer" for the prisoner to give is preordained, then only torture will work. Waterboard Tom 932 enough, and I'm sure he'll be confessing his own ties to al-Qaeda.

Contrast the tough-mindedness of the Framers, which I mentioned above, with the childish obsequiousness (can we coin "obsequtiy"?) shown by commenters who assume that the Government says what it means and has only our best interests at heart.
11.19.2005 6:27pm
Humble Law Student:
Question for all of you.

Would you be against the use of drugs to gain information from detainess? Particulary, sodium penathol.

I heard an interesting talk by Peter Bauer a while back. He is a Republican but is a vocal opponent of Bush and the "neo-con cabal." He was the lead interrogator for the US 3rd armor division in Germany during the 80s and during Desert Storm. Also, he was the lead guy for the training of army interrogators during the 90s. He is very much against coercive interrogation techniques. He claims they just don't work. He argues that a good interrogator can get better quality, and more actionable intelligence by rigourous non-physical interrogation techniques. He harshly condemns any actions that go beyond what the army field manual allows (the 6 methods from the article would go too far, I believe).

He does say though that drugs do actually work quite well, especially sodium penathol. He actually has had it administered to himself, so he can personally speak to its effects.

Would you all be against that as well?
11.19.2005 6:27pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
1st, sorry Tom952 for misnumbering you. I knew a Tom932 in college ...

2d, Humble, if we assume that sodium pentathol doesn't cause pain, damage, or terror to prisoners, then it's not torture, as I understand the word.

There's a separate issue whether it's against any laws or treaties. If Congress enacted/approved any such that prohibit its use, then we're bound by same until there's a change.

The point is not "prisoners must be pampered" or "everything Bush does is wrong." The point is that torture is evil, and that regimes which practice it are evil regimes.

(Of course, whether "truth drugs" really work is debatable, all respect to Mr. Bauer.)
11.19.2005 6:33pm
Humble Law Student:
Oh crap, Anderson figured us out. You're right Anderson, Cheney doesn't want these interrogation techniques applied to terrorists because he thinks they might help in the war on terror or save lives. You got it absolutely right.

See everyday in Guantanamo the interrogators have a checklist. On it are the categories:
1. Nuclear Bomb in NY
2. Anthrax in D.C.
3. and so on and so forth

They just keep torturing the prisoners until they get them to confess to one of those categories. You got it exactly right.

Might I say that if torture is as widespread and dastardly as you all say it is, that it must be the most inneffectual thing practice we have ever come with. I mean why haven't we heard of more great "success" stories splashed across the news by the adminstration of all of these nuclear bomb plots that have been thwarted by that sadist Cheney's torture practices?

Maybe because there is success, but not the type you envisage. Maybe everyday our boys do the painstaking work day in and out of properly interrogating these prisoners, getting intelligence, and acting on it. We know Al-Qaeda wants to hit us against, but they haven't. Something must be working. I sure as hell know it isn't your lamentations of their treatment that keeps them from hitting us again.

Or maybe you do think that. Anderson, maybe if you say that you really want them to be treated nice when we capture them, they won't try to hit us again?

How about we try this, we'll send Anderson over to the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, to explain his position to them. I'm very curious to see what happens. I'm sure he can show them the error of their ways.
11.19.2005 6:44pm
Medis:
enthymeme,

Your conflation of torture and a threat of imprisonment for perjury is mixing kinds again. A threat of imprisonment is not an attempt to actually cause physical or mental suffering. I don't think this is a difficult distinction to draw once you actually look at the Convention definition.

And again, there is no question what kind of thing these techniques might be (with the possible exception of #1). For example, #2 is "An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear." Thus, there is no question this technique intends to use the mechanisms of physical pain and mental suffering. Similarly, #3 is "A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain . . . ." I might note that calling these "stress" techniques is again Orwellian: they are "pain" and "fear" techniques, not "stress" techniques.

And we know that these pain and fear techniques are being used to interrogate hostile prisoners. Therefore, we know that the interrogators are trying to cause enough pain and fear to break these people. So we know that they are not just playing schoolboy slap and tickle games: they are trying to cause so much pain and suffering that the prisoner breaks.

And, finally, of course that is not a point about prisoners making any possible action into torture just because they say so. Nor is that a point about my subjective feelings. Rather, it is a simple conclusion based on the context of the technique, and I think it is one you know is true.
11.19.2005 6:45pm
Humble Law Student:
To add: I am in no way am wishing that Anderson is hurt. We'll make sure to have a Seal team there to protect him. It might be a nice demonstration to him of the fact that the pen is mightier than the sword, except when the sword slices the pen into two.
11.19.2005 6:46pm
Hank:
From andrewsullivan.com:

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "I was being told by my leaders that these people were not enemy prisoners of war, and therefore, we could really sort of do whatever we wanted, but I don't know if that's even true. I don't know." - former U.S. Army interrogator Specialist Tony Lagouranis, explaining how the detainee abuses throughout the theater of war were ordered and condoned by the chain of command, which, of course, includes someone known as the commander-in-chief. The official line from the Bush administration is and was that all prisoners in Iraq were covered by the Geneva Conventions. They were and are lying. From the interview with lefty Amy Goodman on a lefty radio station:

TONY LAGOURANIS: When the Navy SEALS would interrogate people, they were using ice water to lower the body temperature of the prisoner and they would take his rectal temperature in order to make sure that he didn't die. I didn't see this, but that's what many, many prisoners told me who came out of the SEAL Compound, and I also heard that from a guard who was working in our detention facility, who was present during an interrogation that the SEAL had done.

AMY GOODMAN: Where is the SEAL Compound.

TONY LAGOURANIS: It was in the same place. It was at the Mosul airport, but I never actually went inside the compound myself.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you use hypothermia as a means of interrogating?

TONY LAGOURANIS: We did. Yeah, we used hypothermia a lot. It was very cold up in Mosul at that time, so we -- it was also raining a lot, so we would keep the prisoner outside, and they would have a polyester jumpsuit on and they would be wet and cold, and freezing. But we weren't inducing hypothermia with ice water like the SEALS were. But, you know, maybe the SEALS were doing it better than we were, because they were actually even controlling it with the thermometer, but we weren't doing that.

Who were these detainees? Money quote:

We all talked about it. I discussed this with my team leader all the time. The people I was working with all the time. You know part of the problem back then too, is that I was still under the impression that we were getting prisoners who had intel - who had intel to give us, and you know, I still thought that these were bad guys.

I was believing the intelligence reports that came in with the prisoner. I believed the detainee units, but later it became clear to me that they weren't -- they were picking up just farmers, you know, like these guys were totally innocent and that's why we weren't getting intel. And it just made what we were doing, like, seem even more cruel.
11.19.2005 6:50pm
Bernie (mail):
I assume that those of you who believe that all the "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" are torture would be aginst simply handing the detainees back to their countries of origin. Let them deal with the detainees according to their laws and customs.
11.19.2005 7:03pm
Chukuang:
War, the organized effort to destroy the enemy by any means possible, stomps all over any civilized moral code. It is a different level, a different arena of human interaction. In the big picture, I do not know if any significant Right or Wrong exists in a war. Winning is everything, and the winner writes the history books.

This is just so obviously untrue as a historically accurate definition of "war" that it's hard to know where to begin. Any examples of the "any means possible" being used in reality? We didn't bomb North Vietnam last I checked. And how would you even define what counts as "war"? This is pretty damn important if you actually believe all moral judgements cease to exist in such a state. Does the War on Drugs count? I'm assuming you think the War on Terror does. We still don't have a truce with N. Korea; obviously we should defeat them by any means possible and start dropping the big ones tonight. Do you really believe this statement of is it just something you're repeating from an action movie/overheated comic book?
11.19.2005 7:40pm
Justin (mail):
"The Red Cross is as anti-American as the U.N. and any other tinpot dictator."

Thurman Arnold wrote a book during pre-World War II depression times called "The Folklore of Capitalism" that was widely derided as being an apologism for Communism. In it, he pointed out that logic and facts don't matter, and even things that are the most rediculous on their face would not protect the political debate, because the debate was not about logic or facts.

Thus, he said, once you get 51% to have a zealous, religious-like faith in the cause, the cause can be shown to be hypocritical, a fraud, counterproductive, self-harmful, immoral, and democracy and the democratic process would not be a bar to excess.

If the UN, the Red Cross, and Human Rights Watch and their ilk are "objectively-pro-terrorist" and whatnot; if torture can not only be debated but the debate itself can be done in such a dismissive way, it creates significant fear that Arnold is right. If he is, I fear the greatest political excesses such as detention camps and even death camps are simply waiting IN THIS COUNTRY for the right politician, and the right circumstances, which other excessive political movements have shown can be created actively, not passively. I trust we all have the imagination to see what the next step may be.
11.19.2005 8:48pm
TomCS (mail):
I'm Irish, born in Dublin, largely brought up around Belfast, and lived in London for most of my professional life. With many millions of others I have lived under a real threat of terrorism for most of my life, say 40 years. (That just to say that as a non-US resident, I have a valid perspective: ethnically and religiously motivated terrorism is not new, did not start on 9/11, and US residents were immensely fortunate not to have met its reality in any significant way before then.)

This thread has been one of the most depressing things I have read in many years, and demonstrates, if nothing else, that any assumption of shared basic ethical values between Western Europe and the US must now be questionable.

I have no doubt that, individually or in an escalating approach over time, most of the six techniques can amount to torture in the sense that we all understand it: the parallels drawn above to fraternity hazing - which can and has in any case led to severe psychological damage -and I seem to remember periodic deaths -, and has been banned in many campuses - either reflect a total failure to think straight, or the perverse effects of a legal education.

But the biggest problem is that this type of interrogation rarely produces reliable or verifiable intelligence, let alone timely such information. Much less so than competent technical intelligence work. Makes angry and frustrated people feel better. But similar techniques were banned for use by the British army and security agencies in Northern Ireland early on in the current series of "troubles", and I do not remember public pressure arguing against that ban.

Winning struggles with ideological/religious/ethnic terrorists is slow, and painful. Much of it is winning the argument that our values/constitutional arrangements are if not preferable acceptable, and that they can accommodate reasonable versions of the extreme positions espoused by the terrorists. The battle is before the court of public opinion, and nowadays that is a global court.

If the US is serious about winning the "war", then I believe that the Guantanamo Bay/"black sites"/Abu Ghraib approach is not just morally and legally wrong, but deeply counter-productive. Trying to produce lawyerly justifications for techniques which can clearly amount to torture only makes things worse.

I was not too happy when British troops were ordered to Iraq in the first place. I did not believe then that that meant tacitly supporting a Government which seems determined to tear up the painfully and slowly developed principles of the international law of conflict, and which endorses techniques such as these. Not in my name...
11.19.2005 8:55pm
Neal R. (mail):
Paging Orin Kerr. Instead of just linking to factual articles, would you consider posting your own thoughts on the detainment and treatment of suspected enemy combatants?
11.19.2005 9:18pm
Tom952 (mail):
Chukuang:

Any examples of the "any means possible" being used in reality?


1) Hiroshima
2) Cl and Mustard gas in WWI
3) Sept 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington utilizing airliners and passengers as missiles.
11.19.2005 9:35pm
Wendy:
Torture's Terrible Toll
By Senator John McCain


Abusive interrogation tactics produce bad intel, and undermine the values we hold dear. Why we must, as a nation, do better.
The debate over the treatment of enemy prisoners, like so much of the increasingly overcharged partisan debate over the war in Iraq and the global war against terrorists, has occasioned many unserious and unfair charges about the administration's intentions and motives. With all the many competing demands for their attention, President Bush and Vice President Cheney have remained admirably tenacious in their determination to prevent terrorists from inflicting another atrocity on the American people, whom they are sworn to protect. It is certainly fair to credit their administration's vigilance as a substantial part of the reason that we have not experienced another terrorist attack on American soil since September 11, 2001.

It is also quite fair to attribute the administration's position-that U.S. interrogators be allowed latitude in their treatment of enemy prisoners that might offend American values-to the president's and vice president's appropriate concern for acquiring actionable intelligence that could prevent attacks on our soldiers or our allies or on the American people. And it is quite unfair to assume some nefarious purpose informs their intentions. They bear the greatest responsibility for the security of American lives and interests. I understand and respect their motives just as I admire the seriousness and patriotism of their resolve. But I do, respectfully, take issue with the position that the demands of this war require us to accord a lower station to the moral imperatives that should govern our conduct in war and peace when they come in conflict with the unyielding inhumanity of our vicious enemy.

Obviously, to defeat our enemies we need intelligence, but intelligence that is reliable. We should not torture or treat inhumanely terrorists we have captured. The abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, our war effort. In my experience, abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear-whether it is true or false-if he believes it will relieve his suffering. I was once physically coerced to provide my enemies with the names of the members of my flight squadron, information that had little if any value to my enemies as actionable intelligence. But I did not refuse, or repeat my insistence that I was required under the Geneva Conventions to provide my captors only with my name, rank and serial number. Instead, I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers' offensive line, knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse. It seems probable to me that the terrorists we interrogate under less than humane standards of treatment are also likely to resort to deceptive answers that are perhaps less provably false than that which I once offered.

Our commitment to basic humanitarian values affects-in part-the willingness of other nations to do the same. Mistreatment of enemy prisoners endangers our own troops who might someday be held captive. While some enemies, and Al Qaeda surely, will never be bound by the principle of reciprocity, we should have concern for those Americans captured by more traditional enemies, if not in this war then in the next. Until about 1970, North Vietnam ignored its obligations not to mistreat the Americans they held prisoner, claiming that we were engaged in an unlawful war against them and thus not entitled to the protections of the Geneva Conventions. But when their abuses became widely known and incited unfavorable international attention, they substantially decreased their mistreatment of us. Again, Al Qaeda will never be influenced by international sensibilities or open to moral suasion. If ever the term "sociopath" applied to anyone, it applies to them. But I doubt they will be the last enemy America will fight, and we should not undermine today our defense of international prohibitions against torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war that we will need to rely on in the future.

To prevail in this war we need more than victories on the battlefield. This is a war of ideas, a struggle to advance freedom in the face of terror in places where oppressive rule has bred the malevolence that creates terrorists. Prisoner abuses exact a terrible toll on us in this war of ideas. They inevitably become public, and when they do they threaten our moral standing, and expose us to false but widely disseminated charges that democracies are no more inherently idealistic and moral than other regimes. This is an existential fight, to be sure. If they could, Islamic extremists who resort to terror would destroy us utterly. But to defeat them we must prevail in our defense of American political values as well. The mistreatment of prisoners greatly injures that effort.

The mistreatment of prisoners harms us more than our enemies. I don't think I'm naive about how terrible are the wages of war, and how terrible are the things that must be done to wage it successfully. It is an awful business, and no matter how noble the cause for which it is fought, no matter how valiant their service, many veterans spend much of their subsequent lives trying to forget not only what was done to them, but some of what had to be done by them to prevail.

I don't mourn the loss of any terrorist's life. Nor do I care if in the course of serving their ignoble cause they suffer great harm. They have pledged their lives to the intentional destruction of innocent lives, and they have earned their terrible punishment in this life and the next. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength-that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for an idea, not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion, but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.

Now, in this war, our liberal notions are put to the test. Americans of good will, all patriots, argue about what is appropriate and necessary to combat this unconventional enemy. Those of us who feel that in this war, as in past wars, Americans should not compromise our values must answer those Americans who believe that a less rigorous application of those values is regrettably necessary to prevail over a uniquely abhorrent and dangerous enemy. Part of our disagreement is definitional. Some view more coercive interrogation tactics as something short of torture but worry that they might be subject to challenge under the "no cruel, inhumane or degrading" standard. Others, including me, believe that both the prohibition on torture and the cruel, inhumane and degrading standard must remain intact. When we relax that standard, it is nearly unavoidable that some objectionable practices will be allowed as something less than torture because they do not risk life and limb or do not cause very serious physical pain.

For instance, there has been considerable press attention to a tactic called "waterboarding," where a prisoner is restrained and blindfolded while an interrogator pours water on his face and into his mouth-causing the prisoner to believe he is being drowned. He isn't, of course; there is no intention to injure him physically. But if you gave people who have suffered abuse as prisoners a choice between a beating and a mock execution, many, including me, would choose a beating. The effects of most beatings heal. The memory of an execution will haunt someone for a very long time and damage his or her psyche in ways that may never heal. In my view, to make someone believe that you are killing him by drowning is no different than holding a pistol to his head and firing a blank. I believe that it is torture, very exquisite torture.

Those who argue the necessity of some abuses raise an important dilemma as their most compelling rationale: the ticking-time-bomb scenario. What do we do if we capture a terrorist who we have sound reasons to believe possesses specific knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack?

In such an urgent and rare instance, an interrogator might well try extreme measures to extract information that could save lives. Should he do so, and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation which he confronted. But I don't believe this scenario requires us to write into law an exception to our treaty and moral obligations that would permit cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. To carve out legal exemptions to this basic principle of human rights risks opening the door to abuse as a matter of course, rather than a standard violated truly in extremis. It is far better to embrace a standard that might be violated in extraordinary circumstances than to lower our standards to accommodate a remote contingency, confusing personnel in the field and sending precisely the wrong message abroad about America's purposes and practices.

The state of Israel, no stranger to terrorist attacks, has faced this dilemma, and in 1999 the Israeli Supreme Court declared cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment illegal. "A democratic, freedom-loving society," the court wrote, "does not accept that investigators use any means for the purpose of uncovering truth. The rules pertaining to investigators are important to a democratic state. They reflect its character."

I've been asked often where did the brave men I was privileged to serve with in North Vietnam draw the strength to resist to the best of their abilities the cruelties inflicted on them by our enemies. They drew strength from their faith in each other, from their faith in God and from their faith in our country. Our enemies didn't adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Many of my comrades were subjected to very cruel, very inhumane and degrading treatment, a few of them unto death. But every one of us-every single one of us-knew and took great strength from the belief that we were different from our enemies, that we were better than them, that we, if the roles were reversed, would not disgrace ourselves by committing or approving such mistreatment of them. That faith was indispensable not only to our survival, but to our attempts to return home with honor. For without our honor, our homecoming would have had little value to us.

The enemies we fight today hold our liberal values in contempt, as they hold in contempt the international conventions that enshrine them. I know that. But we are better than them, and we are stronger for our faith. And we will prevail. It is indispensable to our success in this war that those we ask to fight it know that in the discharge of their dangerous responsibilities to their country they are never expected to forget that they are Americans, and the valiant defenders of a sacred idea of how nations should govern their own affairs and their relations with others-even our enemies.

Those who return to us and those who give their lives for us are entitled to that honor. And those of us who have given them this onerous duty are obliged by our history, and the many terrible sacrifices that have been made in our defense, to make clear to them that they need not risk their or their country's honor to prevail; that they are always-through the violence, chaos and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss-they are always, always, Americans, and different, better and stronger than those who would destroy us.


http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/111305Y.shtml
11.19.2005 11:36pm
Elliot123 (mail):
Does anyone know if drugs work in getting information? Do we have a truth drug?
11.20.2005 1:44am
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Well, I joined this party a bit too late; however, I thought I'd throw my view into the fire as well.

The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as

"any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity."

This definition appears pretty straight forward; you are not allowed to torture for the purpose of getting a confession nor to get information about any act, whether committed by the person being tortured or any third party.

Will someone please explain why making someone believe they are drowning, or inflicting pain, whether a "belly slap" or the "attention grab" does not meet this burden? It seems to me that the ratifiers of this convention, including the United States were pretty clear in defining "severe pain" as physical or mental. If this was not the case, why did the United States not enter any reservations as to the meaning of "severe pain" or the word "torture?"

The United States signed the treaty; they had no qualms then, and ought not have any qualms now about the language. Who are we to say we are removing a tyrannical dictator, yet in the process implement similar tactics to those used by him? Seems to me the United States, in this "operation" ought not to take the higher ground; but must take the highest ground.

We are viewed, at the moment as the aggressors, why should we give "the other side" any ammunition to use against us or our troops? It seems that in order for the United States to effectively complete this mission, the United States must act in accordance with all US Law- including all ratified Treaties and Jus Cogens. To do otherwise, would simply detract from the supposed good being done in Iraq.

I am not putting forth an opinion either way on the war; however, I will say that if the "war" is to be carried out it must be done so according to law. The terrorists are not going to follow the Convention, nor will they follow any Jus Cogens or Customary International Law, this does not afford the United States the authority to carry-out the same behavior.

Where else in US law is one afforded the excuse "Johnny did it, so I did too?" That is essentially what is being done here, the terrorists are chopping people's heads off; therefore, we will exercise cruel and inhumane treatment.

Interesting concept: we are trying to eliminate the terrorists BECAUSE of these inhumane acts, to use them as justification of our own acts is simply absurd. Whether or not we like it, we are held to a higher standard than the terrorists; perhaps, this is a good thing rather than a bad thing. Would we really want to be measured on the same scale as terrorists? Do we really want the world to be of the opinion well the Americans were bad, but the terrorists were worse so it's ok? Since when do we want to be measured against terrorists?

Aren’t we supposed to be bringing Liberty, Democracy, Freedom, and all those other things great about this country the region? Can we do that whilst continuing to measure ourselves against the very group we aim to eliminate? I am of the view that it is the duty of this nation to do all that is necessary to eliminate the threat; however, to do so without using methods contrary to International Law as well as US Law.

Though another topic entirely, but the McCain Amendment ought not be necessary, the United States has ratified the Convention, it is therefore, a matter of law. Yet, this administration claims the C.I.A. needs special exemption thereto, WHY? If torture is already, as a matter of US Law, banned, why does the C.I.A. need an exemption from the McCain Amendment? Why does the C.I.A. need an exemption to do that which they are already not allowed to do? Furthermore, why is the amendment needed at all? We as a people really need to take a deeper look at this. This goes much deeper than whether or not we think someone picked up in Iraq should be slapped around or not. This goes to what we as a people believe is right, and what we as a people believe is wrong.
11.20.2005 2:23am
NickM (mail) (www):
I'm sure if you asked the inmates at any American prison, at least 80-90% of them would tell you they were innocent too.

Are you? Why?


I've talked to dozens of prison guards. To a man, they have said that the overwhelming majority of prisoners, even those who pleaded guilty, claimed innocence. A number of guards have told me that they feared most the prisoners who bragged of the crimes they were convicted of - those were the most likely to lead prison gangs and to commit new serious crimes while in prison.

In any case, there is no comparison, since the American prison inmates have had a lawyer, and either had a trial, or entered a guilty plea - without being tortured. And let's remember that some of them turn out actually to be innocent

The "arguments" on display here in defense of this behavior are so bad that they work against themselves.


byomtov - you entirely missed the point. The Red Cross is asserting a percentage of detainees who are innocent, but the Red Cross's figure is based ONLY on the word of the detainees themselves - they don't have access to the reports prepared by the U.S. government on each detainee's pre-capture activities, which are classified.

Now, since the detainees are biased sources and the closest approximation to surveying such sources that we can find from another context yields an obscenely high rate of claims of innocence (let's remember that the percentage of prison inmates who turn out to be actually innocent is far below 1%), we can safely conclude that the bias of the detainees renders their responses to the Red Cross worthless for evaluating whether they were enemy combatants (either lawful or unlawful).

Before you next attack someone's reasoning, try not to enter into a non sequitur on the underlying issue.

I'll choose a quotation from 18 USC 1030's post on a separate issue, although I could just as easily have picked a quotation from any of a number of other posters - I simply did not have to scroll up far for his.

Will someone please explain why making someone believe they are drowning, or inflicting pain, whether a "belly slap" or the "attention grab" does not meet this burden? It seems to me that the ratifiers of this convention, including the United States were pretty clear in defining "severe pain" as physical or mental. If this was not the case, why did the United States not enter any reservations as to the meaning of "severe pain" or the word "torture?"


The answer is because pain is not synonymous with "severe pain". The adjective means something, unless you wish to engage in the results-oriented interpretation that the degree of pain infliction necessary to get someone to talk qualifies as severe pain. Many people will begin answering questions honestly in response to a level of pain or suffering that the average person would not consider to be severe pain (and the experience of fraternity pledges, while not conclusive on this point, is relevant to the degree of pain or suffering inflicted by a technique)

On something that does not intuitively and immediately appear to inflict severe pain or suffering, the burden should be upon those challenging the policy to show that it does. I have yet to see any reasonable argument as to techniques 1 through 4 that those do inflict "severe pain or suffering" under the Convention. As to technique 5, a significantly increased risk of death would qualify it as inflicting "severe pain or suffering" in some cases (and it could not be known in advance exactly which cases), but that is a question for medical evidence, not guessing. Technique 6 looks much more questionable, and this looks to psychological evidence and experiential evidence. Senator McCain speaks with a great deal of experiential authority in this area, and if his feelings are generally confirmed by other Americans who were POWs, I expect I would conclude that this technique does qualify as torture and should therefore be forbidden.

Nick
11.20.2005 5:09am
Frank Drackmann (mail):
Would it be torture to have an obese foreign national sit on a terrorists face and emit some extremely noxious farts until he cooperates? I had that happen to me as an 8th grader in a California public school, and noone thought of it as torture, except me. I also saw a version of this on Howard Sterns TV show,except his victim merely had to stand with his nose to Howards ass, as penalty for a sports bet he had lost.
11.20.2005 8:25am
Angus (mail) (www):
The Red Cross is asserting a percentage of detainees who are innocent, but the Red Cross's figure is based ONLY on the word of the detainees themselves - they don't have access to the reports prepared by the U.S. government on each detainee's pre-capture activities, which are classified.

Actually, this is almost precisely backwards. Here's a quote from the Red Cross report in question:

Certain CF [Coalition Forces] military intelligence officers told the ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake."

One may believe that the Red Cross is lying, of course, or that the Coalition inofficers who spoke to them were lying or mistaken, but you're flatly wrong about what they assert.
11.20.2005 9:25am
Brutus:
Frank, I feel your pain. In the 8th grade, at different times I got a wedgie, a redbelly, and they held a dirty sneaker over my face until I inhaled. Yet the teachers did not consider this "torture" - they even saw it happening! Where were the ICRC and HRW when I really needed them...
11.20.2005 11:11am
Anderson (mail) (www):
Paging Orin Kerr. Instead of just linking to factual articles, would you consider posting your own thoughts on the detainment and treatment of suspected enemy combatants?
My take has been that Prof. Kerr knows he's not an expert on this area of the law &is hesitant about holding himself out as such.

And given the comments on this thread, I think he does a great service by lifting the rock and seeing what dwells under it.
11.20.2005 12:23pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
And re: the administration's contempt for facts, see Bob Graham in Sunday's Wash. Post:
At a meeting of the Senate intelligence committee on Sept. 5, 2002, CIA Director George Tenet was asked what the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) provided as the rationale for a preemptive war in Iraq. An NIE is the product of the entire intelligence community, and its most comprehensive assessment. I was stunned when Tenet said that no NIE had been requested by the White House and none had been prepared.
We were considering preemptive war on the basis of supposed intel reports ... and yet the White House didn't request an NIE???

What explanation is there for that, except that the White House had decided on the war and wasn't "considering" whether to attack Iraq, but only how to?

Having CIA largely in its pocket (due perhaps to Tenet's lame-duck status after 9/11?), the White House didn't want to hear from agencies it didn't have similarly cowed. And for good reason, as the NIE that the Senate then demanded would show when produced (over Tenet's objections):
While slanted toward the conclusion that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction stored or produced at 550 sites, it contained vigorous dissents on key parts of the information, especially by the departments of State and Energy. Particular skepticism was raised about aluminum tubes that were offered as evidence Iraq was reconstituting its nuclear program. As to Hussein's will to use whatever weapons he might have, the estimate indicated he would not do so unless he was first attacked.
Those parts, of course, were deleted from the declassified NIE that was released to schmucks like you and me ... you know, the American people?
11.20.2005 12:45pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
If, during the 1991 Gulf War, these 6 interrogation techniques had been used by Iraqi forces against American POWs, would our government have denounced them as "torture"?

My money says 100% YES.
It's important to differentiate between using these tactics for fun, revenge, etc., and using them to gather information. I think we can all agree former is never appropriate; the latter might be in some circumstances.
11.20.2005 1:11pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Perhaps I assumed incorrectly that prior to commenting in disagreement with my post, commenters would, at the very least, follow the link I provided to the Torture Convention. Being as though the comments as put forth by NickM demonstrate this did not occur, allow me to quote from the United States Reservations provided in the Convention. By saying the United States did not enter a reservation I was actually saying the United States did not enter a reservation contrary to the definitions provided therein. However, the United States did provide reservations as to the definitions contained in the document, these reservations do not have the affect of supporting the arguments in favor of these methods; but rather, have the affect of strengthening the argument as to why these practices are a violation of the treaty; thus, a violation of US Law.

First:

"I. The Senate's advice and consent is subject to the following reservations:

(1) That the United States considers itself bound by the obligation under article 16 to prevent `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment', only insofar as the term `cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment' means the cruel, unusual and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States.


Is there ANYONE who can say, these methods fall in line with the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution? Is there anyone who would agree with these practices being carried out upon US persons by US authorities in criminal investigations? If the answer is no then the answer should also be no when dealing with insurgents.

Second,

(1) (a) That with reference to article 1, the United States understands that, in order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality.


The United States in providing this reservation used the term "Severe Physical Pain or suffering," had the United States issued this reservation with the intent that they would institute treatment that would cause suffering to some degree; they would have used the term severe suffering, they did not. The United States, therefore, in writing this reservation, did so in order to express their understanding that suffering, no matter the degree was a violation of this treaty. These procedures all cause suffering to some extent, therefore, there is no logical defense to their usage.

Third,

(c) That with reference to article 1 of the Convention, the United States understands that `sanctions' includes judicially-imposed sanctions and other enforcement actions authorized by United States law or by judicial interpretation of such law. Nonetheless, the United States understands that a State Party could not through its domestic sanctions defeat the object and purpose of the Convention to prohibit torture.


Thus, the United States, has not only explicitly articulated the prohibition of cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment; they have also articulated the understanding that US Law cannot be created in order to circumvent the treaty. The proposed exemption provided by VP Cheney is in direct conflict with this reservation as stated by the United States.
11.20.2005 2:27pm
Angus (mail) (www):
It's important to differentiate between using these tactics for fun, revenge, etc., and using them to gather information. I think we can all agree former is never appropriate; the latter might be in some circumstances.

I'm not as sure as you are that everyone here would agree with your distinction. And in fact there's copious evidence that "these tactics" have in fact been used by the US for purposes other than information-gathering. But let's set that aside for now.

From the ABC report: "According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. [...] His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons."

If you use "these tactics" to induce someone to make a false confession which you then go on to use as propaganda, are you gathering information, or doing something else? If there's a bright line there, our government is clearly on the wrong side of it.
11.20.2005 2:30pm
Humble Law Student:
18 USC 1030,

Seriously, are you joking? You wrote,

"Is there ANYONE who can say, these methods fall in line with the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendments of the United States Constitution? Is there anyone who would agree with these practices being carried out upon US persons by US authorities in criminal investigations? If the answer is no then the answer should also be no when dealing with insurgents."

You are showing an utter lack of understanding of how such amendments are interpreted and applied. You argue that if I can't answer that those practices are acceptable to US citizens then they can't be acceptable practices on detainees. I hate to break it to you, but that is utterly fallacious. The reason is context.

Look at "cruel and unusual" punishment for example. "Cruel and Unusual" derives its meaning from context, both situational and social (which can also go hand in hand). The Supreme Court has banned the execution of the mentally retarded or for those who committed their crime before the age of majority. By your argument, if it was "cruel and unusual" to execute the young or the mentally retarded, then it is likewise unconstitutional to do so to normal adults. Despite what you think, that ISN'T how the amendment is interpreted and applied.

Therefore, just because something is "cruel and unusual" against our citizens doesn't mean that it is necessarily cruel and unusual to use it against detainees. You can make a normative argument saying it should be so, but your wishes don't make it constitutionally correct. So, your first contention is shot down.

You then wrote,

"The United States in providing this reservation used the term "Severe Physical Pain or suffering," had the United States issued this reservation with the intent that they would institute treatment that would cause suffering to some degree; they would have used the term severe suffering, they did not. The United States, therefore, in writing this reservation, did so in order to express their understanding that suffering, no matter the degree was a violation of this treaty. These procedures all cause suffering to some extent, therefore, there is no logical defense to their usage.


"Severe" modifies "pain" and "suffering", because your argument makes no sense otherwise. Practically anything can cause "suffering." If we banned "suffering", then heck we probably couldn't even detain them.

The point is that severe pain or suffering is banned, otherwise it is utterly worthless to even mention "severe pain" because any pain would cause suffering which would be illegal under your interpretation. Your intrepretation is utterly non-sensical.
11.20.2005 3:54pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
It doesn't matter why these tactics are used. If they cannot be used for "the fun of it," they cannot be used for gaining confessions. The United States ratified the treaty, the treaty expressly prohibits such behavior, therefore, the United States cannot inflict such pain, whether for gaining a confession or for troop amusement.
11.20.2005 4:07pm
Humble Law Student:
18 USC 1030

Okay, so you concede that your arguments were faulty. Good thing.

We all agree that such tactics shouldn't be "used for the fun it." No one disagrees with that statement. Only in your fantasies do any of us argue that. Nice red herring.

The US ratified the treaty, but once again that leaves us where we started. It all comes down to what "severe pain" or "severe suffering" is. One has to be the biggest wimp in the world to argue that getting an open hand slap against your belly causes "severe pain" or "severe suffering".

Waterboarding on the other hand, may very well cross the line. But, that is the point of our discussions. Trying to figure out what is "too much."
11.20.2005 4:18pm
A. Friend:
People often forget that the U.S., by using these methods on foreign captives, endangers such of its own soldiers and citizens as may be captured by the U.S.'s enemies. Those enemies -- whether Mid East terrorist groups or sovereign states -- will be less likely to refrain from using these and similar methods against American captives -- since, after all, the Americans are using the same methods against their captives. America no longer has a right to expect any protection of its own citizens from torture.
11.20.2005 4:21pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
I know it's a pain to read 160 comments, but if people read before posting, maybe there wouldn't be so many repeats. This argument has been discussed above. If you don't like the response, please respond to that instead of merely repeating the argument.
11.20.2005 4:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
It also makes it a little ridiculous when we complain that Iraqi authorities, or the Chinese, or anyone else, are torturing people.
11.20.2005 4:29pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Oh, and if you want a bizarre statement to parse, try to figure this out:
"There's a discussion and debate taking place as to what the implications might be and what is supportable and what is not," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said. "But the fact of the matter is the president from the outset has said that he required that there be humane treatment." * * *

"The history of the United States military is clear. Torture doesn't work," Rumsfeld said. "The military knows that. We want our people treated humanely."
So "torture doesn't work"? Sorry to disppoint all of you torture fans on this thread.

But good luck figuring out what content is left in the word "humane" if waterboarding counts. I guess the Prez's "requirements" are freely ignored?

(This may even be pushback by Rumsfeld, who has authority to allow waterboarding of DOD detainees but doesn't appear to've done so. Maybe he's distancing himself from CIA?)
11.20.2005 4:48pm
Tom952 (mail):
Frank -

Would it be torture to have an obese foreign national sit on a terrorists face and emit some extremely noxious farts until he cooperates? I had that happen to me as an 8th grader in a California public school, and noone thought of it as torture, except me.

Well, let me be the first to offer my condolences and agree that the event was indeed torture. I mean, we gotta draw the line somewhere. Have you informed the Red Cross about this? I'll bet even Bill O'Reilly would be appalled.
11.20.2005 5:41pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
That's it... lock 'er down, Orin. This thread has officially hit rock bottom :)
11.20.2005 6:20pm
Medis:
Humble Law Student,

You say, "One has to be the biggest wimp in the world to argue that getting an open hand slap against your belly causes 'severe pain' or 'severe suffering'."

So, suppose a downed American pilot is captured by Saddam. If necessary, suppose this pilot is your spouse or child. Now, suppose Saddam orders a very strong Baathist thug to slap this pilot in the stomach as hard as possible, intending to cause as much pain as possible. And suppose Saddam orders the repetition of this act over and over, until the pain causes the pilot (or your spouse or child) to break psychologically. But Saddam also instructs his thug to avoid closed hand punches to avoid killing the pilot (or your spouse or child) outright.

The United States government accuses Saddam of torturing the pilot (or your spouse or child). Do you think you would be protesting that the United States government was being the biggest wimp in the world? And yet isn't the CIA authorized to do the exact same thing?
11.20.2005 6:21pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
Couldn't the "your spouse or child" argument be applied to any wartime act? I wouldn't want my wife shot in battle either, but I wouldn't use that as an argument for taking guns away from our military.
11.20.2005 6:47pm
Medis:
Daniel,

My point in raising that hypothetical is not to prove that torture is unjustifiable (although it may also be useful for that purpose). Rather, it is to challenge the claim that the CIA's use of these techniques when interrogating prisoners is nothing more than schoolboy antics, and that no one could think otherwise.

To motivate that claim, Humble Law Students and others do things like talk about superficially similar acts in other contexts (for example, all the schoolboy stuff), or construct hypotheticals in which the use of the technique in question is minimized (for example, Humble Law Student implicitly assumes a single, isolated slap, as opposed to repeated applications of this technique).

So, I presented this hypothetical just to put the discussion back into the proper context (these are adults conducting interrogations of hostile prisoners, not schoolboys playing slap and tickle games), and to suggest a more realistic sense of how these techniques would be used in such a context. I made an American the prisoner just so that I could have the United States government claiming it was torture. Finally, I suggested that Humble could imagine this was a spouse or wife in case that would help make the situation more vivid. All this was so that I could ask whether Humble really thinks in such circumstances that he would think the United States was being wimpy.

Of course, perhaps Humble will refuse to imagine things in this way, or will still think it isn't torture. For example, perhaps Humble will think my scenario only scores an 8.25 on the pain severity scale, and he believes that it has to score a 9.00 in order to be torture.

Nonetheless, I think reflecting on this scenario will indicate that it is indeed likely that many people, and many governments, will think that what is going on in these CIA interrogations is torture (including many people and governments that have traditionally been our allies). And insofar as we are considering the damage done to our reputation and to our cause, it doesn't really matter what Humble concludes falls short of torture--because if too many people and too many governments in the wrong places think that torture is part of our official policies, that damage will be done.
11.20.2005 7:31pm
18 USC 1030 (mail):
Humble Law Student,

It appears to this humble student as though your interpretation of the amendment(s), not mine is/are incorrect. I am unable to comment specifically to your characterization that my interpretation of "the amendment" is wrong, as I am not certain as to which amendment you were speaking of in your post when you said: "Despite what you think, that ISN'T how the amendment is interpreted and applied." However, I can provide a broad rebuttal against your contentions.

The IV amendment to the Constitution reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Note: it does not say "The right of the citizens to be secure...;" the framers used the term people. Why, if the amendment was to apply only to US citizens, does not the amendment use the term citizen in defining those afforded IV amendment protections? It would seem the framers, in their infinite wisdom, in order to create a document to be read in its literal form, would surely have had the intellectual faculties to utilize the term citizen, if citizens truly were the only group to be afforded IV amendment protections. This they did not do. Thus, there are but two arguments possible; the framers, in drafting the amendment made a mistake and really didn't mean what they wrote; or more likely than not, the framers granted IV amendment protections to people without regard to citizenship.

The V amendment states:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Notice: the V amendment DOES provide for an exception for military proceedings; however, this exception is provided ONLY for the grand jury indictment requirement. This exception comes PRIOR to the clause prohibiting self incrimination, the clause prohibiting double jeopardy, as well as the clause prohibiting the deprivation of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. If, once again the framers intended the exception to be provided in all clauses; that is if they believed military proceedings were granted an exception in all clauses to the V amendment, each clause would have contained a similar exception, or the exception would have been placed at the end of the amendment. It was not, thus, once again, one must consider whether the framers of the V amendment erred in their writing of the amendment, or whether it was the intent of the framers to provide V amendment protections, but for grand jury indictments for military proceedings to all persons without consideration as to citizenship, or military service, whether of this country or a foreign state.

The VIII amendment states:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
This amendment is even broader than those previously mentioned. Is one to argue that the VIII amendment is to apply only to US Citizens though the amendment does not, in any way classify those afforded such protections? The IV and V amendments respectively each use the terms people and persons in articulating the protections possessed by each. The VIII amendment has no such provision whatever. Are we to assume that in writing the VIII amendment, the framers merely expected everyone to presume, correctly that this was to apply solely to US Citizens; without articulating it as such? It seems to me, the framers wrote this amendment as broadly as possible so as to ensure, not that the few were granted protections; but rather, that all were afforded these protections.

The XIV amendment section 1 reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Notice: The amendment starts by defining those persons classified as citizens of the United State, thereafter, it precludes the States from abridging the privileges or immunities of citizens, thereafter, it precludes the states from depriving ANY PERSON of life, liberty, or property without due process, furthermore it precludes any state from depriving ANY PERSON within its jurisdiction equal protection.

If the framers of the XIV amendment intended the protections to apply only to US Citizens, why did they not use the term citizen throughout the amendment, rather than replacing it with any person? It seems if the framers of the amendment wished it to apply to US Citizens alone, they would have articulated it as such. They did not; therefore, one must presume the framers fully intended XIV protections to apply to any person but for the protection of privileges and immunities which, as expressly stated, applies only to citizens.

The attempt to compare the detainees in the war on terror with mentally-handicapped persons or minors in the United States demonstrates an inherent misunderstanding of the law. The death penalty was deemed unconstitutional in the cases of minors and mentally-handicapped persons for a reason far different than the defense for different treatment of detainees. At the heart of every criminal law in the United States (less strict liability crimes), two elements must exist in order for a person to be found guilty: a mens rea and an actus reus. Once the person is convicted, sentencing begins, the jury, in sentencing, once again evaluates the evidence in order to determine the correct sentence. In death penalty cases, being that the death penalty is the greatest deprivation of life, liberty, and property possible, the jury must determine that the convicted committed in act so deplorable that he deserves to die.

However, for the person not of "sound mind" whether because of age, or because of mental-handicap, the mens rea element does not meet the burden necessary in order to impose a death sentence. The person not of sound mind is ill-equipped, by law to fully comprehend the results of an action taken, thus, cannot be executed; for, the person whom cannot fully comprehend the results, cannot there also intend those results. Thus the death penalty exceptions are not granted for a class of people because they are to be treated differently, but rather, the exceptions exist in order to ensure that only those with the sufficient mens rea and actus reus are sentenced to death. Just as the person of sound mind that un-intentionally commits murder is not sentenced to death, neither is the person who is unable to comprehend the act.

It must also be noted that the Supreme Court has, in Rasul V. Bush 542 U.S. 466 considered whether or not non-citizen detainees are in fact, by the Constitution afforded habeas corpus protections as provided by 28 U.S.C. §2241. Though not a case of whether or not the IV, V, VIII, or XIV amendments apply, the court in considering whether or not the habeas corpus statute applied to non-citizen detainees ruled in the affirmative. Justice Stevens on behalf of the court said:

Aliens held at the base, no less than American citizens, are entitled to invoke the federal courts' authority under §2241. Application of the habeas statute to persons detained at the base is consistent with the historical reach of the writ of habeas corpus. At common law, courts exercised habeas jurisdiction over the claims of aliens detained within sovereign territory of the realm, as well as the claims of persons detained in the so-called “exempt jurisdictions,” where ordinary writs did not run, and all other dominions under the sovereign’s control. As Lord Mansfield wrote in 1759, even if a territory was “no part of the realm,” there was “no doubt” as to the court’s power to issue writs of habeas corpus if the territory was “under the subjection of the Crown.” King v. Cowle, 2 Burr. 834, 854– 855

Though it is understood that §2241 is statutory rather than constitution based, it is given in order to demonstrate the fact that the courts have, in considering current issues of detainees, ruled they are entitled to certain protections provided by US Law, this is not to say they provided all protections, but rather, to show it is not without precedent to provide legally ensured protections to detainees.

It is also noted that The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Article 2 (2) states:

No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
This is to counter the argument forth by many (not HLS) that states that we are at war and as such we must employ different tactics in order to combat the terrorists. According to the treaty this country ratified, this argument as well as the one countered in my previous post regarding the purpose of torture is null.



As to the second argument from HLS, my answer is brief. In considering International Treaties, one must look upon them utilizing a different lens than that which is traditionally used in interpreting domestic law. The reason for which I mentioned the placement of severe in the US reservation was not because I do not have a fundamental understanding of the English language in that I did not believe severe modified both pain and suffering, but rather because in reviewing International Treaties, one becomes quickly aware of the fact that provisions therein are written much different than traditional law. The drafters do not rely on a modifier to modify separate clauses, rather each clause is given its own modifier in order to provide the best understanding possible. These documents get translated into many languages, therefore, in order to ensure the meaning remains consistent, the Treaties are generally written in a manner much more verbose than is seen, even in the law of this country. Thus, the fact that, though not necessary on a study of semantics, severe was missing from in front of suffering shows that the reservation was written in a manner much different than that which is typical in treaties.

However, in reality the placement of the term severe is of little importance due to the other difference between International Law and Domestic Law. Whereas Domestic Law is read for the literal meaning, International Law is not. According to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, treaties are to be interpreted based on the scope, object, and purpose thereof; not based solely on the strict language contained therein. Also, the Vienna Convention stipulates words are to have their traditional meaning unless otherwise defined therein. Thus, in order for the term suffering to mean anything but "suffering," it would have had to be defined either within the treaty, or declared via a reservation or declaration on the part of the United States upon ratification. This did not occur. For, if suffering were to actually be "severe suffering," where would one find the line betwixt suffering and severe suffering? The definitions of Article 1 and the reservations provide a definition of "severe pain" in order to demonstrate the difference between it and mere pain. Yet, no such explanation exists for this idea of "severe suffering," if the argument is to be made that the treaty truly does speak of "severe pain," where is the definition found? Are we to believe that the ratifying nations of this treaty allowed for this term “severe suffering” and that no nation had the inclination or wherewithal to define it?

Due to the lack of a definition combined with the term "severe suffering" never being found in the document I am inclined to believe the ratifyers believed suffering no matter the extent, was an unacceptable deprivation of life and liberty.
11.20.2005 7:48pm
Janey:
British-trained police in Iraq 'killed prisoners with drills'
By Francis Elliott, Raymond Whitaker and Kim Sengupta
Published: 20 November 2005


Britain has been dragged into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings in Iraq. British-trained police operating in Basra have tortured at least two civilians to death with electric drills, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

John Reid, the Secretary of State for Defence, admits that he knows of "alleged deaths in custody" and other "serious prisoner abuse" at al-Jamiyat police station, which was reopened by Britain after the war.

Militia-dominated police, who were recruited by Britain, are believed to have tortured at least two men to death in the station. Their bodies were later found with drill holes to their arms, legs and skulls.

The victims were suspected of collaborating with coalition forces, according to intelligence reports. Despite being pressed "very hard" by Britain, however, the Iraqi authorities in Basra are failing to even investigate incidents of torture and murder by police, ministers admit.

The disclosure drags Britain firmly into the growing scandal of officially condoned killings, torture and disappearances in Iraq. More than 170 starving and tortured prisoners were discovered last week in an Interior Ministry bunker in Baghdad.

American troops who uncovered the secret torture chamber are also said to have discovered mutilated corpses, several bearing drill marks.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, who uncovered the death at al-Jamiyat police station, called for an immediate UN investigation into police torture. "The Government keeps on saying that respect for human rights is a pre-condition of withdrawal. Well, it should be a pre-condition for UK soldiers to continue risking their lives in Iraq," he said.

Mr Reid said: "I am aware of serious allegations of prisoner abuse at the Jamiyat, including two deaths in custody. We take this very seriously. We have been pressing the Iraqi authorities very hard to investigate these allegations thoroughly and then to take the appropriate action."

Ministry of Defence sources privately confirm that the two SAS soldiers seized and held in Jamiyat in September were investigating allegations of police torture prompted by the discovery of the bodies.

British forces in armoured vehicles smashed their way into the station to rescue them, but officers have admitted they are powerless to protect civilians in southern Iraq from militias, and military patrols have been withdrawn from central Basra in the wake of the September clashes.

In the US-controlled districts of Iraq, some senior military and intelligence officials have been accused of giving tacit approval to the extra-judicial actions of counter-insurgency forces.

Critics claim the situation echoes American collaboration with military regimes in Latin America and south-east Asia during the Cold War, particularly in Vietnam, where US-trained paramilitaries were used to kill opponents of the South Vietnamese government.

http://news.independent.co.uk/
11.20.2005 7:56pm
David Pittelli (mail) (www):
I'm not pro torture. Torture is, to quote Senator Clinton on another subject, a "sad, even tragic choice." But between an interrogator and her doctor, sometimes it's the best choice. Some say that "torture doesn't work," but who are we to make such a blanket judgement? The interrogator and her doctor know the details of their particular situation, and we should allow them the freedom to make the choice that's best for their situation. So when it comes to torture for terrorists, let's just say I'm pro-choice, not pro-torture.
11.20.2005 8:00pm
Medis:
David P.,

So I take it that in truth you are both anti-abortion and anti-torture.
11.20.2005 8:09pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
In truth I am pro choice on both.

Refusing to torture even illegal combatants may generally be morally superior, but not if it leads to the spread of organizations and governments which torture and murder legal combatants and noncombatants.

In any war, when your enemy breaks the rules of war, you are then free to break them similarly, provided that your actions are militarily useful and do not disproportionately hurt noncombatants. This bilateralism is as old as codes of war, is necessary to maintaining such codes, and is explicitly a part of the Hague and Geneva conventions.

Why do you think even Hitler did not use gas in WWII, even though Germany had superior (nerve) gas technology? Was it because of the laws against gas passed in the 1920s? Or was it because Hitler knew that if he used gas, then so would the Allies? Would the Allies have been "morally superior" if they had credibly promised “no first use” (i.e., never to use gas, even if Hitler had done so)? Or would this "moral superiority" have led precisely to wider evil than a policy of "you use and then I use" (or MAD, in the case of nuclear weapons)?

What keeps most countries, even dictatorships, from breaking the laws of war is the fact that doing so will buy them little or nothing militarily (since their enemies will then use the same methods, for zero net benefit to the first transgressor) -- not that international jurists will see treaty violations. A president or dictator knows that his power and freedom (and, likely, life) are over if, and only if, he loses his country in war.

It's important that a leader who aims to attack the US should know that any "extraordinary" methods will gain him nothing, because any such methods (other than the deliberate or disproportionate killing of noncombatants, which is not militarily useful) will be met in kind.To the extent it maintains this apprehension on the part of our current or potential enemies, it is actually a good thing that they think we are torturing or otherwise mistreating at least some terrorists.

I personally don't care if the CIA is torturing our jihadist enemies, as these enemies do not scruple at anything. If CIA interrogators are using torture, it's because they think doing so is militarily useful, and who are we to second-guess the experts on site? I do not condone idiots doing it haphazardly (as at Abu Ghraib prison), especially if they will take pictures or leak news of it to be used against us. I also recognize that all of the above has to be weighed against the negative public relations we are currently facing due to our actual or perceived use of torture.
11.20.2005 8:51pm
TDPerkins (mail):
A. Friend wrote:

People often forget that the U.S., by using these methods on foreign captives, endangers such of its own soldiers and citizens as may be captured by the U.S.'s enemies.


And forgets that given the nature of these enemies, we have nothing to gain in treating them according to convention they reject. On the other hand, China, for example, may well refrain from beheading prisoners and in return we may well refrain from employing #5 or #6 in interogating captured Chinese soldiers in the event we sometime at war with China.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl &pfpp
11.20.2005 9:15pm
Medis:
David P.,

You write, "If CIA interrogators are using torture, it's because they think doing so is militarily useful, and who are we to second-guess the experts on site?"

I wish that military policies in this Administration were based on careful consideration and expertise, but I don't think that is a credible claim.
11.20.2005 9:20pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Why do you guys even think enthymeme and Humble Law Student are as tough as they say? On the internet, no one knows you're another 40+ year old guy with bad rotator cuffs like me. Generally my observation is that more more gung-ho posters are for torture (oh, I mean abuse), the quicker they would fold if it happened to them. They just troll here as a break from watching torture-porno.

Those of you who think that master torturers know how to apply just enough pain to break the guilty while saving the innocent: are you really prepared to argue here that Cardinal Minszenty was guilty? How about the Iranian Jewish shoe salesman? Torture has some value as a tool of political intimidation. For intelligence gathering, abusive techniques aren't productive. But for a certain class of sicko, I guess they are fun.
11.20.2005 9:48pm
Daniel Chapman (mail):
How about we keep the ad-hominems to a minimum, Andrew? Maybe two per post max?
11.20.2005 10:06pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
I understand the moral and PR arguments against torture, and I agree that they have considerable weight. But I think they are in this case outweighed by the "tit-for-tat" or MAD factor (previous post) and the practical:

Of course torture works. Even though people will say anything to end torture. And even when time is of the essence. Apparently (according to ABC, anyway) these methods are limited to a dozen or so top al Qaeda. But say you have a relatively low-level person, a non-Iraqi jihadist captured in Iraq. He must have been staying somewhere, likely with other terrorists, including his handler. So you ask, "where is the safe house?" If you do #6, apparently he'll come up with a location within minutes. Then you raid it, generally within an hour or so in this example, because a safe house will empty out when the occupants realize one of their own is captured.

Then if it's not the house, you torture him again. He knows a fake address will only buy him an hour or so, and you remind him of this fact, perhaps with some threat of making things worse. Within a couple rounds you will get the truth out of him.

The alternative to all this? Become his friend or try to "guilt" him into betraying his safe house and comrades. Does anyone think that can be done as reliably, or anywhere near as quickly? Remember that, unlike with a domestic criminal, you are not likely to quickly convince him that he has done wrong, or to credibly offer him the carrot (plea bargain) instead of the stick.

The only scenario where torture doesn't work is if you can only ask the guy once, or if you have no way of confirming his veracity. (In this case, if he has a pre-set fake safe house whose raid will tip off the jihadis and/or lead to a large bomb going off in said safe house, which would necessarily still be under the control of the jihadis, yet not a good safe-house lead because it is not occupied by jihadis. But such situations will negate the value of any interrogation technique.)

The fact that "a man will say anything to end torture" does not matter if the interrogator can make the detainee believe that only the truth will end the torture. This will often be the case. Can anyone argue otherwise?
11.20.2005 10:40pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
Media,

I think your implied claim* that the Bush Administration is ordering CIA interrogators to torture people against the interrogators' better judgement, or ordering CIA managers to appoint more ruthless interrogators, is highly tendentious. By what means would the Administration do this? How would they expect, at a time when even the CIA is leaking like a sieve, that they could make such orders of reluctant agents, and not read about it in the Washington Post?

(*Can there be any other explanation for your post of 9:20pm?)
11.20.2005 11:01pm
enthymeme (mail) (www):
"Why do you guys even think enthymeme and Humble Law Student are as tough as they say?"

Andrew, where did I claim to be "tough"? Military service happens to be compulsory where I come from. I cited my experience merely as a counterexample to Medis's claim to speak for "common" experience. I found POW training to be unpleasant and unendurable, and tried as most of us did to hold out for as long as possible. But I broke and broke quickly. Was it torture? No. Not by a long shot.

If POW training can be safely administered, and cause a person to give in in spite of powerful incentives (and disincentives) not to, why is it unreasonable to transpose those parameters to an interrogation regime that 'stresses' select high-value prisoners without crossing the threshold to 'severe pain'?

Andrew, your sanctimonious bravura was precisely the kind of outrage-nik prop-twirling response I had predicted would rear its head after a time.
11.21.2005 12:22am
A.S.:
"An open-handed slap" = "torture"

Is there a better example of how depraved the left-wing is?

On the flip-side, my mom used to slap me when I talked back to her as a kid. Now I can bring her up on charges of torturing me!!!

And certainly when she washed my mouth out with soap, that was T-O-R-T-U-R-E! Somebody call Amnesty International!
11.21.2005 12:23am
Humble Law Student:
A.S.,

I'm right there with you. Now that I know I have likewise been tortured brutally throughout my childhood, I can properly come to terms with who I am.

We should start some sort of support group. We could call it P.U.S.S.I.E.S (People Under Sufficiently Stupid Impressions of Extraordinary Suffering)
11.21.2005 12:29am
Dick King:
I think people who use the argument torture doesn't work because the torturee will give a credible lie to oppose torture are making a mistake for two simple reasons:

1: Maybe it does and maybe it doesn't. We're not specialists. My best guess is that it works usefully often.

2: It seems likely that some technology like this will take away a torturee's ability to credibly lie.

-dk
11.21.2005 12:48am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
I'm sorry, Mr. Chapman, but I'm far behind in the personal attacks on opponents and I have to catch up. I notice you didn't have any problem with the perverts enthymeme and Humble Law Student using words like "pansies" and "pussify" and "soft-bellied". (Does anyone else see a pattern here? I'm reminded of that S&M scene in Lawrence of Arabia.)

I do, however, appreciate enthymeme's honesty that he cracked quickly in his own POW training. My hypothesis above is confirmed. The problem with torture, however, is not that our enemies may be made of sterner stuff than enthymeme, which is the possibility I guess he is so eager to disprove, but that torture yields very little true intelligence. DW Pittelli has simply repeated his assertion that torture works, in the teeth of the belief of the US Military. I don't know how to put it more simply: our interrogators are not omniscient, and can not tell when the suspect's genuine information (if any at all) has run out and the babble of desperate lies begins. What's more, not all information is so easily checkable as a safe house. We had to start a war to find out that al-Libi's information about Iraqi WMD, obtained under torture, was all crap.

The Israeli Supreme Court finally put an end to legal torture in Israel, which also masqueraded as "moderate physical pressure". Israel, like the USA, is a signatory to the ICAT, and they decided to put teeth into it. The security services were able to come up with only one "ticking bomb" that had been stopped with torture, which must have been small potatoes compared with the hatred the practice generated. And, I might add, the case of the non-Jewish army officer who was tortured into a bogus confession should serve as another poster child for the problem of false positives—which could even lure us into a false sense of security.
11.21.2005 12:56am
Commenterlein (mail):
A UK friend of mine, member of the British military, just sent me a link to this comment thread. I had made the mistake to point him towards the conspiracy as an example of American right wingers who are neither fanatics nor idiots.

After reading most of the comments on this thread I have to say that I am deeply ashamed. The perverted circle jerk of A.S., Humble Law Student, Dick King and several others is so deprived of basic decency, any knowledge of what they are talking about, and any trace of analytical insight that it makes me despair for our country.

I have apologized to my friend.
11.21.2005 1:48am
Antonio Manetti (mail):
Orwell had no illusions about where this all leads:


'...The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power..... We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise...We are not like that. Power is not a means, it is an end....The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power...'
11.21.2005 3:12am
Medis:
David P.,

It is easy for the Administration to ignore counsel to the contrary on its torture policy without actually ordering interrogators to do something that they refuse to do. For example, there are reports of some experienced interrogators refusing to use these new techniques. All the Administration has to do is remove such interrogators from these cases (perhaps with some sort of explicit or implicit sanction), and then they are left with just the interrogators who did not protest. Repeating this process often enough will ensure that they only get the counsel that they wanted to hear in the first place.

Moreover, those who remain in power are given the clear message that questioning the torture policy will get them removed (and perhaps sanctioned). In the meantime, the Administration can encourage unquestioning loyalty to its policies by doing things like protecting loyalists from other sanctions that they would ordinarily deserve. And all of this, of course, is not pure speculation: on so many other military and intelligence matters, the Administration has used such techniques to remove dissenters from power, and to quiet dissent among those who remain.

As for how they could believe that they could get away with all this in an era of increased press scrutiny: well, that era has only recently begun. But more broadly, I think the Administration believes that when such stories leak out, they can control the damage done with the public.

For example, their experience, at least until recently, is that when such a story comes out, particularly if it is presented as a fait accompli, their supporters will be willing to spin, rationalize, attack the messengers, attack their public critics, and so on. So, all they have to do is provide the right talking points, and a few key public statements, and eventually the story will go away.

Recently, however, it does seem like things aren't going away so easily, and yet I have not detected much change in the PR tactics of the Administration. Indeed, I actually know several supporters of the Bush Administration who are frustrated with what they see as the Administration's apparent inability or unwillingness to adapt to the new public environment.

But, of course, I don't know exactly how the key figures in the Administration feel about their recent troubles. I just know that the mere fact that stories like this will eventually leak has not fazed them in the past, and there is no real reason to assume it will faze them in the future.
11.21.2005 7:13am
Medis:
David P.,

Incidentally, your tit-for-tat (or what I would call lex talionis) theory has a dubious history. One general problem is that it frequently creates a negative, rather than positive, reinforcement cycle, meaning that each side increases its bad behavior over time in response to the other side's behavior. One reason that effect is so common is disagreements over proportionality: what one side sees as proportionate and thus as a justified response, the other side sees as disproportionate and thus as an unjustified escalation. When the second side then increases their own bad behavior in response to this perceived escalation, the first side sees this as an unjustified escalation, and the negative cycle continues.

Of course, this is all just with respect to the internal dynamics. As the bad behavior escalates, the external costs (such as allies abandoning the cause) are increasing. But the participants in lex talionis often perceive themselves as trapped: if at any point they refuse to escalate, they will have lost the game according to the one and only rule of the game. So, the end result is often, at best, a pyrrhic victory.
11.21.2005 7:50am
A Guest (mail):
Mr. Kerr,

You are an effective advocate for the enemy.

Congratulations.
11.21.2005 10:41am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
If torture never works, then the millenia of trying it have been only a government-funded playground for sadists.
You'd think somebody, someplace, would have found a better use for the money.
During WW II, resistance cells were generally limited to five people, only one of whom knew anybody else in the resistance. Notwithstanding, Gestapo torturers managed to roll up several networks by torturing the names of contacts out of captives.
There was a story that the Allies trained some resistance leaders in Britain, dropped them into France, set them up to be captured immediately. They had been given false information Overlord. The resolution with which these brave men held out provided additional credibility. It seems reasonable to think the Allies were depending on the skill of Gestapo torturers.
IMO, the insistence that torture doesn't work is a matter of precluding a difficult moral question.
If it doesn't work, why bother?

There was a talk show on last week in which one guy listed a number of techniques, none getting any worse than, say, #3 above. The oppo said none were acceptable and started on how we're too great a country...... Ducked the question.

The opponents of torture would have a better argument if they didn't call in the attention grab, and being yelled at, and so forth, to punch up the numbers. Normal people know better, something activists should remember.
Normal people know the US troops have been routinely abused and tortured and murdered while in captivity for sixty years. The Germans were, relatively, okay with POWs of the western Allies. The rest of our enemies were so bad that the argument that torture puts US troops in more jeopardy is so stupid it discredits the overall position.

I didn't think of this, but unfortunately, I can't recall who did.
He said the choice to torture or not is the choice of who suffers.
You pick it.
11.21.2005 11:27am
Cranky Observer (mail):
> Seriously, the first four techniques
> are hardly "torture".

The utter bankruptcy of those defending these techniques is exposed by the fact that they are NOT being used on I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Cranky
11.21.2005 12:15pm
Dick King:
Let's review the bidding.

I pointed out that the argument, generally presented without evidence, that torture doesn't work is weak now and likely to become technologically obsolete in the near future. There are other less tenuous reasons for opposing torture, but this argument is lame and is getting lamer. It has the quibblous feel of a PETA tract that claims that animal testing of drugs is worthless. PETA, in making that claim, weakens their case by losing credibility, although they may convince those who aren't actually knowledgeable in the area.

That makes me part of a "circle jerk".

Excellent, fact-based rebuttal. I at least presented an abastract from a peer-reviewed journal as evidence that the argument "you can't tell whether a tourturee is lying" is likely to become weaker with time.

Thank you, Mr. Commenterlein, for showing the error in my ways. I'll repent immediately.

For the record, my post did not favor torture, nor did it favor the six measures listed in the lead.

-dk
11.21.2005 12:35pm
DWPittelli (mail) (www):
Medis,

I concede that there can be external costs to our use of torture or even "torture" (e.g., allies who are squeamish might be less supportive of us if we are seen as "going too far" on some absolute basis). But do you honestly believe that we have escallated our treatment of prisoners beyond the level practiced by our jihadist enemies, or are close to doing so?

More important, can you really refuse to concede that there can also be external costs to the use of "turn the other cheek" rather than "tit for tat" (e.g., potential enemies who are emboldened)? Does your position hold constant for other, currently improper, tactics, such as use of nukes, gas, expanding bullets? Why or why not? How else would we have kept Hitler from using nerve gas, or Russians from using nukes (or at least credibly threatening to use them, to intimidate us)?
11.21.2005 12:38pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
Apparently the pro-torture commenters here are more knowledgeable than actual CIA veteran interrogators.
A similar stance was articulated last year by Merle L. Pribbenow, a 27-year veteran of the agency's clandestine Directorate of Operations. Writing in Studies in Intelligence, the CIA's in-house journal, Pribbenow recalled that an old college friend had recently expressed his belief that "the terrorist threat to America was so grave that any methods, including torture, should be used to obtain the information we need." The friend was vexed that Pribbenow's former colleagues "had not been able to 'crack' these prisoners."

Pribbenow sought an answer by revisiting the arcane case of Nguyen Van Tai, the highest-ranking Vietcong prisoner captured and interrogated by both South Vietnamese and American forces during the Vietnam War. Re-examining in detail the techniques used by the South Vietnamese (protracted torture that included electric shocks; beatings; various forms of water torture; stress positions; food, water, and sleep deprivation) and by the Americans (rapport-building and no violence), Pribbenow reached a stark conclusion: "While the South Vietnamese use of torture did result (eventually) in Tai's admission of his true identity, it did not provide any other usable information," he wrote. In the end, he said, "it was the skillful questions and psychological ploys of the Americans, and not any physical infliction of pain, that produced the only useful (albeit limited) information that Tai ever provided."

But perhaps most noteworthy was Pribbenow's conclusion: "This brings me back to my college classmate's question. The answer I gave him -- one in which I firmly believe -- is that we, as Americans, must not let our methods betray our goals," he said. "There is nothing wrong with a little psychological intimidation, verbal threats, bright lights and tight handcuffs, and not giving a prisoner a soft drink and a Big Mac every time he asks for them. There are limits, however, beyond which we cannot and should not go if we are to continue to call ourselves Americans. America is as much an ideal as a place, and physical torture of the kind used by the Vietnamese (North as well as South) has no place in it."
Read the whole thing. Here's one more excerpt:
From 1972 to 1975, Frank Snepp was the CIA's top interrogator in Saigon, where he choreographed elaborate, protracted sessions with Nguyen Van Tai and, at one point, seven other senior Vietcong captives. To the question of whether torture or abusive behavior by interrogators is justified, Snepp's answer is unequivocally no. And the fact that this point isn't understood at the agency today, Snepp says, is a sign of serious problems.

"One of the big lessons for the agency was that the South Vietnamese torturing people got in the way of getting information," he says. "One day, without my knowledge, the South Vietnamese forces beat one of my subjects to a pulp, and when he staggered into the interrogation room, I was furious. And I went to the station chief and he said, 'What do you want me to do about it?' I told him to tell the Vietnamese to lay off, and he said, 'What do you want me to tell them in terms of why?' I said, 'Because it's wrong, it's just wrong.' He laughed and said, 'Look, we've got 180,000 North Vietnamese troops within a half hour of here -- I can't tell them, don't beat the enemy. Give me a pragmatic reason.' I said, 'He can't talk. He's a wreck. I can't interrogate him.' He said, 'That, I can use with them.'

"The important lesson for me was that moral arguments don't work," Snepp says. "But if you have pragmatic reasons, that will work. But the most important thing is that the only time you can be sure that what you're getting from someone is valid is through discourse. In Tai's case, the idea was to develop absolute trust, which you do not do by alienating and humiliating someone. He liked poetry; I brought him books of poetry, and in many sessions we sat and discussed poetry, nothing else. The most extreme thing I did was a disorientation technique, where I would keep jumping from one subject to another so rapidly that he might not remember what he'd told me the day before, or not remember that he had not, in fact, told me what I was saying he'd told me. Little by little, I drew him into revelations. And I was highly commended for this work."
But hey, what do these guys know?
11.21.2005 12:40pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
How else would we have kept Hitler from using nerve gas

We didn't even have nerve gas. IIRC, Allied inspectors after the war were frightened by what the Germans had but didn't use, apparently on Hitler's mistaken apprehension about what we had.

Obviously, turning the other cheek is not a viable military or political policy across the board. That is one reason there's no such thing as a Christian government, contrary to what the Dobsonites seem to think.

Torture is to be shunned because it's gratuitously evil, as opposed to the workaday evil of warfare. As my long cut &paste above suggests, there's nothing you can get by torture that you can't get by other methods. Trying to extort info in a hurry by torture just sets you up. ("Dantooine--they're on Dantooine.")

I would also argue that carpet bombing cities is gratuitously evil, but that is for another thread &day.
11.21.2005 12:46pm
plunge (mail):
Isn't any technique that is as effective as torture in elliciting confessions prima facie torture? i.e. if it hurts that bad that it makes folks confess, isn't that, pretty undeniably, torture? I mean, isn't that a no-brainer (even if it doesn't leave marks?) I mean, as far as I can tell, the techniques used were basically chosen on the basis that they hurt like hell, but leave no marks for human rights organizations to search for afterwards. Classy!

And we're getting some mixed signals here. Rumsfeld bristles at the idea that they use "torture" (creatively defined as to leave out whatever they do do) because he says he acknowledges that it's ineffective. And yet, we're clearly using these other techniques which we claim aren't torture... but we must think they are effective. So, has the United States discovered an amazing new non-torture technique for effectively forcing out confessions? That's amazing: I hope they publish some psychology journal articles about their discoveries!
11.21.2005 1:34pm
e:
This makes me cringe just to think it... but doesn't anyone else feel that our administration position on this would chance rapidly if the other side were able to capture more of our troops?
11.21.2005 2:02pm
Medis:
David P.,

The problem is that "the other side" in this case is hardly monolithic. So, while it is true that we have not matched the atrocities of the worst people who have opposed us (and on your theory ... why not?), that does not mean our actions cannot create negative reinforcement cycle with many other, currently less extreme, people (and this includes those who oppose our military presence in the Middle East, but who have not yet taken up arms against us).

On your other question: of course, one can threaten and later apply sanctions without following lex talionis. So, for example, we try to deter car theft by threatening car thieves with prison terms, not with threatening to take their cars. For that matter, in criminal law we would also threaten to imprison a torturer, not to torture him. In that sense, in-kind punishment as a deterrent for bad behavior is now very much an exception to the rule. Indeed, I would say that is true even in the case of capital punishment: I would suggest that is actually a matter of the worst punishment being given to the worse crimes, not an application of lex talionis.

And I would suggest the same thing about something like MAD during the Cold War. We threatened to use nukes on the Soviets if they nuked us not because we were applying lex talionis. Rather, we were threatening our worst possible sanction for the worst possible thing they could do to us, and it just happened that the available mechanism in both cases was nukes.
11.21.2005 2:15pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Even the Nazis, who hardly shrank from brutality for its own sake, found torture less effective than skill in extracting information that they really needed for the war effort (as opposed to intimidation). Too bad so many commenters here weren't around to advise them.

Some people don't break under torture, but the problem that the pro-torture posters here have failed over and over again to address is the problem with false confessions from dissimulating bad guys and also from the innocent.

It just is not the case that our torturers have gifts denied to others to separate the wheat from the chaff here. Indeed, we've already swallowed a lot of chaff, like al-Libi's fake WMDs.

Note to Mr Aubrey: I would add that in certain repulsive contexts, false information, false confessions, and the spread of fear, all of which can indeed be obtained with torture, have been the objects of governments that employed it. For example, the Nazis would hardly care if they had they names of ten innocents mixed in with the other members of a clandestine cell, as they were willing to kill the innocent and implicated alike. I am not claiming that torture has no use, but that the systematic torture we are employing is of little value for its purported use in obtaining information germane to our defense against terrorist groups.
11.21.2005 2:20pm
James Kabala (mail):
Although I disagree with both forms of torture apologists, I have more respect for those who agree that techniques 5 and 6 are torture and argue that torture can be justified than for those who insist that these techniques are not torture, but rather just like fraternity pranks or maybe even junior high bullying. At least members of the former group are willing to grapple with the moral implications of these acts instead of pretending that no moral implications exist.
11.21.2005 2:22pm
AnnJ:
CIA Veterans Condemn Torture

The moral dimensions of torture, Gerber adds, are inextricably linked with the practical; aside from the fact that torture almost always fails to yield true or useful information, it has the potential to adversely affect CIA operations. "Foreign nationals agree to spy for us for many different reasons; some do it out of an overwhelming admiration for America and what it stands for, and to those people, I think, America being associated with torture does affect their willingness to work with us," he says. "But one of my arguments with the agency about ethics, particularly in this case, is that it's not about case studies, but philosophy. Aristotle says the ends and means must be in concert; if the ends and means are not in concert, good ends will be corrupted by bad means."


http://nationaljournal.com/
11.21.2005 2:53pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Note to Mr. Lazarus.
I submit that the Gestapo's effort against the resistance in various countries has sufficient similarity to the terrorist issue in Iraq or in the WOT generally that the lesson can be drawn.
The problem of the innocents is one of the costs that this country sees differently from, among others, the Nazis.
To embellish your point, the Nazis could get four of five in a cell and find nothing more than who number five was. So, while the first four were not exactly of no interest to them, all they got was the identity of the next connection. It's possible that the linking individual, having heard his colleagues were taken, went to ground. Perhaps they never found him.
In the meantime, the Nazis tortured his family and a couple of neighbors.
But, once in a while they got the guy they wanted, and moved up from there.

Mr. Kabala. I don't think anybody is comparing the last two techniques to fraternity hazing.
The point made about bullying or hazing is that normal people won't buy a story when the activists haul out the hazing-level stuff as proof of maximum awfulness. My point is that it's a tactical error when dealing with anybody possessing a brain.

To compare us to the opposition isn't necessarily solely to say, we're not as bad.

It also brings out the special pleaders. Those whose interests in torture and human rights only show up when there's a possibility of inconviencing the US.
In other words, "Where were you when they were doing it?"
Of course, the reply is that we can only affect our own country, a consideration that didn't apply to South Africa's apartheid when it was considered de rigeur to insist on another country making changes.
11.21.2005 3:01pm
hanmeng (mail) (www):
The original report on ABC news started off by playing rap music, which is also mentioned in the article: 'The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.'

Oh, the humanity!
11.21.2005 3:49pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Mr. Aubrey, the point I was trying to make is that the Nazis rated the cost of collateral damage from random or misplaced torture as pretty much zero. Indeed, they may have seen positive effects from general intimidation of the populace. We aren't in a position to do that, leaving the morality aside, because our strategy is predicated on a modicum of success in the hearts and minds war without leaving the infrastructure of the Gestapo in place.

As I posted upthread, the Israeli security services obtained little (although not zero) intelligence through torture. (For many years, however, they did manage to control the Palestinians through fear of torture.) All manner of intelligence and military professionals disdain the technique, whose attraction seems greatest to pseudonymous sadist wannabes.
11.21.2005 4:02pm
Houston Lawyer:
If I were a prisoner and knew that the worst that could be done to me were 1 through 5, I would sleep easy. No. 6 is a different issue.

Regular criminals suffer worse than 1 through 5 in our own prison system every day. We all know what goes on, but do little, if anything, to protect nonviolent prisoners in our own system. Where's the moral outrage for that?
11.21.2005 4:53pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I recall during the Waco/Branch Davidian standoff that the FBI played tapes of Rabbits being electrocuted at painfully loud sound levels. I always thought this said more about the people who would tape record Rabbit executions than it did about the dangerous people in the oompound..Of course the worst part came near the end when they played David Bowie and Juice Newton tapes.
11.21.2005 5:01pm
MQ (mail):
People don't seem to appreciate how serious forced maintenance of a position ("long time standing"), sleeplessness and the "cold cell" treatment can be. We've all been cold before, we've all stood still for a while, and we've all missed sleep before, so we don't think of those as serious things. But being deprived of sleep and forced to maintain a stressful position for days on end, or being kept cold for days, are potentially quite serious forms of torture that can have a permanently damaging effect on health. These were standard techniques in Stalinist Russia for example. (Solzhenitsyn specifically singles these out as very effective torture techniques used by the KGB). Stuff you would see at a fraternity initiation (as described in a comment above) is much, much less serious just in terms of intensity than really long-term sleep deprivation or stress positions.

And the traditional "water torture" did not force water into the lungs, it was in many ways rather similar to the waterboarding technique described here.

Finally, the U.S. Army itself estimated that half or more of the people at Abu Ghraib were innocent.
11.21.2005 8:56pm
Will (mail):
I read someone else refer back to the appropriate remarks of Justice Robeert Jackson in his opening remarks at Nurenberg: "real complaining party at your bar is civilization; to pass these defendants a poison chalice is to put it to our lips as well."

Shame on you who seek to justify torture.
11.21.2005 10:35pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Will. In order to avoid shame, do we insist that torture never works, or do we admit that it might work but we would never do it?

Also, are we required to define torture to include anything that upsets people, either the victim or people thinking about it?
11.22.2005 8:10am
AnnJ:
Why Torture Doesn't Work
By Brig. Gen. David R. Irvine

When the Wall Street Journal came out in favor of abusive interrogation, it turned a blind eye on reason in favor of supporting the White House line. Remarkably, of the nation's major newspapers, only the Wall Street Journal has editorialized in support of torture as a useful tool of American intelligence policy. Regrettably, that position does a huge disservice to the nation and its soldiers. There are really only three issues in this debate, and the Journal carefully turned a blind eye to all three: (1) is torture reliable, (2) is it consistent with America's values and Constitution, and (3) does it best serve our national interests?

No one has yet offered any validated evidence that torture produces reliable intelligence. While torture apologists frequently make the claim that torture saves lives, that assertion is directly contradicted by many Army, FBI, and CIA professionals who have actually interrogated al Qaeda captives. Exhibit A is the torture-extracted confession of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an al Qaeda captive who told the CIA in 2001, having been "rendered" to the tender mercies of Egypt, that Saddam Hussein had trained al Qaeda to use WMD. It appears that this confession was the only information upon which, in late 2002, the president, the vice president, and the secretary of state repeatedly claimed that "credible evidence" supported that claim, even though a now-declassified Defense Intelligence Agency report from February 2002 questioned the reliability of the confession because it was likely obtained under torture. In January 2004, al-Libi recanted his "confession," and a month later, the CIA recalled all intelligence reports based on his statements.

Exhibit B is the case of Manadel al-Jamadi, an Iraqi deemed a "high-value" target by the CIA. After being beaten to an extent that he had several broken ribs, he was subjected to a form of crucifixion known as "Palestinian hanging." Forty-five minutes later, he was dead, never having revealed whatever vital, ticking-bomb information his American interrogator was seeking.

If there is reliable evidence that torture has, in fact, interrupted ticking time bombs and saved lives, the gravity of the crisis created by the administration's free-wheeling torture policy demands straight answers which can be weighed and evaluated by a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission whose membership might include interrogators, jurists, theologians, national security specialists, military leaders, and political leaders. The damage to our national interests and the dismal record of war candor by this administration has made "trust us" an insufficient justification for such a profound change in American law and moral values.

The Journal claims that Abu Ghraib was an anomaly -- that it has become a "torture narrative" that erroneously blames the CIA for the abuses depicted in the infamous photographs. The Schlesinger report was cited for the conclusion that the perpetrators were merely a group of sadistic, poorly trained Reservists. This argument, however begs the question; the rationale for the McCain amendment rests not upon Abu Ghraib, but upon the cascading stream of documented reports from other places in Afghanistan and Iraq in which brutal torture has been either authorized or winked at by several different military and civilian chains of command.

The Journal further distorts the facts by arguing that techniques such as waterboarding (which induces the sensation of drowning), leaving prisoners outdoors in freezing weather, and stress positions which can cause suffocation and collapse, are not really "torture," but are just "psychological techniques designed to break a detainee." There is, certainly, a psychological component to torture, but the real issue is whether what's done causes severe physical or mental pain or suffering. Of the crucifixion form of "psychological" pressure which the CIA worked upon Jamadi, one of the soldiers who cut him down said he had never seen anyone's arms positioned like that; "[I] was surprised they didn't just pop out of their sockets."

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has endorsed the McCain amendments, and declared, "In the face of this perilous climate, our nation must not embrace a morality based on an attitude that 'desperate times call for desperate measures.' There can be no compromise on the moral imperative to protect the basic human rights of any individual incarcerated for any reason." Our embrace of torture is completely inconsistent with our commitment to equal justice and the rule of law.

The Journal assumes that only the worst of the worst will be subjected to torture when it comes to ticking time bombs. Not only is that assumption unfounded, based upon the widespread abuses in Iraq, it was tried and abandoned by the Israelis. Because it is impossible to confirm with advance certainty what any suspect actually knows, ticking bomb torture can be justified in virtually every interrogation. When Israel experimented with "torture lite," supposedly reserved for ticking-bomb circumstances, it was not long before 85 percent of all Palestinian detainees were being given the harshest treatment allowed. The capability to finely calibrate torture has eluded every democratic government which has tried it.

The inescapable fact is that America's standing in the world, and especially in the Middle East, has never been lower. The price we have paid for our misdirected torture policies has been incalculable. The Arab street may not always grasp the finer points of separation of powers or proportional representation; but everyone, everywhere, comprehends hypocrisy, and judges us for ours. If the torture advocates truly believe that the value of violently coerced information has been worth the plummeting drop in America's world stature, or that such information is worth the clear and present endangerment of captured Americans, it's time to justify the claimed value of torture to the nation in whose name it's being done. Not assumptions, not generalizations, not, "I can't explain because it's classified."

The president and vice president wish to chart a course of heretofore unacceptable savagery toward anyone even suspected of terrorism. If we are to become a nation where a president may torture anyone he wishes, it deserves a broad, sober, fact-based national debate.

Brigadier General David R. Irvine is a retired Army Reserve strategic intelligence officer who taught prisoner interrogation and military law for 18 years with the Sixth Army Intelligence School. He currently practices law in Salt Lake City, Utah.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/28585/
11.22.2005 1:25pm
AnnJ:
In reply to the three points above:

(1) Torture is indeed effective, depending on what you wish to achieve.

Disinformation: Torture produces unreliable intelligence, but is reliable in producing false confesions of whatever the torturer wants confessed. Recall the famous quote by a White House Official about the "reality based community": "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality". If your interest is not in truth but in justification, and the truth of the information you need is irrelevant, then torture is an effective tool in creating your own reality. Torture is infamously used by dictators to reshape history by generating evidence of conspiracies and treason. Torture works the same way in regular law enforcement, where the beating of suspects is one means of closing cases.

Terrorism: Torture also has a use as a means of terrorizing a population into submission to harsh rule. Whatever oppression exists in a tyranny, it is better than what goes on in ministerial basements and the forest outside town. That fear can become associated with entire ideologies, leading to a kind of political superstition.

(2) Torture is entirely inconsistent with ostensible American values, though Americans are no strangers to it. From hazing to police beatings to lynchings to training torturers for foreign regimes, Americans are aware of needless cruelty on the part of authorities. So, it may not be consistent with stated American values, but it is a persistent feature of American life. This raises the question of how far outside American values torture really is, at least for some Americans.

(3) Torture never serves national interests, but it can serve the interests of the torturers. If the Bush administration can torture to elicit confessions of terrorist plots that justify that torture, other torture, and its general policy of violence, disinformation, secrecy, and surveillance, then it serves their interests, and the national interest be damned.

http://www.alternet.org/rights/28585/
11.22.2005 1:30pm