Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If torture works... Please make it stop

In a comment to my post: "If torture works..." And another thing, Ted pointed out that the evidence I used in my assertion that torture doesn't work were weak.  After consideration of this, I accept that I could have done better.  I should have dug around to find these refernces that I remembered from a while ago:

Here goes.  The following is a more thorough outline of the source of my assertion (My emphasisas is my wont, in bold):
It's wrong and it doesn't work, according to interrogation expert STUART HERRINGTON

Recently revealed White House memos have raised the ugly question yet again: Is torturing prisoners captured in the Global War on Terrorism an effective and permissible use of our nation's might?

I served 30 years in the U.S. Army as an intelligence officer, which included extensive experience as an interrogator in Vietnam, in Panama and during the 1991 Gulf War. In the course of these sensitive missions, my teams and I collected mountains of excellent, verified information, despite the fact that we never laid a hostile hand on a prisoner. Had one of my interrogators done so, he would have been disciplined and most likely relieved of his duties.


In interrogation centers I ran, we called prisoners "guests" and extended military courtesies, such as saluting captured officers. We strove to undermine a prisoner's belief system, which we knew instructed him that Americans are unschooled infidels who would bully him and resort to intimidation, threats and brutality. Patience was essential. We rejected the view that interrogators could merely "take off the gloves" and that information would somehow magically flow if we brutalized our "guests." This notion was uninformed and counterproductive, not to mention illegal, and we made sure our chain of command understood that bowing to such tempting theories would result in bad information.


But the so-called ticking time bomb scenario is a Hollywood construct that I never encountered in my 30-year career. Even so, it has become the rallying cry of many well-intentioned but ethically challenged military and civilian personnel. And it has been hawked by a large constituency of senior government officials, from the White House to the Department of Justice to Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon, and is most recently evidenced in the surfacing of a January 2005 memo, written almost a year after Abu Ghraib, that characterizes face slapping and waterboarding as acceptable conduct.

Stuart Herrington is a retired Army colonel, an expert in interrogation and counterinsurgency operations and the author most recently of "Traitors Among Us: Inside the Spy Catcher's World" 

Next up:

Military, Intelligence and Law Enforcement Officers Opposing Torture (Amnesty International)

Army Field Manual 34-52 Chapter 1

"The use of force, mental torture, threats, insults, or exposure to unpleasant and inhumane treatment of any kind is prohibited by law and is neither authorized nor condoned by the US Government. Experience indicates that the use of force is not necessary to gain the cooperation of sources for interrogation. Therefore, the use of force is a poor technique, as it yields unreliable results, may damage subsequent collection efforts, and can induce the source to say whatever he thinks the interrogator wants to hear."

Rear Admiral (ret.) John Hutson, former Judge Advocate General for the Navy

"The United States has been a strong, unwavering advocate for human rights and the rule of law for as long as you and I have been alive. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on that just because we are in a battle with some terrible people. In fact, in a war like this, when we are tempted to respond in kind, we must hold ever more dearly to the values that make us Americans. Torture, or "cruel, inhuman or degrading" conduct, are not part of our national character. Another objection is that torture doesn't work. All the literature and experts say that if we really want usable information, we should go exactly the opposite way and try to gain the trust and confidence of the prisoners. Torture will get you information, but it's not reliable. Eventually, if you don't accidentally kill them first, torture victims will tell you something just to make you stop. It may or may not be true. If you torture 100 people, you'll get 100 different stories. If you gain the confidence of 100 people, you may get one valuable story." (Legal Affairs "Debate Club" January 27, 2005)

And finally

Why Torture Doesn't Work

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.
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.

My thanks to Ted for keeping me on my toes.  I re-assert that torture doesn't work.

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The Mound of Sound said...

Good post. There have been several studies showing torture is utterly ineffective for intelligence gathering. However torture is remarkably effective at eliciting confessions, providing one is not too concerned about the truth of the confession.

The Khmer Rouge were particularly fond of the waterboard torture. However they didn't use it as an interrogation technique, simply to extract confessions.

Constant Vigilance said...


The KR example shows that torture must be prohibited outright.

sassy said...

Excellent post CV - torture (just typing that word upsets me, it really does) is of NO value to anyone EVER!!!