Hey, Guess What? Torture Doesn’t Work!

Surprise, surprise [emphasis mine]:

As the Bush administration completes secret new rules governing interrogations, a group of experts advising the intelligence agencies are arguing that the harsh techniques used since the 2001 terrorist attacks are outmoded, amateurish and unreliable.

The psychologists and other specialists, commissioned by the Intelligence Science Board, make the case that more than five years after the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration has yet to create an elite corps of interrogators trained to glean secrets from terrorism suspects.

While billions are spent each year to upgrade satellites and other high-tech spy machinery, the experts say, interrogation methods — possibly the most important source of information on groups like Al Qaeda — are a hodgepodge that date from the 1950s, or are modeled on old Soviet practices.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.

Some of the study participants argue that interrogation should be restructured using lessons from many fields, including the tricks of veteran homicide detectives, the persuasive techniques of sophisticated marketing and models from American history.
[…]
In a blistering lecture delivered last month, a former adviser to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called “immoral” some interrogation tactics used by the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon.

But in meetings with intelligence officials and in a 325-page initial report completed in December, the researchers have pressed a more practical critique: there is little evidence, they say, that harsh methods produce the best intelligence.

“There’s an assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply,” said Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida who, like several of the study’s contributors, is a consultant for the Defense Department.

The Bush administration is nearing completion of a long-delayed executive order that will set new rules for interrogations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The order is expected to ban the harshest techniques used in the past, including the simulated drowning tactic known as waterboarding, but to authorize some methods that go beyond those allowed in the military by the Army Field Manual.

President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial, and he is far from alone. The notion that turning up pressure and pain on a prisoner will produce valuable intelligence is a staple of popular culture from the television series “24” to the recent Republican presidential debate, where some candidates tried to outdo one another in vowing to get tough on captured terrorists. A 2005 Harvard study supported the selective use of “highly coercive” techniques.

But some of the experts involved in the interrogation review, called “Educing Information,” say that during World War II, German and Japanese prisoners were effectively questioned without coercion.

“It far outclassed what we’ve done,” said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., “had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly,” and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.

Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts “amateurish” by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners’ culture.

Well, everything else the Bush administration did to “fight terrorism” after 9/11 was done half-assed or wrong or both, so why should interrogating prisoners be any different?

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25 Comments

Filed under 05_kathy

25 responses to “Hey, Guess What? Torture Doesn’t Work!

  1. Bitty

    Before I finished reading (and came to the part about 24), I was thinking that people believe this stuff because it works on TV.

    And if it works on TV, it must be true.

  2. Melissa McEwan

    Before I finished reading (and came to the part about 24), I was thinking that people believe this stuff because it works on TV.

    Last night, Mr. Shakes and I saw an advert for “24” in which that very premise was highlighted. (Is that the only thing that ever happens on that freaking show?!) I said to Mr. Shakes: “I wonder how Kiefer Sutherland feels about having contributed to American’s rejection of the Geneva Conventions.”

    Mr. Shakes said, “He’s proobably made soo much fooking mooney ooff that shoo, he dooesn’t fooking care.”

    Sad but true.

  3. They don’t care about what works – they’re nothing but bullies and thugs.

  4. [Your “next post” button doesn’t work(using firefox) Just thought you’d like the feedback.]

  5. oddjob

    President Bush has insisted that those secret “enhanced” techniques are crucial

    Guess what, folks? You know all that “enhanced” blather they go on about?

    Want to place a wager on who first coined that particular euphemism for what Shrub authorized?

    The fucking Gestapo!

    In 1948 Nazis who authorized or engaged in such “enhanced interrogation” were convicted of comitting war crimes.

    The penalty for their actions was death……….

  6. oddjob

    “I wonder how Kiefer Sutherland feels about having contributed to American’s rejection of the Geneva Conventions.”

    Given his father’s firm political liberalism, I can’t help wondering how Donald Sutherland feels about it all.

  7. another touchstone for guessing someone’s politics has been formed. . .

    red tie? blue tie?

    24? Heroes?

  8. Melissa McEwan

    [Your “next post” button doesn’t work(using firefox) Just thought you’d like the feedback.]

    Thanks for letting me know.

    Given his father’s firm political liberalism, I can’t help wondering how Donald Sutherland feels about it all.

    That was my very next thought, actually.

  9. Arkades

    I would think that modern psychology and sociology would provide many effective alternatives for eliciting information. But that would require knowledge, technique, and finesse, which are apparently in short supply.

    Conversely, we already know that even though torture almost always causes its victims to give up something resembling information, it’s very rarely accurate or useful. In most cases, the victim winds up telling the torturers whatever he or she thinks the torturers want to hear (so they’ll stop, duh) in which case, the only benefit obtained from the whole ordeal is a completely illusory and baseless reinforcement of whatever the torturers believed they were going to get in the first place. Oh, and someone got to feel all powerful and brutal and stuff. But who cares if it’s effective, so long as it’s dramatic?

    Sigh. Didn’t we learn anything from the Inquisition or the Salem Witch Trials? People will literally say anything to escape torment, regardless of how ridiculous or self-damning. Torture really is pointless except as a means of brutalizing and breaking the spirit of its victims (and in some cases, it breaks the spirit of its perpetrators in the bargain, to boot). It achieves no worthwhile end.

  10. Donald Sutherland is a badass.

  11. Canuck liz

    If torture really was effective, then there are thousands of women that had sex with satan, turned their neighbours into frogs and were able to cause massive crop blights. I guess those ancient spells died with the “witches”.

  12. Nik E Poo

    Just a few small points:

    1) Any evidence which is retrieved via torture, is inadmissible in a court of law. Considering we are a “Nation of Laws” … it makes this method both ineffective and pointless.

    2) A commitment to transparency and the protection of civil liberties results in an atmosphere that encourages cooperation. Nobody wants to defect to the US, if they figure they’ll be tortured to death. During WWII, everyone wanted to surrender to the Americans … because they knew they would be well treated.

    3) The support of the global scientific community matters. Again, during WWII, scientists desperately wanted the US to develop the atom bomb before Germany. No such atmosphere exists today. Its likely that torturing and murdering doctors in Iraq had something to do with it. So, who gets new weapon’s technology now?

  13. Arkades, yes, we did learn from the Salem Witch Trials — at least in Salem.

  14. oddjob

    Thanks for the info. Kevin! I just might attend that.

  15. It’s sad this needs stating. I swear, we’ve got immature junior high school kids running our foreign policy and justice systems.

  16. jahf

    Hey, Guess What? Torture Doesn’t Work!

    Not true when one understands that the purpose of torture is not to extract information from the tortured.

    … someone got to feel all powerful and brutal and stuff.

    ::Jumps up and down, pointing at Arkades and tapping nose::

  17. Kate217

    I thought that it was established hundreds of years ago that torture does not produce reliable intel, but I wouldn’t care if it did produce 100%-accurate intel 100% of the time. It’s inhuman, unconscionable, and debases the torturer.

  18. oddjob

    As well as the torturer’s society.

  19. Paen

    Actualy Sutherland’s grand father(Tommy Douglas) was a socialist and the founder of Canada’s health care system who would not have been impressed with the pro torture message of 24.

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