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  • Wednesday, August 16, 2006

     

    Torturing the logic until it says what you want

    Pretty persuasion

    Is this guy ever right?
    Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week's arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had "broken" under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. "I don't deduce, I know - torture," she said. "There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all."

    ...

    The defence [of using information gleaned from torture interrogations in foreign countries], to the extent that anything other than evasion has been offered, is no better than the one provided by Colonel Mathieu in Algiers: it works. But does it?

    Why yes, as a matter of fact. Yes it does
    . (Bulk of post copied below the jump for convenience.)

    Liberals really ought to stop insisting over and over that torture doesn't work and bother to read an expert's opinion on the matter.

    [...]

    Of course torture works. It always has and it always will.

    Liberals repeatedly insist torture never works. If it works sometimes, however, and saves, as seems the case here, 2000-4000 innocent civilians, is it not worth trying with the right monster?

    Liberals need torture to never work in order to claim that it is a zero-cost decision to not engage in the practice; that way they can claim we can act perfectly morally with absolutely no compromise in safety. A win-win situation.

    Well, there's a thing called nuance liberals should look into. It turns out that in at least one case torture has worked spectacularly well, and, given that it directly led to the survival of 2000-4000 innocent civilians, seems to have been the moral course of action.
    I can't say that I have ever seen anyone state that "torture never works", but then again until I read the above I had never heard anyone state:

    "Of course torture works. It always has and it always will."

    A simple declarative statement of fact. And wrong:
    One example out of many comes in Ron Suskind's gripping narrative of what the White House has celebrated as one of the war's major victories: the capture of Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002. Described as al-Qaeda's chief of operations even after U.S. and Pakistani forces kicked down his door in Faisalabad, the Saudi-born jihadist was the first al-Qaeda detainee to be shipped to a secret prison abroad. Suskind shatters the official story line here.

    Abu Zubaydah, his captors discovered, turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be. CIA and FBI analysts, poring over a diary he kept for more than a decade, found entries "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. All three recorded in numbing detail "what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality."

    Abu Zubaydah also appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations; rather, he was al-Qaeda's go-to guy for minor logistics -- travel for wives and children and the like. That judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President," Suskind writes. And yet somehow, in a speech delivered two weeks later, President Bush portrayed Abu Zubaydah as "one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States." And over the months to come, under White House and Justice Department direction, the CIA would make him its first test subject for harsh interrogation techniques.

    [...]

    Which brings us back to the unbalanced Abu Zubaydah. "I said he was important," Bush reportedly told Tenet at one of their daily meetings. "You're not going to let me lose face on this, are you?" "No sir, Mr. President," Tenet replied. Bush "was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth," Suskind writes, and he asked one briefer, "Do some of these harsh methods really work?" Interrogators did their best to find out, Suskind reports. They strapped Abu Zubaydah to a water-board, which reproduces the agony of drowning. They threatened him with certain death. They withheld medication. They bombarded him with deafening noise and harsh lights, depriving him of sleep. Under that duress, he began to speak of plots of every variety -- against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty. With each new tale, "thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each . . . target." And so, Suskind writes, "the United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered."
    Sounds like Ace's kind of world, providing I'm not missing that "nuance" thing he mentioned.

    Torture can work but it is also believed to be unreliable as the Guardian article he linked to points out. But let's turn to another expert who is identified by name and makes a living teaching interrogation techniques:
    Mike Ritz is an expert on interrogation, having served as a U.S. Army interrogator. He is now the CEO of a private company -- Team Delta -- that teaches interrogation techniques. He says there are some standard occasions when physical restraint is needed -- for example, if a prisoner is violent or poses a danger to the interrogator or himself.

    "It depends on the intent [of the interrogator]. If there is a prisoner who is unsafe or who is being defiant, maybe who will lash out or something during the process, he or she may be placed in a position where they would take a more submissive role. For example, maybe they will be sitting on their knees, so that in order for that prisoner to lash out, it's going to be very difficult from that position," Ritz says.

    But in general, he says, beyond a certain level, inflicting pain is counterproductive.

    "Short-term, it can be an effective technique to use physical [pain]. It can be. But it's never reliable -- ever. See, this is the issue," Ritz says.

    Ritz says the goal is to induce emotional or psychological stress in the prisoner by challenging the prisoner on his or her assertions, by withholding information, or even by providing false information. The point is to exploit a prisoner's fear of the unknown.

    Ritz says physical force -- once applied -- breaks this tension.

    "There's a stress-building process that occurs when you have a prisoner. You're always trying to build that stress level and that uneasiness and that fear of the unknown. When you lay all of your cards out on the table and you hit someone or you do all of these crazy physical abusive acts, you are laying all of your cards out on the table. The fear of the unknown has died. You have lost that stress that was building up. Because in fact, if any kind of pain has been inflicted, endorphins are kicking into the body to relieve the pain. It's all a really counterproductive process when it's taken to that level," Ritz says.
    "Force always attracts men of low morality" - Albert Einstein


     

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