Sunday, January 16, 2005

Torture Part Three: Make Sure You Torture The Right People And Make Sure They Are Telling The Truth

  • Remember what happens to our soldiers when they get caught? We used to have moral authority to object to the way our soldiers were treated. We have chosen to cede that moral authority. Goddess help any captured Americans in the future.

  • El Capitan includes a very important caveat:
    torture is not a means of separating the sheep from the goats. You would only consider the use of torture in cases where you’ve got a dead-bang case that your perp is guilty. Not just ‘reasonable doubt’ guilty, but caught on tape, bloody-handed, smoking-gun-tucked-in-his-pants guilty.

    That is not the case with either Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. As far back as 2002 there have been suspicions that innocent people were detained at Gitmo. In June of 2004, it was revealed that many Gitmo detainees were foot soldiers, not terrorist masterminds.

    It makes you wonder how many of them were tortured to get information about the non-existent connection between Al-Queda and Iraq.

    The same was true for Abu Ghraib. As noted by many news sources Many of the prisoners abused at the Abu Ghraib prison were innocent Iraqis picked up at random by US troops, and incarcerated by under-qualified intelligence officers.

    Maybe all the ones who were tortured were, in fact, insurgents. I don’t know. I wonder if that would that include the boys who were raped? It seems unlikely that this would be the case considering that the International Red Cross asserts that up to 90% of detainees in Abu Ghraib were arrested by mistake.

    In both cases incarcerated individuals have been released after never being charged. They have been allowed to walk away absolutely free. These individuals have reported that they were tortured. The incidents they describe, the events, the specific activities correlate strongly with what has come out from the Red Cross and in Congressional hearings, all of which adds credibility to their claims.

    Since the ostensible reason for perpetrating acts of torture upon these people is to gain information upon which we may act against other terrorists and prevent attacks; the accuracy of the information is critical. The Department of Defense is unwilling to share what they have learned that has been specifically helpful to us either from Gitmo or Abu Ghraib, so I cannot comment on these cases, other than to say that the information gained from those who were innocent must have been less than helpful.

    The accuracy of information gained via torture is hard to measure. Most torturers do not publish articles detailing the results of their work and apparently don’t participate in statistical studies. There are some comments available from professional interrogators.

    Mark Gold, a former Marine Corps Reserve interrogation team commander wrote:
    No sadist should ever be an interrogator. Their need gets in the way. Nor should anyone who enjoys the exercise of raw power over others. The ideal interrogator is a strong-willed role-player, focused on his or her task…

    Sources should never be harmed prior to interrogation as a means of "softening up" (an idiot's phrase). Sources should never be at the mercy of improperly trained or unsupervised guards. And sources should never be humiliated. It stiffens their resistance to the relationship that the interrogator wishes to establish.

    And that relationship, hard to believe, should be, as far as possible, one of mutual trust. The interrogator must learn what the source knows, accurately and as fully as possible. The interrogator must also learn what the source doesn't know: snippets that may be meaningless to the source but fit into larger patterns. The source must know that honest cooperation brings benefits, including the easing of guilt at having cooperated. The source must believe that the interrogation never ends, so long as he or she remains in custody. Proper treatment may not turn enemies into friends. But improper treatment only hardens and embitters. Permanently.

    I do not know what transpired in Iraq. I do know that, to the extent that the public reports are accurate, I, and everyone I know with any experience in the field, am disgusted. It is illegal to torture or humiliate. Illegal, immoral, dishonorable and ineffective. It is not why we're there.

    The ABCs of interrogation: Power hungry need not apply Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Wednesday, May 12, 2004.

    A more detailed and explicit explanation of the inefficacy of torture can be found at Entitled Torture’s Dark Allure, this two part article explores in depth why torture does not work and how torture harms the torturer.

    The upshot of all this is, to put it bluntly, the United States captured and tortured innocent people. By El Capitan’s own stated minimal standards, this is unacceptable. I fully expect him to come back at me citing those who were released from Gitmo and immediately went to Iraq to fight our soldiers. El Capitan, if you can prove to me that their treatment in Gitmo did not harden them as per the Marine interrogators’ assertion above, then you have a case. If not, don’t even bother bringing it up.

    Index to the Torture Posts:
    Torture Part One: Hostage Rescue/Bomb Goes Off In An Hour Scenario
    Torture Part Two: Abu Ghraib
    Torture Part Three: Make Sure You Torture The Right People And Make Sure They Are Telling The Truth
    Torture Part Four: Do We Want To Encourage The Worst In Humanity?
    Torture Part Five: Why The United States Of America Should Never Resort To Torture