The Verdict On Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on August 25, 2009

We have some evidence, as reported by Ed Morrissey, that EITs were useful in getting information from detainees, a point reinforced by a statement from former Vice President Cheney. As I have said and written in the past, I am against torture and waterboarding, and believe that FBI interrogation techniques–which stay away as much as possible from using force and coercion in order to extract answers–do more to give the U.S. valuable information than do techniques like waterboarding. Yes, I know that Morrissey states that the latest revelations contradict Ali Soufan’s arguments, but as Morrissey himself states, these revelations will not settle the issue, and it is unchallenged that Soufan was able to extract significant amounts of intelligence information from Abu Zubaydah and others without the use of torture. Indeed, Soufan’s record was impressive enough that he became a teacher for other interrogators.

When we waterboard, we run the risk that detainees will give us information that may not be true, but that was given in order to stop waterboarding, or other coercive applications of interrogation. Additionally, situations in which “torture”–defined as some form of painful interrogation–are appropriate, are exceedingly small in number and require such a confluence of circumstances as to make the use of torture impractical. If we dramatically expand the teaching and practice of interrogation methods used by the FBI, we will get the information we want, we will get it fast, we will get it accurate, and we won’t need to have this debate in the first place.

All of this having been written, I am interested in other points of view, which is why I am linking to the Morrissey and Cheney statements. I have problems with them, but this debate is not close to being complete, and so long as it goes on, it behooves those on either side to acknowledge points made by the other. For the record, nothing I have seen changes my belief that the expansion of FBI interrogation techniques–the likes of which were employed by people like Ali Soufan to great effect–is desirable if only to ensure that we don’t even need to have this discussion in the first place. The fact that those interrogation techniques are also exceedingly useful colors, of course, my willingness to advocate on their behalf.

  • johndeflumerijr

    The CIA is doing what they need to do in order to protect the United States! Torture is a necessary tool against the terrorist who want to kill all Americans!

    John DeFlumeri Jr

  • http://twitter.com/tnbn75 trung

    simply put torture does not work. no actionable intelligence was received through torture. take it from someone who spends his days eliciting answers from people on a daily basis. i share a trivial but personal piece of info about me you spill your guts on the floors. I use the stick threaten you or bring you pain at all you clam up its really that simple.

  • CSBadeaux

    Horse-hockey.

    First, the “recently released memo documents” show quite the contrary.

    Second, the operational doctrine of every armed forces in the West is that torture does work, and that you will talk, and that you will tell the truth. (This is what SERE school teaches, and it's hardly alone.) The idea that people “say whatever they need to make the pain stop” is why torture is useless for extracting confessions. Every group that has ever used torture for more than recreation uses it as one of multiple information vectors — you cross-check what you get from torture, and if the tortured lies, you torture him worse. This has nothing to do with the moral aspect of it, and everything to do with the experience.

    Third, that leads to the last fallacy: No one uses a single information vector. The idea that sweet-talking or torture or brain probes or anything are a magical bullet is wishful thinking of the highest order. Sweet talking produces lies mixed with truth. Torture produces terrified guesses mixed with truth. Brain probes — which we reserve for use on Ron Paul followers — melt brains.

  • http://twitter.com/tnbn75 trung

    simply put torture does not work. the recently released memo documents clearly that no actionable intelligence was received through torture. take it from someone who spends his days eliciting answers from people on a daily basis. i share a trivial but personal piece of info about me you spill your guts on the floors. I use the stick threaten you or bring you pain at all you clam up its really that simple.

  • CSBadeaux

    Horse-hockey.

    First, the “recently released memo documents” show quite the contrary.

    Second, the operational doctrine of every armed forces in the West is that torture does work, and that you will talk, and that you will tell the truth. (This is what SERE school teaches, and it's hardly alone.) The idea that people “say whatever they need to make the pain stop” is why torture is useless for extracting confessions. Every group that has ever used torture for more than recreation uses it as one of multiple information vectors — you cross-check what you get from torture, and if the tortured lies, you torture him worse. This has nothing to do with the moral aspect of it, and everything to do with the experience.

    Third, that leads to the last fallacy: No one uses a single information vector. The idea that sweet-talking or torture or brain probes or anything are a magical bullet is wishful thinking of the highest order. Sweet talking produces lies mixed with truth. Torture produces terrified guesses mixed with truth. Brain probes — which we reserve for use on Ron Paul followers — melt brains.

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