Torture, or meanness?
#1
Let's start things off with a controversial qestion: Do you think think that the interrogation policies used by the Bush Administration amount to torture?
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#2
Personally, I do not. Of the 10 "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", for me only one gets morally ambiguous...waterboarding. The others are so mild that there isnt really a question. Slapping a guy on the belly is not a torture technique in any but the most fevered imagination.

Waterboarding is admittedly a difficult call. It should be noted that it was used on a grand total of three detainees. One can surmise from this that even the most aggressive advocates of EIT were loathe to use it. We probably end up with a legalistic call. As a matter of law, I don't think it gets there. It certainly skates up to the line, and a fair moral argument can be made that we shouldn't have gone there.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#3
Waterboarding, hypothermia, and stress positions would all constitute torture, IMO. Torture has a couple of practical problems, I think. For one thing, it's notoriously unreliable as a means of getting information. A person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop. The other is that if the United States tortures enemy prisoners, other countries will have no incentive to NOT torture United States soldiers. By allowing torture, the United States is, in effect, endangering its own members of the armed services.

I also think that the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" is a nice euphemism for torture in an almost Orwellian way.

Also, even though Obama did the right thing by ending these practices, he did the wrong thing by not pursuing prosecution. Torture is illegal, and the first duty of the executive branch is to carry out the laws of the nation. By ending the practice while he's the executive but refusing to prosecute, he's made it a question of whether or not the President thinks it's okay. We don't live in a dictatorship. The law should be the same regardless of who sits in the oval office.
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#4
Randy Ray Wrote:Waterboarding, hypothermia, and stress positions would all constitute torture, IMO.
An honest question: in your opinion is each of those situations always torture, or are there questions of degree involved? For example, would maintaining a cell at an uncomfortable (but not harmful) temperature constitute torture?
Quote:Torture has a couple of practical problems, I think. For one thing, it's notoriously unreliable as a means of getting information. A person being tortured will say anything to get the torture to stop.
Interrogation is not an episode of 24. The use of interrogation techniques, enhanced or otherwise, is intended to elicit cooperation, NOT to elicit information per se. Once a subject is cooperating/communicating, the focus shifts to debriefing, which is where the information is elicited, and carefully cross-referenced against other intel. The ten EICs approved by the Bush Justice Department were not used in the debriefing phase.
Quote:The other is that if the United States tortures enemy prisoners, other countries will have no incentive to NOT torture United States soldiers. By allowing torture, the United States is, in effect, endangering its own members of the armed services.
I find this to be a particularly weak argument. If we are talking about a conventional conflict, where both belligerents abide by Geneva, then yes it has some merit. However, we are talking about an adversary who has executed innocents by beheading and posted video on YouTube. Somehow, I don't think our actions one way or the other will materially impact how they treat captives.
Quote:I also think that the phrase "enhanced interrogation techniques" is a nice euphemism for torture in an almost Orwellian way.
Perhaps. On the other hand, the term "torture" is fraught with a great deal of demagogic baggage. By definition, defense of torture is beyond the pale. Therefore, if one can define a practice as "torture", and have that definition stick, one has won the argument already. The Bush Administration was presented with Hobson's Choice after 9/11. Had another attack occurred, the obvious question would have been, "did you do everything possible to prevent it?" One of the hard questions they had to ask was, what steps can we take to stop the next one? The bottom line answer to that question was better intelligence. Ok, so how do you get it? The senior guys (like for example KSM) were dedicated, and well trained in how to resist interrogation. Therefore, the Bush Justice Department researched exactly what would constitute torture and what would not. The result of that research was a list of 10 techniques that ranged from the amazingly benign (pushing a subject up against a wall rigged to make excessive noise; slapping on the belly) up to and including waterboarding. 9 of the 10 would probably not even qualify as fraternity hazing, although all 10 are beyond what American police can do in interrogating criminal suspects. A couple of proposed techniques were discarded as too close to the line (it's been a while since I read the relevant research, so I'm working from memory on that number). The point is, a lot of thought was devoted to the idea of defining torture, and not going there.
Quote:Also, even though Obama did the right thing by ending these practices, he did the wrong thing by not pursuing prosecution. Torture is illegal, and the first duty of the executive branch is to carry out the laws of the nation. By ending the practice while he's the executive but refusing to prosecute, he's made it a question of whether or not the President thinks it's okay. We don't live in a dictatorship. The law should be the same regardless of who sits in the oval office.
I utterly disagree about prosecution. The Bush Justice Department made a good faith attempt to define legal and illegal practices, and the worker-bees should not be faulted for relying upon those opinions. Note also, that when the lines set by the Administration were crossed, prosecution was swift and sure (for example, a case where an interrogator threatened a subject with a drill).
As far as your last two sentences, I couldn't agree more. Does that mean that you disagree with Obama's decision to suspend enforcement of immigration laws in the case of so-called DREAMers? Or does it apply selectively?

One final question to leave you with...what is morally worse, Bush's capture and interrogate policy, or Obama's drone policy?
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#5
I would not want to be waterboarded.

"Torture", however, has been poorly defined by our collective wisdom and experience. As with many human endeavors, every time you draw or extend a boundary for a definition someone sits down right outside that boundary and says, "See? I'm not inside the lines."

In other words, no matter what we forbid, with however much detail we provide, there will always be someone who figures out something similar that "isn't forbidden".

Hence, "torture" will forever be a moving target.
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#6
Umm, ok I wouldn't want to be imprisoned for life. So what? That has no bearing on what is or is not torture. I see your point, but I'm not sure it matters. I don't think it can be definitively defined for everyone. American law on the subject pretty much boils down to the Eighth and Fourth Amendments.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#7
Well, not to treat the 8th Amendment with disrespect, but I've always wondered if "cruel and USUAL punishments" are acceptable under the law, or if "KIND and unusual punishments" might somehow violate someone's constitutional rights.

The 8th Amendment was written at a time when it was still common to throw people into prison for years for being in debt, stealing food, and refusing to honor the king. Those prisons were not aid conditioned (which, technically, had not yet been invented), did not include exercise yards and gyms, were considerably less well regulated than today's prisons, and were staffed by guards who were not generally held accountable for their treatment of inmates the way today's prison guards are (mostly) held accountable.

Whereas the Founding Fathers mostly lived in a world where capital punishments were dealt out by rope, axe, or guilotine, we have learned to execute prisoners with electricity, poison, and (self-imposed) starvation. Not one dead prisoner has ever come back to say which of these modern alternatives were less cruel than the forms of execution they replaced, so we're sailing blindly in the whole "cruel and unusual punishment" sea of opinions.

On top of all that, despite our most determined efforts to write ironclad laws and define fair and just legal procedures, we rarely actually execute someone within 5 years of their conviction and we have occasionally convicted a few innocent people.

Hence, the whole issue of torture cannot really be defined by what the victim says because victims don't actually get to say much on these topics. Torture is what we would not want to be subjected to because we don't believe we could endure it.
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#8
Oh dear Lord, really???
Michael, I love ya, bro, but good God what are you smoking?
The Eighth was enacted in an environment where it wasn't particularly unusual to execute people in the most gruesome manner available. Drawn and quartered referred to attaching chains to each limb and using horses to separate them. The point of the Eighth was to disconnect from the English precedent. A felon condemned to death was entitled to as painless a death as could be managed.

You cite the five year gap between conviction and execution. Ok I can fix that...eliminate the bull**** appeals. I don't think that's where you want to go, but whatever. The bull**** appeals have value.

As a matter of Law, the Constitution explicitly considered capital punishment. Read the Fifth. If it takes "due process" t deprive one of "life", well, there you go. The libs on the SC can ignore that as much as they wish.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#9
I'm not trying to take sides so much as consider disparate points of view. And I was kind of sick of the Jodi Arias trial at the time I wrote the above. Smile
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#10
Most cultures and nations from the beginning of time use torture and meanness. It is how to stop wars or got back at their enemies. War itself is torture and mean. Many people who interrogate find torture and meaness pointless and it doesn't work in getting information. The same way police looking for a serial killer killing prostitutes will have to drop some charges to get some information on the street. The main problem with Bush's waterboarding is that it was against the Generva convention laws which were made after WWII because of the Japaneses and the Nazis. It was okay for countries and terrorists to keep on doing this?
Don't insult the precious, my precious!:book:
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#11
Opinions vary on what is okay for countries to do. Terrorists don't really care about other people's opinions.
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#12
To me, it's not so much the techniques used, but rather the very act of trying to break another's spirit that is morally wrong (i.e. evil). The ones doing the breaking must also lose some of their humaneness in the process. Would you be comfortable if one of them moved into your neighbourhood after their job was done?
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#13
rkomar Wrote:To me, it's not so much the techniques used, but rather the very act of trying to break another's spirit that is morally wrong (i.e. evil). The ones doing the breaking must also lose some of their humaneness in the process. Would you be comfortable if one of them moved into your neighbourhood after their job was done?

For all I know I have lived right next door to people who have done this. Nonetheless, we're faced with a very hard choice: do nothing and allow Al Qaeda to spread their jihad to more nations, or do something to try to stop them.

Many people who have experience in intelligence-gathering came out against the waterboarding of Al Qaeda and Taliban simply because people will say almost anything under duress. As interrogation techniques go it's not the most reliable method of extracting real information. I'm sure the truth will come out but if the interrogator isn't satisfied and they keep going, what else are you going to say?

So I can see all sides of the argument. I don't want to be subjected to interrogation like that, ever. And I do wonder what giving such interrogation does to the interrogator.

But I'm not ready to dehumanize people who may only be doing what they think is necessary if they are willing to reconsider and say, "Maybe we went too far". I think some of the criticisms that came out were too harsh.

Government leaders sometimes make bad decisions, and they should be held accountable for those bad decisions, but if they are willing to reconsider their policies then they are not yet into that "evil monster" territory that I think some people want to put them in.
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#14
Michael Wrote:Many people who have experience in intelligence-gathering came out against the waterboarding of Al Qaeda and Taliban simply because people will say almost anything under duress. As interrogation techniques go it's not the most reliable method of extracting real information. I'm sure the truth will come out but if the interrogator isn't satisfied and they keep going, what else are you going to say?

So I can see all sides of the argument. I don't want to be subjected to interrogation like that, ever. And I do wonder what giving such interrogation does to the interrogator.

But I'm not ready to dehumanize people who may only be doing what they think is necessary if they are willing to reconsider and say, "Maybe we went too far". I think some of the criticisms that came out were too harsh.

Government leaders sometimes make bad decisions, and they should be held accountable for those bad decisions, but if they are willing to reconsider their policies then they are not yet into that "evil monster" territory that I think some people want to put them in.

You're falling back into the "24" fallacy. The EITs were not used in the way they get shown on TV. Keifer Sutherland wasn't standing there with a pitcher of water in his hand demanding the location of the bomb or else. Much is made of the idea that people will say anything to get the "torture" to stop, so how can you trust what they say? Well, you pretty much can't. What the EITs were designed to do was to elicit cooperation, not information per se. Once the subject is cooperating (i.e. Responding to questions even if in a misleading manner), then more traditional gentler methods (rapport, cross referencing of information, etc) are used. But you have to get them responsive first.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
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#15
rkomar Wrote:To me, it's not so much the techniques used, but rather the very act of trying to break another's spirit that is morally wrong (i.e. evil). The ones doing the breaking must also lose some of their humaneness in the process. Would you be comfortable if one of them moved into your neighbourhood after their job was done?

That's done in just about every interrogation, though. A good friend of mine is a homicide detective. He is very skilled at getting subjects to admit things they don't want to. A very common tactic is to play upon the remorse felt by the subject for what he has done, which could easily be interpreted as "breaking the spirit" of the subject (since many confessions are accompanied by sobbing).

None of those skills can come into play if the subject merely exercises his right to remain silent. My friend has no coercive techniques available to him to require the subject to talk to him, and this is right and proper in the context of law enforcement. The Bush Administration determined that as both a practical and legal matter, an illegal foreign combatant was not entitled to the same protections, and made further determinations as to what coercive techniques were legal under such circumstances. The Obama Administration made a different determination, as was their perogative.
Always after a defeat and a respite, the Shadow takes another shape and grows again.

I don't have any humble opinions.
Reply
#16
I cannot find the story now but last year I came across an article (or maybe it was a documentary I watched on television) where the British police interrogation methods were compared to US interrogation methods. Our police agencies don't waterboard their suspects but they do often rely on stress to get confessions. Given the large number of criminal cases that never go to trial because of plea bargains as well as the large size of the US prison population, one might conclude US interrogation methods are pretty effective.

And yet we hear about wrongful convictions every year. Although no one knows what percentage of convictions are wrongful every expert I have seen comment on the topic says we're only seeing a fraction of the problem cases.

They apparently don't have as big a wrongful conviction problem in the UK. The British police developed an alternative interrogation method that they consider to be more effective. They don't rely on stressing the interviewee.

I think that says something about the effectiveness of being less confrontational and arrogant in questioning people. With respect to the torture allegations, people with past experience in the US intelligence community continue to come forward to argue against the use of waterboarding. The uncertainty that such techniques introduce into the information collected makes it harder to work with.
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#17
yes, in my opinion. It is two faced if we charged others like in Nam or Japan for doing war crimes when we don't obey the law.
Don't insult the precious, my precious!:book:
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