A SERE Instructor on Waterboarding

Update: apologies to writer Malcom Nance, who I carelessly misrepresented as a SEAL.

Over at the Small Wars Journal, Malcom Nance talks about waterboarding and torture.

I’ve talked – indirectly – about it before, and cited John Boyd, who made the basic point perfectly clearly:

Observations Related To Moral Conflict

No fixed recipes for organization, communications, tactics, leadership, etc.

Wide freedom for subordinates to exercise imagination and initiative – yet harmonize within intent of superior commanders.

Heavy reliance upon moral (human values) instead of material superiority as basis for cohesion and ultimate success.

Commanders must create a bond and breadth of experience based upon trust – not mistrust – for cohesion.
(slide 118)

I’ll have more to say about this in the next few days. Amazingly, I think I can tie TNR into it.

99 thoughts on “A SERE Instructor on Waterboarding”

  1. _”In fact, waterboarding is just the type of torture then Lt. Commander John McCain had to endure at the hands of the North Vietnamese. As a former Master Instructor and Chief of Training at the US Navy Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape School (SERE) in San Diego, California I know the waterboard personally and intimately. SERE staff were required undergo the waterboard at its fullest. I was no exception.”_

    We torture our SEAL instructors? I hate to be glib, but there is some argument to be made that even as horrific as Nance describes waterboarding, its still not taking a blowtorch to someones genitalia. That would obviously be unthinkable to inflict on a US service person, as would anything that McCain underwent. And thats sort of the point.

    I don’t know that waterboarding is or isnt torture, but I suspect we have an issue with tautology that needs to be resolved before we ever figure that out. Locking someone in a sunless cell indefinately thousands of miles from their home can easily be defined as intense psychological torture. Basically everything in the ‘normal’ prison experience could be described as torture. Solitary confinement has often been adressed for its inhumanity, and maybe rightly so. But lets remember who we are talking about and why we are doing these things.

    Furthermore i find the argument that we open up our own troops to this treatment utterly unpersuasive. The Geneva Conventions were established between nations to prevent this type of treatment against lawful combatants under the explicit threat of reprisal in wartime. The has no bearing on our dealings with international terrorists who routinely torture maim and murder.

    If we were dealing with an enemy nation, by the logic of these types of treaties we would almost be _compelled_ to torture and execute enemy combatants as reprisal for their behavior against our prisoners. Its not the fear of the Hague that keeps the GCs viable, its fear of reprisal.

    I’m not arguing we should torture, im arguing the ‘spirit’ of GCs shouldn’t have any bearing on our decision (the letter of the law is a different matter, but we are dealing with unlawful combatants outside of uniform). We should not torture because it is not our way. But we _do_ need to have an intelligent, rational discussion about what torture entails. Is torture by definition something we wouldnt inflict on our own troops, even in training? Does it include psychological aspects such as long term detention, solitary confinement? Lack of cable tv? Its a discussion we just havent had as a society, leastways not without a great deal of sound and fury that has prevented any useful discourse.

  2. I suggest a good guide for torture is something so painful (in some way) that the majority of victims will do anything, include make false confessions, to make it stop. Any number of SERE vets have posted on the Internet that they signed the false confession to stop the waterboarding (if they even made it that far through the simulated interrogation).

    We really have no way of knowing where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s genuine confession ended and the confabulation started. When false confessions are routine, torture is not (ticking bomb masturbatory fantasy notwithstanding) being employed as an investigative tool, but as a mode of revenge and terrorizing potential victims. That’s illegal, as it should be.

  3. Andrew, I disagree with your conclusions on why we are employing these techniques, but i like the fact that you stepped up with a definition. I’ll have to give that some serious thought, but it seems reasonable. How that is put into practice is tricky, but even as a thought excercise its useful.

    I’ve never bought into the ticking timebomb scenario as being useful for discussion. If there is a ticking timebomb, we will torture someone to get the information. It will be illegal and immoral and we will do it anyway (if the information ends up being false it doesnt really matter- the bomb would have gone off anyway). Americans should be charged with the crimes in such a case and pardoned by the president (and hopefully some sort of narrow Congressional resolution). Thats what pardons are for (if not directly for torture one would hope), sometimes unlawful actions have to be taken and it would be foolish to try to write every plausible exception into law. It would be particularly bad to try to justify torture via law. If it had to be done on some unprecidentedly dire occasion, it should be treated as a crime and pardoned as a national security imperative.

  4. I like the notion of a “good guide for torture” (very ambiguous phrase, isn’t it? I mean it in Andrew’s sense) based on a principle, as opposed to arguing about each individual procedure or simply declaring that procedure X is obviously torture. But I don’t much care for Andrew’s specific proposal; Mark’s “Is torture by definition something we wouldn’t inflict on our own troops, even in training?” seems closer, to me. I’d prefer to begin by saying that any interrogation procedure sequence must be carried out by someone who has volunteered to have it carried out on him; this would rule out a whole lot of things. It might rule out enough; I’m not sure. I’d want this to be verified by video, both of the training sequence and of the interrogation. The interrogation video would not of course be immediately public, but it would be immediately scrutinizable by some trusted people and it would be eventually — say, within 10 years — public. No long-term secrecy allowed; that might rule out a bit more.

    I can imagine a rebuttal that would focus on the fact that something you volunteer for is, ipso facto, not comparable to something inflicted upon you by an enemy. I don’t find that convincing, but some might. Still, something of the sort might be a starting point.

  5. I agree with Mark B. Police cadets are maced and tazered for the very reason that they can explain their actions someday as defensible. There is an objectiveness to that standard.

    The “shock the conscience” standard, as explained by its author, Felix Frankfurter, refers to something so awful that it would make you puke. Frankfurter also indicated that what might shock the conscience in one situation, might not in another. Its subjective and circumstantial and largely dependent upon the proclivities of the judge. I do not believe we are well served by such a standard in combat situations.

  6. AJL: I think you are employing the false assumption that torture only produces false confessions. It doesn’t. We know it works when the torture results in corroborating evidence. I think that was the point of a good article by Mark Bowden a few years ago. It can work, and therein lies the moral hazard.

  7. PD Shaw;

    bq. I think you are employing the false assumption that torture only produces false confessions.

    Since this is almost impossible to prove (ONLY?), I don’t think it is a claim anyone is making.

    Rather, the major problem with torture (in the A. Lazarus mode), as I see it, it that it produces false confessions at a high enough rate to be useless, or worse, dangerously misleading. Aside from the fact that employing clearly or borderline illegal interrogation techniques also undermine what might otherwise be a strong case.

    So, given that, let’s cut to the chase: many people advocate torture/harsh interrogation techniques because they genuinely believe that the known results/ends (punishment, intimidation) are more important than 1) preserving human rights, or 2) obtaining reliable, actionable information that could help enforce anti-terrorism activities, or 3) prosecuting a case against a suspected terrorist.

    Personally, I’m strongly on board for the these issues, which I think torture largely if not totally impedes.

  8. Please correct the title of this post as I am NOT a SEAL and never was. As my Small Wars Journal bio accurately states I was from an Intelligence branch of the Navy and was assigned to SERE. Thanks in advance

  9. _”Rather, the major problem with torture (in the A. Lazarus mode), as I see it, it that it produces false confessions at a high enough rate to be useless, or worse, dangerously misleading. Aside from the fact that employing clearly or borderline illegal interrogation techniques also undermine what might otherwise be a strong case.”_

    But false confessions are built into the system. I mean- if that was the deciding threshold we would stop questioning captives entirely right? Because a captive who volunteers information is more likely to be misleading us than one who gives it under threat of duress. Its a known factor and is dealt with.

    Secondly we need to remember that someone subjected to these methods will indeed to anything- but if they _know_ the truth that will in all likelihood be what they state (to avoid reprisal when they are proved false). If you argue the experience is so intense anyone will admit to anything, its hard to also claim they will have the will power to construct a lie when the simple truth is at hand. The idea of the false confession is that the subject _doesnt know_ the answer to the question, and that factor is even more subject to being sussed out with additional data.

    As far as building a criminal case, i dont think that should enter into the decision making process at all. If questioning for national security purposes makes us squemish, questioning to force a confession in the interest of ‘justice’ is right out the window. I dont think anyone is really advocating subjecting someone to waterboarding so we can keep them in prison in good conscience.

  10. bq. “I mean- if that was the deciding threshold we would stop questioning captives entirely right? Because a captive who volunteers information is more likely to be misleading us than one who gives it under threat of duress. Its a known factor and is dealt with.”

    Then why subject people to torture if the entire enterprise of interrogation is suspect to begin with?

    The underlying and critically important issue here is how to preserve the rights of innocent captives. That is the standard upon which our entire legal system, based as it is on sound moral and ethical principles, is built. Meaning both national and international laws, within which even actions taking place in a declared “war” are encompassed.

  11. AJL: I think you are employing the false assumption that torture only produces false confessions. It doesn’t. We know it works when the torture results in corroborating evidence.

    I did not say that, and I do not believe it. What I do believe, and I think can be shown with any number of examples, is that when used for investigation torture produces both false and true confessions and there is no way, a priori, to distinguish the two. The idea of “corroborating evidence” is very elastic it a system that permits torture, when the corroboration is itself obtained by torture, leading to a daisy chain of confabulated confessions. The Communist purge trials featured such “corroboration”. And, mind you, the system’s dynamic is to produce such false corroboration, because the actors prefer not to face the implications of discovering that they have coerced an innocent suspect.

  12. _”Then why subject people to torture if the entire enterprise of interrogation is suspect to begin with?”_

    I guess my question is the flip side of that- why subject people to interrogation at all if the entire enterprise is suspect? But every nation has done it since the beginning of time. Either they are just that bloody minded or there is some utility to it.

    _”The underlying and critically important issue here is how to preserve the rights of innocent captives.”_

    I don’t think that is the case. This is not a court of law. These are supposed to be illegal enemy combatants captured on the field (I understand this is a squishy area in this type of war in itself). If the military captures a POW, the most important issue _is not_ to establish whether they are truly an enemy combatant. If they are captured on the field that is an a priori assumption. It has to be- by definition that is what seperates war from crime. Otherwise the next time we fight the Germans we will have half a million POWs in federal court claiming they were innocent bystanders, with the burden of proof on the military?

    _”That is the standard upon which our entire legal system, based as it is on sound moral and ethical principles, is built. Meaning both national and international laws, within which even actions taking place in a declared “war” are encompassed.”_

    I simply disagree with that premise. International law has very specific requirements for who meets what status and how they are to be treated. This has nothing to do with the way our civilian legal system operates, they simply are compatable.

  13. Andrew, the problem i have with what you are arguing is that taken to its logical conclusion, any type of intelligence gathering is counterproductive. The enemy is always trying to mislead, mistakes in gathering or analysis always happen. Corraberating evidence can always be misconstrued, intentionally or accidently. I agree, this is a serious SERIOUS concern (see WMDs, Iraq) but i dont know that we should abandon intelligence gathering altogether.

    Look at law enforcement- is that really a foolproof model to emulate either? False confessions happen with alarming frequency despite all the constitutional and legal protections in the world. Should we stop questioning suspects in crimes? Stop accepting confessions altogether?

  14. Mark, I don’t see any reason not to interrogate prisoners, be they suspected of innocence or not. However, I’m certain that those doing the interrogating know full well how reliable the information is likely to be.

    I’m not against aggressive and deceitful tactics, either, as long as they do not, in any way, include physical contact, of any kind. Mind games are OK. Waterboarding is not.

    And so I cannot see how adding torture to this already complicated and imperfect scenario helps to do anything other than increase the likelihood of its failure. To “decrease it’s utility” to use your term.

    And regardless of the legal points (which I don’t want to digress into), to suggest that our treatment of our fellow humans can or should only be dictated by specific legal definitions, rather than a commonly accepted morality or ethical code, strongly undermines the idea that we, the United States, are in a position to judge others on the basis of a moral equivalence.

    In simple terms, if we drop to a lower level, we lose the high ground.

    It reminds me of arguments that some (sociopathic) individuals make along the lines of “I’d be running around shooting people for looking at me funny in my car if there weren’t laws against it.” There exists an underlying moral principle, The Golden Rule, upon which all humanity regardless of religion or upbringing generally agree upon.

    Revenge torture breaks that rule.

  15. Ok, then maybe we should seperate these issues further: into utility, legality, and morality.

    Lets table the legal question for a minute because i don’t think its settled and i’m no expert by any means.

    As far as utility goes, i’d again reverse your question. Why are agressive interrogation techniques more likely to produce bad information than straightforward techniques? Are you _more_ likely to lie? We know normal questioning will produce false data but we dont abandon it. All we know about waterboarding is that a prisoner _will_ answer. If they dont know the answer they will make it up, therefore any interrogator will be as sure as possible they know the answer, at the risk of being assured bad data. That is not an impossible task. If you have 5 suspects in isolation and 4 of them say the same thing…

    The real question is if the prisoner know the correct answer, will they still have the presense of mind to lie when being waterboarded… because that changes the equation dramatically. Im sure it varies but maybe Malcolm can shed some insight.

    My point being, if false data is such a dealbreaker then it shouldnt matter what technique its derived from. If false data is so unmitigatably risky, you are better off duct taping a prisoners mouth shut than risking hearing a word.

    As far as the morality question goes- now we again into the area of what constitutes torture and why. Does solitary confinement? Does simple incarceration? Inability to speak with friends and family? If you dont want to use any sort of legal standard, we have a real problem. Isnt that what laws are for, to deliniate what we consider moral so everyone understands the rules of the game? If it was as black and white as you make it out to be, we should just tell every interrogater and jailer to do what they believe is best, and of course that would be disasterous.

  16. bq. Why are agressive interrogation techniques more likely to produce bad information than straightforward techniques? Are you more likely to lie?

    Yes, I think so, and although I’m pretty sure there is data supporting this, I think it is also pretty obvious that a person is much more likely to say whatever it is they think their torturers want to hear in order to bring about an end to the pain. It’s basic human survival instinct.

    And an important point is that prisoner’s don’t really need to maintain any particular “presence of mind” to lie under these circumstances, since interrogators often knowingly or unknowingly make it pretty clear what kind of information they are seeking. In fact, I think you could easily imagine that it becomes easier to lie than tell the truth under duress.

    I didn’t mean to imply that the definition of “torture” is black-and-white, but rather that resorting to specific, narrow (or even gray) legal definitions is often simply a way to avoid confronting the real underlying issue. But your newer post indicates that is not the case.

    But why not go back to what was written above, in #2, as an excellent jumping-off point:

    bq. I suggest a good guide for torture is something so painful (in some way) that the majority of victims will do anything, include make false confessions, to make it stop.

    Now, both physical and psychological torture could come under this definition. But for the moment, and without going into it too deeply, I will state first that I’m totally against physical torture. Defining and judging psychological torture is, of course, much more difficult to do. But that is not really the prime issue here as far as treatment of “enemy combatants” by US forces is concerned, because it’s the physical torture that leaves the clearest evidence and is the easiest for everyone to relate to.

  17. _”Yes, I think so, and although I’m pretty sure there is data supporting this, I think it is also pretty obvious that a person is much more likely to say whatever it is they think their torturers want to hear in order to bring about an end to the pain. It’s basic human survival instinct.”_

    Right- and _if_ they know the answer, that would be the truth, correct?

    My point is that in a simple questioning session, a prisoner has every incentive to lie boldfaced- they get the questioner off their back with the bonus of upholding their cause, at no cost to themselves.

    The only difference is that there is one variable the waterboarding controls (if i’m right about this)-> _if_ the subject knows the answer, he _will_ tell the truth. There is no such control for simply asking questions, you have to assume everything is a lie. So if we are positing that corroberating evidence isnt a reliable way to suss out the lies or fales info, why should we interrogate at all?

    _”In fact, I think you could easily imagine that it becomes easier to lie than tell the truth under duress.”_

    Perhaps, but there is also a mental stimulus to avoid this _ever happening again_ and only the truth is likely to prevent it. Again- there is a grey area here that we are pretending doesnt exist, corroberating evidence and comparing answers. If a subject knows his buddy got the same treatment, he has a _very_ good incentive to try to match that answer. Which may be the truth, if he knows the truth.

    _”But why not go back to what was written above, in #2, as an excellent jumping-off point:”_

    _”I suggest a good guide for torture is something so painful (in some way) that the majority of victims will do anything, include make false confessions, to make it stop.”_

    I’m not completely opposed to that, but it still has some problems for me in practice. If someone asked you the same questions 50 times a day for 3 months, the majority of people will answer the stupid thing to make it stop. What does do anything entail and how do you determine that without actually doing it to a bunch of people to find out?

    Im willing to see the end of waterboarding, but i’d like something (at least relatively) hard and fast determining why. I don’t want the ACLU or the UN telling us what constitutes torture.

  18. bq. The only difference is that there is one variable the waterboarding controls (if i’m right about this)-> if the subject knows the answer, he will tell the truth.

    The bulk of your argument is predicated on the idea that there is some agreed-upon universal “Truth” that interrogators can and will easily recognize amidst the background chaff of deception and lies.

    I think you’re probably well aware that even a completely innocent person is likely to lie under torture if they suspect that this lie will be more believable to the interrogator than the truth, whatever it may be. History provides lots of examples of this.

  19. That there will be deception is not really relevant to the discussion. Its a tiresome red herring that keeps being brought up. So long as some useful information is included, and so long as normal intelligence evaluation techniques can sort out the reliability of the information, it does not rebut the usefulness of such pressured interrogation.

  20. bq. … and so long as normal intelligence evaluation techniques can sort out the reliability of the information, it does not rebut the usefulness of such pressured interrogation.

    We’re not talking about “pressure”, we’re talking about torture.

  21. Very few definitions are universally accepted, my dear Robin. Which would mean that I’m not trying to “redefine” torture but rather clarify it’s meaning in the current context.

    Feel free to abstain from the consideration if you’re already comfortable with your own personal definition.

  22. _So long as some useful information is included, and so long as normal intelligence evaluation techniques can sort out the reliability of the information, it does not rebut the usefulness of such pressured interrogation._
    _No, Alan, you are trying to redefine torture. Your definition is not universally shared._

    Participating in the controlled death of a person, one that – quite easily – could result in death or brain failure? This is torture.

    This is torture Robin. It was when the Japanese did and were tried for it, it was for when the Germans did – and it is now. You are the one trying to put a nice term on it and redefine it, with “pressured interrogation”.

    Go read “this history”:http://www.pegc.us/archive/Articles/wallach_drop_by_drop_draft_20061016.pdf (PDF)(got the link from the Article), and come back and tell me what the North Koreans did to Lt. Col. William Harrison.

  23. _”The bulk of your argument is predicated on the idea that there is some agreed-upon universal “Truth” that interrogators can and will easily recognize amidst the background chaff of deception and lies.”_

    That succinctly describes the job of an intelligence officer.

    These questions arent being asked in a background, and these guys arent novices either. I guarantee none of this is new to intelligence officers, i’d imagine its entry level to them.

    But I suppose first we need to agree on whether there is an objective ‘truth’ to find, if you dont believe that we’re into a whole different discussion. And again, these questions are equally if not more valid in the context of _any_ questioning, indeed any intelligence works. To pick out this particular circumstance as though it is unique is just incorrect.

    _”I think you’re probably well aware that even a completely innocent person is likely to lie under torture if they suspect that this lie will be more believable to the interrogator than the truth, whatever it may be. History provides lots of examples of this”_

    Certainly. And we have data that completely innocent people admit to crimes they dont commit in police precincts disturbingly often- sometimes they are later exhonerated from their own confession by DNA. But again, intelligence offircers arent novices, and they arent starting from a blank canvas. Once you convince the prisoner that some of the questions you are asking you already know the answer to, there is an excellent incentive to be truthful, if you can.

    I don’t really think there is as much of debate on the _utility_ of waterboarding as opponents want to make out. Professional intelligence officers are well aware of the limitations.

    The real argument is that _because_ these techniques _arent_ silver bullets, its not worth the moral and political cost- not that they have no value at all. That is a very different question. The idea that we do this simply as a measure of revenge, or that the agents are too stupid to know that the data will be wrong is overly simplistic and indeed nonsensical.

    If they do have some utility (surely they do) we are back to a political and hence moral question. Is doing this wrong, and is it worth doing anyway? I am inclined to argue NO, but i still want all the arguments to be presented fairly.

  24. bq. The real argument is that because these techniques arent silver bullets, its not worth the moral and political cost- not that they have no value at all. That is a very different question.

    I’m not sure they have a value. And if they do, it is, as you correctly say, not worth the moral and political cost. Especially because their value is so uncertain, not despite it.

    bq. The idea that we do this simply as a measure of revenge, or that the agents are too stupid to know that the data will be wrong is overly simplistic and indeed nonsensical.

    Well, I would certainly not dismiss this line of argument so quickly. People get angry. People can be brutal. People that think they are threatened can act in desperate, sometimes irrational ways. It’s got nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with human nature. Which is why these rules exist to begin with…to save us from ourselves. Please don’t attempt to characterize my position as one of disrespect or disdain for the people who choose to serve the public good by engaging in difficult and dangerous occupations (i.e., jobs). To suggest that they are somehow different from the remainder of humanity is perhaps even more simplistic and nonsensical, or worse, unfair.

  25. So long as normal intelligence evaluation techniques can sort out the reliability of the information, it does not rebut the usefulness of such pressured interrogation.

    History teaches that when torture is in the mix, torture becomes part of the normal investigative process, and total nonsense becomes accepted as “true” when “confirmed” by repetition of the technique.

    Perhaps Robin is still stuck in the ticking-bomb fantasy, where you go check if the bomb is where the detainee says it is. Of course, if it isn’t there, how do you know whether the detainee doesn’t know where the bomb is or is deliberately lying? Do you set him free or try another turn of the screw? But even ignoring this enormous problem, one of the things these detainees are asked for are the names of their confederates, and then these detainees can be tortured to confirm their own participation and that of the first detainee, and so on.

    We don’t have to rely on speculation about this. We have all the examples one could ask for of tortured confessions backed up by lots of “confirmation”.

    Real intelligence officers appear to be able to crack detainees by playing on their sense of defeat and demoralization, by establishing rapport, by offering rewards. You would almost think that the advocates of torture want a lot of coerced confessions to pump up the threat that said advocates are saving us from. Naah, couldn’t be.

  26. That’s possible, but it seems at odds with the way we general treat prisoners, even the same prisoners. They aren’t abused on a regular basis, in fact they are probably treated better than prisoners of this type anywhere else if only because of the vast media spotlight. I don’t think this is an Abu Ghrabe like situation where the sadistic or frustrated are getting their kicks.

    This is a well documented process by professionals under careful scrutiny from doctors and the the chain of command. Seems an unlikely way to bash around a few terrorists, and for that matter why only a few specific ones? Waterboarding is reserved for specific subjects, Khalid Mohammed being the most famous. To me that just doesnt jibe with a gutteral need for revenge. Certainly systematic isn’t antithetical to sadistic, but perhaps it is to visceral.

    But at the end of the day we have to ask ourselves- are these intelligence officers just out to get kicks, or can we trust them that they are getting tangible results that they obviously cant talk about? At least thats the utility side of the argument. We either trust our military and government to conduct a war and its processes, or we dont. We could just as easily be arguing over demanding to see Air Force target lists in Iraq to find out if we are bombing kindergartens haphazardly. Is that allowable and still allow for an effective military?

  27. I find the notion that torture is particularly unreliable pretty hollow. If it was, we wouldn’t allow it in American courtrooms at all.

    When I was in school, I worked one summer at an anti-death penalty advocacy center assigned to an American sentenced to death in an American court with the use of a confession obtained from torture in a Mexican jail. When the stipend ran out, I volunteered the rest of the Summer.

    As much subjectivity as Alan and ALJ want to attribute to coerced confessions, rough interrogations have led to bodies, weapons, stolen property and other corroborating evidence. Its my understanding that prior to 1936 American juries were instructed to evaluate whether a confession was the result of coercion. If the confession was corroborated, juries tended to believe the confession was not coerced and any injuries deserved.

    In 1936, the SCOTUS threw out a conviction from torture, disallowing the jury even to weigh the reliability of the confession. AFAIK that ruling has never been applied to American citizens tortured abroad. As I understand it, this is because courts exclude confessions in order to discourage U.S. law enforcement from becoming reliant on coercion. This reasoning did not apply to foreign law enforcement, so the jury evaluates the truthiness of the confession under the supervision of the courts. None of whom are presumably trained information officers.

    We don’t allow torture in the U.S. because of a social compact between the government and the governed. It has no bearing on strangers to that social compact. As I see it, there are two reasons to avoid a liberal policy towards torture:

    1. Inhumane treatment might make our work abroad more difficult, whether it be defeating an insurgency, advocating democracy or demanding better treatment of Americans abroad. Though if the media is willing to report that Americans are acting inhumanely irregardless, then this reason has little value.

    2. We should be concerned about the moral hazard we place on American men and women we ask to undertake such policies.

  28. “Rather, the major problem with torture (in the A. Lazarus mode), as I see it, it that it produces false confessions at a high enough rate to be useless, or worse, dangerously misleading.”

    Torture when effective is only generally effective when you can collaborate a certain amount of information.

    So, you begin by torturing the person to obtain information of small consequence and which you already know. Once you establish to the person being tortured that you know when they are lying and can punish them for it, then you can use the trauma of the torture to induce in them a fear of lying to you. You create in the interogatted a deep fear of not cooperating with you. Then and only then does torture work. Once you begin obtaining information you previously did not know, you begin collaberating it.

    In the case of waterboarding, it works exceptionally well precisely because it isn’t pain which is the motivating factor but fear.

    It’s also worth noting that in a modern setting, torture can be practiced accompanied by various lie detection methods.

    “Real intelligence officers appear to be able to crack detainees by playing on their sense of defeat and demoralization, by establishing rapport, by offering rewards.”

    That’s just it. When dealing with religious fanatics from barbaric cultures who had an utter racial and religious loathing for everything about our culture, who were in some cases hostile to the point of psychosis, and who had recieved training in countering standard US interogation practices, ‘real intelligence officers’ were not able to crack detainees. Quite the contrary. My understanding is that we had ‘real intelligences officers’ become psychological casualties based on exposure to some of these people. It wasn’t the Al Queda religious fanatics that were cracking, it was the ‘real intelligence officers’.

    Under the stress of these conditions and facing unknown threats to the US, the use of more extreme methods were – rightly or wrongly, hastily or understandably – authorized. Now that we’ve had some time to consider, train, and develop methodologies, I’m sure we’ve gotten smarter about how we handle things, but the point is that our ‘real intelligence officers’ were utterly unprepared for what interrogating violent trained religious fanatics would be like.

    I’ve got all sorts of conflicted feelings and ideas about the ‘torture question’. I don’t know entirely where I stand on it. But I do sympathize with how the problems we have came about.

    There are a few things I’m certain of:

    a) It’s entirely inappropriate as a judicial procedure. No evidence arrising from phyiscal cohersion ought ever be permissable. But that’s just the thing.
    b) It’s entirely inappropriate as a reutine procedure. It may be the case that in extremis it’s permissable to use it to prevent a plausible or potential tragedy with a subject that clearly cannot be broken in any other way, but its equally obvious that you’d want to try everything else first.
    c) Waterboarding is probably the least offensive form of torture you could practice, because properly done it does no lasting physical harm to the subject.
    d) If you are going to do it at all, do it well. Done improperly, as your average amateur would practice it, it is nearly useless.
    e) The line between things that are torture and things that are not torture is extremely blurry. In the same way that a phrase like ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ requires a certain amount of understanding in context because, as a point of fact all punishment is cruel or it wouldn’t be punishment and all punishment is (we would hope) unusual, so it is that when we say ‘torture’ we can’t mean ordinary sorts of hardships or we mean nothing at all.
    f) As a standard of which is torture and which is not, whether or not the person authorizing the ‘torture’ is willing to undergo the procedure themselves seems as good of a standard as any I can think of at the moment.

  29. Chinese Water Torture.
    Salem witch trials.
    Inquisition – ewish forced conversion to Christianity during the Dark Ages
    Germans used on prisoners during WWII.
    Japanese used on prisoners during WWII.
    Khmer Rouge, waterboard one of the favorite devices.

    Clearly, waterboarding has a stellar and distinguished history.

    On George Washington:

    “Fischer writes that leaders in both the Continental Congress and the Continental Army resolved that the War of Independence would be conducted with a respect for human rights. This was all the more extraordinary because these courtesies were not reciprocated by King George’s armies. Indeed, the British conducted a deliberate campaign of atrocities against American soldiers and civilians. While Americans extended quarter to combatants as a matter of right and treated their prisoners with humanity, British regulars and German mercenaries were threatened by their own officers with severe punishment if they showed mercy to a surrendering American soldier. Captured Americans were tortured, starved and cruelly maltreated aboard prison ships.

    Washington decided to behave differently. After capturing 1,000 Hessians in the Battle of Trenton, he ordered that enemy prisoners be treated with the same rights for which our young nation was fighting. In an order covering prisoners taken in the Battle of Princeton, Washington wrote: “Treat them with humanity, and let them have no reason to Complain of our Copying the brutal example of the British Army in their treatment of our unfortunate brethren…. Provide everything necessary for them on the road.”

    “let them have no reason to complain”.

    There really is no black and white here. George Washington set the tone.

    Torture is un-American. Waterboarding is un-american.

  30. Let’s distinguish between interrogation of soldiers versus terrorists. Napoleon said that few soldiers know anything above the company level. That’s probably still true today. They mostly don’t have secrets that are worth torturing them for. But terrorists depend on secrecy and so finding out about safe houses etc can result in wins. It’s a different situation.

    Traditionally, really good interrogators have not used torture or any coercion. They get the prisoner talking about things he cares about. His family. Why his side in the war is right. This stuff actually has some value in itself — it tells us about why the terrorists fight and how they get recruited etc. The more he talks, the more he lets slip. At some point he might feel like he doesn’t have any new or useful information, and tells all about the old stuff. And that can be very useful. A sympathetic interrogator might get him to change sides. The shock of being captured, the chance to avoid boredom by talking to the friendly interrogator, the nice guy who explains the other side’s point of view, all that might make a big difference and get him to tell everything he knows. Interrogators this good may be rare. Certainly you can’t expect much of that from people who barely know the language. Probably most of our interrogation has to be done another way if we do it at all, because we just don’t have many people who’re good.

    Bad interrogators want quick results and tend to believe them. Most newly-trained interrogators are pretty bad that way.

    Ideally you shouldn’t ask any questions at all, just let the prisoner talk and sort out what he says. The more you tell him about what you want to know, the more he finds out about what you’re ready to believe. But it’s hard to sit back and not ask questions. So prisoners do find out what you want to know and what you’re ready to believe. If you give them clues about that they’re likely to follow up on your clues and multiple prisoners will construct a plausible story together, based mostly on what you ask them about. This is a problem for any interrogator but particularly for newbies. One check on it is not to tell the interrogators anything about what other interrogators are getting, and compare the stories that different guys put out. Order them not to talk to each other. But they will talk to each other, and they’ll find out about what’s going on in the war, and to some extent they’ll create similar stories regardless.

    Where torture is particularly bad about getting information is that it gives the prisoner a _strong incentive_ to figure out what you’ll believe. If he doesn’t know he has very strong reason to make it up. Somebody who’s just bored might make up stuff just for the hell of it, but he doesn’t _have_ to.

    It’s important to look like a low-value target. A whole lot of detainees in iraq have claimed they were planting IEDs because they had no money and they got paid to do it and they had to feed their families. There is no evidence this was ever true. It was a story americans were ready to believe because we didn’t want to believe that more than a tiny number of iraqis wanted to attack us. So it was a better story to tell than “I’m innocent” even for people who were innocent. If we believed them, they’d stay detained for some indefinite period, mostly getting ignored, and then we’d let them go. It’s only the high-value targets we bothered to torture, because we had a lot more detainees than we had trained interrogators and we had to pick and choose. Years ago there was an official estimate that something like 70% to 85% of our detainees had not done anything. But we didn’t have the resources to sort them out. Better to keep 5 innocent iraqis in a prison camp than risk letting one IED-layer go free early. In an ideal occupation this would be a misplaced priority. Sorting out innocent iraqis from people who planted bombs would be a big deal, because we want iraqis to trust us. But we didn’t have enough people to do that. We could barely spare enough people to guard the detainees we had.

  31. It might be useful for us to train interrogators in how to be interrogated. Ideally we’d get some anti-war activists to take the training in coercive methods, and then each interrogation trainee gets put in their hands for a time. (Officially it would be for an indefinite time but they could ask around and see that only one month would be available for it. So it would be an indefinite time not more than a month.) So, here you are, the anti-war activists start interrogating you. They say that they know you’re a homosexual, and they want you to tell them all the details. Then they start waterboarding you. (Maybe some stress positions too, but those are slower and can result in long-term physical problems even when they don’t kill people in the short run. And no sleep deprivation etc, we want our trainees clear-headed so they can see just what’s happening.) So once you start admitting about it, they zero in on who you’ve been doing it with. The details, who, where, when, and just exactly what you did. Sometimes they come back with physical evidence that you’ve been lying and they do some “retribution” for your misinformation.

    So you get to see how with just minimal prompting, mostly body language, they can steer you to admitting to homosexual acts with your best friend, your CO, and your base commander. They might give just a little bit of direct information. “Did you felch him?” “What do you mean ‘Felch’?” “Ha! You’re pretending you don’t even know. OK, Mr. Innocent, I’ll tell you.” And then they waterboard you until you describe just what it felt like when the base-commander’s wife felched you. They start giving you hints that they’re waterboarding your best friend now based on your evidence. They start accusing you of lying when you talk about what you did with him, and you have to try to figure out what they’ll accept.

    Mark described the case where they ask questions they already know the answer to and punish you when you lie, until you’re afraid to lie even when they don’t know. But when you have to throw away the truth whatever it is because you see they’re going to punish you until you figure out which fantasy they already believe, it’s a whole different ball game.

  32. Mark —

    You are nuts.

    No person will torture or even aggressively question ANY terrorist regardless of ticking bomb situations. You obviously have never worked in any large organization nor have experience real human punishment-reward systems within them.

    Downside of aggressive questioning: you go to jail for a long long long time. Your President decides his PC moralizing stuff is more important than anything else.

    Upside: you *might* be pardoned (likely not) but will face impoverishing legal bills and pillorying in the Press and by pols. Terrorists will target your family.

    Guess what will happen. Out in the real world away from McCain’s fantasies, this is what will happen and what happened on 9/11. No one pursued Mousiouia’s (sp?) laptop because of PC-fears despite ample evidence he was a terrorist. No one was allowed to share info because that would have been “profiling.” AND no one lost their job nor recieved jail time nor was punished in any way for these failures.

    OF COURSE we will lose a city or two due to PC moralizing and concern for terrorists tender psyches. It’s part and parcel of Steven’s horror at shooting down Yamamoto, decades later in perfect safety. People are well ..

    STUPID. Because we have suffered no further 9/11 style attacks they pencil in the odds of something along those lines or worse as non-existent. STUPIDITY brought on by too much apparent security and safety (also the demonization of protective forces like soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, cops, etc.)

    WHEN we lose cities please rest assured that people will take matters into their own hands (that’s the danger of government manufactured impotence). Let them eat cake brings out the guillotines. Not a mosque will remain standing, and many Muslims will by lynched, the rest rounded up into impromptu concentration camps. Because the question will be: WHAT will you do to survive? Particularly when the Goverment purposely did nothing to protect you? I abhor vigilante action but it’s predictable now. Mainly due to stupidity.

  33. _”No person will torture or even aggressively question ANY terrorist regardless of ticking bomb situations”_

    Jim, have you been reading this thread? We can debate whether waterboarding is torture or not but its most certainly agressively questioning at the VERY least. Water is forced into the lungs to instill a drowning reaction in the subject (because physically they are drowning).

    Without question the CIA flies terrorists to foriegn nations to allow their security people to genuinely torture them. Heck the CIA went further than that in Vietnam first hand.

    Please dont pretend bueracratic inertia would prevent torture in any scenario you can think of, we’re right on the cusp as is, and thats as far as we know publicly. This is a serious issue with very real implications.

  34. PD Shaw, you just can not refute my claim that torture produces false positives by showing it also produces true positives. Even leaving alone how much of the corroboration was bunk (for example, first the detainee confesses where the gun is and then the gun gets planted), you haven’t told us about the occasions where all the torture got was a maimed victim and a false story.

    In some situations, false positives aren’t a problem. For example, if you’re a Nazi in Paris, it doesn’t really matter if you get torture victims who don’t know the names of real Resistance members to turn in random neighbors. Jail cells and bullets are cheap, and the terrorizing effect is probably a “plus”. I don’t think we’re in that position, and I don’t just mean morally. I imagine there’s a quite limited number of operations we can pull of in Pakistan, for example, and it won’t be useful to squander them on KSM’s grocer because KSM turned him in other the seventh dunk.

    I suppose there’s an unstated implication that the Soviet and Hungarian and Nazi and Iranian torturers are a bunch of evil, sadistic pervs who get confessions for fun while ours are just skilled augmented interrogation technicians who would never think of letting their patriotism and love of national security make them torture a little too far (and then confirm their decision with a little more torture). That’s not how the world has ever worked, and I’m a little tired of this brand of amoral and hypocritical version of American exceptionalism.

  35. I don’t know why I bother.

    I know this is a subject that is difficult to discuss dispassionately, and I recognize that as a subject of morality it sometimes calls for ardor.

    But can we drop the stupidity?

  36. _I know this is a subject that is difficult to discuss dispassionately, and I recognize that as a subject of morality it sometimes calls for ardor._
    _But can we drop the stupidity?_

    I guess it depends on what you consider stupid. It kind of falls into a few categories for me. No ticking time bomb, that’s just for politicians to make points.
    a) Torture is wrong and it should never be done
    b) Torture is wrong for other countries, but it is ok for us.

    And then there is the secondary part.
    1) Torture is ok as long as it gives us only good information.
    2) Torture is good as long as it gives us something, and then we can sort out good from bad, even though we may have to act on both good and bad to figure it out.

    Which is hard to answer as long as you’re still stuck on the first part, or you have people interjecting the occasional “it’s not really torture”, or the fact that the 1v2 choice could inform the previous one.

    If AQ captured an American, and put out tape of them subjecting him to it – we would call it torture, without a doubt.

  37. _”PD Shaw, you just can not refute my claim that torture produces false positives by showing it also produces true positives.”_

    No one is refuting the claim that it produces false posititives. What is being questioned is whether that makes it a useless practice.

    Questioning someone in a crowded police station produces “false confessions.”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_confession#Voluntary_false_confessions Should we stop questioning people period?

    Certainly the techniques JT brought up are essentially the “Reid Technique”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reid_technique which has been proven to produce false confessions (it banned the UK).

    Look- this is essentially the same argument that is made about things like cluster bombs and depleted uranium, a bunch of civilians with little training and scant evidence make a claim more based on ‘logic’ than data when they just dont have the facts or expertise that the professionals do. Inherint in that argument is that the military is full of idiots and/or sadists that dont realize what they are doing is innefective. Sorry, but the preponderance of the evidence is on the critics to prove that waterboarding cant produce a net gain in valid intelligence (again, lies and falsehoods are a KNOWN QUANTITY, you guys arent on to some amazing discovery here).

    That being said- i think it is important to have a direct and clear argument, free from untested hypothesis. You will never win an political argument you preface on the idea that our military is full of sadists, fools, or even just angry men blinded by anger into incompetance. Forget that argument. If the military claims they can use waterboarding effectively, to claim otherwise just makes you a kook or argumentative.

    The argument that can sway people is:
    -this is a form of torture (and here is my definition).
    -we shouldnt be in the business of torturing people, because it is wrong.

    Stick to those guns, those are the only arguments that matter.

  38. _I don’t know why I bother._

    I know the feeling.

    _But can we drop the stupidity?_

    Ok, let’s!

    You first. ;) ;) ;)

    Seriously, good interrogators get fine results without aggressive methods. But we don’t have enough good interrogators.

    Bad interrogators get lots of bad results using aggressive methods. They’d probably get lots of bad results without aggressive methods too.

    Torture will get people to tell you stuff. If you don’t tell them anything about what you want, they might come up with lies or they might tell the truth as they see it. If you give them any tiny signals about what you want, they’ll tell you what you already expect with extra details thrown in. If somebody has a good pokar face they can maybe beat you at pokar. How good a pokar face do they need when you get your balls shocked for guessing wrong? When figuring out what they’re thinking is the only thing you care about?

    Bad interrogators who don’t use torture might not get anything. “Please, I didn’t do anything. My mother is sick. My wife is pregnant. If I don’t get back to work soon I’ll lose my job. Please.” Bad interrogators who use torture get to look busy. “#127 told me who the kingpin is. Here’s the address, run a snatch, grab Ahmed. #128 told me they’re planning an ambush tonight at this location. Now that we know we can catch them instead. #129 told me the iranians came and looked at what his group were doing and paid them money! He said they promised good mines but they haven’t delivered yet. #130 said an important Al Qaeda leader stayed with him last week and then went somewhere else but he doesn’t know where. He gave the address of another house the AQ guy stays at sometimes. #131 said….”

    If the “kingpin” doesn’t know anything but makes stuff up to fit the questions, how long will it take to find out? If the ambushers don’t show up maybe they got nervous. The iranian story will be just as useful true or false; they can raid the AQ house and get more people to torture. It provides a lot of things to do, if there are a bunch of people who don’t have enough to do. It all looks good at first and it might take a year to decide this guy isn’t that good an interrogator. By then he’ll be on his way home, and year after next he comes back and his superior might decide not to give him the best leads because somebody else has a better track record. But they keep him busy torturing detainees because there’s way more than enough work to go around.

    Meanwhile there are people in the USA who claim that torture doesn’t work. But it works fine for keeping this guy busy. If he wasn’t getting bad results with torture he probably wouldn’t get any results at all.

  39. _You will never win an political argument you preface on the idea that our military is full of sadists, fools, or even just angry men blinded by anger into incompetance. Forget that argument._

    I believe a stronger claim is true, in this forum.

    _You will never win an political argument_

    _The argument that can sway people is:
    -this is a form of torture (and here is my definition).
    -we shouldnt be in the business of torturing people, because it is wrong._

    No, this argument will not sway anybody. Anybody who is willing to be swayed by this argument is already against our military and CIA using torture.

    Everybody who supports strenuous interrogation has already rejected this argument in its entirety. Each of them already believes that what we are doing is right. If they think it isn’t torture they won’t agree with your definition of torture. If they think it’s torture and they’re fine with that, they won’t agree that it’s wrong when it’s done by people they like.

    We’re still discussing this because it’s an easy, congenial topic of discussion. Far easier than considering what to do next now that we’ve lost in iraq.

  40. _You will never win an political argument you preface on the idea that our military is full of sadists, fools, or even just angry men blinded by anger into incompetance._

    I agree with statement, but at the same time, the military is human, and occassionally people make mistakes. A mistake while water-boarding a suspect can lead to death. I think it’s reasonable to ask how, when and why we choose to interrogate suspects. Can we be sure that our techniques will not kill, maim or psychologically damage innocent suspects? I think that’s important in dealing with foreign populations, especially when non-physical interrogations have also led to intelligence breathroughs.

    _Forget that argument. If the military claims they can use waterboarding effectively, to claim otherwise just makes you a kook or argumentative._

    Again, what is Effective? I’m not sure we know how the goverment defines the word. I think we all agree that Abu Gharib was not effective. However, the military has kept fairly quiet about what rules they actually use. That’s essentially what this argument is about.

  41. Our uniformed military doesn’t seem very happy with our investigative techniques.

    The Judge Advocates General (JAGs) of the US Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines agreed in answers to questions posed by the Senate in August 2006 that the use of “waterboarding” to create the sensation of drowning, of stress positions – in which prisoners are forced to stand, sit or kneel in abnormal positions for prolonged periods of time – as well as the use of dogs and removal of clothing in interrogation, would be inhumane and would violate US law and the laws of war. Several JAGs told Congress that waterboarding would specifically constitute torture under the federal Anti-Torture Statute, making it a felony offense.

    The “coercive” investigations seem to be done by a bunch of CIA 007-wannabes and experienced torturers from regimes than need to terrorize their subjects. As to the supporters of coercive investigations here…

  42. “Our uniformed military doesn’t seem very happy with our investigative techniques.”

    I agree that it has no place in the military.

    The military is trying to fight a war. It’s trying to fight a war in as conventional of a manner as possible, because that is what the military is trained to do, and that’s what they are good at, and that’s what they rightly feel best secures the safety of thier soldiers.

    If you capture someone planting an IED, I don’t see much what the point of torturing him is. If you capture someone you think plants IED’s, I think unequivably anyone familiar with cohersive methods will tell you that torturing him to find out if he does plant IED’s is useless. But the thing is, I don’t think there is much of the way of evidence that the military or anyone else tortures people that they find planting IED’s. To my knowledge, the military policy in Iraq has been to assume Geneva convention protections apply. Where there has been lapses in that policy, the military has pursued it as a crime.

    But there is more going on in this war than conventional or even counter-insurgency warfare.

    We are also involved in a war of assassins, and a war of assassins doesn’t work anything like the militaries conventional policies and Westphalian documents like the Geneva conventions are utterly inapplicable because they assume institutions, relationships between institutions, resources, methodologies, and desires that just aren’t there. The question of ‘How should soldiers be treated?’ is rather irrelevant.

    Then the question becomes, what do you do with assassins? Treating them as criminals doesn’t work. Treating them as prisoners of war doesn’t work. Normally police style interrogations don’t work, and you can’t just not interrogate them like you were fighting some war between gentlemen. So what should your policy be?

    That is not at all to me clear. It is a hard question to answer, just as the question of what is acceptable punishment and what is torture is a hard question to answer.

    “Seriously, good interrogators get fine results without aggressive methods.”

    And that’s just it. They don’t. Before I can even treat you as serious about this debate, you have to begin with the premise that religious fanatics from cultures that consider yours fundamentally alien and sinful cannot be handled with normal ‘non-aggressive’ (whatever that means) interogation methods – especially if they’ve been well trained in what to expect of normal American interrogative methods.

  43. J Thomas: The one thing that we seem to agree universally on is that from what we heard of the first year or two of interrogations with respect to the WoT, is that they were very ineptly done. I was appalled by the lack of professionalism on display, not just with amateurs playing sex games, but in what was authorized procedures.

    As a joint manifesto that I think we can agree on is, “We shouldn’t have bad interogators.”

  44. “Again, what is Effective? I’m not sure we know how the goverment defines the word. I think we all agree that Abu Gharib was not effective. However, the military has kept fairly quiet about what rules they actually use. That’s essentially what this argument is about.”

    Yes, exactly. What I define as ‘stupidity’ is the assumptions people are making to fill in the gaps in there knowledge.

    To my knowledge, no one here really knows what is going on and if they did know, they couldn’t say. The basis of our disagreement is primarily over what we’ve chosen in our ignorance to believe is going on. Either that or a fundamental lack of seriousness on both sides.

    This thread is more about people’s fertile imaginations and prejugdices than it is about any sort of constructive conversation.

  45. There are some other sticky matters that seem to have been overlooked in this debate, like due process, habeus corpus, cruel and unusual punishment and what it does to us as a people to have to view ourselves as a people who condone this sort of stuff.

    Are we a people that are so fearful that we resort to this? Is every suspected terrorist a candidate for this sort of treatment. Who decides who gets waterboarded and who doesn’t and under what circumstances? An interrogator? That is pretty low down the totem pole. Let’s move the decision making process up to the level of the Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs. I doubt that the debate would be the same if the higher ups in government were personally reponsible for these actions.

    I throw my lot with the likes Washington, McClain and the JAGs rather than those that are constantly telling us that we should be so frightened as a people that we should give a carte blanche to interrogators to engage these techniques.

  46. “Seriously, good interrogators get fine results without aggressive methods.”

    _And that’s just it. They don’t._

    Evidence?

  47. _”No, this argument will not sway anybody. Anybody who is willing to be swayed by this argument is already against our military and CIA using torture.”_

    Its swayed me, and no thanks to you btw.

    Believe me, no matter how much you pop off about ‘this is how you interogate people’ for some reason it does ZERO to influence me, maybe because you have no standing on the issue (and i believe we are all savvy enough at this stage to know its possible ro provide links to any position under the sun to prove damn near anything).

    Quit playing the expert, you come off like you have no idea what you are talking about outside of whatever websites you happen to cherry pick on the issue. We dont have enough information to judge whether this technique is effective or not the way it is being utilized, we cant, if the information was public it would _certainly_ not be effective. As far as i’m concerned this is no different than telling the Army they should be using a different small unit tactic – im always going to have to assume they know more than J Thomas does, sorry.

    And i beleive we still havent heard your definition of torture for that matter.

  48. “I think that’s important in dealing with foreign populations, especially when non-physical interrogations have also led to intelligence breathroughs.”

    I think that it is also important to keep in mind what foreign populations are generally use to.

    I have lived in a third world country not known for its human rights abuses. Yet, I know that people were reutinely flogged with rubber hoses in the course of reutine police investigations in order to obtain confessions.

    Even if anything we do arises to the level of torture, within the population itself it is likely to be considered unremarkable. Indeed, unless we consistantly applied physical torture and brutality, the natural responce would be to think of us as ‘soft’ – which is more likely to be the prevailing opinion amongst Iraqi’s. The Iraqi’s want security, and they know from experience how to obtain it. We probably primarily seem baffling to them.

    Not that I’m advocating that we conform to thier culture or expectations (quite the contrary, I think we should force them to conform to ours), but it is worth mentioning when you bring up the impact on the trust we have with local populations.

    Finally, as long as you are talking about the expectations of a population, you better accept the fact that in our own population ‘Dirty Harry’ is generally considered a moral figure, and when he tortures the bad guy to obtain information he’s considered justified and the critic that says he’s gone over the line is considered to be morally deficient. You are likewise going to have to accept if you want to be considered serious, that the manner in which someone is treated is relative to how they deserve to be treated. To give an example, I’m going to be much more forgiving of abuse that a foreign power were to inflict on one of our spies than I would of abuse that they inflicted on a uniformed soldier. If you are a spy, assassin or sabateur, you are breaking ‘the rules of common decency’ to begin with and you can’t expect under those circumstances those rules to protect you. This is a very very different situation than if you are a soldier who has been following the rules of warfare, and then expect those same rules to protect you.

  49. _As a joint manifesto that I think we can agree on is, “We shouldn’t have bad interogators.”_

    I’d like to agree with that. I think we can agree that “We should have enough good interrogators.”.

    But we don’t have enough good interrogators. We don’t have enough soldiers of any description for the occupation.

    Since we don’t have enough good interrogators, should we fill in with bad interrogators or just leave a bunch of high-value suspects unquestioned? I don’t have a good answer. I guess it depends on how easy it is to check their bad output and glean a few good results from it.

    Torture has hurt our reputation a whole lot. There’s every reason to think it’s reduced the number of people who surrender to us. Sexual tortures weren’t limited to the MP at Abu Ghraib, and things like making people eat ham and soiling korans weren’t either. The prospect of maybe being tortured to death by perverts makes a big difference when somebody’s thinking about fighting on and probably dying versus trying to surrender.

    It’s hurt our effectiveness with iraqi civilians generally. The mystique about americans has mostly worn off, and this is one of the reasons.

    So I think we shouldn’t have tortured anybody we would ever release or let communicate with other iraqis. If it was people we were going keep secretly and kill and bury in unmarked graves, then those reasons aren’t as important.

    But just like people argue that it was a mistake to get into the war but we can’t stop now, I think it wouldn’t help us with iraqis to stop torturing them now. The damage is done and they won’t respect us more if we quit torturing at this point. If we don’t have any better use for our bad interrogators than doing bad interrogations, then we might as well go on torturing iraqis until the day we pull out for all the good stopping would do for our relations with iraqis.

  50. _”I agree with statement, but at the same time, the military is human, and occassionally people make mistakes. A mistake while water-boarding a suspect can lead to death.”_

    True, and a mistake holding someone prisoner can lead to his death, a mistake capturing them, holding them, etc.

    _”Again, what is Effective? I’m not sure we know how the goverment defines the word. I think we all agree that Abu Gharib was not effective. However, the military has kept fairly quiet about what rules they actually use. That’s essentially what this argument is about.”_

    I dont think so, because we are never going to know if its effective or not. Its impossible to. We either trust the government in this or we dont. Its the same with virtually any act of war- you cant ask Eisenhower to prove that bombing Germany is worth the cost of bomber crews. Is he going to show you the target list?

    We (the public) can never have enough information to second guess when the results have to be classified. Is there any possible way this isnt true?

    The issue cant be whether waterboarding is effective. The government, military, and CIA are satisfied that it is and _they_ are the ones with access to the data, not J Thomas, not us.

    The issue is whether _even assuming it is effective_ its still wrong.

    Think of it this way- if Hillary Clinton wins the next election and then decides that waterboarding is also fine, we are going to have a lot of people jumping sides on this issue. Thats bulls$%t. This shouldnt be about whether we trust who is telling us about waterboarding. This needs to be about what the practice is and whether it is wrong no matter who is doing it. There is way to much BDS built into this, and just looking at this thread i can see the mindset that because the Bush administration is doing it, it _must_ be wrong. This has a lot more to do with identity politics than any of us are willing to admit.

  51. “There is way to much BDS built into this, and just looking at this thread i can see the mindset that because the Bush administration is doing it, it must be wrong. This has a lot more to do with identity politics than any of us are willing to admit.”

    Especially since many of these policies (for example current rendition practices) started back in those ‘halycon days of yore’ under the Clinton administration that the critics so often seem to be longing for when the US was treating terrorism as purely a criminal/legal matter. Treating terrorism purely as an international criminal matter does mean, sending these guys back to countries of origin knowing that they are likely to be tortured. There is nothing new about that.

  52. Yes, Mark, holding someone can lead to their death. But I think we all agree that holding someone in their cell is quite a bit less fatal than partially suffocating them.

    Despite what any clinton has to say, I’m not changing sides on this issue. I think it’s immoral to torture, period, because of the high liklihood that sooner or later, you’re going to maim or kill someone who was innocent.

    I don’t think we should condone torture by “lowering ourselves to the standards of other nations”. We’re either better than that, or we’re not.

  53. “I think it’s immoral to torture, period, because of the high liklihood that sooner or later, you’re going to maim or kill someone who was innocent.”

    With any stance but strict pacifism, sooner or later this is going to be true.

    I think the morality of torture is more likely to be judge by what it does to the torturer than whether or not it may cause an injustice to occur to an innocent. All sorts of things may cause an injustice to come upon an innocent, but the morality of that thing is not judged solely by whether it did so.

  54. _The issue cant be whether waterboarding is effective. The government, military, and CIA are satisfied that it is and they are the ones with access to the data, not J Thomas, not us._

    I’m certainly not going to state my credentials about this; you’d have no reason to believe me if I did. If you disagree you’ll just have to disagree. However, if you don’t mind me quoting scripture I’ll mention that “All the experts who’re right agree with me”. ;)

    I want to point out that our military has approved some pretty crazy approaches in the past. And not just them. We get peculiar sorts of groupthink *all the time*.

    Consider how much of medical practice from the 1930’s was considered harmful by the 1960’s. Consider how much of 1960’s medical practice was considered harmful by the 1990’s. MDs believe in lots of stuff until they stop believing in it. Same with the army.

    Most of what I’m saying isn’t at all controversial. If you disagree with specific parts, would you like to say which parts?

    _We (the public) can never have enough information to second guess when the results have to be classified. Is there any possible way this isnt true?_

    Consider the possibility that our military and CIA are no longer actually using these methods, because they’ve learned better. But the Bush administration is still pushing hard to make them legal, for their own political purposes. And our military and CIA etc don’t come out and say they don’t use these methods that don’t particularly work, because that wouldn’t fit the administration’s message and they could get punished for it. Can you definitively say that isn’t true?

    _The issue cant be whether waterboarding is effective. The government, military, and CIA are satisfied that it is and they are the ones with access to the data, not J Thomas, not us._

    What you say here isn’t necessarily true. This could be entirely a political issue, designed to satisfy civilians who want torture — civilians who don’t know it’s ineffective. Civilians who like to think they’re tough because they aren’t too squeamish to object to torture.

    Once you accept that you don’t know anything, all that’s left is to argue whether your morality is more important than whatever the reality happens to be.

    Or we can discuss hypotheticals. Like, what if we don’t have enough troops in iraq, and we don’t have enough of the particular sorts of experts we really need? Should we try to substitute or should we do without?

    Are the methods the israelis use for interrogation (and for that matter for MOUT) to keep palestinians hopeless — are those methods useful in a nation we’re trying to liberate?

    Is the information we get from torture worth the side effects? (This one you can’t study in detail because the information is classified. And the public records of side effects are subject to various distortions.)

    _if Hillary Clinton wins the next election and then decides that waterboarding is also fine, we are going to have a lot of people jumping sides on this issue._

    I hope not.

    _Thats bulls$%t._

    Agreed.

  55. _Treating terrorism purely as an international criminal matter does mean, sending these guys back to countries of origin knowing that they are likely to be tortured. There is nothing new about that._

    No, what’s new is sending them to a third country where we can get away with torturing them ourselves, or watch third-party citizens do the torturing under our direction. When the torture wouldn’t be legal in the USA or in the victim’s nation.

    Or where the victim’s nation wouldn’t go along with it in that particular case.

    Sending people home to the tender mercies of their own government is standard practice except when we think they’d be mistreated, in which case we might let them stay to keep them from being political prisoners etc. And except when we want them. If we want them we tend to keep them at least while the extradition request wends its way through our courts.

    The trouble with sending somebody to a third country to torture them because it’s illegal here and illegal in their home country, is that it gives the appearance that we’re doing something wrong. Generally more pleasant to change the laws to make it legal here.

    What would it take for the IRS to get permission to do waterboarding? Maybe, momentum and 20 years?

  56. _”Consider the possibility that our military and CIA are no longer actually using these methods, because they’ve learned better. But the Bush administration is still pushing hard to make them legal, for their own political purposes. And our military and CIA etc don’t come out and say they don’t use these methods that don’t particularly work, because that wouldn’t fit the administration’s message and they could get punished for it. Can you definitively say that isn’t true?”_

    I can’t definitively say that is not true- far fetched an unsupported by any facts I am aware of, but not metaphysically impossible.

    But if it were, the point would be moot, because unless Bush and Cheney have a prisoner in the basement of the White House, under your scenario nobody is being waterboarded. End of problem?

    If this kind of questioning is so ineffective our intelligence people wont use it, who cares if its legal? Equiping our troops with swords instead of rifles isnt illegal but we dont worry much about it, if the Generals arent going to do it whats the problem?

    Now you’re spinning a really strange scenario. Let me get this straight- its not that our intelligence officers are stupid and bloodthirsty, its that our government is, and they are fooling our bloodthirsty populace into _thinking_ we are torturing people, even though our intel people wont do it because its so useless? Do you really believe that?

    _”Is the information we get from torture worth the side effects? (This one you can’t study in detail because the information is classified. And the public records of side effects are subject to various distortions.)”_

    Oh, THIS one we cant study in detail because the results are classified. As opposed to everything else you’ve posited. Oooook.

  57. We are also involved in a war of assassins, and a war of assassins doesn’t work anything like the militaries conventional policies and Westphalian documents like the Geneva conventions are utterly inapplicable because they assume institutions, relationships between institutions, resources, methodologies, and desires that just aren’t there. The question of ‘How should soldiers be treated?’ is rather irrelevant.
    ********************************
    This is utter nonsense. The perfect extremist throw the baby out with the bathwater argument that is based on fear which has dominated the debate on everything since 9/11.
    ________________________________

    Then the question becomes, what do you do with assassins? Treating them as criminals doesn’t work. Treating them as prisoners of war doesn’t work. Normally police style interrogations don’t work, and you can’t just not interrogate them like you were fighting some war between gentlemen. So what should your policy be?
    ********************************
    More fear. The terrorists are like a superbug. Nothing we normally do can stop them so we have to take extreme measures. This is like a comic book scenario. I refuse to believe that we are helpless against “them”, thank you.
    ________________________________

    Before I can even treat you as serious about this debate, you have to begin with the premise that religious fanatics from cultures that consider yours fundamentally alien and sinful cannot be handled with normal ‘non-aggressive’ (whatever that means) interrogation methods – especially if they’ve been well trained in what to expect of normal American interrogative methods.
    *******************************
    What you are saying is the following: before I will take you seriously, you have to instill our enemies with super-human powers that force us to abandon our principles in order to deal with them. I am not that frightened.
    ______________________________
    Not that I’m advocating that we conform to thier culture or expectations (quite the contrary, I think we should force them to conform to ours), but it is worth mentioning when you bring up the impact on the trust we have with local populations.
    ******************************
    I am confused here. who do you want us to waterboard inthis situation, the cops or the suspects?
    ______________________________
    Finally, as long as you are talking about the expectations of a population, you better accept the fact that in our own population ‘Dirty Harry’ is generally considered a moral figure, and when he tortures the bad guy to obtain information he’s considered justified and the critic that says he’s gone over the line is considered to be morally deficient.
    ******************************
    Too bad the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights didn’t opt for this “Least Common Denominator” philosophy and play to our most base fantasies about righteous vigilantesim.. And, by the way, I don’t think that Clint Eastwood actually tortures the bad guys. I might be wrong.

  58. _But if it were, the point would be moot, because unless Bush and Cheney have a prisoner in the basement of the White House, under your scenario nobody is being waterboarded. End of problem?_

    No, the question is who it should be legal for, not who’s actually doing it at the moment.

    “Is the information we get from torture worth the side effects? (This one you can’t study in detail because the information is classified. And the public records of side effects are subject to various distortions.)”

    _Oh, THIS one we cant study in detail because the results are classified. As opposed to everything else you’ve posited. Oooook._

    Can you see how to do it? You assume we’re torturing people. Clearly we used to, we admit it in court.

    Then you want to assume that the results are worth it. But the results are secret. Every now and then there’s a giant security leak and we find out about somebody’s computer full of information that shouldn’t have been revealed etc. But mostly we don’t find out about the successes, and we only find out about the failures when there’s a terrorist incident. There have been no such failures in the USA since 9/11 unless you include the anthrax that’s widely reported to come from a US military lab. And terrorist incidents that happen in other countries might be predicted to have the effect of getting them to cooperate better with us. So when AQ makes a successful attack in another country, and we make vague warnings before it happens and then it does happen, that’s an intelligence *success* for us.

    Consider our bombing program in WWII. Afterward we mostly agreed that it was counterproductive except for the strikes on oil facilities and a few special cases. But at the time the army kept approving worthless bombing runs even while their own statisticians told them the result was less than useless. We have a history of that sort of thing. We kept building battleships until long after we knew they were not worth doing. Etc.

    The idea that the army says torture is valuable so we should agree it’s valuable, is not backed up by experience.

    There isn’t much reliable public evidence. Like the guys who said they got more good info from Gitmo prisoners after they softened the treatment don’t really give evidence that torture is useless. They give evidence tha torture works better if you do it awhile and then stop doing it. For the other question we’d want to compare victims who got tortured versus those who didn’t get tortured. But that isn’t enough either, people who know their neighbors are tortured but they personally won’t be tortured while they give good info might be doing it because of the other torture. It takes more thought to do the experiment correctly. I assert that experiment has been done, and the result was that for experienced interrogators torture didn’t work as well as softer methods, and those results have been widely spread among military interrogators and widely ignored. But I wouldn’t expect you to take my word for it. I’m just somebody who comments in a blog. Wait a few years until it goes public.

  59. _”Consider our bombing program in WWII. Afterward we mostly agreed that it was counterproductive except for the strikes on oil facilities and a few special cases. But at the time the army kept approving worthless bombing runs even while their own statisticians told them the result was less than useless.”_

    Huh? Dresden and Tokyo were firebombed 3 months before VE and VJ day respectively. What you are claiming is exactly the opposite of the conclusions drawn regarding strategic bombing by American military:

    “UNITED STATES STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY
    SUMMARY REPORT (Pacific War)”:http://www.anesi.com/ussbs01.htm#eeoaaatj
    1 JULY 1946

    _”We underestimated the ability of our air attack on Japan’s home islands, coupled as it was with blockade and previous military defeats, to achieve unconditional surrender without invasion. By July 1945, the weight of our air attack had as yet reached only a fraction of its planned proportion, Japan’s industrial potential had been fatally reduced, her civilian population had lost its confidence in victory and was approaching the limit of its endurance, and her leaders, convinced of the inevitability of defeat, were preparing to accept surrender. The only remaining problem was the timing and terms of that surrender.”_

    Why do you think the AF was established as an independent branch, the army and navy were basically demobilized, and Strategic Bombers became the obsession of the military for the next 30 years?

    Care to revise your statement?

    This is a good example of the dangers in trying to armchair quarterback national defense, even with 50 years of hindsight. Professionals are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs.

    _”Then you want to assume that the results are worth it. But the results are secret.”_

    Thats my point! You assume the results not only arent worth it, but that there are no results at all. Can we really judge based on leaks, inevtitably by individuals without access to the results (the big picture)?

  60. Moreover im on record as stating that the results are immaterial if the act is immoral and not compatible with our beliefs. That wont change even if we somehow invented a fullproof torture method, and therein lies the danger in building a sand castle on the idea that we shouldnt torture because its not effective.

    In my opinion, its a slippery, subjective stance to take in an attempt not to look soft of terrorism.

    We shouldnt torture because it is wrong, period, so lets define torture.

  61. _Why do you think the AF was established as an independent branch, the army and navy were basically demobilized, and Strategic Bombers became the obsession of the military for the next 30 years?_

    Partly because we had nukes then.

    Our bombing of germany failed to much reduce germany’s industrial production, except by reducing their oil supply. Our blockade of japan prevented most necessary resources from getting to japan, and their industry mostly shut down from that.

    “Then you want to assume that the results are worth it. But the results are secret.”

    _Thats my point! You assume the results not only arent worth it, but that there are no results at all._

    I’m publicly making the argument that well-trained interrogators get better results without torture. I don’t know whether our poorly-trained interrogators are getting _some_ results _with_ torture, I imagine they are. They are also known to be getting lots of false positives that waste time. I don’t know how to quantify that.

    The obvious solution is to train them better, but there are constraints. We don’t have enough good interrogators, we don’t have enough interrogators period, we don’t have enough good interrogation trainers, we don’t have enough soldiers in iraq. Is training more good interrogators the limiting factor? I dunno. Maybe we have enough other critical shortages that we’re training the right number of them.

  62. _In my opinion, its a slippery, subjective stance to take in an attempt not to look soft of terrorism._

    I consider the two parts independent of each other. If it’s so wrong we mustn’t do it, then it doesn’t matter whether it works. If it doesn’t work, then it doesn’t matter whether it’s morally OK.

    _We shouldnt torture because it is wrong, period, so lets define torture.-

    Well, let’s consider the Geneva conventions. They define two classes, military and civilian. Military detainees get some privileges that civilian detainees don’t get. They get to wear uniforms, they get the respect due their rank, and they are not supposed to be punished for what they did as soldiers unless they did war crimes.

    So a civilian who shot and killed a US soldier is a murderer. After a fair trial no sooner than 6 months after he is captured, he could be executed for it. But a soldier who shot and killed a US soldier hasn’t done anything wrong.

    In both cases, we are allowed to ask questions and the detainee is allowed to not answer or to lie. There are no allowed punishments for refusing to talk to interrogators, but there can be withdrawal of privileges. A detainee who gets to answer questions in an airconditioned room with cigarettes and extra food etc, may instead find himself sweating in the regular quarters with no extra food or cigarettes. We are required to give him safe livable conditions, and we can give extra rewards for talking to interrogators.

    If we aren’t allowed to punish detainees _at all_ for refusing to answer our questions, then it’s irrelevant just which punishments should be called torture.

    The problem with this approach is that some of us believe we _really need_ to get information from detainees. With the right information we will win the war and without that information we will lose. If we _have to do it_ then nobody should expect us not to. As I understand it this argument did not work very well when nazi leaders used it to justify war crimes, but they had done their war crimes and lost anyway so they weren’t in a very good position to make the claim.

    So if we torture people and then we win, probably nobody will go after us for war crimes. But if we torture people because otherwise we’ll lose, and we still lose, then it’s more likely to haunt us.

    I consider this a bad thing. When our leaders think they mustn’t lose or else they might suffer personal consequences, it makes it much harder for them to negotiate an end to a losing war. This is a problem. Quite likely both german and japan would have surrendered easier if their leaders had known they wouldn’t be executed after a surrender. Our leaders might be much more willing to withdraw from iraq if they were sure they wouldn’t go on trial.

  63. _”Our bombing of germany failed to much reduce germany’s industrial production, except by reducing their oil supply. Our blockade of japan prevented most necessary resources from getting to japan, and their industry mostly shut down from that.”_

    Which was not the conclusions reached by the US military post war, and moreover destruction of industry isn’t equivalent to utility. The sad fact is the bomber generals who ended up running the military post-war came to the conclusion that mass casualty attacks were effective at breaking the enemies will, ending the war regardless of their industrial output. The cult of breaking enemy moral via airpower lives on through today as we saw in Shock and Awe, as well as the Israeli-Lebanon fiasco.

    _”I’m publicly making the argument that well-trained interrogators get better results without torture.”_

    Your making the claim. Argument requires proofs, which we have seen scant evidence of.

    _”I don’t know whether our poorly-trained interrogators are getting some results with torture, I imagine they are.”_

    Your claim that they are poorly trained.

    _”They are also known to be getting lots of false positives that waste time. I don’t know how to quantify that.”_

    Exactly. Yet you seem very positive of your conclusion, which is what I find astonishing.

    _”They define two classes, military and civilian.”_

    You forgetting the third class- illegal combatants, who retain no such rights.

    _Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State._

    _In each case, such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention._

    “Article 5″:http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/iraq/genevaconventions.html

    Is international law really the best we can do? I think Darfur and Rwanda might suggest it is not ideal. More importantly you havent helped us. International law forbids torture. So does American law. We are right back to square one. I asked you to define torture, and you sent back a treaty that forbids torture. You can’t define a term using that term, right?

  64. I have lived in a third world country not known for its human rights abuses. Yet, I know that people were reutinely flogged with rubber hoses in the course of reutine police investigations in order to obtain confessions.

    And I bet they solved (!) a lot of cases. Kind of like winning computer games—with the cheat code. Police forces that use torture lose their ability to solve crimes that require real investigation. That is, ironically, a lesson we dispatched American police to teach the new Iraqi police, who, of course, relied mostly on brutality in the Saddam era. I imagine the students are somewhat confused now.

    Israel had a very public discussion of torture. The security services claimed to have found exactly one ticking bomb with a relatively widespread program of torturing Palestinian detainees. This compared with a major contribution to the radicalization of the Palestinians and a number of intelligence mistakes based on false confessions. The idea that we are protected only by the secret, illegal, perverted work of the chosen few is the superhero fantasy of sick pre-teen boys. It is not a rational basis for policy.

    I assert that experiment has been done, and the result was that for experienced interrogators torture didn’t work as well as softer methods, and those results have been widely spread among military interrogators and widely ignored.

    That assumes the purpose of torture is obtaining accurate information, which I doubt. How about the excitement of liberation from the norms of human behavior? Instilling fear in potential enemies? Instilling panic in the home population? For the record, soft methods got a lot from the Millennium Bomber for a while.

    [Aside to Mark B.: It’s way out of any real area of expertise, but I’m not sure the US military’s view of strategic bombing’s effectiveness is the same now as in the 1946 report.]

  65. “They define two classes, military and civilian.”

    _You forgetting the third class- illegal combatants, who retain no such rights._

    How many times have we been over this? There is no third class mentioned in the geneva conventions. This is something that some americans recently made up from scratch. It isn’t there. Who besides these americans thinks it’s there?

    Civilians can be tried for their crimes, which include things that soldiers can be expected to do. They can be put on trial for criminal behavior (acting like soldiers is criminal) and punished with fixed jailtime or execution. That’s it.

    If they’re spies they can be held without communication with the people they’re spying for. (And executed after a fair trial.)

    bq. Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

    Umm. What rights and privileges would those be? Like, say the IPP is a Margon, and if we feed her, her spores will ripen and then millions of human-infecting spores will be released to create millions of new Margons? So we can’t feed her as guaranteed in the geneva conventions, because she’s a threat to security even while detained? We’re talking science fiction here.

    Try this one. We detain Moqtada al Sadr. Or better for the discussion, Sistani. If it’s known we have him, there will be big riots and such. Our security depends on keeping it secret. So we don’t have to admit we have him, and we don’t have to let him see a spiritual advisor, and we don’t have to let the Red Cross see him, and we don’t have to let him write inflammatory letters, etc. We do still have to provide him with food, medical care, security, etc. He doesn’t lose all his rights because he’s a threat, he just loses the rights that are dangerous to us.

    OK, this IPP is suspected of knowing something we need to know, and it hurts our security not to know it. Like we think she might have a plan to help a sniper shoot at a US soldier, and that’s bad for our security, so we get to torture her? She loses the right not to get tortured because we think she knows something we need to know?

    bq. Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

    That looks plain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s torture, you don’t do things to people to make them talk.

    Unless we accept your exception above, and in that case we should amend it to

    bq. Art. 31 revised. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties, unless they are suspected of being enemies who know something the occupiers think they need to know.

    I don’t believe the intention of the GC was to do it that way.

    See, we’ve agreed not to “coerce” people for interrogation, so it doesn’t matter whether our coercion is torture or not. We don’t have to define torture for that purpose. We might still want to define torture for purposes of revenge or sadism, but our interrogation methods are already handled.

  66. _”Aside to Mark B.: It’s way out of any real area of expertise, but I’m not sure the US military’s view of strategic bombing’s effectiveness is the same now as in the 1946 report.]”_

    We’re way off topic, but the claim wasnt about what the military believes today. Its about what they concluded following the war. It was an interesting time if you are into military history, particular the years between Hiroshima and the H-bomb before most people (particularly in the military) really realized what they had on their hands. At the time the A-bomb was widely viewed as just a really really good bomb, the destinction between nuclear and conventional war didnt appear until the 50s. The Manhattan Project scientists new, and their various reactions are fascinating (a lot tended towards pacifism but were won over to fight Hitler).

  67. _”Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties._”

    _”That looks plain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s torture, you don’t do things to people to make them talk._”

    Except that you left out the caveat:

    _”the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention”_

    The protections you are citing are clearly lost when a person abandons their status as a protected civilian.

  68. The International Convention Against Torture (ratified by US): No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

    “whatsoever”.

    Meanwhile, another Marine goes soft.

    Lt. Col. Colby Vokey has served in the Marine Corp for the last twenty years, and spent the last four as chief of the Corps’ defense lawyers for the western United States. [snip] Instead, when Daniel Zwerdling of NPR interviewed Vokey, the Lt. Col. had recently been fired from his position as chief of defense counsels, had announced he’s leaving the Corps, and that he is “angry” and “bitter.” Why? Because Volkey placed the rule of law above the rule of politics. [snip] Vokey’s 15 year-old Canadian client had been tortured into signing a confession, including being used a “human mop” to wipe his own urine off the floor after being left chained in painful positions for many hours at a time. Vokey was kept from meeting with his client, or from seeing the evidence against him.

    It’s lucky we have heroes like David Addington and John Yoo to prottect us from Osama, isn’t it?

  69. “…human mop” to wipe his own urine off the floor after being left chained in painful positions for many hours at a time…”

    I suppose this is what he was told by his client. This is of course to be treated as the gospel (Koran) truth.

  70. Why do we always jump without reviewing the background of the writer:

    Nance Background HT OTB.

    “In case anyone is still reading the comments, here are a few points regarding Malcolm:

    * He was a Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) in the Navy. We operated radios, mostly on ships, submarines and airplanes. Our job was mostly tedium, so some of us like to turn it into an adrenaline-pumping action adventure in our sea stories.

    * None my friends and colleagues who were in Beirut on October 23, 1983, can remember Malcolm’s presence in the aftermath of the Marine barracks attack. If he was there, he maintained what was a startlingly low profile for Malcolm.

    * Malcolm was an instructor at the Navy Technical Training Center Detachment at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, TX, which is where he earned his Master Training Specialist designation. It had nothing to do with his assignment at SERE School.

    * Malcolm was assigned to SERE School as an instructor to get him out of the way of the mainstream of the Navy’s Cryptologic community, due to some run-ins he’d had with influential people. CTs only get assigned duties outside of the community when they’ve lost their clearance or really pissed someone off. CTs have Top Secret SCI clearances; they don’t get sent to mainstream Navy schools as instructors (thereby wasting their clearances) unless there’s a problem somewhere. It certainly wasn’t because Malcolm was some whiz-bang SEAL counter-terrorism expert.

    * I went through SERE school at least a decade before Malcolm was a SERE instructor, but during my class, there wasn’t anything approaching the severity of his description of waterboarding. Yes, there were many very unpleasant experiences there, but nothing that came anywhere close to being properly called “torture.”

    * Malcolm bases some of his claims on “classified” information. The last time I checked, revealing classified information is against the law (unless you’re a politician, of course). Regardless of the legalities, I have a hard time understanding how a person of honor and integrity can reveal information that he has sworn to keep secret.

    Malcolm has always been a superior writer. Likewise, he’s had an uncanny ability to step into the proverbial pile of shit and come out smelling like a rose. Those of us who know him best don’t trust anything he says or writes. Take his books and articles with a pillar of salt.

    Posted (at OTB) by Boyd | October 30, 2007 | 08:51 am | Permalink ”

  71. Well, Davod, you can deal with the impressions of a Marine officer, or you can close your eyes.

    Is your real name Sgt. Schultz?

  72. Andrew J.

    I have a feeling that this issue is far more to do with politics than a definition of torture. And Sir, the politics will kill Americans every time.

  73. bq. Art. 31. No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain information from them or from third parties.

    “That looks plain. It doesn’t matter whether it’s torture, you don’t do things to people to make them talk.”

    _Except that you left out the caveat:_

    _”the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention”_

    You left out the rest of that quote.

    bq. Art. 5 Where in the territory of a Party to the conflict, the latter is satisfied that an individual protected person is definitely suspected of or engaged in activities hostile to the security of the State, such individual person shall not be entitled to claim such rights and privileges under the present Convention as would, if exercised in the favour of such individual person, be prejudicial to the security of such State.

    (First off, notice that this is about what we can do when we catch an iraqi in the USA. But let’s go on as if it’s about iraqis in occupied iraq.)

    The example they give is a spy who can be held incommunicado so he can’t tell the enemy what he’s learned. He doesn’t give up his rights, he gives up only the rights that threaten security.

    You are interpreting this as “We suspect this guy is an enemy who knows something, so it threatens our security unless we get to beat it out of him.”.

    This is a novel interpretation. It leaves the interesting question of exactly who it is that Article 31 applies to. Are we only prohibited from coercive interrogation of people we think aren’t our enemies and who we think don’t know anything useful?

    And look at the end of Article 5.

    bq. They shall also be granted the full rights and privileges of a protected person under the present Convention at the earliest date consistent with the security of the State or Occupying Power, as the case may be.

    So as soon as you’ve finished waterboarding the info out of the suspect, then he gets all his rights back again?

    _The protections you are citing are clearly lost when a person abandons their status as a protected civilian._

    Suppose you’re right about this. Do you see the implications? If you’re right it means that the parts of the Geneva Conventions that are supposed to protect civilians are completely useless. They only protect civilians who are not suspected of doing anything that might prompt occupiers to mistreat them. So for example, the geneva conventions say you don’t rape protected persons or force them into prostitution. But by your interpretation, as soon as you suspect that a woman is working for the resistance then it’s OK to rape her and rent her out to rapists after all. They lose all their rights as soon as you suspect they’re against you? Whew.

    bq. Art. 68. Protected persons who commit an offence which is solely intended to harm the Occupying Power, but which does not constitute an attempt on the life or limb of members of the occupying forces or administration, nor a grave collective danger, nor seriously damage the property of the occupying forces or administration or the installations used by them, shall be liable to internment or simple imprisonment, provided the duration of such internment or imprisonment is proportionate to the offence committed. Furthermore, internment or imprisonment shall, for such offences, be the only measure adopted for depriving protected persons of liberty. ….

    bq. The penal provisions promulgated by the Occupying Power in accordance with Articles 64 and 65 may impose the death penalty against a protected person only in cases where the person is guilty of espionage, of serious acts of sabotage against the military installations of the Occupying Power or of intentional offences which have caused the death of one or more persons, provided that such offences were punishable by death under the law of the occupied territory in force before the occupation began.

    So here we are, protected persons can do espionage, sabotage, or direct attacks against occupying soldiers, and they’re still protected persons who can be punished after a fair trial. If they lose the protection of the geneva conventions by doing that stuff, what is Article 68 about?

    What bugs me is that this isn’t the first time we’ve gone around on this. Haven’t you and I had this discussion before, like, twice? And you come back with the same old wrong interpretations. What’s going on with that? Do I have you confused with somebody else at WOC?

  74. _”Well, Davod, you can deal with the impressions of a Marine officer, or you can close your eyes.”_

    His impressions on what he’s been told by his client, correct? Does he have any first hand information or evidence to support his charge? He can be the most honorable man in the world (i have no reason to believe otherwise) but that doesnt make him omniscient. If he believes his client so thoroughly that he feels he must make a stand on his behalf, so be it, but that doesnt constitute evidence. I respect the mans service and honor, I have no information on how to rate his judgement.

  75. “I’m not sure the US military’s view of strategic bombing’s effectiveness is the same now as in the 1946 report.]”

    _We’re way off topic, but the claim wasnt about what the military believes today. Its about what they concluded following the war._

    My own interest is in what’s true, to the best of our knowledge. The US military was telling us that area bombing was quite effective, but later they determined that it was not — that our area bombing cost us more in resources than it cost the enemy, with the exception of attacks on oil facilities.

    Very often our military (and other large organisations) tells us that they know what they’re doing when later it turns out that they did not. Note for example the trench warfare of WWI, where large numbers of soldiers were sacrificed for no result.

    If our military were to tell us that torture is their most effective method for getting information from suspects, I would not consider that definitive given their track record. But I don’t see that our military is even announcing that. Do you have recent official announcements about what interrogation methods work best?

  76. With respect to that one client, yes, I suppose it’s merely his say-so.

    On the other hand, we have eyewitness reports from disgusted FBI agents observing similar practices.

    Detainees at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, were shackled to the floor in fetal positions for more than 24 hours at a time, left without food and water, and allowed to defecate on themselves, an FBI agent who said he witnessed such abuse reported in a memo to supervisors, according to documents released yesterday.

    So what exactly is controversial about the claim? That you don’t like it??

  77. _”My own interest is in what’s true, to the best of our knowledge. The US military was telling us that area bombing was quite effective, but later they determined that it was not — that our area bombing cost us more in resources than it cost the enemy, with the exception of attacks on oil facilities.”_

    If they were wrong then, _why do you believe them now?_

    _”Very often our military (and other large organisations) tells us that they know what they’re doing when later it turns out that they did not. Note for example the trench warfare of WWI, where large numbers of soldiers were sacrificed for no result.”_

    The Western Front was a heck of a lot more complicated than that. To simply say ‘they didnt know what they were doing’ says nothing. Note that for the British in particular having a PM that had no practical military experience and bad instincts keep his hands in the mix was probably as destructive as anything. There is a lesson there. Any time you want to match up blunders by professional military men with blunders caused by civilian interference who thought they knew more than they did, i’m up for it.

    _”If our military were to tell us that torture is their most effective method for getting information from suspects, I would not consider that definitive given their track record. But I don’t see that our military is even announcing that. Do you have recent official announcements about what interrogation methods work best?”_

    Should I expect to? I havent heard anything about how low the B-2 should fly over a target either, should we have a public debate?

    The problem is you dont have the data in the present to do the analysis you are claiming you have done. What happened 60 years ago is a lot easier to analyze that what is happening today- and one bears little to no relationship on the other. I could point to 50 things where the military got it right in WW2, would that make you feel any better about their evaluations being made now? You trust your military or you dont use them. Trying to second guess their methods from the outside is a recipe for disaster, ask Don Rumsfeld.

  78. _”With respect to that one client, yes, I suppose it’s merely his say-so.”_

    Which is the quesion at hand of course.

    _”On the other hand, we have eyewitness reports from disgusted FBI agents observing similar practices.”_

    Which has nothing to do with this case as far as I know.

    _”So what exactly is controversial about the claim? That you don’t like it??”_

    Nothing except a clear lack of anyone being used as a urine mop.

  79. “This is something that some americans recently made up from scratch.”

    _Actually, it isn’t. The concept has been around at least as long as the Geneva Conventions, even if they don’t specifically mention it._

    But has any nation affirmed this concept before now? USSR, perhaps, to justify their violations of geneva conventions? Cuba perhaps? Iraq?

    Thank you for the link. I was glad to see the author agreed with me right down the line, as is only natural given the wording of the conventions.

  80. “My own interest is in what’s true, to the best of our knowledge. The US military was telling us that area bombing was quite effective, but later they determined that it was not — that our area bombing cost us more in resources than it cost the enemy, with the exception of attacks on oil facilities.”

    _If they were wrong then, why do you believe them now?_

    If they were wrong then or wrong now, either way it doesn’t increase confidence in their pronouncements.

    But the claim was that they have said they need to use these effective techniques. And I haven’t actually seen them say that.

    What if they did say that?

    Remember how for years our generals announced that they had all the troops they needed? Bush said that if they asked for more troops in iraq he’d send them whatever they asked for, but they told him they had plenty. And some bloggers claimed that we did the mission better without more troops, that more troops in iraq would only give the bad guys more targets without any advantage. Remember those days?

    Do you believe our commanders on the ground back then thought they had all the troops they needed, and they told Bush that for those years?

    I don’t believe it. I believe they told the media what they were told to tell the media. Everything you hear our military tell you about the war is suspect. Any of it above the company level will likely be politically controlled, and they might be thorough enough to add disinformation at lower levels too.

  81. A good example of zealous representation of a client is the JAG lawyer who represented the Australian Hicks.

    For months we had been hearing and reading of how he was maltreated, how he was shrinking away to nothing.

    The lawyer went to Australia and said the same thing.

    Hicks gets sent to Australia and is almost obese.

    Now, it is possible that he was force fed to bulk him up before being released. Then again, just maybe the lawyer was lying in his represenation of his client.

    Just maybe a fellow JAG is not above over zealous representation of his client.

  82. Hey TOC –

    Just for me, it’s darn hard to follow your style – is there a way that you could make it a little clearer what’s a quote and what’s a comment? I’m interested in what you say, but am always pressed for time and hate to misread.

    A.L.

  83. One problem is that you don’t necessarily have reliable narrators “on either side.”:http://www.jihadwatch.org/archives/011833.php

    The eighteenth lesson, titled “Prisons and Detention Centres,” provides information to jihadist if they are captured and face trial; including instructions that encourage ‘fighters’ to claim torture and mistreatment while in prison and resort to hunger strikes if possible.

    A.L.

  84. When it’s somebody innocent you can probably believe him? Unless he thinks he can do a lawsuit and get millions of dollars in damages, or something like that?

    But now we get back into the slippery slopes. If he’s innocent and he could make a big stink if you let him go, why not torture him into a false confession and keep him. It aids the war effort by avoiding that bad publicity. And the torture might not be effective at getting real info, but it’s definitely effective at getting false confessions when that’s what you want.

  85. A.J.L:

    I didn’t say he had been deprived of food, I said he was shrinking away to nothing.

    There are news links to comments the Major Mori made on this subject.
    HT To Tim Blair – http://timblair.net/ee/index.php/weblog/holdout_folds/

    I found direct newspaper links yesterday but lost them.

    Is it appropriate to lie for you client?

    I rarely read Wiki. When reading Wiki you have to ask yourself who has the most interest in writing the info down and read it with a bias in mind.

    AL: Your comment is appropriate to the USMC Col. representing the teenager, not the commeht regarding Hick’s condition. The wegh comments by his lawyer were a reflection of his seeing him.

    WRT to the Canadian teenager. Do net let the teenager bit fool you. He and his father went back to the Middle-East to fight the infidel. His father was killed and I believe his son was directly involved in the killing of at least one US soldier in Afghanistan.

    AL and TOC:

    I use the good old “quotation marks”. Is this still a legitimate form.

  86. _WRT to the Canadian teenager. Do net let the teenager bit fool you. He and his father went back to the Middle-East to fight the infidel. His father was killed and I believe his son was directly involved in the killing of at least one US soldier in Afghanistan._

    But Is there proof? Does the army have proof? Or are we just going to presume guilty until declared innocent?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>