Thursday, July 30, 2015

Torture: May Get Criminal Confession, Not Good Military Intelligence

Early Torture Did Not Work and Does Not Now: Produces Pain, but Lousy Info

First some background and review (main post at the end).

FBI documents from Guantanamo Bay show that some military intelligence officers wanted to use harsher interrogation methods than the FBI were using.  As a result every time the FBI established a rapport with a detainee the military would step in and the detainee would stop being cooperative – Abu Zubaydah example (FBI special agent/supervisor, Ali Soufan vs the CIA).  Mr. Soufan got key info about who KSM was from Zubaydah and he did not once inflict pain on Zubaydah or use the so-called “enhanced techniques by any other name is torture.

However, when the CIA came and took over, they water boarded Zubaydah many times and as they did, he clammed up and in some cases even reversed himself and told them he had been lying all along about KSM.

Even after the capture of KSM and his waterboarding, he too admitted that much of the information he had and was providing was made up, or either lies or false info – most of which was not actionable (that is valuable intelligence, which BTW is the purpose of good effective interrogation – not to inflict pain, but to gather valuable information for the commanders in the field in time of war).

Sadly, the most-interesting question is not whether torture works, but why so many people in our society believe (falsely) that it works.

The myth making the rounds even today long after Abu Ghraib and Gitmo stories and Congressional reports show otherwise, goes something like this: 
  • Radical terrorists will take advantage of our fussy legality, so we may have to suspend it to beat them.
  • Radical terrorists mock our namby-pamby prisons, so we must make them tougher.
  • Radical terrorists are nasty, so to defeat them we have to be nastier.
  • That may appear to be reassuring by telling ourselves that torture of some new form of “enhanced toughness” is needed and works.
  • Unfortunately, that toughness is self-deceptive and self-destructive, and ultimately it will be self-defeating as well. 

Even as far back as WWII, we learned that the Japanese were not strangers to torture and even their field manuals found in Burma described torture as the clumsiest possible method of gathering intelligence, but they still used it. Like most “sensible torturers,” the Japanese preferred to use torture for intimidation, not to glean valuable information.

Proven facts about torture: Any person being subject to harsh pain and suffering will say just about anything while being tortured to get it to stop. Some might lie under torture, but wouldn't they also lie if they were being interrogated without coercion others say? Maybe, perhaps – but that is not the object to see or prove a lie.

The problem about torture does not stem from the prisoner who has information; it stems from the prisoner who doesn't.  Such a person is also likely to lie, to say anything, often convincingly to stop the pain of torture – that is a fact.

The torture may also generate no more lies than normal interrogation, but the torture of the ignorant and innocent overwhelms investigators with misleading information and wastes valuable time – in many cases in combat where time is a truly a life saver. However, in all these cases, nothing is indeed preferable to anything. Anything needs to be verified, and the CIA's own 1963 interrogation manual explains something along these lines about that: “[it is] a time-consuming delay trying to figure out the difference between a lie and the truth and false results can hardly be considered useful when every moment matters (sic).”

Finally this from an old pro (that BTW: I am): 
  1. When civilian police officers interrogate, torture or not, they already know what the crime is. What they seek is a confession from the detained person, which even a common practice and goal in days centuries ago. 
  2. When intelligence officers interrogate, they are trying to gather vital information about what they don't know and torture only sets up a very slippery slope that hinders that hunt for valuable and actionable intelligence. 
So, how does all this tie into this post. Hopefully the following will make it perfectly clear to the readers who follow this subject at this blog – at least I hope so. This update is from the NY Times here with this simple lead-in (and it ties in the subject at posts below):

WASHINGTON — The board of the American Psychological Association plans to recommend tough ethics rules that would prohibit psychologists from involvement in all national security interrogations, potentially creating a new obstacle to the Obama administration’s efforts to detain and interrogate terrorism suspects outside of the traditional criminal justice system.

Continue the story at the NY Times link above.

I conclude with this: Professional interrogators (like in the military that I served with for over a dozen years, FBI agents like Ali Soufan, and professional CIA officers) who are truly professional and not hotheads with silly ideas about fancy interrogation tricks and torture that they see on TV, or for a small number who enjoy torture that our government has contracted with who have little or no experience in that art – for surely it is a both an art and science. We do not need more contractor interrogators unless they are former pros like I just mentioned, or for sure no “rental interrogators or novices who want big money and have little or no experience like the two mentioned in the following post who were paid big money to give advice without practical experience to back it up.  

Best of all, thanks for stopping by. Come again.

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