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Should we fight terror with torture?

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  • Should we fight terror with torture?

    Interesting thoughts from Alan Dershowitz.

  • #2
    Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

    torture has always proved an ineffective way to gain information, especially when it is done to someone of great faith. torture is almost completely for the pleasure of the one doing the torture.

    when one man or woman has absolute power over another man or woman, people get strange...

    starting torture practices (leagally) would only increase their hatred towards us, damage foreign relations, and make America into what it's forefathers fought against.

    to resort to primitive needs of the need for a god complex is the last thing that should be on anyone's mind. Human life should always be valued, no matter how twisted, disgusting, or evil it may be or seem, and to fail valuing life is the first stone in the road towards exactly what you hate in that other person.

    my $0.02
    "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
    - Napoleon Bonaparte

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    • #3
      Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

      Originally posted by Gileren
      torture has always proved an ineffective way to gain information
      I don't think that we should have a program of torture, but your statement is absolutely incorrect. Toture has always been an excellent way to gain information.
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      • #4
        Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

        the reason i said it was ineffective (especially against people of strong faith) is because the person being tortured will eventually crack and say anything to stop it, whether it be the truth or not, thus unreliable. not only that but it is extremely unhealthy for the person doing the torture.
        "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
        - Napoleon Bonaparte

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        • #5
          Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

          Originally posted by Gileren
          the reason i said it was ineffective (especially against people of strong faith) is because the person being tortured will eventually crack and say anything to stop it, whether it be the truth or not, thus unreliable. not only that but it is extremely unhealthy for the person doing the torture.
          That happens occasionally, but most of the time, torture gets valuable information. People like to think the way you do, but it's simply not how it actually happens most of the time.
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          • #6
            Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

            I think Dershowitz's point is that we need the world's legal authorities (Congress, the UN, various responsibile States) to provide updated guidance on what exactly IS torture and when to use coercive questioning techniques, possibly including actual torture, to protect the citizenry. I think his point, too, is that current law and human rights groups are being used by terrorists against the citizenry. The law should be baised in favor of citizens, not terrorists.

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            • #7
              Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

              I agree that torture needs to be more clearly and explicitly defined, but that it should also be explicitly prohibited. In the event of a 'ticking time bomb' or similar scenario, the authorities may break the law and hope for a pardon/suspended sentence/leniency.
              Last edited by Nikolas; 07-03-2006, 02:36 PM.
              A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

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              • #8
                Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                Originally posted by leejo
                I think Dershowitz's point is that we need the world's legal authorities (Congress, the UN, various responsibile States) to provide updated guidance on what exactly IS torture and when to use coercive questioning techniques, possibly including actual torture, to protect the citizenry. I think his point, too, is that current law and human rights groups are being used by terrorists against the citizenry. The law should be baised in favor of citizens, not terrorists.
                I think that's the trick though, leejo; torture presumes that they're knowledge to be had inside a given person's noggin, and it may or may not be there.

                Laws restricting torture are biased in favor of innocent citizens in that it keeps THEM from being tortured, in the same manner "innocent until proven guilty" works.

                Maybe that's the trick; get a conviction for something, and then staplegun nads to chairs or such.
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                • #9
                  Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                  Toture for the purpose of making a person confess to a crime has been proven completely ineffectual over time. Unless, of course, you're willing to believe the Salem condemned actually were witches. For more recent examples, you only have to look at police "interrogation" procedures a few decades back. Given enough "persuasion," a person will admit to anything (I'm sure if a guy beat me well enough, I'd tell him I was Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior).

                  Now torture to exact information actually is useful, provided you are sure this guy has the information you want. The idea of torture for any reason makes me balk of a moral level. But if Bush and his cronies are going to condone it, then for God's sake drop the moral high-ground arguement and just admit: we're on the same level as the suicide bombers and other murderers.

                  Sorry people, but if you're going to resort to barbaric techniques and consider trampling on a person's (not just an American citizen's) basic rights: what moral high-ground do you have left?

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                  • #10
                    Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                    Amnesty has a followup on Dershowitz:
                    link
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                    • #11
                      Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                      Originally posted by TheFeniX
                      Toture for the purpose of making a person confess to a crime has been proven completely ineffectual over time. Unless, of course, you're willing to believe the Salem condemned actually were witches. For more recent examples, you only have to look at police "interrogation" procedures a few decades back. Given enough "persuasion," a person will admit to anything (I'm sure if a guy beat me well enough, I'd tell him I was Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior).

                      Now torture to exact information actually is useful, provided you are sure this guy has the information you want. The idea of torture for any reason makes me balk of a moral level. But if Bush and his cronies are going to condone it, then for God's sake drop the moral high-ground arguement and just admit: we're on the same level as the suicide bombers and other murderers.

                      Sorry people, but if you're going to resort to barbaric techniques and consider trampling on a person's (not just an American citizen's) basic rights: what moral high-ground do you have left?
                      that is exactly the point i was trying to get across. much better said than I, gj :D
                      "Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake."
                      - Napoleon Bonaparte

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                      • #12
                        Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                        Originally posted by TheFeniX
                        Toture for the purpose of making a person confess to a crime has been proven completely ineffectual over time. Unless, of course, you're willing to believe the Salem condemned actually were witches. For more recent examples, you only have to look at police "interrogation" procedures a few decades back. Given enough "persuasion," a person will admit to anything (I'm sure if a guy beat me well enough, I'd tell him I was Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior).

                        Now torture to exact information actually is useful, provided you are sure this guy has the information you want. The idea of torture for any reason makes me balk of a moral level. But if Bush and his cronies are going to condone it, then for God's sake drop the moral high-ground arguement and just admit: we're on the same level as the suicide bombers and other murderers.

                        Sorry people, but if you're going to resort to barbaric techniques and consider trampling on a person's (not just an American citizen's) basic rights: what moral high-ground do you have left?
                        Do you really think that wrapping someone in an Israeli flag, or making someone answer questions from a woman, or even situations as "intense" as water-tabling, are the moral equivalent to the beheadings, mutliations, rapes, etc. that our enemies revel in? If you really believe loud music or scary noises is the same as a beheading, I don't know how you get out of bed in the morning. Every car horn must be terrifying.

                        As far as the effectiveness of "torture," your comparisons to Salem witch trials and police interrogation from "decades ago" are obviously anachronistic and do not have any bearing on the current issues.

                        Some observations:
                        Interrogators in defense and intelligence fields have no need for false information. If coercive interrogation didn't work, they would use something else.
                        Those interrogators are not looking for confessions. The reason your exampes are not pertinent is that they involve cases where someone already has something they want the other person to say. If our interrogators already knew everything about our enemy, they wouldn't need to question anyone, would they? They are looking to paint a realistic picture of the enemy and his capabilities and plans. They are in the business of saving lives....yours.
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                        • #13
                          Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                          That Amnesty report has convinced me of the correct approach, but I'm sure that wasn't their intention.

                          I don't agree that torture used to prevent a mass murder is necessarily the same, morally, as the mass murder itself, nor do I agree that we must choose between no torture are all, with a nebulous and ever-expanding definition of torture, on the one hand, and the most vile examples of torture, like stapling sacks on chairs, etc., on the other hand.

                          I think the level of discomfort that is tolerable and moral depends on several factors:
                          • The likelihood that authorities have the correct person, defined by the quality and quantity of the evidence in hand
                          • The likelihood that the person in custody knows critical, actionable information -
                          • The assurance that the level of coercion (pain..torture..whatever) is proportionate to the threat


                          Amnesty suggests that we must choose between 50/50 or 20% or 10% likelihood, which I think most people agree is too small. But what if we could know that 99.97 of the people identified as candidates for "torture" actually are guilty? Are the 3 tortures in 10000 worth the 9997 mass murders prevented?

                          In fact, 85% of murder cases that go to trial result in conviction. How many of those arrested have their charges dropped, how many plead guilty, how many are overturned in appeals, etc., obviously affect the final statistics. I bet that we can look at the quality of evidence in past murder cases and arrive at some guidelines.

                          A captured private in a uniformed army probably doesn't know much and a captured general likely has access to vast amounts of useful information. A cursory glance at Richard Reed reveals that only a fool would trust key secrets to him, while someone like Khalil Sheikh Mohammed, a known key player in Al Qaeda, might "qualify". I think the quality of the evidence in hand and the authorities' understanding of the organizational structure of the targeted group come into play here, but these are both quantifiable, and help determine the likelihood that torture, if available, is likely to reveal useful information.

                          In retrospect, 48 hours prior to 9/11 the severe torture of an individual may have been appropriate and acceptable if it obviated all that has followed. Contrariwise, that level of coercion might not be justifiable to obtain operational information loosely connected to possible future threats. The degrees to which the threats are imminent and terrible are factors that could guide the decisions about how urgently authorities need the information in question.

                          How these things might be administered and how sufficient oversight might occur to gain assurance that the system was working properly are things that are debatable and that can be legislated. But just as it's possible to imagine that a mere 10% of those captured suffer the most obscene forms of torture to arrive at the conclusion that torture is categorically unacceptable, it's also possible to imagine that 99.97 of those tortured are in fact guilty and the forms of torture are sufficiently mild, like being sleepy or cold, to arrive at the conclusion that torture is occasionally fine.

                          The questions that matter are "what is the sufficiently high certainly of having the correct person, what is the necessary quality of information being sought and the likelihood this person has it, and how might the level of coercion be made proportionate to the nature of the threat and these other factors?"

                          I think society ought to talk these out honestly.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                            Originally posted by TheFeniX
                            we're on the same level as the suicide bombers and other murderers.


                            If this was true, the war would be over. There probably wouldn't be anyone left in Iran, Iraq, Syria, North Korea, or Cuba. We aren't on the same level at all.


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                            • #15
                              Re: Should we fight terror with torture?

                              Originally posted by leejo
                              The questions that matter are "what is the sufficiently high certainly of having the correct person, what is the necessary quality of information being sought and the likelihood this person has it, and how might the level of coercion be made proportionate to the nature of the threat and these other factors?"
                              Disagreed on all counts.

                              The sole question that matters is, "is state-sanctioned torture ever justifiable?" - for which the answer is no. Torture is prima facie wrong, therefore the government should not sanction it. If you must torture a person in order to save many lives in a terrorist attack, and you're certainly certain that the person will have useful information, then you can risk a criminal trial to do it. You will be a prime candidate for a pardon, for the better part of prosecutorial discretion, for lenient sentencing, or for a suspended sentence.
                              A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy. -F.A. Hayek

                              "$250,000 a year won't get me to Central Park West."

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