Saturday, October 06, 2007

Interrogation is useful

Using information gained from detainees, the US...[1]

· In 2002 disrupted a scheme of Khalid Shaykh Mohammad (9/11 mastermind, aka KSM) to attack West Coast targets with hijacked airplanes

· In 2003 derailed another KSM-plot involving hijacked airplanes, this one directed against Heathrow Airport

· In 2003 began an investigation that culminated in the capture of Hambali, leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and al Qaeda’s representative for South Asia

· In 2003 arrested Iyman Faris, who was involved in a plan to destroy New York’s Brooklyn Bridge

· In 2004 broke up a planned attack against urban targets in the UK

Interrogation is useful. Whether or not the methods used above amounted to “torture” is irrelevant. The point is that they were used for the advancement of policy—in this case, the suppression of terrorism—and were neither aimless nor indiscriminate.

What I am still waiting to hear is an argument why torture/interrogation is bad (assuming, of course, that the underlying policy is just, which most people take counterterrorism to be).

Is it because it’s “uncivilized?” Suffusing people with shrapnel seems also somewhat uncivilized, yet this is legitimate in war. Is it because the international community says it’s unacceptable? Or is torture just plain wrong? Someone tell me.

[1] http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2006/09/hivaluedetainees.pdf

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, interrogation is useful, that point was never contested. The disagreement arose when you defended the utility of torture. What we have here is a failure to communicate, some men you just cant reach.

Additionally, the examples you provide are not particularly relevant because we have no idea what kind of interrogation techniques were involved here. Are you trying to imply that torture was used in every instance? Please

My central contention is that torture amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. Cruel because well, thats its purpose and unusual becuase when it comes to torture humans are deviously clever. Like so http://www.corkscrew-balloon.com/misc/torture/29.html .

However, I doubt my argument is persuasive enough so, in order to best explain why torture is "bad" I'm offering to cage you and force bamboo chutes into your fingernails until you are enlghtened.

cyrus said...

Whether we call it “torture” or “interrogation,” in either case we’re applying discomfort to people to obtain policy-relevant information. I’m arguing this is useful and OK; you’re saying it’s useful but not OK. After all, the 8th Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, doesn’t it?

Yes. But torture/interrogation is not punishment. This is the basic point. It is done to advance policy, not punish. If the purpose of our High Value Detainee Program was to punish, that would be objectionable. But punishment plays no role whatsoever in our interrogation procedures (or “our information-seeking torture program” if you prefer). So I still ask, why is it not OK?

cyrus said...

Whether we call it “torture” or “interrogation,” in either case we’re applying discomfort to people to obtain policy-relevant information. I’m arguing this is useful and OK; you’re saying it’s useful but not OK. After all, the 8th Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, doesn’t it?

Yes. But torture/interrogation is not punishment. This is the basic point. It is done to advance policy, not punish. If the purpose of our High Value Detainee Program was to punish, that would be objectionable. But punishment plays no role whatsoever in our interrogation procedures (or “our information-seeking torture program” if you prefer). So I still ask, why is it not OK?