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It Is Wrong and It Does Not Work

Tristero at Hullabaloo makes the point that torture should be opposed because it is morally wrong. It doesn’t make any difference if it works or not, it is wrong.

I don’t disagree, but as a former military interrogator and law enforcement interviewer, I would like to go on record as stating: it doesn’t work.

A point most people miss in the classic “good cop/bad cop” routine, is that the “good cop” is the successful interviewer. The purpose of the “bad cop” is to speed up the connection between the suspect and the interviewer. You don’t need the “bad cop”, it just speeds things up with a certain type of person. There is a danger if the routine is tried with the wrong person it will blow up the process.

You need the suspect to talk. People can’t talk while they are screaming. The brain shuts down when subjected to too much pain. The torture can force the individual’s brain to shut off access to the information you need. Traumatic amnesia is not exactly an unknown problem.

The “ticking bomb” scenario is total garbage. If you have enough information to know that the individual in your custody has the knowledge you need, you should have enough to figure out where the bomb is located.

As soon as you start using torture, the suspect can reasonably assume that you intend to kill him or her. There is no incentive to talk for anyone who is the terrorist or criminal you believe them to be.

Bill Moyers is one of the best interrogators you will ever see. He establishes a rapport with the individual and listens more than talks. He displays interest in what his subject is saying and encourages them to continue talking.


1 jamsodonnell { 09.27.06 at 4:05 pm }

Torture is surely self defeating as it only gets people to tell you what you want to hear.

2 andante { 09.27.06 at 4:19 pm }

The closest most of the administration has ever gotten to actual military service or law enforcement is Hollywood.

They watch too many bad movies and TV shows.

3 Bryan { 09.27.06 at 10:36 pm }

It’s worse than that Jams, it can prevent people from telling you what you need to hear. People who have never done the job wouldn’t believe some of the stuff that comes up in interviews, including statements that the suspect couldn’t have done the crime you are investigating because they were committing a more serious offense in another town.

Suspects don’t have to talk to you in the US system, but for whatever reason they usually do, or their lawyers make a deal.

Andante, it’s just what Olbermann said: they are cowards. They know they would fold if they were threatened, so they think everyone would. They don’t seem to understand that the vast majority of the people they have rounded up haven’t done anything. They can’t avoid torture because they have no information to reveal.