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Debate: Enhanced interrogation techniques

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Were the "enhanced interrogation techniques" of the Bush administration justified?

Background and context

"Enhanced interrogation techniques" were a series of harsh, coercive interrogation methods employed by the Bush Administration - through the Central Intelligence Agency and US Military - to extract intelligence for the intended purpose of strengthening the War on Terror and national security.

The methods go beyond the Army Field Manual's range of acceptable interrogation methods, which guided and constrained interrogations prior to the Bush Administration, and which are now the rule-book for interrogations under the Obama administration.
The "enhanced techniques" included: waterboarding (simulation of the experience of drowning), prolonged isolation, prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, extremely painful "stress positions," sensory bombardment (such as prolonged loud noise and/or bright lights), forced nakedness, sexual humiliation, cultural humiliation (such as desecration of holy scriptures), being subjected to extreme cold that induces hypothermia, and the exploitation of phobias.

The debate regarding "enhanced interrogation techniques" surrounds the following questions: Are enhanced interrogation techniques a valuable way of obtaining intelligence, fighting terrorism, and upholding national security? Are traditional techniques, and possibly approaches that attempt to win the trust of prisoners, more effective? Does this matter, or should such efficacy be subordinate to considerations of these enhanced methods being possibly inhumane or illegal? Do enhanced methods amount to torture under domestic and international law? Do they inflict "severe pain and suffering", and possibly long-term physical and emotional damage? Even if these methods are not considered torture, are they "cruel, inhumane, and degrading", possibly making them illegal under international and domestic law? Are all coercive interrogation techniques morally abhorrent? Acknowledging that enhanced interrogations have taken place in secret prisons, are these prisons morally abhorrent and possibly illegal? Do "enhanced interrogation methods" send the wrong message to the world? Do they worsen terrorism by increasing anti-Americanism? What are the pros and cons of each individual "enhanced technique"? What is the balance of pros and cons? Are enhanced interrogation techniques justified?

On January 22, 2009 President Barack Obama signed an executive order requiring the CIA to abandon "enhanced interrogation methods" and use only the 19 interrogation methods outlined in the United States Army Field Manual, "unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance."[1]

Contents

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Efficacy: Is enhanced interrogation effective in obtaining intel, saving lives?

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Pro

  • "Enhanced interrogations" effectively obtain info, save lives Interrogations of Khalid Sheik Mohammad resulted in confessions pertaining to the 9/11 atacks, the capture of other terrorists, and actionable intelligence used to thwart 'following up' plans for weapons of mass destruction to be used on America, including anthrax and dirty bomb operations.[2],[3]
Specifically, interrogation with enhanced techniques “led to the discovery of a KSM plot, the ‘Second Wave,’ ‘to use East Asian operatives to crash a hijacked airliner into’ a building in Los Angeles.” KSM later acknowledged before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay that the target was the Library Tower, the tallest building on the West Coast. The memo explains that “information obtained from KSM also led to the capture of Riduan bin Isomuddin, better known as Hambali, and the discovery of the Guraba Cell, a 17-member Jemmah Islamiyah cell tasked with executing the ‘Second Wave.’ ” In other words, without enhanced interrogations, there could be a hole in the ground in Los Angeles to match the one in New York.[4]
Zayn Abidin Muhammed Hussein abu Zubaida, the first high-ranking al-Qaeda member captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, broke in less than a minute after he was subjected to the technique and began providing interrogators with information that led to the disruption of several planned attacks, said John Kiriakou, who served as a CIA interrogator in Pakistan.
The waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah got him to talk in less than 35 seconds. The technique, which critics say is torture, probably disrupted “dozens” of planned al-Qaida attacks, said John Kiriakou, a leader of the team that captured Zubaydah, a major al-Qaida figure.[5]
  • Enhanced interrogations are necessary in ticking time bomb scenario According to an American Thinker article on April 21, 2009, "Even Obama's hand-picked CIA Director, has admitted that he might consent to enhanced interrogation techniques under a 'ticking time bomb' scenario. And that is exactly the scenario in which the techniques were used during the Bush administration."[6]


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Con

  • Efficacy cannot justify inhumane/illegal enhanced interrogations The United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment defines torture as: "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture [or, enhanced interrogations, which inflict pain and suffering and most UN scholars consider to qualify as torture under international law]." More generally, the effectiveness of enhanced interrogations misses the point. Enhanced interrogations are illegal, or at least they are morally abhorrent. No amount of efficacy can justify taking these illegal and immoral actions. A line must be drawn.
  • Claims about effectiveness of enhanced interrogations are dubious The recently released memos from the Office of Legal Counsel for the White House indicate that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded at least 83 times and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times in one month.[7] This casts serious doubt on the idea that "abu Zubaida...broke in less than a minute." Also, according to several U.S. intelligence officials, the Library Tower plot may never have been serious to begin with, and the timing of Bush's speech giving more detail about the plot may have been politically motivated, as it was given on the same day as a Senate hearing on warantless wiretapping.[8]
  • Enhanced interrogations are ineffective and unreliable The Washington Post summarizing a report by the Intelligence Science Board in an article published on January 11, 2007: "There is almost no scientific evidence to back up the U.S. intelligence community's use of controversial interrogation techniques in the fight against terrorism, and experts believe some painful and coercive approaches could hinder the ability to get good information, according to a new report from an intelligence advisory group."[9]
Randy Borum, a psychologist at the University of South Florida and consultant for the Defense Department, said about a 2007 Intelligence Science Board report he contributed to on interrogation methods: "There's an [false] assumption that often passes for common sense that the more pain imposed on someone, the more likely they are to comply".[10]
  • Verifying effectiveness of enhanced interrogations is too difficult Steven G. Bradbury, then the Justice Department's principal deputy assistant attorney general, wrote in a May 30, 2005, memo to CIA General Counsel John Rizzo: "It is difficult to quantify with confidence and precision the effectiveness of the program." In the face of such inherent doubt, the program should be scrapped, as the moral, legal, and international diplomatic costs would have to be outweighed by crystal clear signals of the program's effectiveness.
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Traditional methods: Are traditional interrogation methods insufficient?

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Pro

  • Traditional interrogations don't work with radical terrorists Referring to 9-11 plotter Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and al Qaeda financier Abu Zubaydah, Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he could not conceive of another way [other than "enhanced interrogations"] for the CIA to have obtained useful information from radical terrorists, "given their character and given their commitment to what it is they do."[11]
  • Islamic terrorists can release info after reaching pain threshold A Justice Department memo on May 30, 2005 reads: "as Abu Zubaydah himself explained with respect to enhanced techniques, 'brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship."[12]


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Con

  • The same info can be obtained by traditional interrogations Interrogator Ali Soufan said in an April 2009 op-ed article in the New York Times: "It is inaccurate [...] to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative [and that enhanced interrogation techniques supplies interrogators with previously unobtainable information]. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence."[13]
  • Enhanced interrogations unnecessary; Army Field Manual is sufficient A bill on interrogation techniques was passed on February 13, 2008 in the US Senate, in a 51 to 45 vote, limiting the number of techniques allowed to only "those interrogation techniques explicitly authorized by the 2006 Army Field Manual." This aimed to eliminate enhanced interrogation techniques, based on the argument that the Army Field Manual is sufficient to obtain information from prisoners, ensure national security, and uphold US norms of justice. Based on the same premises, President Obama signed a January 11th, 2009 executive order halting "enhanced interrogations" and reverting back to the Army Field Manuel guidelines.


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Broader fight: Do "enhanced interrogations" help/hurt broader fight against terror?

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Pro

  • Americans won't tolerate lost lives for political correctness Brianp55 commented on April 22, 2009 on the CBS News article "Is 'Enhanced Interrogation' Justifiable?": "Let's say that you arrest the head of an Al Queda cell who you believe has information about an iminent attack against the US homeland or other US facility. You sit down in front of the guy and ask him to tell you what he knows. He tells you to get screwed...in the name of Allah. Thousands of your fellow Americans could be killed. What do you do? How do you think the American public is going to react when they fnd out that you could have used 'enhanced interrogation' techniques to extract the information and prevent this attack, but you did not because you wanted your actions to be politically correct?"[15]
  • Majority of Americans believe harsh interrogations justified An April 24-25, 2009 Gallup Poll "55% of Americans believe in retrospect that the use of the interrogation techniques was justified, while only 36% say it was not. Notably, a majority of those following the news about this matter 'very closely' oppose an investigation and think the methods were justified."[16]
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Con

  • Enhanced interrogations undermine America's moral legitimacy. A September 13, 2006 Letter from General Colin Powell to Senator McCain on the subject of enhanced interrogations: "The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore it would put our own troops at risk."[17]
  • Enhanced techniques hamper work with allies against terrorism. Many of the United States greatest allies, and their constituent populations, are repulsed by the United States' use of these methods of interrogation. This hampers their willingness to cooperate with the United States in the broader fight on terrorism. And, because the war on terrorism is a global effort requiring the cooperation of foreign governments, such a diplomatic failure is an intolerable result of the use of "enhanced interrogation" techniques.
  • Enhanced interrogations delegitimize practice of interrogation Mr. Kleinman, the former Air Force interrogator who took part in a study called "Educing Information", said enhanced interrogations under the Bush Administration "have made interrogation synonymous in many people's minds with torture. Our intention is not to point fingers at anyone. We're just saying we have to bring interrogation up to the level of professionalism in other intelligence disciplines." [18]
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Torture: Are enhanced interrogation techniques legal or are they torture?

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Pro

  • Enhanced interrogations don't inflict severe pain/suffering (not torture). The Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its interrogators working abroad would not violate US prohibitions against torture if their methods avoided inflicting "severe pain and suffering". The main reason for this is that prisoners can tolerate a little bit of discomfort and even pain, but severe pain and suffering can have the effect of lasting bodily or psychological damage. Enhanced interrogations succeed at allowing interogators to inflict some discomfort and low-level pain - waterboarding, slapping on the belly, sensory bombardment, prolonged isolation all qualify as such - in order to succeed in obtaining critical national security intelligence, while avoiding the higher level "severe pain and suffering" that could be called "torture".[19]
  • Interrogations are not torture when no intent to torture. The Bush administration told the CIA in 2002 that its interrogators working abroad would not violate US prohibitions against torture unless they "have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering", according to a previously secret US Justice Department memo released on 24 July 2008. The interrogator's "good faith" and "honest belief" that the interrogation will not cause such suffering protects the interrogator, the memo adds. "Because specific intent is an element of the offense, the absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture", Jay Bybee, then the assistant attorney general, wrote in the memo.
  • Aggressive enhanced interrogation techniques were rarely used. George Tenet wrote in his 2007 book, "At the Center of the Storm" (pp 241-42): "The most aggressive interrogation techniques conducted by CIA personnel were applied to only a handful of the worst terrorists on the planet, including people who had planned the 9/11 attacks and who, among other things, were responsible for journalist Daniel Pearl’s death. The interrogation of these few individuals was conducted in a precisely monitored, measured way intended to try to prevent what we believed to be an imminent follow-up attack."[20]


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Con

  • Enhanced interrogation techniques amount to torture On May 19 2006, the UN Committee against Torture issued a report stating the U.S. should stop, what it concludes, is "ill-treatment" of detainees, since such treatment, according to the report, violates international law. It also called for cessation of the US-termed "enhanced interrogation" techniques, as the UN sees these methods as a form of torture.[21]
  • Enhanced interrogations inflict "severe pain/suffering" (torture). Enhanced interrogations inflict sever pain and suffering, both physically and psychologically, and thus amount to torture under international law, as defined by the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This convention reads: "Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions."[22]
  • Enhanced interrogations commonly caused permanent damage. The Washington Post reported in January 2009 that Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of military commissions, stated in response to the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker" of the September 11 attacks: "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent.... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge", i.e., to call it torture.[23]
  • Bush wrongly created own definition of torture Asked about President George Bush's comments in October 10, 2007 that "This government does not torture people", former President Jimmy Carter said, "That's not an accurate statement if you use the international norms of torture as has always been honored -- certainly in the last 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was promulgated. But you can make your own definition of human rights and say we don't violate them, and you can make your own definition of torture and say we don't violate them."[24]
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International law: Do enhanced interrogations comply with i-law?

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Pro

  • President has sole discretion to interpret i-law during war At the heart of policies in the "War on Terror" is the notion that during a time of war the President, in his duty as Commander-in-Chief, cannot be bound by law, i.e., Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, UN Convention Against Torture, Geneva Conventions- or Congress. Since the primary task of the President during a time of war is protecting US citizens, anything hindering him in that capacity -US and international law or even Congress- can be considered unconstitutional. John Yoo contends that the Congressional check on Presidential war making power comes from its power of the purse, and that the President, and not the Congress or courts, has sole authority to interpret international treaties such as the Geneva Convention "because treaty interpretation is a key feature of the conduct of foreign affairs". These views on executive power are known as the unitary executive theory.
US Department of Justice Memo, March 14, 2003, justifying enhanced interrogation techniques - "In wartime, it is for the President alone to decide what methods to use to best prevail against the enemy.... The President's complete discretion in exercising the Commander-in..:Chief power has been recognized by the courts. ... One of the core functions of the Commander in Chief is that of capturing, detaining, and interrogating members ofthe enemy. It is well settled that the President may seize and detain enemy combatants, at least for the duration of the conflict, and the laws of war make clear that prisoners may be interrogated for information concerning the enemy, its strength, and its plans. Numerous Presidents have ordered the capture, detention, and questioning of enemy combatants during virtually every major conflict in the Nation's history, including recent conflicts such as the Gulf, Vietnam, and Korean wars."
  • Non-state terrorists are not protected under international law. John Yoo's analysis that the US President was not bound by the Geneva Conventions, and was free to implement enhanced interrogations even if they flaunted these conventions, was based upon work about World War II by Carl Schmitt. Examples of arguments used by Schmitt (according to Horton): "Particularly on the Eastern Front, the conflict was a nonconventional sort of warfare being waged against a “barbaric” enemy which engaged in “terrorist” practices, and which itself did not observe the law of armed conflict. Individual combatants who engaged in “terrorist” practices, or who fought in military formations engaged in such practices, were not entitled to protections under international humanitarian law, and the adjudicatory provisions of the Geneva Conventions could therefore be avoided together with the substantive protections."[25] By this logic, according to Yoo, modern Islamic terrorists are not protected by the Geneva conventions either.


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Con

  • Enhanced interrogations are cruel/immoral, even if not torture In November 2006, former US army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, in charge of Abu Ghraib prison until early 2004, told Spain's El Pais newspaper said of Bush Administration interrogation tactics: "The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorised these specific techniques....Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind." The Universal Declaration of Human Rights agreed that Article 5 prohibits "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Enhanced interrogations inherently qualify as such cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment; that is their specific intention - to degrade the prisoner to a point where they become "more willing" to comply and provide information.[26]
  • Coercive interrogation techniques are generally abhorrent. Any interrogation technique that attempts to coerce individuals into providing information or confessions against their will is inherently degrading and morally abhorrent. Coercion by force or intimidation inherently violates the integrity and dignity of an individual with the hope of exploiting that moment of vulnerability to obtain information or gain some advantage. This is abhorrent because it violates principles of human decency and dignity, even toward enemies that would not grant us such dignity.
  • Geneva Conventions apply to all prisoners, including terrorists. The US Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that, contrary to what the Bush administration advocated, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to all detainees in the war on terrorism and as such the Military Tribunals used to try suspects were violating the law. The Court reaffirmed that those involved in mistreatment of detainees violate US and international law.[27]
  • Terrorists' methods do not justify enhanced interrogations Letter from General John Vessey, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Senator McCain opposing a proposed redefinition of Common Article 3 (the humane treatment standard) of the Geneva Conventions, September 12, 2006: "I continue to read and hear that we are facing a ‘different enemy’ in the war on terror; no matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past. In my short 46 years in the armed forces Americans confronted the horrors of prison camps of the Japanese in World War II, the North Koreans in 1950-53, and the North Vietnamese in the long years of the Vietnam War, as well as knowledge of the Nazi’s holocaust depredations during World War II. Through those years, we held our own values. We should continue to do so."[28]
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US constitution: Are enhanced interrogation techniques constitutional?

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Pro

  • US Constitution does not apply to enemy combatants A US Department of Justice Memo written on March 14, 2003 read: "we conclude that the Fifth and Eighth Amendments, as interpreted by the Supreme Court, do not extend to· alien enemy combatants held abroad. In Part IT, we examine federal criminal law. We explain that several canons of construction apply here. Those canons of construction indicate that federal criminal laws of general applicability do not apply to·properly~authorized interrogations of enemy combatants, undertaken by military personnel in the course of an armed conflict. Such criminal statutes, if they were misconstrued to apply to the interrogation of enemy combatants, would conflict with the Constitution's. grant of the Commander in Chiefpower solely to the President."[29]
  • Enhanced interrogations constitutional because they are not punishment. US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said on BBC Radio 4 that since these methods are not intended to punish they do not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, barring "cruel and unusual punishment", and as such may not be unconstitutional.[30]
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Con

  • Enhanced interrogation techniques are unconstitutional Philip Zelikow, a former State Department lawyer and adviser to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, stated that he had argued it was unlikely that "any federal court would agree (that the approval of harsh interrogation techniques) ... was a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution."[31]
  • Enhanced interrogations violet cruel and unusual punishment laws. Cruel and unusual punishment is a statement implying that governments shall not inflict such treatment for crimes, regardless of their degree of severity. It was founded in the English Bill of Rights, which was signed in 1689 by King William III and Queen Mary II who were then the joint rulers of England, Scotland, and Ireland following the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. In the case of suspected terrorists, the presumption inherent prior to the implementation of aggressive interrogation tactics is that the suspect is guilty of a kind of a "crime" (terrorism). This is, subsequently, used to justify the use of aggressive tactics. But, these tactics of waterboarding, submission to severe cold, smacking, sensory bombardment, and other techniques certainly constitute "cruel and unusual" techniques for the "crime" of terrorism (although due process in convicting a suspected for this "crime" is lacking).
  • Enhanced interrogations violate due process laws. The presumption in the case of interrogations is that a suspected terrorist is guilty of committing terrorism. If they were not guilty, the practice of interrogation of any kind would be particularly egregious. But, no trial and judicial process for this takes place, and the prisoner usually remains unaccussed of any particular crime. So there is no certainty that they are actually guilty, even while the practice of aggressive interrogations may move forward apace. For this reason, enhanced interrogations violate due process laws, and worse, implement punishment/actions against a suspected terrorist before any due process has been had. In other words, suspected terrorists are not merely imprisoned without due process, they are interrogated/tortured/punished without due process.
  • US maintained values/laws amidst worse enemies than terrorists. Letter from General John Vessey, former head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Senator McCain opposing a proposed redefinition of Common Article 3 (the humane treatment standard) of the Geneva Conventions, September 12, 2006: "I continue to read and hear that we are facing a ‘different enemy’ in the war on terror; no matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past. In my short 46 years in the armed forces Americans confronted the horrors of prison camps of the Japanese in World War II, the North Koreans in 1950-53, and the North Vietnamese in the long years of the Vietnam War, as well as knowledge of the Nazi’s holocaust depredations during World War II. Through those years, we held our own values. We should continue to do so."[32]
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Bad apples: Should abuse of enhanced interrogation be attributed to bad apples?

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Pro

  • Enhanced interrogation should not be condemned because of bad apples. There are certainly cases of abuses that have occurred, in which interrogators have gone beyond the limits of "enhanced interrogation techniques" and engaged in what could be called torture, inflicting severe pain and suffering and even permanent physical and mental damage. But, these are exceptional "bad apples" performing these egregious acts, and this should not condemn the general character of enhanced interrogation techniques.
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Con

  • Enhanced interrogations are often too aggressive, amounting to torture. The Washington Post reported in January 2009 that Susan J. Crawford, convening authority of military commissions, stated in response to the interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, the so-called "20th hijacker" of the September 11 attacks: "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent.... You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that had a medical impact on him, that hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive."[33]
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Secret prisons: Can secretive, enhanced interrogations be justified?

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Pro

  • Secret prisons protect methods in a time of war. It is critical in a time of war that one's enemy not know the interrogations methods that might be employed against their men. If these methods are known, the enemy will prepare their men to effectively withstand and evade the techniques, which will result in an inability to obtain information that was before potentially obtainable. The security of the United States will be weakened, and American lives possibly lost. This is why secret prisons are important and justified during war.


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Con

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Consistency: Are these tactics consistent with US and global norms?

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Pro

  • Many countries perform "enhanced interrogations". These include, forced standing, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold, waterboarding. Because other countries are commonly performing these methods of interrogation, the United States' use of these techniques should not be taken as uncommon or an exception to the norm. Instead, the United States' actions are fairly consistent with the interpretations of international and domestic law in other countries around the world.


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Con

  • US has condemned harsh interrogations abroad Human Rights Watch (HRW) observed that numerous countries engage in activities that are similar to the ones allegedly used by the CIA: "The U.S. State Department has condemned as torture or other inhuman treatment many of the techniques that have allegedly been used by the CIA in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at secret detention sites in other countries."[34]
  • "Enhanced interrogations are similar to Nazi methods Andrew Sullivan, a conservative blogger for The Atlantic, wrote on May 29, 2007 that many of the interrogative techniques condoned by the Bush administration were used by the Nazis in the 1930s and 40s: "The very phrase used by the president to describe torture-that-isn't-somehow-torture - "enhanced interrogation techniques" - is a term originally coined by the Nazis. The techniques are indistinguishable. The methods were clearly understood in 1948 as war-crimes. The punishment for them was death."[35]
  • "Enhanced interrogations" were adapted from abusive foreign tactics. A bipartisan report in December 2008 established that, "harsh interrogation techniques used by the CIA and the U.S. military were directly adapted from the training techniques used to prepare special forces personnel to resist interrogation by enemies that torture and abuse prisoners. The techniques included forced nudity, painful stress positions, sleep deprivation, and until 2003, waterboarding, a form of simulated drowning."[36]


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Waterboarding: Is waterboarding a legitimate form of interrogation?

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Pro

  • Waterboarding leaves no lasting scars and so is not torture - Torture is defined by many groups as a only techniques that leaves lasting physical damage and scars on the person being tortured. This is not the case with waterboarding, which causes no permanent damage to the lungs and does not have a track record of causing lasting mental trauma to those that perform the techniques. If this was the case, the United States military would not perform waterboarding on its own soldiers for training purposes. While international organizations would take issue with a definition of torture that only includes physical damage, it would be a mistake to overlook the rational behind this definition.
  • US halted waterboarding early in the Bush Administration. ABC News' Luis Martinez reported in a January 15, 2009 article: "Former CIA director Michael Hayden said the legality of waterboarding and other enhanced interrogation techniques is an 'uninteresting question to the CIA' right now because the agency has not engaged in the practices since March 2003. 'We don't do that. We haven't done in it since March 2003. We have no intent to do it,' said Hayden."[37]

See more pros and cons on Debate: Waterboarding


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Con

  • Waterboarding inflicts severe pain and suffering ("torture") - The consensus definition of torture in such conventions as the UN Convention against torture, the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Courts is that it inflicts "severe pain and suffering" for the purpose of extracting information or a confession. Waterboarding inflicts "severe pain and suffering" by making its victim feel as though they are drowning and that their own death is inevitable. The terror of a near death experience can certainly be described as suffering and the pain of having your lungs filled with water and approaching near suffocation can be described as pain. Thus, water boarding inflicts "severe pain and suffering" and can be described as torture.

See more pros and cons on Debate: Waterboarding


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Prolonged isolation: Is prolonged isolation a legitimate tactic?

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Pro

  • Prolonged isolation does not cause severe pain and suffering. Prolonged isolation might be uncomfortable and upsetting for and individual, but it does not go so far as to cause severe pain and suffering. The operative word here is severe. There is no physical contact between the interrogators and the prison, no physical pain, and only mental disarray and frustration. All suffering is moderate and temporary. It, therefore, can certainly not be considered "torture" and can be justified in certain exceptional instances when information is needed and can likely be obtained through this technique.


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Con

  • Isolation disturbs individuals and impairs their recall of info. Col. Steven M. Kleinman, who has served as the Pentagon's senior intelligence officer for special survival training, noted in 2007 that isolation, a tactic U.S. officials have used regularly, causes "profound emotional, psychological, and physical discomfort" and can "significantly and negatively impact the ability of the source to recall information accurately."[38]


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Sleep deprivation: Is sleep deprivation a legitimate technique?

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Pro

  • Sleep deprivation is wholly up to the subject. At any point during the interrogation the subject can disclose the information and subsequently be allowed to sleep. If they choose not to do so, then the interrogators cannot be charged with "torture".


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Con

  • Sleep deprivation is a form of torture. Under one interrogation technique, a subject might be kept awake for several days and when finally allowed to fall asleep, suddenly awakened and questioned. Menachem Begin, the Prime Minister of Israel from 1977-83, described his experience of sleep deprivation when a prisoner of the KGB in Russia as follows: "In the head of the interrogated prisoner, a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep...Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.[citation needed] In rats, prolonged, complete sleep deprivation increases both food intake and energy expenditure, leading to weight loss and, ultimately, death. This evidence indicates that sleep deprivation inflicts severe suffering and even pain or death on its victims, thus constituting torture.
  • If not torture, sleep deprivation is cruel and inhumane. Nicole Bieske, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International Australia, has stated, "At the very least, sleep deprivation is cruel, inhumane and degrading. If used for prolonged periods of time it is torture."[citation needed]


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Public support: Does the general public support enahnced interrogation techniques?

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Yes

  • Torture "to save lives" has a substantial body of support among publics: In an October 2006 BBC survey of 27,000 people in 25 countries, more than one out of three people in nine of those countries, including America, considered a degree of torture acceptable if it saved lives.[39]
  • "Half of Americans think that torturing terrorist suspects can be "sometimes" or "often" justified." ["Agent improbable", The Economist, June 2010]
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No

The majority of people think that torture can never be justified.

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Pro/con sources

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Pro


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Con

See also

External links


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