Saturday, November 19, 2005

Enhanced Interrogation Techniques or Torture?

Came across this item in Drudge Report.

CIA sources that asked not to be revealed told ABC News' Brian Ross and Richard Esposito the following:
The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.

4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
Where is the line between aggressive interrogation and torture?

In the article, the CIA sources acknowledged that these methods needed approval but are not considered torture.

I suspect many people would disagree. Some would say all of the items are torture and others might say some are torture.

I read Andrew Sullivan occasionally and he has been a critic of the US usage of torture. In this item he would consider water boarding (#6) on the list as torture. In this essay by Sullivan, he recounts various reports which would place many of the other items in the ABC News report's list as torture. The reports also show techniques that have been applied that appear to go beyond this list of approved methods.

There are three problems with torture. (1) As a legal matter, which techniques constitute aggressive interrogation and which crosses the line to torture is a problem. (2) As a moral matter, the temptation in combating evil is becoming evil in the process. Torture is definitely one of those slippery slopes that leads to disaster. (3) As a practical matter, victims of torture will say anything to make it stop. They may simply not have any useful information and will make up things to make it stop.

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