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Comments by YACCS
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Torture doesn't work

I love to get my bullwhip on a terra-ist

ABC Interrogates the Interrogators
by SusanG
Sat Sep 16, 2006 at 03:20:11 PM PDT

It's often easy to forget that "conventional wisdom" in the blogosphere is not always the same as CW in the rest of America. After all, those who frequent political blogs such as this one are, to put it mildly, hyper-informed and willing to cull through obscure reports and follow endless links of analysis to get to the bottom of things. In this sense, our passionate ultra-informedness can often blind us to the significance of the passage of important information from our side of the world view membrane into that of the media the rest of American citizens use to inform themselves.

What often elicits a "Duh! What took you so long!" from us, when moved into traditional media outlets, can begin to eat away at the certainty of the conventional wisdom of the public. The following story strikes me as a good example of this, from ABC:

Ex-FBI Agent: Harsh Interrogation Doesn't Work

ABC News Consultant Jack Cloonan Says Aggressive Interrogation Isn't Always the Most Effective Method

Sept. 16, 2006 -- - Amid a debate between President Bush and bipartisan members of Congress over how harshly to question terror detainees, a former FBI agent said some of the most aggressive interrogation techniques in dispute are rarely effective anyway.

"Generally speaking, those don't work," said Jack Cloonan, a former FBI agent and an ABC News consultant.

Now most people who have followed the interrogation justifications and analysis on the internet have been familiar with this view for what feels like way too long a time. But I'd venture to say for a large number of ABC's audience, the fact that professionals don't believe the methods for which we are being urged to sell our national soul even work is new information. And it is vital information for the public to have as Bush continues to stay his course on gutting the Geneva Conventions.

Make no mistake, Bush has forced this uncompromising conversation upon the country at this time. Like Iraq, this is a "war" of his choosing, and the fact that he's edging closer and closer to calling stalwart members of his own party terrorist enablers shows the level of desperation he is bringing to this fight. In this light, this discussion seems to be awakening - even if just a little - some actual newsgathering and interviewing by media outlets usually inclined to remain recumbent. This should worry the president as much, if not more, than the rebellion of Powell, Warner, McCain and Graham.

To lesser informed Americans, doing whatever you can to protect your country, however dehumanizing, may seem a morally difficult but tragically necessary tradeoff for preserving our proverbial freedoms. But when experts who've used the methods declare in mainstream conventional outlets that they are useless and counterproductive ... well, that's a whole different ballgame.

Cloonan said there are more fruitful practices.

"Knowing the subject matter, building rapport and having that time to get that person to know you works, and I've done it many times," he said.

Because those being interrogated expect to be tortured, they're caught off guard by non-violent approaches, and often release information more easily, Cloonan said.

But ... but ... but ... what about the infamous ticking time bomb scenario so beloved of National Review's desk jockey tough guys and your crazy cousin's constantly forwarded spam right-wing email list?

Cloonan dismissed the notion of the "ticking time-bomb" scenario in which interrogators must beat information out of someone quickly to prevent an attack.

"Let's deal with the reality of the situation: Generally speaking, that's not going to happen," he said. "It doesn't happen in the real world, so we don't need to go to that level."

Damn. Another new piece of information just penetrated into the mainstream. The ticking time bomb scenario is a fantasy that doesn't play out in the real world. Take that, Kooksville, and perhaps this country can start discussing more "fruitful practices," based on the advice of people who interrogate for a paycheck instead of living in some 3-D version of a role-playing video game.

As the next post will show, when dealing with captured Allied soldiers, the German military did not torture people. They may have used the threat of torture or being shipped to the control of the SS/Gestapo, but in few cases did that actually happen and usually after multiple escape attempts.

The SS and Gestapo relied on torture and intimidation and were repeatedly outwitted by the resistance and Allied agents. The information they got was usually minimal, after all, the prisoner was in a hopeless situation and only by luck would death or a stay in a concentration camp be avoided. But the Luftwaffe and Army usually got a lot more information because they weren't beating the shit out of people in dungeons.

This "ticking bomb" scenario would, most likely, be handled in the field, close to the scene of the event. Survival would play a very influential role in getting information. Beating someone is ineffective, because you have no idea what is being said or why, much less if it's true or false. The people who used torture found it failed badly and made heroes of the tortured. Violet Szabo, an SOE agent, was one person tortured to death by the Gestapo without revealing a secret. There were many others. Torture is predicted and can be planned for. Which is why the Luftwaffe, who had thousands of men in Allied custody, didn't want to give the British ANY chance to play tit for tat.

Instead, they used other methods which were far more effective.

posted by Steve @ 12:55:00 AM

12:55:00 AM

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