Monday, May 4, 2009

The Case for Torture

Lately, much has been debated about the Bush Administration's condoning the use of torture. There are basically two camps: 1. The "High & Mighty" Group and 2. The "Jack Bauer" Group. I don't completely agree with either because both camps are obviously misinformed about torture or as the Bush Administration called it "Harsh Interrogation Techniques". First a few basics. Torture is usually categorized into two types: Physical and Psychological. This is actually a misconception because physical torture only works if the psychological aspect works. People don't break because of the pain. They don't break while being put in pain. They break the moment before they believe they will be put through physical duress one more time. It's not the pain itself but rather the fear of going through whatever technique is about to be employed next, that causes someone to finally stop lying. But guess what? Physical torture usually takes longer to effectively obtain accurate results. Why? Counter-interrogation techniques almost always focus on this type of interrogation first. Subjects are trained in providing a combination of verifiable information and pre-scripted misinformation. I've read blogs where people who were obviously completely ignorant of interrogation techniques, presented "Jack Bauer" scenarios, talked about "What if someone had info on a bomb that was going to blow up somewhere today / tomorrow?" and assumed accurate information would be given with a few branding irons or whatever. I can assure you that in those circumstances, the agents would end up looking for the bomb in the wrong place. So this is where I disagree with the "Jack Bauer" group. Anyone willing to give up their life, will not give accurate information if physically tortured immediately. 60%+ of the time, it will only strengthen their resolve.
So do I agree with the use of torture? Well, yes and no. Anyone who has been in special forces or intel services, has gone through things which were more physically damaging than waterboarding. Waterboarding is not something I would consider physical torture. No hard or soft tissue damage is inflicted upon the subject. No permanent, physical damage is done. The subject is terrorized. This may sound harsh but again, this is something any US service or intel agency operative who has gone through SF, TF or SERE training has experienced voluntarily.
It comes down to discipline, control and motive. Interrogation is often as difficult on the interrogator as on the subject. Those chosen for this role are constantly psych monitored. If you enjoy it, you're the wrong person for the job. If you don't, it's tough on the insides. Delicate balance. More importantly, if is not completely controlled by disciplined professionals, you end up with amateurs in Abu Grhaib putting electrodes on the balls of prisoners, as much for entertainment and gratification, as anything else. That's called evil folks. That's the difference between who we were when our intel was at it's greatest (IMO The Reagan Era) and who we were under Bush - a recruiting poster for those seeking to harm us, and so clueless, we couldn't "connect the dots" on a memo entitled "OBL Seeks to attack USA using Commercial Jetliners".
Which brings me to psy-ops. The first thing a pro does is profile the subject. People willing to kill masses for political reasons, do so for one of three reasons: ideology, revenge or money. A subject motivated by money is easiest to break and break quickly. It doesn't matter how much you're getting paid, you can't spend it from life imprisonment. A deal will get us information quickly. Difficulty goes up exponentially and next is revenge. Take a Pakistani whose family was killed by an American Drone. This is an extremely difficult subject to manipulate. Set him on fire and his dying thoughts will be of his family - and how proud he is to have sacrificed himself for them. Which is the problem with the most difficult subject: one motivated by ideology. In the case of revenge, it is necessary to remove the gratification of having exacted it. This is difficult but not insurmountable. It is a matter of transference and leverage. Show the subject that he has become the evil he condemns, leverage this with consequences for failure to comply and it won't be long, before you can ascertain the difference between lies and intel. With ideology, you have to remove the gratification for believing everything he believes in - and then throw in consequences. MUCH more difficult subject. Imagine what it would take for you to renounce everything America stands for, and you will get the idea. If you were tortured, would you betray your country or start out with a lie? How long would it be, before they got the truth out of you?
I could go into graphic detail but that wouldn't constitute the light reading usually sought in blogs. I'll offer a few ideas that I would employ. If I had a Muslim subject, I would plant a false flag prisoner who reluctantly, and over time, would eventually reveal that the Americans were able, through the combination of drugs and delirium, force him to enjoy homosexual experiences. Then I would begin to drug him. The next thing he knew, he'd wake up nude, next to another man who told him how much fun he was in the sack last night. It wouldn't matter whether he had actually been violated. He would be in a state of terror and confusion. Even if he gives his life for Allah, how does Allah feel about fags? His entire ideological motivation would be subject to doubt. So much for those 72 virgins.... Then begin a regimen of waking him 3 hours after he went to sleep and telling him it's been eight hours. Disorient him. He'll begin talking. Everyone does eventually. And I guarantee, this would be more effective than the "Jack Bauer" technique. Without ever having laid a hand (or anything else) on (or in) him. It is the fear of what he might become or what might happen, that will induce results.
Some of you reading this may be shocked and appalled. Welcome to the world of interrogation. Does our government use this? Have I? Who knows? But if we let amateurs electrocute subjects, just for the gratification of revenge, we are no better than the only countries who condone physical torture: Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia etc... And our intel services have suffered enough due to the complete incompetence of the previous administration. It's time to be the good guys again. That is more of an edge than anything else, in the protection of our great country. The greatest defense is a good offence. And when you country is respected and admired, you have ten times the ability to get intel BEFORE the "Jack Bauer" scenarios ever occur. FS


  1. I understand the arguments I think, but the thing is that, even leaving aside electrodes and what not, how do you decide who is the enemy that may have information and who is the guy that happened to be walking down the street at the wrong time? We are scooping up hundreds of innocent people and imprisoning them for years without any due process etc. And what do we do with them after that? If they weren't angry at us before they certainly will be now! I know I would hate anyone that wrongly arrested me, held me for years without telling my family where I was, tortured me, humiliated me and then said oh sorry wrong Ahmed. I realize there are things done on my behalf that I wouldn't do, but as a nation of laws we have to draw the line somewhere and to say it's OK to dehumanize people this way, but not this way or only for 36 hours every's a slippery slope especially when you have field personnel making that call.

  2. I'm so glad that the Obama administration has come out against torture, and restored diplomacy as a means of improving international relations. I don't think George Bush is really an evil or mean person, but there were others in his administration convincing him to take a tough stance in international matters. After 9/11 Bush showed a compassionate side and had the American people on his side, but he completely lost that after Hurricane Katrina. Maybe he had more compassion for Manhattan/NYC than New Orleans, not enough rich, white people down there.