Sunday, July 30, 2006

If We Shouldn't Torture What Should We Do Instead?

The last line of one of the other blogathon posts is: Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.

Since there is an absolute need to gather intelligence about potential future attacks so we have at least a shot at preventing more loss of innocent life, what option do we have besides torture?

The good news is that we aren't starting from scratch.

The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin: Criminal confessions: overcoming the challenges - interview and interrogation techniques discusses many of the legitimate concerns critics have about how confessions are obtained. This line is key:

If the investigative hunch or the supposition does not align with known facts, investigators always should follow the facts.
This article shows that with the proper training, many of the abuses and subsequent false confessions can be avoided, benefiting not only the suspect, but justice itself. But facts must always trump unproven fears. We must remember that coerced confessions are not the same as proven facts.

Washington Post: FBI Agents Allege Abuse of Detainees at Guantanamo Bay

The documents also make it clear that some personnel at Guantanamo Bay believed they were relying on authority from senior officials in Washington to conduct aggressive interrogations. One FBI agent wrote a memo referring to a presidential order that approved interrogation methods "beyond the bounds of standard FBI practice," although White House and FBI officials said yesterday that such an order does not exist.


An overall theme of the documents is a chasm between the interrogation techniques followed by the FBI and the more aggressive tactics used by some military interrogators. "We know what's permissible for FBI agents but are less sure what is permissible for military interrogators," one FBI official said in a lengthy e-mail on May 22, 2004. In another e-mail, dated Dec. 5, 2003, an agent complained about military tactics, including the alleged use of FBI impersonators. "These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date and . . . have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee," the agent wrote. "If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will be not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [by] the 'FBI' interrogators."

This article shows that there were established interrogation practices that didn't destroy any chance of prosecution. Rather than viewing these established techniques as too soft, we need to understand the immediate and long-term benefits of treating detainees ethically. The act of attempting to obscure the identity of the interrogators shows that those involved in the pretense knew their actions were unethical and that outside, neutral observers would agree.

They either don't know or don't care that it's a national security benefit to treat all suspects and detainees ethically.

The national security problems that existed before 9/11 weren't problems related to interrogation techniques. Because of that, no harsh interrogation technique will solve the problems that did exist before 9/11 and which needed to be corrected. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that only those trained in proper interrogation techniques should control interrogations and that prison guards should be given only the duty of guarding the prisoners.

To get better at physical and psychological torture is to get worse at protecting national security.

Each approved action should be made based on the knowledge that it will be applied to the guilty and the innocent and that all actions will eventually come to light.

Along with diligently attempting to stop violence in the planning stage, we need to work on prevention so fewer recruits will join with those who are dedicated to violence. That means dealing with complex issues like poverty and bigotry. And not just by so-called foreigners. We forget about domestic terrorism and violent crime at our own peril.

What if detainees, including all US prison inmates, were treated so humanely that they realized the anti-US propaganda had to be made up of nothing but lies?

We can win by continuously being dedicated defenders of human rights while taking all threats (internal and external to our country) seriously. Thanks to our system of checks and balances, we have a chance of legally and ethically removing those in power who don't respect the value of human life after birth.


If We Shouldn’t Torture What Should We Do Instead? was written and first posted on the blogathon against torture to help raise money for Amnesty International USA.

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posted by Marcella Chester @ 7:30 AM   0 comments links to this post


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