What do you think about torturing for information?

What do you think about torturing for information? by Tony Garcia

Answer by Tony Garcia:

I answered a similar question, How do you feel about water boarding terrorists and why? I’ll post that answer below and hope it suffices.

The moral imperative of a free society to protect its people from terrorism is a precept that is widely accepted today, and is, in effect, the reasoning behind the U.S. government’s use of rendition and extraordinary rendition. In the case of the former, individuals are openly tried and convicted in a U.S. court of law, whereas in the latter, individuals and any evidence seized with them simply disappear from the streets, are sent on "ghost planes" to U.S.-operated “black sites” in a third country, are never charged with crimes, and are detained indefinitely.

Though the program began in 1995 under the Clinton administration, it was greatly expanded after the 9/11 attacks. The political landscape had suddenly changed and the Bush administration was obliged to take increasingly aggressive actions to combat terrorism. Later, it was determined that in certain cases, the U.S. Government seized persons and transferred them to countries where torture was already common in detention facilities, leading some to call extraordinary rendition policy “outsourcing torture.”

Excesses in this regard have been widely documented, particularly with respect to the use of stress positions, walling, and water boarding; their legality is, at best, questionable. Proponents of extraordinary rendition and its enhanced interrogation techniques are likely to point to notable successes or rely on the mantra that successes cannot be revealed to the public. Detractors of the policy will highlight the most embarrassing episodes of mistaken identity and try to draw broad conclusions to undermine the policy as a whole.

CIA likes to point to perhaps the best known example of an attack thwarted by means of extraordinary rendition, that of Khalid Shaikh Muhammad (KSM), the self-proclaimed mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks.

At the time of his capture, KSM was a head al-Qaeda operational planner, military committee leader, as well as media operations director for Al-Sahab. In addition to the litany of operations he lays claim to, he was also said to be plotting attacks against the United Kingdom just prior to his arrest and rendition. According to CIA officers, information from KSM resulted in the takedown of a 17-member Southeast Asian cell that had been recruited for a “second wave,” 9/11-style attack on the West Coast of the United States. The enhanced interrogation of KSM also yielded intelligence with regard to the structure and future plans of al-Qaeda.

CIA officers and contractors who use enhanced interrogation techniques do not refer to them as torture. Others do not see such a distinction and say that CIA is merely employing semantics to palliate an aroused public.

Former CIA Director George Tenet claims that the trove of information gleaned from KSM prevented an imminent attack in the United Kingdom. The current and several past CIA Directors disagree with the tactics used, calling them outright torture, and they have been joined by Senate and Congressional lawmakers, as well as human rights groups the world over.

Former CIA officer Bill Harlow avers that “the enhanced interrogation program that we utilized on a handful of top terrorists absolutely, beyond any doubt, produced vital intelligence that helped keep America safe.” But the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report refutes these claims, stating that there wasn’t much information that came out of detainees who were subjected to enhanced interrogation. Former Guantanamo Prosecutor David Iglesias agrees, saying the enhanced interrogation techniques simply did not work.

The dilemma, then, arises over the very scenario raised under Director Tenet’s watch. When faced with an imminent threat, where there is no time to employ methods of gaining the trust of a detainee, would someone entrusted with the safety of this country employ enhanced interrogation methods akin to, if not deemed outright, torture to gain immediate knowledge from the subject and thus save perhaps thousands of lives?

It is not an easy question to answer.

What do you think about torturing for information?

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