Profiting Massively From Torture: Designers Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million (And Are Still Getting Money)

from the how-do-they-sleep-at-night? dept

There are so many incredible things in the CIA Torture Report that will be discussed and analyzed over the next few weeks and months. But one that stands out to me is that the architects of the torture program were not only wholly unqualified to design it, but they profited massively from the program, to the tune of at least $81 million. And that number may go up, as they also are getting paid by the government for any legal issues related to the program, including over $1 million for legal fees associated with responding to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation that resulted in this report.

The report uses pseudonyms for the two psychologists: Grayson Swigert and Hammond Dunbar. However, their names were actually revealed back in 2007: James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen. To say they were unqualified for the work of designing the torture program would be an understatement. While they were psychologists with the US Air Force’s “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” (SERE) program (which is supposed to help train US military personnel in case they’re captured), you’d think they’d actually have some relevant background with terrorism and/or interrogation. But, nope:

Neither psychologist had experience as an interrogator, nor did either have specialized knowledge of al- Qa’ida, a background in terrorism, or any relevant regional, cultural, or linguistic expertise. SWIGERT had reviewed research on “learned helplessness,” in which individuals might become passive and depressed in response to adverse or uncontrollable events. He theorized that inducing such a state could encourage a detainee to cooperate and provide information.

Instead, their only real experience with interrogation was in reading reports on how to resist the kind of torture programs used by those who failed to follow the Geneva Conventions. Their limited experience with interrogation revolved almost entirely on pure torture programs that did not follow the Geneva Conventions:

SERE training is intended to be used to teach our soldiers how to resist interrogation by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions and international law. In SERE school, our troops who are at risk of capture are exposed in a controlled environment with great protections and caution — to techniques adapted from abusive tactics used against American soldiers by enemies such as the Communist Chinese during the Korean War. SERE training techniques include stress positions, forced nudity, use of fear, sleep deprivation and, until recently, the Navy SERE school used the waterboard. These techniques were designed to give our students a taste of what they might be subjected to if captured by a ruthless, lawless enemy so that they would be better prepared to resist. The techniques were never intended to be used against detainees in U.S. custody.

In other words, their knowledge of interrogation came solely from knowing a little about torture programs used by countries who didn’t follow the Geneva Conventions, and their role had been to try to help US soldiers resist such techniques should they come up. Instead, they turned it around and told the CIA to do almost everything that they flat out knew were torture programs in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

The psychologists — initially led by the pseudonymous “Swigert” — were the key to initially torturing Abu Zubadayah. According to the report, the CIA initially planned to see if Zubadayah would provide information through more standard interrogation techniques, leaving a “hard approach… only as a last resort.” In discussing this, someone suggested bringing in Swigert for help — and almost immediately the plans changed.

Shortly thereafter, CIA Headquarters formally proposed that Abu Zubaydah be kept in an all-white room that was lit 24 hours a day, that Abu Zubaydah not be provided any amenities, that his sleep be disrupted, that loud noise be constantly fed into his cell, and that only a small number of people interact with him. CIA records indicate that these proposals were based on the idea that such conditions would lead Abu Zubaydah to develop a sense of “learned helplessness. CIA Headquarters then sent an interrogation team to Country [X], including SWIGERT, whose initial role was to consult on the psychological aspects of the interrogation.

Remember, Swigert had apparently recently reviewed some “research” on “learned helplessness,” and suddenly the CIA’s interrogation plan changed. An FBI message at the time shows exasperation over this, noting that the FBI’s more traditional interrogation techniques had been working in getting relevant information, but as soon as the CIA’s chosen psychologists showed up, they went straight to torture, and blocked the FBI out of the process. Here’s part of an FBI agent’s message back to FBI headquarters:

“AZ’s health has improved over the last two days and Agency[CIA]is ready to move [Abu Zubaydah] out of the hospital and back toUH^^Ion in an elaborate plan to change AZ’s environment. Agency [CIA] advised this day that they will be immediately changing tactics in all future AZ interviews by having only there [sic] [CIA officer] interact with AZ (there will be no FBI presence in interview room). This change contradicts all conversations had to date…. They believe AZ is offering, ‘throw away information’ and holding back from providing threat information (It should be note [sic] that we have obtained critical information regarding AZ thus far and have now got him speaking about threat information, albeit from his hospital bed and not [an] appropriate interview environment for full follow-up (due to his health). Suddenly the psychiatric team here wants AZ to only interact with their [CIA officer, and the CIA sees this] as being the best way to get the threat information…. We offered several compromise solutions… all suggestions were immediately declined without further discussion. .. .This again is quite odd as all information obtained from AZ has come from FBI lead interviewers and questioning…. I have spent an un-calculable amount of hours at [Abu Zubaydah’s] bedside assisting with medical help, holding his hand and comforting hum through various medical procedures, even assisting him in going [to] the batliroom…. We have built tremendous report [sic] with AZ and now that we are on the eve of ‘regular” interviews to get threat information, we have been ‘written out’ of future interviews.

That was just the beginning. “Swigert” became a key cog in pushing for ever greater torture techniques:

In early July 2002, CIA officers held several meetings at CIA Headquarters to discuss the possible use of “novel interrogation methods” on Abu Zubaydah.'” During the course of those meetings SWIGERT proposed using techniques derived from the U.S. military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) school. SWIGERT provided a list of 12 SERE techniques for possible use by the CIA: (1) the attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap, (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) waterboard, (10) use of diapers, (11) use of insects, and (12) mock burial. SWIGERT also recommended that the CIA enter into a contract with Hammond DUNBAR, his co-author of the CIA report on potential al-Qa’ida interrogation resistance training, to aid in the CIA interrogation process. Like SWIGERT, DUNBAR had never participated in a real-world interrogation. His interrogation experience was limited to the paper he authored with SWIGERT and his work with U.S. Air Force personnel at the SERE school.

You’d think that this sort of lack of experience would be a concern. But, to the CIA, apparently, it was seen as an advantage. A footnote quoting the CIA’s response discusses this:

Drs. [SWIGERT] and [DUNBAR] had the closest proximate expertise CIA sought at the beginning of the program, specifically in the area of non-standard means of interrogation. Experts on traditional interrogation methods did not meet this requirement. Non-standard interrogation methodologies were not an area of expertise of CIA officers or of the US Government generally. We believe their expertise was so unique that we would have been derelict had we not sought them out when it became clear that CIA would be heading into the uncharted territory of the program.

The Senate report points follows this up by pointing out that these psychologists were the key to convincing the CIA to adopt the ruthless torture plans:

As noted above, the CIA did not seek out SWIGERT and DUNBAR after a decision was made to use coercive interrogation techniques; rather,SWIGERT and DUNBAR played a role in convincing the CIA to adopt such a policy.

In fact, it soon reached the point at which the only people allowed to have contact with Abu Zubadayah were… Swigert and Dunbar, the two psychologists who (remember) had no experience with interrogations and little to no background on Al’Qaeda.

On August 3, 2002, CIA Headquarters informed the interrogation team at DETENTION SITE GREEN that it had formal approval to apply the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including the waterboard, against Abu Zubaydah. According to CIA records, only the two CIA contractors, SWIGERT and DUNBAR, were to have contact with Abu Zubaydah. Other CIA personnel at DETENTION SITE GREEN – including CIA medical personnel and other CIA “interrogators with whom he is familiar” – were only to observe.

The report notes, not surprisingly, that this plan to torture Abu Zubadayah produced no useful intelligence (not that it would be okay if it had… but just pointing it out). However, the CIA then let the two psychologists review the success of the program themselves. Guess what they found?

As noted, CIA records indicate that Abu Zubaydah never provided the information for which the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques were justified and approved…. Nonetheless, CIA Headquarters informed the National Security Council that the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques used against Abu Zubaydah were effective and were “producing meaningful results.” A cable from DETENTION SITE GREEN, which CIA records indicate was authored by SWIGERT and DUNBAR, also viewed the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah as a success. The cable recommended that “the aggressive phase at [DETENTION SITE GREEN] should be used as a template for future interrogation of high value captives,” not because the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques produced useful information, but rather because their use confirmed that Abu Zubaydah did not possess the intelligence that CIA Headquarters had assessed Abu Zubaydah to have.

Got that? They said it was a success because the torture turned up nothing of value, and thus it proved he had no valuable information to provide. Thus, it should become the model for “future interrogations.” And it did. The same cable, again, authored by those two psychologists, set themselves up to continue being torturers-for-hire:

The cable further recommended that psychologists?a likely reference to contractors SWIGERT and DUNBAR? “familiar with interrogation, exploitation and resistance to interrogation should shape compliance of high value captives prior to debriefing by substantive experts.”

And, indeed, they were used again. And again.

As late as June 2003, SWIGERT and DUNBAR, operating outside of the direct management of the Renditions Group, were deployed to DETENTION SITE BLUE to both interrogate and conduct psychological reviews of detainees.

This was just the beginning, but once they were in, they were in. Despite a few attempts by some in the CIA to raise concerns about these two, they became the go to guys for both torture techniques and in evaluating those very same torture techniques. And they made a shitload of money.

CIA contractors SWIGERT and DUNBAR, who played a central role in the development of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques in the summer of 2002, and then used the techniques as contract interrogators, formed a company in 2005 [Company Y]. In addition to providing interrogators for the CIA’s interrogation program, Company Y was granted a sole source contract to provide operational psychologists, debriefers, and security personnel at CIA detention sites. Under the contract. Company Y was tasked with conducting ongoing conversations with CIA detainees to learn about the terrorist mind set (this project was named the “Terrorist Think Tank” or “T3“), developing [REDACTED] strategies, and writing the history of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program. Later descriptions of their services note that?on behalf of the CIA?Company Y officers participated in the interrogations of detainees held in foreign government custody and served as intermediaries between entities of those governments and the CIA.

By 2006, the value of the base contract for their company, with all options exercised, was in excess of $180 million. As of May 2007, Company Y had hired [X] former CIA staff officers, many of whom had previously been involved with the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program….

The CIA’s contract with Company Y was terminated in mid-2009. From the time of the company’s creation in 2005 through the close-out of its contract in 2010, the CIA paid Company Y more than $75 million for services in conjunction with the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program…. In 2008, the CIA authorized an additional payment to Company Y of approximately $570,000, after Company Y indicated that it had incurred costs for conducting countersurveillance of its officers when appeared in the press in conjunction with the program. The CIA agreed to a $5 million indemnification contract for the company that covered, among other expenses, criminal prosecution. Company Y hired a prominent [REDACTED] law firm for representation in 2007, and billed the CIA $1.1 million for legal expenses from 2007 through 2012 per its indemnification agreement. Part of these expenses included legal presentation at a Committee staff briefing by SWIGERT and DUNBAR on November [XX], 2008. Under the CIA’s indemnification contract, the CIA is obligated to pay Company Y’s legal expenses through 2021.

Torture sure is profitable.

Reading the details of the report, it certainly feels like James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen deserve a place in history alongside other infamous torturers. And yet, instead, they’re free and have banked many millions of dollars — and Mitchell now spends his retirement kayaking in Florida. It’s downright sickening.

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Comments on “Profiting Massively From Torture: Designers Of CIA Torture Program Raked In $81 Million (And Are Still Getting Money)”

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sorrykb (profile) says:

the architects of the torture program were not only wholly unqualified to design it…

I disagree. It’s clear that James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen have all the necessary qualifications to design such a program, namely, a complete lack of morality and any respect for human life and dignity. The depravity of this is beyond words.

And yet, I bet they both think themselves to be good and decent men. Pillars of the community, even, who were just doing a tough job and defending their country.

I’m atheist, but if ever there was an argument for the existence of hell… But that too would be wrong.

I’ll settle for prosecution. Of these two “doctors”, and of everyone else who orchestrated and carried out these atrocities.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:


I feel sick reading this article. I am actually surprised by the revelations here.

This is worse than even I thought it would be. I thought, or even hoped, that while completely immoral and unethical, the torture was at least run by people who knew what they were doing.

No wonder so many people feared the release of this report.

I’m struggling for words. This was intentionally incompetent and approved at the highest levels of our government. This cannot stand.

These people, and the ones who approved it, and the ones who even knew about it but wouldn’t speak up, are guilty of war crimes.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Somebody will claim jihad on them and problem solved...

It would be ironic if as part of secret reparations, these two were disappeared to another country to enjoy an “enhanced lifestyle” for a few years. I guess they could still hallucinate about enjoying their ill-gotten gains, and of course their lifestyle would still involve lots of water “sports”. I’m not sure if their suggested use of insects was ever employed, but they certainly should not be cheated out of the full “spa” benefits.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Prosecution? How about Seize and Forfeit?

4th says civil forfeiture is illegal. In order to make it legal it requires the 2/3rd congress and 3/4th states ratification to amend the 4th.

The thugs in power and behind the badges just tell you that its legal because you and the vast majority of people int he US are really that stupid to believe them.

I mean what are you going to do? Resist them? You have to go through them to get legal relief… funny how that works right? The American “idiot” citizens walk away from their civil liberties and simultaneously ridicule those trying to protect them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

If the government doesn’t feel like going after such infamous torturers, then it’s up to the public.

Nothing lethal to be clear, but making it well known, everywhere, who they are, and what they’ve done, would be a good start.

Make it so they can’t even leave their houses without people pointing to them and knowing what they are responsible for.

Make it so every store, every business they might shop at invokes the ‘We refuse to offer service to anyone at our choosing’ choice of business with regards to them.

Complete, public shunning, while not even close to what they have put others through, would at least be a good start.

David says:

Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

Indictments? Nobel Peace Prize Obama does not indict government crimes but pardons them, if necessary retroactively.

Indictments are reserved for people like Kiriakou who blew the whistle on the CIA torture and will remain in prison for it until 2015 (when his 30-month sentence ends).

Obama is so spineless that he’s indistinguishable from being crooked.

No Name for this Use says:

Re: Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

The ACLU’s argument is based on the fact that no one will ever be held accountable, even though the whole planet knows they are guilty, it’s the “best that can be had” argument and seriously it’s not good enough, the best that can be had is Bush, Rumsfeld, Darth citation all of them need to be tried in the Hague like the Nazis they are.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

No-one in the USG wants to get the ball rolling and start prosecutions and investigations, because they know if they do it will lead to some very high-placed individuals, individuals who would, either vindictively or in an attempt to save their own ass start naming other guilty parties, and none of those in power want to rock the boat that seriously, or risk being named as being involved too.

Faking outrage is easy and low risk, doing something about the source of that outrage, when it involves going after the nobility, that’s quite another matter.

No Name for this Use says:

Re: Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

The guilty parties are all of congress, the senate, bush, his cabinet, and may high ups in the CIA, NSA and the DOD so there will never be any prosecutions or even admitting to wrong doing, if you hire nazis to run your spy agency and your government this is what you get.

Sorry not the greatest cite but I haven’t been tracking it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

Can’t another country charge them? As Mike said, they violated the Geneva Conventions. Every law-abiding country should be ready to arrest them immediately on entry, if they ever try to leave the USA–and they should be pressing for extradition too. Apart from the Geneva Conventions, the countries may have jurisdiction due to rendition flights that passed through them.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Why hasn't anybody been charged?

They could, and should in fact do just that, but how many of them do you think would be willing to pick a fight with a country that has shown remarkably little restraint in deploying it’s military, and practices kidnapping and torture?

On the global level, the USG is one of the larger(and better armed) thugs out there, and most countries, with few exceptions, are used to just giving the USG whatever it demands, and doing whatever it takes to appease it and keep it happy.

Christopher (profile) says:

The incompetence is the infuriating cherry on this shit Sunday.

The excuse for using torture is that the stakes in the war on terror are so high that we can’t afford to give up any tools.

If you actually believed this, you would be furious at the way the program was designed by two sociopaths who had almost no experience, and at a bunch of other incompetence in the execution of the program (For example, it wasn’t clear to the people drafting the report how many detainees the CIA actually had. If basic information like that is missing, what kinds of key intelligence revelations did the people running this program miss?).

If you’re still defending the torture program after reading this, it’s because you’re either a dishonest partisan or a budding serial killer.

Speaking of, I’m convinced that it’s the stupider crazy people who become serial killers or who kidnap people and hold them hostage in basements. Because terrible things will happen to you if you get caught doing that.

Crazies like Mitchell and Jessen were smart enough to play out their sick desires at the behest of the government. They had all the fun of torturing helpless people with none of the risk.

This is yet another good argument for not allowing the government to torture people; we don’t want our defense in the hands of pain-obsessed sickos.

Joe Dirt says:

Terror nation

As a psychologist and long-time student of the history of my profession, I continue to be appalled by the willingness, even fervor, of so many in the field of psychology to participate in the most heinous treatment of their fellow man.

These guys make Nurse Ratchet look like an angel. Hopefully, the UN (and perhaps other entities) will in fact indict conspirators in this massive crime as they’ve stated they intend to, including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen.

No Name for this Use says:

Re: Terror nation

From the guardian article “…He also criticized Obama’s healthcare policy – a “shit sandwich”, well he does sound like a winner.. but he was not the decider, this is on the level of not prosecuting Hitler, or Goering there at LOTS of low levels that should go to jail, maybe thousand of collaborators, but the deciders ie Bush, Rumsfeld, and Darth scidios, need to die in jail, even the generals that reviewed abu grab concluded that war crimes had been committed and people should be prosecuted, Bush et all ORDERED Torture does anyone doubt this?, so what should be done with heads of state that say hurt people, for fun, for profit, because I said so. I will tell you, they should hang like the Nazis did.

sorrykb (profile) says:

December 10

By the way…

Today, December 10, is Human Rights Day. It’s the 66th anniversary of the United Nations General Assembly’s proclamation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Today is also the 30th anniversary of the UN General Assembly’s adoption of the final text of the Convention Against Torture.

Happy anniversary. What say we demand accountability for a change.

FM Hilton (profile) says:

There's one name that should be in the spotlight

That would be Professor of Law, John Yoo, who wrote the memos justifying torture:

Now just being discussed is the fact that the CIA had never fully briefed the Bush administration during the time period, so Bush himself actually would not have known a lot about what they were actually doing. Rice, more likely knew. Rumsfeld possibly..Cheney might not have really known more than his boss.

But Yoo must have known about it, and in fact his authorship of the memos rather lets out that fact. He knew what they wanted to do, and that was how it given to Bush, full of half-truths that served as facts.

For really savage irony, Yoo is professor of Law at Berkley, the one where so many radical protests started. He might not be in a job much longer, given his actual role in this report.

Gary Williams says:

Re: Re: Re: There's one name that should be in the spotlight

Skip ahead to Dec.25, 2018 (2019) and not only has there been no-one held responsible for these war-crimes/crimes against humanity, but the CIA station chief directly responsible for the adoption and oversight of torture programs at CIA “black sites”, Gina Haspel, has been appointed, by Donald Trump (and confirmed by the House-SEnate), to head the CIA.IOW, In America, torture is rewarded. This, despite the fact that terrorism has become more widespread today than when Bush’s War On Terrorism was launched. Why has terrorism flourished? Because, to cite only one example, the USA now bombs Muslim wedding parties with drones. It then tortures those who feel compelled to take direct action against those responsible for condoning such violent, inhumane practices by the USG.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

The part I’m most not buying about this article is that these guys took in $81 million

Their real expertise is demonstrated by their taking on this program with no prior qualification; their kiss-ass methods of convincing everyone how valuable they were (“Nothing” means “success”); their obvious salesmanship of their techniques, selling even what the CIA didn’t want to buy; and their manipulation of government contracting schemes by obtaining a sole-source–also known as a “no-bid”–contract.

They are experts at suckling the government teat, and little else, it looks to me. That being the case, I’m betting they sucked out much more than $81 million; that’s just the over-the-table figure.

Anonymous Coward says:

Simple Question

For those that are so adamantly against the techniques used. I would ask you a very simple question…
Your child is kidnapped and faces execution unless you can stop those responsible. You capture a member of the group responsible. At what point would you stop the interrogation?
Do you draw a line in the sand and watch your child die?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple Question

As for the one child comment… every person that has had their head cut off recently was someone’s child. age is irrelevant. call it a loved one.

You would seriously hit some point in your efforts and decide it’s no longer morally right to do whatever it takes to save that loved one?

I’m glad you’re not my loved one. Now you can go home and tell your spouse they mean ALMOST everything to you, and tell your children they mean less to you than a stranger’s life or discomfort.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple Question

As one who is justifying torture, I would hope you’re at least honest enough to admit that your acceptance of ‘whatever it takes’ makes you no better than the one you’d be torturing in your hypothetical scenario.

They’re willing to kidnap and kill for their cause, which likely involves more than one person.

You’re willing to kidnap and torture for yours.

Say it’s justified all you want, but don’t pretend you’re any better than them when you’re doing it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Simple Question

At no time did I say anything about being better than anyone. It is you and your ilk that assign levels of right and wrong. You are the ones who stand over another and point out their faults to lift yourself up. That is how you justify your arguments of moral superiority. It is extremely easy to judge another’s actions when you have no skin in the game.
And when it comes to my family, I WILL do whatever it takes to ensure their safety. It doesn’t make me any better or worse than anyone else on this planet. It is just a fact. There is nothing moral or immoral about it.

Did you think you were insulting me? 🙂

Michael (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple Question

Let’s assume you are right, and I will torture and kill someone to save the life of my son.

Part of the point of having a government comprised of multiple people (or a society, for that matter) is to curb these kinds of impulses. While an individual is going to be specifically reactionary to an event, civil society (and the US government) is supposed to collectively do the right thing.

That is why we can take a moral stand of not negotiating with terrorists. If someone kidnapped the child of a president, they (or their cabinet members) are supposed to recognize that this compromises their ability to conduct their office and they need to step down temporarily.

Comparing the situation to a reactionary response is actually right – in that is what our government did in the wake of 9-11, but we need to recognize that was wrong. Our leaders failed to lead us in civility and allowed our collective morals to be compromised.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Simple Question

“If someone kidnapped the child of a president, they (or their cabinet members) are supposed to recognize that this compromises their ability to conduct their office and they need to step down temporarily.”

Now that is something I would have to see to believe. I agree there would be no negotiation, but I also believe the full power of the US would be brought out to find the Pres’ kid. They would not stop short of torture, that I am sure of.

I also would challenge you to point me to a country that you can prove does not torture.

Gary Williams says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Simple Question

Your query rests on a false assumption at it’s inception. It assumes that, despite every effort you have tried so far without success, that torture WILL provide the information that other techniques has so far failed to provide. That is a mistaken assumption. If EVERYTHING has been tried short of torture and the person still claims not to know where your child is, then he simply does not know where your child is. OR, if he does, torture WILL NOT compel him to confess. This truism has been confirmed repeatedly by agencies tasked with interrogating suspects. The CIA simply went off the rails, motivated by revenge, in the aftermath of 9/11. With regard to AZB, all the actionable intelligence had been gathered prior to the use of torture…again confirming what wiser heads had long known. Torture doesn’t work. That may seem anti-intuitive to you and many others, but it is nevertheless true.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple Question

Your child is kidnapped and faces execution unless you can stop those responsible.

I’d give in to the demands and let the police go after the kidnappers afterwards.

You capture a member of the group responsible.

How am I sure it is a member of the kidnappers?

At what point would you stop the interrogation?
Do you draw a line in the sand and watch your child die?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple Question

“I’d give in to the demands and let the police go after the kidnappers afterwards.”
what if there are no demands? It seem most of the so-called terrorists don’t really have any demands short of “convert to our way of life or die!”

“How am I sure it is a member of the kidnappers?”
Since you demand specifics. The captured person was caught in the act and was the only member captured. the others got away with your loved-one. Or he was designated to deliver the message. either way you are 100% positive he is part of the group.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Simple Question

“what if there are no demands? It seem most of the so-called terrorists don’t really have any demands short of “convert to our way of life or die!”

Another false assumption. In fact the majority of terrorist actions come with clearly enunciated demands that are usually accompanied with a list of grievances compelling their actions. The US media otoh has adopted a policy of never reporting those demands based on the reasonable assumption that to do so would only encourage others with a grievance to also use terrorism as a means of advancing their agenda.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Simple Question

I’ll go along with all of the hypotheticals in the thought experiment (torture works, the captured person knows something that would save my child, etc.). I very well might torture the person, and thereby save my child.

Afterwards? I fully expect and deserve to be punished. That’s part of the price I have to pay to protect my kid.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Walking backwards into the future...

Lets just back up a tad and look at the facts.

Torture DOES NOT WORK. This has been proven time and again but everyone who wants to punish via torture ignores that fact time and time again.

When you torture someone, you make that person your mortal enemy, and they will thereafter use whatever means might be at their disposal to get revenge for your cruelty – this is why the information wrested from torture victims is always tainted and usually designed by the victim of your cruelty to hurt you as much as possible and help you as little as possible. The only thing a torture victim has at his disposal is the fact that his torturers want him to tell them things that will help them, so his only weapon is his words.

It is increasingly amazing that nobody seems to understand this simple principle even though it has been seen repeatedly in every single case of torture world wide.

I have to assume that this fact is ignored because torturers simply want to inflict as much pain on someone as possible and do not really care who their victims are.

However, this simple fact renders your scenario about the child into simplicity.

You may torture the captured kidnapper as much as you want and all you will get is misinformation designed to fuck you around as much as possible as payback for your cruelty and the pain you have caused your victim. Since most torture victims assume they will be killed to keep the torture secret, they have little left to lose and great satisfaction to gain from screwing over their torturers in every way possible.

Your child’s health does not even come into the equation since the victim of your dark-age horror punishments will never aid you in any fashion. You will have exactly the same factual information you had before you tortured the kidnapper –

– None

So the correct answer to your pathetic question:

“Do you draw a line in the sand and watch your child die?”


You try and convince the kidnapper that his help will be used to lower the charges against him and hope to hell to tells you something that will save your child, because torturing him will only get you false information and insure that your kid dies.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Simple Question

” At what point would you stop the interrogation?”

Torture would be a good place to stop.

“Do you draw a line in the sand and watch your child die?”

That’s a false choice. You’re assuming that stepping beyond the line would save my child. I argue that it’s unlikely to do so.

Even if torture would be effective, my answer to that question when I’m not faced with actually being in that situation is “yes”.

I would probably feel differently if I were actually in the situation, true, which is precisely why I should not be the one doing the interrogation. I would not be able to think rationally and therefore would be incapable of bringing justice to the situation. I would be engaging in vigilante justice — which is never actually justice at all.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Simple Question

“That’s a false choice. You’re assuming that stepping beyond the line would save my child. I argue that it’s unlikely to do so.”
And you are assuming it wouldn’t. I argue there is no line to cross. It’s imaginary. It’s a Social More. It has no place outside of the society it is practiced in. Do you honestly think this moral obligation exists everywhere?

thisworld (profile) says:

Doubt that anything will change!

I’m almost bereft of words: I feel like weeping. Not least for the victims of such mindless cruelty. But also for the specious claim that torture “worked”, because no result = result. Also because the entire alphabet-soup will cling tenaciously to its illegal, secretive, escalation of privileges. And, alas, there will always be those who justify any such over-reaching, dutifully parroting whatever is the tabloid trigger of the day: “terrorism”, “think of the children” — the excuses are endless. Sorry, gotta go. Something in my eye….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Doubt that anything will change!

do you not weep for those these men killed? or the future murders they will commit?

the reasons for committing these heinous acts that were perpetrated against innocents are just as plentiful as the excuses for torture.

I see a lot of complaining about what has transpired, but no alternate solutions offered, except to let more innocents die, because “torture is wrong”. There seem to be quite a few commenters here that are convinced of their moral high ground without ever experiencing the reality of the situation. You dare to condemn without any personal experience, or skin in the game. you sit at 30,000 feet and look at the world. how very beautiful the world must look from there, and how misguided that view is.

Hypocrisy and naiveté abound.

Anon says:

The Type

It always seemed to me pretty simple – when a group decides they need to torture, the type of person that bubbles up to the surface, like a floating turd, is the kind of person who enjoys torturing others. It doesn’t matter if it’s the CIA, Syrian “Intelligence”, the Iranian secret police, or al Qeda, someone steps forward who enjoys causing pain and suffering. It doesn’t even have to be official policy, just winked at like Abu Ghraib.

As a result, any plans for torture quickly evolve beyond the level of simple interrogation planned, that added and repeated torture is piled on by over-enthusiastic interrogators, with whatever justification fits the bill.

Even more frightening, though is the Ivory Tower planners who seem to design these “plans” with minimal real-world knowledge, a willfull blindness to the harm and oblivious to consequences and suffering of their theoretical designs. It reminds me of the quote about the “banality of evil”. Those guys are on the same level.

GEMont (profile) says:

The day the music died...

Since the other 5500 unexposed pages are obviously more damning than those that were allowed to be exposed, I’d say that any sense of disgust one might feel in reading the Official Digest, would be nothing compared to the nausea that the full report would cause.

Yet, astoundingly, nobody will be punished for these crimes against humanity, and many among the people who did these things will instead, be promoted.

It is indeed a Brutal New World we have allowed to be made.

What is saddest though is that this kind of activity at the hands of the official Crooks in White Hats, will only escalate as the entire process of redress of grievances has been replaced with a kangaroo court, jester judges, and thugs in uniform, who are itching to pummel any who might complain.

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