?

Log in

Apollo Sunrise

The Ticking-Bomb Scenario

There always seems to be some pundit on TV, arguing in defense of using torture against suspected terrorists because “What if there’s a ticking bomb scenario...?”

My answer is: “The Green Bay Packer’s lineup.”

(John McCain, under torture by his North Vietnamese captors, was asked for the names of the members of his flight squadron. He gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line.)

In a “ticking bomb scenario”, all the suspect has to do is lie and maintain the lie for a very short time.

If time isn’t of the essence, there is good evidence that other interrogation methods yield far better results.

My question for those who advocate torture is: “When you sell your soul, aren’t you supposed to get something in return?”

There’s an interesting editorial in today’s L.A. Times: “A truth commission on torture is needed”.

For the links to this and other relevant articles, see:
.


*****
In November 2005, in a piece for Newsweek called “Torture’s terrible toll”, John McCain wrote:

“Obviously, to defeat our enemies we need intelligence, but intelligence that is reliable. We should not torture or treat inhumanely terrorists we have captured. The abuse of prisoners harms, not helps, our war effort. In my experience, abuse of prisoners often produces bad intelligence because under torture a person will say anything he thinks his captors want to hear--whether it is true or false--if he believes it will relieve his suffering. I was once physically coerced to provide my enemies with the names of the members of my flight squadron, information that had little if any value to my enemies as actionable intelligence. But I did not refuse, or repeat my insistence that I was required under the Geneva Conventions to provide my captors only with my name, rank and serial number. Instead, I gave them the names of the Green Bay Packers’ offensive line, knowing that providing them false information was sufficient to suspend the abuse. It seems probable to me that the terrorists we interrogate under less than humane standards of treatment are also likely to resort to deceptive answers that are perhaps less provably false than that which I once offered.”

*****

A truth commission on torture is needed
We need to know if, as former Bush administration officials insist, torture worked in preventing attacks on Americans.
By TIMOTHY RUTTEN
Los Angeles Times
April 18, 2009

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-rutten18-2009apr18,0,3664451.story

*****

What Jack Bauer Has Not Done
By David Irvine, January 22, 2009

“...I understand that Human Rights First brought Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the Dean of the Academic Board, US Military Academy at West Point, to Hollywood to talk to Kiefer Sutherland and the Executive Producers of the program. "I told them to stop showing torture in a way that suggests torture is effective," Finnegan told The New Yorker after the visit....”

http://oxdown.firedoglake.com/diary/3186

*****
How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq
By Matthew Alexander with John R. Bruning
Book Review

“...The quickest way to get most (but not all) captives talking is to be nice to them. But what does it mean to be "nice" to a subject under interrogation? ... It means, ideally, getting to know the subject better than he knows himself and then manipulating him by role-playing, flattering, misleading, and nudging his or her perception of the truth slightly off center....”

http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1863053,00.html

*****

Torture isn't the answer
By Matthew Alexander

“...Torture and harsh techniques are counterproductive to preventing terrorist attacks, as they often lead to false information – a detainee will say anything to stop the pain. These techniques are also in direct contradiction to the basic American principles of liberty, justice and freedom.”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2008/dec/16/us-iraq-guantanamo-torture

Comments

You said a mouthful, kiddo.

Not to mention which, how many "ticking bomb scenarios" have there actually been, in situations where we had prisoners who supposedly had valuable information on it?

Outside of Hollywood versions, that is.
>>>Not to mention which, how many "ticking bomb scenarios" have there actually been, in situations where we had prisoners who supposedly had valuable information on it?

My guess is "zero". This is certainly a favorite Hollywood scenario, but in RL, what are the odds that not only would a prisoner be captured that close to the "ticking bomb" going off, but what are the odds that the interrogators would realize what they had in their hands?
There's this strange belief, probably fostered by TV shows that need to reach a solution in 45 mins, that people under torture always tell the truth.

Ridiculous.
Whereas, in real life, it's probably exactly the opposite.

More examples, see my comments on the witch hunts and the Inquisition in answer to another comment.

Veering off to another subject, do you have anything in the UK like the "CSI Effect"? Apparently a lot of people serving on juries think that every crime investigator has at his/her fingertips the resources those TV cops on forensic detective shows have available to them to solve every crime (and do it in 45 minutes.)
I suspect the problem with juries is creeping in.

There's also a belief that forensic science is fun and easy. A friend of mine wanted to do a course in forensics and was most disconcerted to discover that GCSE chemistry (a high school level qualification) was needed.

I pointed out this was forensic CHEMISTRY and involved real science and not just the ability to make guesses.
Yes, a lot of people are SHOCKED! to discover that to become a paid professional in any field requires education and actual work. Who knew? ;-)
Exactly. It has been shown time and again that the "ticking time bomb" scenario is irrelevant to the discussion of the efficacy of torture. People who are tortured are more likely to lie and thus give bad information. IMHO, these sadists just want to torture and let themselves believe it's for a good reason.

There was an excellent episode of Criminal Minds a season or two back that explored what truly works in interrogation. I wish they would take that episode and show it to these lunkheads.
>>>People who are tortured are more likely to lie and thus give bad information.

I've read a number of accounts of the Inquisition and the witch hunts, and two things are consistent: People under torture will say anything, no matter how farfetched, and people under torture will also implicate other people, especially their enemies, if it's what their torturers want to hear.

>>>IMHO, these sadists just want to torture and let themselves believe it's for a good reason.

Exactly. They're far more interested in causing pain then ascertaining the facts.

>>>There was an excellent episode of Criminal Minds a season or two back that explored what truly works in interrogation.

I've never seen this show; is it good? I'm glad someone has actually dealt with this subject on TV.
It's quite good -- very good at times. The characters are great. The actors are primarily terrific. The writing has been, at times, brilliant and sometimes merely good but never bad.

The episode "Lessons Learned" was written by a behavioral analyst who is an expert in interrogation. It's set at Gitmo. It's so good, in fact, Limbaugh made a nasty remark about it. lol

Edited to add: There are a couple of clips over at Youtube if you're interested ...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RPgMtS2BZ5A


Edited at 2009-04-19 06:25 am (UTC)