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Finally an Intellectually Honest Critic of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
Flopping Aces ^ | 06-02-11 | Wordsmith

Posted on 06/02/2011 9:47:12 AM PDT by Starman417

In 2007, WaPo ended an article quoting a CIA officer as saying in 2005, "The larger problem here, I think is that this kind of stuff just makes people feel better, even if it doesn't work." in regards to the question of whether torture works or not. Now we have Gregg Bloche, a physician and a professor of law at Georgetown University, writing for WaPo, saying the reverse: That those who say "torture doesn't work" are saying it to make themselves feel better. Finally, we have a critic of the CIA enhanced interrogation program who isn't launching into hyperbole and distorted assumptions, but is taking an honest look at it, while remaining a critic:

The idea that waterboarding and other abuses may have been effective in getting information from detainees is repellant to many, including me. It’s contrary to the meme many have embraced: that torture doesn’t work because people being abused to the breaking point will say anything to get the brutality to stop — anything they think their accusers want to hear.

One of the memes from critics is that torture doesn't work because the person being tortured will tell you anything you want to hear to make the pain stop, including false confessions and false information.

Two things:

1)Torture doesn't work

John McCain claims as much; and yet, as one commenter on a WaPo article pointed out, torture did work on McCain:

McCain in his 1999 autobiography, “Faith of My Fathers,” McCain describes

“Eventually, I gave them my ship’s name and squadron number, and confirmed that my target had been the power plant.”

McCain said: “I regret very much having done so. The information was of no real use to the Vietnamese, but the Code of Conduct for American Prisoners of War orders us to refrain from providing any information beyond our names, rank and serial number.”

“I had learned what we all learned over there,” McCain said. “Every man has his breaking point. I had reached mine.”

But let's agree for now that in general, whether torture works or not, torture is morally repugnant to us and against our values. Which is why Bush, Cheney, and the CIA would all disagree with the claims that the CIA interrogation program = torture. Those who created and endorsed the program went through great lengths to make sure that they did not cross a line. If anything, the OLC memos released by the Obama Administration weren't "torture" memos, but "How not to torture" memos. We can have an honest discussion about where that line in the sand should have been drawn; but to lay claim that Bush and company are no different than al Qaeda using power drills on its victims or that waterboarding was conducted no differently than the water torture employed by the Spanish Inquisition is to launch into exaggeration and dishonesty.

2) Those who are tortured will confess to anything and give false information to make the pain stop

This is a misunderstanding of the purpose of EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques). The 30 HVTs (high value terrorists) who were subjected to EITs under the CIA program were put through it with the goal in mind of obtaining cooperation, not information. Bloche elaborates upon the reasoning behind the use of EITs further:

But this position is at odds with some behavioral science, I’ve learned. The architects of enhanced interrogation are doctors who built on a still-classified, research-based model that suggests how abuse can indeed work.

I’ve examined the science, studied the available paper trail and interviewed key actors, including several who helped develop the enhanced interrogation program and who haven’t spoken publicly before. This inquiry has made it possible to piece together the model that undergirds enhanced interrogation.

This model holds that harsh methods can’t, by themselves, force terrorists to tell the truth. Brute force, it suggests, stiffens resistance. Rather, the role of abuse is to induce hopelessness and despair. That’s what sleep deprivation, stress positions and prolonged isolation were designed to do. Small gestures of contempt — facial slaps and frequent insults — drive home the message of futility. Even the rough stuff, such as “walling” and waterboarding, is meant to dispirit, not to coerce.

Once a sense of hopelessness is instilled, the model holds, interrogators can shape behavior through small rewards. Bathroom breaks, reprieves from foul-tasting food and even the occasional kind word can coax broken men to comply with their abusers’ expectations.


It’s been widely reported that the program was conceived by a former Air Force psychologist, James Mitchell, who had helped oversee the Pentagon’s program for training soldiers and airmen to resist torture if captured. That Mitchell became the CIA’s maestro of enhanced interrogation and personally waterboarded several prisoners was confirmed in 2009 through the release of previously classified documents. But how Mitchell got involved and why the agency embraced his methods remained a mystery.

The key player was a clinical psychologist turned CIA official, Kirk Hubbard, I learned through interviews with him and others. On the day 19 hijackers bent on mass murder made their place in history, Hubbard’s responsibilities at the agency included tracking developments in the behavioral sciences with an eye toward their tactical use. He and Mitchell knew each other through the network of psychologists who do national security work. Just retired from the Air Force, Mitchell figured he could translate what he knew about teaching resistance into a methodology for breaking it. He convinced Hubbard, who introduced him to CIA leaders and coached him through the agency’s bureaucratic rivalries.

Journalistic accounts have cast Mitchell as a rogue who won a CIA contract by dint of charisma. What’s gone unappreciated is his reliance on a research base. He had studied the medical and psychological literature on how Chinese interrogators extracted false confessions. And he was an admirer of Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist who had developed the concept of “learned helplessness” and invoked it to explain depression.

Mitchell, it appears, saw connections and seized upon them. The despair that Chinese interrogators tried to instill was akin to learned helplessness. Seligman’s induction of learned helplessness in laboratory animals, therefore, could point the way to prison regimens capable of inducing it in people. And — this was Mitchell’s biggest conceptual jump — the Chinese way of shaping behavior in prisoners who were reduced to learned helplessness held a broader lesson.

To motivate a captive to comply, a Chinese interrogator established an aura of omnipotence. For weeks or months, the interrogator was his prisoner’s sole human connection, with monopoly power to praise, punish and reward. Rapport with the interrogator offered the only escape from despair. This opened possibilities for the sculpting of behavior and belief. For propaganda purposes, the Chinese sought sham confessions. But Mitchell saw that behavioral shaping could be used to pursue other goals, including the extraction of truth.

Did the methods Mitchell devised help end the hunt for bin Laden? Have they prevented terrorist attacks? We’ll never know.

Yet we do know. Enhanced interrogations worked on the likes of Abu Zubaydah and KSM, leading to revelations of operatives and more information, which in turn led to other terrorists killed and captured along with more intell information and subsequently more plots foiled. These might not have directly involved EITs and are 7 degrees of separation; but they originally stemmed from the information gleaned from HVTs who were subjected to the CIA program. Again, EITs only were necessarily applied to the very few hardened terrorists who were resistant (and trained) to standard interrogation practices. Before this, little was known about how al Qaeda operated. By 2006, over half of what was learned came out of the CIA interrogation program.

(Excerpt)

TOPICS: Government; Politics
KEYWORDS: eit; terrorism; waterboard

1 posted on 06/02/2011 9:47:17 AM PDT by Starman417
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To: Starman417

McLame: Torture doesn’t work, even though it did work well on me.

Romney: That oppressive ObamaCare, which is modelled on my RomneyCare, contains the same unconstitutional mandate as RomneyCare and will be overturmed when I’m president.

2 posted on 06/02/2011 9:56:18 AM PDT by flowerplough (Obama: "Get back inside '67 borders." / Helen Thomas:"Go back to Poland and Germany!")
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