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A Different Discussion of Torture

By   Follow Me on Twitter     Message thomas unger       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   6 comments

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There has been a lot of talk about torture lately. Media consumers have had their attention misdirected consistently and in some cases, skillfully. BushCo supporters have been claiming that many lives were saved by virtue of "Enhanced Interrogation" (Orwell would be proud), and that it is a perfectly legal and proper set of procedures and no further investigation is warranted; "Nothing to see here, move along.".

We can dismiss this train of thought quickly if we imagine a robbery, the proceeds from which which were donated to charity. We would probably agree that an investigation should ensue, hopefully resulting in an arrest and trial. A trial is the point at which guilt, innocence or extenuating or mitigating circumstances may be considered. We are being asked to forego investigation and trial and just forget the whole thing ever happened. Why, because Dick Cheney says so. Considering the stakes, I'm not willing to do that. If we are a Nation of Law, rather than of men, the ends never justify illegal means." Nation of law, not of men!": this was a Republican mantra repeated ad nauseam during the Clinton years; now, not so much.

Is waterboarding illegal? We prosecuted Japanese for doing it during World War II. We prosecuted our own troops for doing it in Viet Nam. We prosecuted our own law enforcement officers for doing it in Texas. It is specifically forbidden by name by the Geneva Convention. Sounds to me like it's illegal. There is no logical, legal or reasonable argument for its use under ANY circumstances by ANY government, agency or individual. There is also no humane or legally acceptable methodology for waterboarding. Water is water, suffocation is just that. The primordial fear of death by drowning or suffocation by water is universal. Don't believe me? Try it yourself, no special equipment needed.

The second misdirection is the false premise that torture is a useful tool for acquiring information from a suspect. Torture is a useful tool for acquiring COMPLIANCE from a person. To make the torture stop, a suspect will admit, confess, sign or agree to ANYTHING!He will give information, in most cases, false information; or he will remain silent; one simply cannot trust information obtained under duress. You CAN trust a waterboarded person to do what you require of him; just to make it stop.

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Thirdly, you should understand that reliable information given up by a suspect is obtained by interrogation. The term conjures up pictures of a smoke filled room, a suspect sitting on a stool under a bare bulb and cops hammering him gruffly with questions rapid fire. In fact, most successful interrogations are very low-key affairs bordering on boring. A skilled interrogator is dancing with his suspect, always leading, but usually with great subtlety. A successful interrogation may take five minutes, five hours, five days or even five months. Especially rich sources of intelligence can be successfully mined for years if handled properly. Let's face it, if torture were such a successful tool, why would it require scores of applications? One of the alleged 911 planners was reportedly waterboarded 183 times. Imagine the investment of time involved here! Doesn't sound very efficient to me.

I've also notice most of the talkers on the subject don't have much, if any, first hand experience in the area of interrogations AND torture. Some of the experts have classroom or hands-on training experience in torture techniques. One such expert I saw was a top instructor at the main military installation (SARS) which trains our people to resist torture by exposing them to the rigors of it. This would certainly qualify him as an expert on torture; but if the goal is to extract valuable information, then maybe some interviewing/interrogation expertise might be in order. These folk don't necessarily have that expertise. It should be noted here, that some torture apologists claim that the fact we subject some of our own servicemen to waterboarding; then therefore it cannot be an illegal practice. In every case, these are elite troops and volunteers. This upside-down logic would only make sense if a terror suspect were to volunteer or consent to waterboarding. I sincerely doubt that would happen. Additionally, our servicemen and women have the right to walk away from a training situation and drop out of an elite program if they deem it too dangerous or unpleasant. A volunteer has that option. I've seen it with my own eyes. In Ranger School; a drop-out rate of 30% or more is expected. Terror suspects are under no such illusion. They know they have no choice. If waterboarding is in their future, nothing will change that. They are in for the duration; they are at the mercy of their captors, and they know it.

Some of the so-called experts, such as the two individuals who were paid millions to help structure our only Government Sponsored Torture (Enhanced Interrogation Techniques) Program had NO actual hands-on experience or training in torture techniques OR interviews and interrogations. They simply lifted torture techniques used by the Chinese and North Koreans against our servicemen during the Korean Conflict and said: " here, do this." Of course, the Chinese and North Koreans were not looking for information. They wanted, and got, COMPLIANCE; in the form of phony confessions.

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I've seen some excellent broadcasts about interrogation techniques given by some extremely knowledgeable and experienced interrogators, but you don't see them on the tube much. Not very exciting. Nothing like nearly drowning a man-over and over again. Nope, just doesn't sell.

What if there were someone out there who had hands-on, real world experience as well as training in both interrogations AND torture? What if he were willing to share some insights and illuminate some of the dark corners of these topics? Someone who learned torture on the job from comrades and superiors he knew and trusted. Someone who learned not only how, but when to use it. Someone who did it as needed without pleasure or passion when, in his opinion, the circumstances warranted. Someone who also learned interrogation skills on the job, from the same pool of fellow comrades and superiors. Someone who did it enough to get good at it. Someone who got so good at it he won an instructor slot at a Federal Law Enforcement Training Facility and trained over 3,000 federal, state and local officers in Interview and Interrogation techniques over a seven- year period.

I am that person. In addition to the above, I have been subjected to torture. We didn't have SARS training in the 50's and 60's. We called it Escape and Evasion. Part of the drill was inevitably being captured by "Aggressor" Forces. I went through this in Basic Training, Advanced Infantry Training, Recondo School and again in Ranger School; with ever-increasingly brutal rigors. It was torture, it was done by experts, but being young and dumb, it didn't really seem to make that much of an impression on me at the time. Anyway, I always knew I could call it quits any time I chose. I'm not sure I could make it through those experiences now, psychologically or physically.

I'd like to share a real life example of how torture does not provide good information. When I was a local officer in a Missouri Jurisdiction, some colleagues of mine had worked a burglar over pretty well and decided to see how many cases they could pin on this one clown. One of the open cases involved the theft of a very expensive violin. the burglar copped to that burglary as well as others, and gave them specifics about where the violin in question was stashed. The upshot was lost man-hours, an unnecessary and fraudulent search warrant, a torn up attic, some very angry homeowners and NO violin. Under torture, a man will say, admit, confess to ANYTHING to make it stop. Information obtained by torture is the LEAST reliable intelligence available. The torture victim wants, more than anything else in his life, to please his tormentors. If making stuff up seems to make the torture stop, that is certainly what he will do, every time, without fail, forever; if necessary.

If you want information from an individual there are some simple but absolutely essential rules that must be followed:

1. You must establish rapport. This may take five minutes it may take five days, it may take five months. It cannot be rushed. If you can't achieve this stage, you cannot go on. It can't be skipped, shortened or sped up. (There are some experienced, skilled interrogators reading this and sitting up a little straighter now, thinking: this fellow may actually know what he's talking about.) There are several aspects to establishing rapport. You must see that the subject is comfortable, fed and smoking, if he smokes. If a two-man team is used, one must shut up and STAY THAT WAY, period. Rapport is more easily established with only one person working at it. Conversation is hopefully established in quiet tones, gradually moving toward asking questions which can in no way be construed as incriminating. Weather, tattoos, dogs, cats, cars, fishing, hunting, etc. The hidden benefit in this is establishing a QUESTION-RESPONSE pattern. We are creatures of habit. If I am looking for an agreement response from you, it helps if I nod my head in agreement as I ask you the question. It also helps when the pattern is repeated. The subject wants, subconsciously, to nod back and agree. The more this happens the more entrenched the pattern becomes. Two-way communication becomes not only acceptable, it becomes EXPECTED AND ANTICIPATED by all parties.

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2. Suspects are won over by their mind as well as their emotions. The interrogator's attack must be on both fronts. After rapport has been established the interrogator must strive for trust. this can be achieved by the promise or actual delivery of things of value to the subject. It could be a phone call or visit with a loved one. Special meals or treats. Books, magazines, TV privileges, gym or recreational privileges. You get the idea.

Once trust is established, you present the problem: the circumstance the subject is under. And the solution: his cooperation and what that will do to alleviate HIS problem. It may be that the subject is led to agree that his conscience/soul will be uplifted by unburdening himself to the interrogator. It can be that simple. It may be favorable facility changes or transfers. It may be a suggestion regarding the welfare of kin or loved ones. Once trust is established there are innumerable other tools at the interrogator's disposal: a phony line-up can be used to make him believe there are incriminating witnesses, demonstrating that non-cooperation is futile. Incoming phone calls can be staged where the suspect hears only your side of a faked conversation which incriminates him. His associates can be observed in friendly conversations with officials thereby convincing him he is being betrayed. THESE TYPE METHODS CAN HELP YIELD VALID INTELLIGENCE. The one caveat is this: in order to work, the interrogator MUST BE SMARTER THAN THE SUBJECT. Without that advantage, the situation is hopeless; the suspect will wind up controlling the interrogation.

I have used torture techniques to obtain confessions from criminal suspects. I learned most of the techniques from a Kansas City, Kansas Detective named "Stick" White. I was a young cop in my twenties, he was set for retirement and approaching his fifties. My guess he is gone by now, since I'm now nearing seventy. We were assigned as Investigators with the Kansas City Metropolitan Major Case Squad (KCMoPD). We were classmates during a two week seminar hosted and run by the FBI. "Stick" must have seen something in me he liked, because he gave me the benefit of nearly twenty years of street experience during lunch hours and breaks that entire two week period. I learned FBI procedures during the seminar sessions and learned a very different skill-set during lunch and breaks.

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Retired Law Enf. Former Marine, Army Ranger, Recondo. Lots of stitches, some excitement. BA, (Soc) William Jewell College, Liberty, Missouri. Run one-man Express (Motorcycle) Courier Service in Atlanta since 1983. Getting close to 70, thinking (more...)

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