Thursday, February 07, 2008

Prove It

The CIA has recently gone into some detail describing how and when they used waterboarding. This has reopened (if it was ever closed) the debate about "enhanced interrogation techniques." One common argument against torture (no matter how you define it) is that the information you get is no good--people will say anything if coerced.

This seems obviously wrong. Yes, people will say a lot of things under coercion, true and false. They'll lie under any kind of questioning if it serves their purpose. The point is, once you have the raw material, you try to corroborate it. If you get information that someone is a terrorist, you can start surveillance. Another situation is where you get the same information from different sources. It's not as if interrogators accept anything anyone says.

Many who speak against waterboarding are trying to take the easy way out, saying it doesn't work. Actually, how and when it was used comes pretty close to the extremely limited acceptable situations that some would allow for (and others deny exist). If you believe the CIA, it was only used three times, five years ago, on high value captives who weren't speaking otherwise, during a time it was believed an attack might be imminent, and seems to have gotten a lot of valuable information.

In other words, the argument should be it's wrong even if it saves (or saved) many lives, not it's wrong because it doesn't save lives.


Blogger QueensGuy said...

I'm in the middle of James Bradley's book Flyboys (a follow-on to his breakthrough hit Flags of Our Fathers). In it he describes U.S. troops using a version of waterboarding as early as 1902 in the Phillipines.

10:46 AM, February 08, 2008  
Blogger LAGuy said...

Yes, waterboarding's been around a long time--it's not a particularly high tech technique. We used to do it to our own troops as part of their training. Of course, the present-day controversy is about how the CIA did it as part of the interrogation of terrorists.

11:47 AM, February 08, 2008  

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