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Is Torture Reliable or Humane? Essay

Imagine being forced into confession with your head down, and blood rushing to your brain. Picture the struggle of being held down and defenseless, against your will. Imagine having a thick towel pressed firmly over your face and continuous water being poured on the towel as you helplessly gasp for air simulating the effect of drowning. Imagine being bound and thrown into the ocean with a ‘weight’ that pulls you in only one direction: down to the bottom of the ocean floor. Do you think this kind of action is right to do to a criminal or let alone a human?

Torture is the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment in order to force them to do or confess something. History has changed from uncivilized torture techniques to civilized torture and then back again. There has been crucial maltreatment on prisoners and suspected criminals. The crucifixion of Christ by the Romans is a huge example of torture. The Romans beat and whipped Christ, pinned his hands and feet with needles onto a wooden cross, and put a thorny crown around his head. Back then, even great thinkers defended torture saying it was protecting civilization, and bringing control to the people. They had no limit to who they were torturing.

The Romans began to create laws allowing only certain subjects and crimes that could entail torture, but as time passed they added more subjects to the availability of torture. Christianity later became the commanding force and went against all the torture laws, and fought hard to change the way torture was executed. Once the September 11 attack happened, people forgot about human rights because they were fearful of another attack, so they continued the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Torture was used because people believed it to be an effective way to extract information from a captive suspect. The United States police mentality and parents cause children to think that torture is justifiable. When 9/11 happened the United States became defensive and feared the thought of another terrorist attack. We were willing to do anything to find out who the culprit was. We wanted to feel like we had national security and we needed someone to blame, so if torture techniques were the solution, we were willing to do so. Blinded by the tragedy that tools place, we were not using our intelligence. The United States was taking action based on fear and revenge, torturing suspects, and affiliates. The result from this will cause the safety of the nation to be at a higher risk of an attack. The media is another factor to the use of torture. Jane Mayer wrote in her article “Whatever it Takes” about a TV show called “24”.

24 was a television show that was all about torture, but instead of showing how torture was wrong, the show glamorized it. The show displays torture as being a useful tactic to make people talk and almost all the people that watch the show get conned into thinking the same way. The sad part of the story is that even children watched the show 24: “The kids see it, any say, ‘If torture is wrong, what about 24’” (261). The show was convincing and one sided, being torture is justifiable and effective, that people believed it was true, but Jane disagreed with it. She thinks that it only works in some cases, but there are down sides to using torture, such as misguided information. Torture is displayed widely around the world in a positive way, but they do not see the negative effects of using torture techniques to solve problems.

Torture can cause long term effects on torture subjects. Physical and mental actions can harm a person for the rest of there life. Most survivors of torture suffer post-traumatic stress syndrome – a severe anxiety disorder. In David Masci article “Should it be used to interrogate suspected terrorist?” he interviewed a women named Dianna Ortiz that is a survivor of torture tactics. Dianna suffered mentally from the torture experience; “nightmares, flashbacks and fear shadowed me everywhere. And I had trouble with my memory. I couldn’t recognize the people who were closest to me before my torture. I couldn’t articulate what was happening to me… I thought I was going crazy”(Masci). Dianna was damaged; she could not live her normal life. The fear of being tortured taunted her. Almost all or even all suspects suffer post-traumatic stress disorder.

Head injuries are also a common injury due to the different torture techniques used, as well as afflictive impairment, chronic pain, extensive sensory and memory loss. The prisoner will even be incapable of performing our daily activities: dressing, cooking, and sleeping. Torture is a dangerous, unreliable, and slow practice and can be stopped through accountability of the torturer. The torturer must provide a humane setting for the prisoner, question the prisoner with interpersonal evidence, and use his intelligence and technique to decipher the truth in an adequate way.

Many people think that torture is the most effective interrogation strategy, but know very little about the torture techniques being used on prisoners. Society does not think of the inhumane violence that occurs when torturing a prisoner of war. By releasing failure torture techniques and vivid descriptions on the methods such as, water boarding, electrocuting, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement, the society will see the truths and horrors of torture. In reference to David Masci article “Should torture be used to interrogate suspected terrorist?” he addresses different examples of terrorist techniques, one being “[Prisoners] were [being] stretched on the rack or subjected to leg or thumb screws”(Masci). What kind of treatment is this? Inhumane treatment. Prisoner’s rights are being blurred out and ignored. Animals do not even receive punishment like this, for the most part.

Torture overpasses our human rights to interrogate prisoners and try to make it justifiable, but it is not. Even if the interrogator got an answer- true or false- from the prisoner, the actions the interrogator did are not right and will cause damage on not only the prisoner, but also the interrogator. This inhumane method of interrogation has been proven to work adversely in situations of torture and is unjust to do to anyone or anything. It can lead our people to realizing that torturing someone isn’t the only way to get what you want out of them.

In order to coerce the prisoner to speak based on intelligence, the interrogators must have prior knowledge about him or her. When the interrogator first starts to interrogate the detainee, they must set him or her in a comfortable environment. Of course, the prisoner will have hatred and unwillingness for the United States to begin with; the United States must keep the interrogation in control. We must appeal to the prisoner, giving him hope of being free again. There was a story on Abu Jandal; Ali Soufan treated Abu Jandal with cookies when questioning him.

Soufan noticed that Abu Jandal had not eaten the cookies, so he knew he had to fix something to treat Jandal. Soufan found out Abu Jandal was a diabetic, so in response to that, the next time the Americans questioned him, they brought sugar-free cookies. Giving Abu Jandal the cookies, Soufan found a change in the rest of the interrogation. Abu Jandal “could no longer think of us as evil American” as he did before he received special treatment (Tom Parker). Americans had expressed a respectful environment for Abu by providing him with sugar-free cookies that were fixed towards his health.

The interrogators could have easily used his diabetic condition against him in a form of torture, but instead they chose to use a less inflicting technique, by appealing to his emotions. Abu Jandal now felt an obligation to inform the United States in turn of there kind treatment. He later “gave up a wealth of information about al-Qaeda — including the identities of seven of the 9/11 bombers”(Tom Parker). This information was vitally accountable in preventing any future attack on the United States. This interrogation technique used by the interrogator appealed to health and preference of the detainee to connect with him resulting in beneficial information.

Another problem with torture is that fact that the information being given is not reliable. When a prisoner of war is being tortured and is at the point where he or she can not take any more pain, they say anything to get the interrogator to stop. The United States of America used torture techniques on al Libbi and the results from that misled our army, and potentially wasted our time and resources following a false lead, leaving leeway for Iraq to finish their attack. Torture does not yield accurate resolute. Torturing techniques fuel terrorist, put American soldiers at risk, and ruin America’s moral authority.

When the prisoner of war is tortured they say anything to stop the torture from continuing, but almost always give false information, as al Libbi did. The torture technique interrogator does not have accurate information on the prisoner of war, so when the interrogators are given information they have no choice but to go with it, which can lead to even more conflicts in the process. When society turns against torture they will be open to alternative interrogation techniques that may have more effective results.

Once the prisoner is in a comfortable environment, we can then start to question him or her. Prisoners are trained to resist the torturous techniques, but not trained or able to go through a questionable approach of interrogation. Prior to the interrogation, the interrogator must find valuable knowledge about the detainee to use against him or her. Mental abuse is to an extent a way of torture, but in the way the informed interrogators used the mental interrogation, it would not be considered torture.

The informed interrogation approach is based on influencing our knowledge of the prisoner’s culture and mentality, combined with using known facts about the prisoner (Soufan). Having heard your child or family is captured or is at risk, is an example of mental torture. Ali Soufan, a security consultant and former investigator for the FBI, was involved in the investigation of Abu Zubaydah interrogation. Soufan discussed in his article “Is torture ever justified?” about two methods of interrogation, the informed interrogation approach and the enhanced interrogation technique.

Ali Soufan asked for his name and he gave him a false name, so then Soufan used his investigation to work against Abu Zubaydah. He asked to call him by his nickname Abu’s mother used to call him, Hani (Soufan). Abu now had the thought of Americans having more information about him, so he could not give them false information. Research shows, when the United States asked him questions he started to give out answers involving KSM the mastermind of the 9/11 attack. Using this mental tactic was in no ways a type of torture because Abu Zubaydah was not harmed mentally, he just had the fear of lying and getting caught, resulting in reliable and useful information.

Often times, torture techniques are slow: “preventing a detainee from sleeping for 180 hours as the memos detail, or water boarding 183 ties in the case of KSM” (Soufan). This method would not work in the “ticking time bomb” scenario because it does not get quick results. It takes time to torture a person, especially a prisoner of war. Although some people can handle pain more than others, the prisoner, if a culprit to the crime will be notably able to resist an abundant amount of pain. The prisoners go through training school that practice torture techniques. When your body gets used to pain, it can resist the pain for a longer period of time. Not only can the prisoner resist the pain longer, the torture techniques do not work quickly.

For instance, sleep deprivation must take at least 24-48 hours to kick in. Sleep deprivation is also one of the first method used often times when interrogating the prison. Statistics show that when people are restless their brains do not work productively and can not think on the spot, so when being asked questions it will take the prisoner time to answer, if they are willing to answer in the first place. Therefore, getting information fast will not result from torture, but it will from the informed interrogation technique.

The informed interrogation approach has work time and time again. Abu Zubaydah is a perfect example of the technique because he proved it effective. The investigators first approached him in an informative way. They used the background information they already knew about him, to make him fear giving them the wrong information and that took them about two hours to get information from him. After Soufan, the CIA took over the investigation and started to use torture tactics on Abu Zubaydah.

The torture tactics did not produce any results. The CIA spent plenty of days and hours using different torture techniques to potentially obtain information, but he still would not give up any information. The investigators just hospitalized him, so once again Washington returned to the FBI agent and Soufan to continue the interrogation. Working with Abu Zubaydah’s conditions, the FBI agent and Soufan continued their questioning.

They again were successful and got Abu Zubaydah to tell them more information, but once again, the CTC-Counter Terrorism Center- arrived and took over the interrogation. Harsh interrogation techniques were used one Abu Zubaydah, beginning with public nudity. The torture techniques kept making Abu Zubaydah uncomfortable, hurt, and angered. The technique was not working. The CTC used worse and worse torture technique, but still nothing came out of Abu Zubaydah because they did not treat him humanly. Washington noticed there were no results to the torture techniques, so they decided to go with the informed interrogation approach.

The FBI agent and Soufan gathered more actionable intelligence from Abu Zubaydah in less then a couple hours (Soufan). This is one of the many proofs that the informed interrogation approach does result in reliable answers. Obtaining information quickly can be important when involving a “ticking time bomb” scenario, and after these studies of both techniques, you can see which one had a quicker, effective on the prisoner of war. Torture techniques are harmful, slow and unreliable. The solution to this problem is adapting the informed interrogation technique.

The interrogator must do their research to have extensive knowledge about the prisoner. They must grant the prisoner a safe environment, perform civil treatment towards the prisoner of war, and question the prisoner critically and use evidence the investigator has about the prisoner to obtain information. All these steps will help prevent torture. Since there are alternative solutions that have been proven to work, then there is no need to use torture. Torture is evil; it inflicts pain on a human purposefully for questions and answers that have a high possibility of being false. Torture techniques are inhumane. We are humans and should be treated as humans.


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