Interrogational torture: Effective or purely sadistic?

Mar 28, 2012

While government officials have argued that "enhanced interrogation techniques" are necessary to protect American citizens, the effectiveness of such techniques has been debated. According to a recent study, when torture is used to elicit information, it is likely to be unexpectedly harsh yet ineffective. This study was published in a new article in Political Research Quarterly (PRQ) published by SAGE on behalf of the Western Political Science Association.

John W. Schiemann, author of the study and a at Fairleigh Dickinson University, found that information gleaned from interrogational torture is very likely to be unreliable, and when torture techniques are employed, they are likely to be used too frequently and too harshly. Furthermore, he found that for torture to generate even small amounts of valuable information in practice, the State must make the rational calculation to torture innocent detainees for telling the truth in order to maintain torture as a threat against those who withhold information.

Schiemann wrote, "Interrogators will continue to use torture and to increase its intensity in an attempt to ensure the detainee's threshold is low enough to make him talk."

In order to assess the effectiveness of interrogational torture, Schiemann's study employed , a widely-accepted in the social sciences to modeling . He then compared the outcomes generated by the model to the standards of success set forth by torture proponents in terms of the reliability of information and the frequency and severity of the torture used to get it.

Schiemann stated that while many believe that interrogational torture cannot be justified under any circumstances, those who do advocate for it claim that at times it is the only way gain critical information. He found, however, that under realistic circumstances interrogational torture is far more likely to produce ambiguous and false, rather than clear and reliable, information. "The use of torture makes it possible to extract both real and false confessions and no ability by the state to distinguish the two," wrote the author.

"The question as to whether—in reality—interrogational torture actually provides us with vital information we otherwise would not get—and at what human cost—is one of the pressing moral questions of our time," wrote Schiemann. "The debate over this question suggests that this reality needs probing, and the probing offered here suggests that torture games have no winners."

Explore further: Why plants in the office make us more productive

More information: Find out more by reading the article, "Interrogational Torture: Or How Good Guys Get Bad Information with Ugly Methods" by John W. Schiemann in Political Research Quarterly. The article is available free for a limited time at: prq.sagepub.com/content/65/1/3.full.pdf+html

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tadchem
3.4 / 5 (8) Mar 28, 2012
The unreliability of confessions elicited using torture was demonstrated during the Inquisition. Nothing has changed, including the fact that those who ignore History are doomed to repeat it.
Part of the problem is that an interrogator usually comes to the interrogation with pre-conceived ideas that guide the questions. If those pre-conceptions are erroneous, then the entire interrogation process is compromised. This is the difficulty raised by the "Do you still beat your wife?" conundrum.
Modernmystic
2.2 / 5 (13) Mar 28, 2012
It depends on what you define as "torture". Some people consider it keeping someone awake for 24 hours, others would define it as denying access to books...

The term is becoming meaningless...
julianpenrod
1.3 / 5 (9) Mar 28, 2012
An important question to be asked is, how does the torturer know that the information they may receive is or is not right to decide when to stop the torture? If the torturer doesn't know about whether what the victim was saying was true or not, how do they know to continue or not? And there is an important point is that the U.S. military has announced a training program called SERE for service members, standing for "Survive, Evade, Resist, Escape" which includes methods for withstanding all form of physical intimidation. If "noble, decent, democratic" soldiers can learn to achieve that, why assume "fanatical, homicidal, psychotic, theocratic" "terrorists" can't? Unless its admitting there is something in U.S. military that sociopathically exceeds even the "insanity" right wing forces insist all Muslims experience.
patnclaire
4 / 5 (1) Mar 28, 2012
There seem to be many definitions of interrogation and torture. Which is which? Where is the line?
Police use interrogation all the time. The third degree has been court-declared illegal for some years. When was it ? what case?
On a battlefield, after 48 hours most tactical information from interrogation is useless. Interrogation or torture, therefore, goes after more strategic infoinfo not subject to situational change or temporal entropy.
Scenario Achtmed has certain information and you know that he does. He will not divulge it under questioning. You put him into general population and subtlety let it be known that Achtmed Ratted-out everyone all the way back to their grandmothers. All eyes are full of suspicion. Soon, Achtmed will be clamoring for protection. But, Salvation comes at a price. Once he divulges actionable, independently verifiable information you let him goafter the actionable information has be acted upon. No torture. Nothing physical.
Jotaf
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 28, 2012
Don't play the definitions game, "What is the meaning of the word 'is' anyway?". It reeks of denial. Of course there are blurry lines and gray areas, it's law and morality -- what did you expect?

Let's talk about the blatant cases of torture. Of course that person is going to tell the interrogator whatever he thinks is his best chance of stopping the abuse. You can't tell whether it's true or not. If we're compromising our cultural values for being told fairytale stories, I think we better stop it. And err on the side that's best aligned with our conscience.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Mar 28, 2012
You have to get creative.

http://www.youtub...MtVWIN8Y

I can't stress this enough.
Bigbobswinden
5 / 5 (3) Mar 29, 2012
What sort of future citizen are you breeding if they enjoy torturing people. Torture has never been the way forward and those that use it are lost to humanity. You could make Tony Blair say anything you want, but it will not be the truth.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (4) Mar 29, 2012
Don't play the definitions game, "What is the meaning of the word 'is' anyway?". It reeks of denial.


No it is a response to someone trying to equivocate...

Let's talk about the blatant cases of torture.


Which in YOUR opinion is what?

And err on the side that's best aligned with our conscience.


We have a collective conscience??? What a relief, maybe terrorists all over the globe will cease and desist in light of this revelation....
Jotaf
4 / 5 (4) Mar 30, 2012
No it is a response to someone trying to equivocate...


It's a dodgy argumentation tactic and you know it.

Let's talk about the blatant cases of torture.


Which in YOUR opinion is what?


If a prisoner has severe trauma from your "interrogation", as evaluated by a psychiatrist, it's pretty clear he's not exactly being treated as a citizen. And that's my definition of torture. If you want to put the bar higher, be my guest. Usually people like to play this definitions game to avoid facing the reality, and answering the real question: is it justifiable or not?

We have a collective conscience??? What a relief, maybe terrorists all over the globe will cease and desist in light of this revelation....


I take that back, obviously your morals don't agree with the general population, just like those terrorists.
antialias_physorg
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 30, 2012
Torture is inhumane. Who cares if it's effective or not? It could be as effective as a match in a fireworks factory - that wouldn't make it any more acceptable to use it.

Even if it brought some short term benefits, the fallout on society is much, MUCH worse than any crime that could have been prevented.
Once torture becomes an acceptable (or even tolerated) tool for inquiry we're back in the dark ages.
Modernmystic
1 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
It's a dodgy argumentation tactic and you know it.


Kindly don't tell me what you think I know. That's blatantly dishonest and moreover quite asinine. Equivocation is the "dodgy" tactic being employed here.

If a prisoner has severe trauma from your "interrogation", as evaluated by a psychiatrist, it's pretty clear he's not exactly being treated as a citizen.


Citizen of which country? Under which code of laws? Let's be clear.

And that's my definition of torture.


Head trauma? That's it? What about cutting off fingers? I'd consider that torture...but for you just head trauma...got it.

I take that back, obviously your morals don't agree with the general population, just like those terrorists.


How do you know my morals don't agree with the general population? I have a problem with equating discomfort with torture and that's ALL I've said. There's that "dodgy" tactic of yours again...shoving words in the mouths of others...
RitchieGuy
1.5 / 5 (8) Mar 30, 2012
I think patnclaire's Achmed Scenario is excellent. . .it's something like "reverse psychology" in a way.
There's no blood, no pain, no suffocation. . .none of the nastiness for which torture is famous. Just psychological mayhem. No one really gets hurt and the prisoner will become extremely cooperative. :)
And the Liberal bleeding hearts have nothing to bitch about. . .hehheh
RitchieGuy
1.7 / 5 (6) Mar 30, 2012
Isaacsname says:
You have to get creative.

http://www.youtub...MtVWIN8Y

I can't stress this enough.


Oh yes. . .that'll get them every time. I'd wager Mrs. Miller is extremely popular in Russia and Iran.
That voice, that form. . .it'll knock 'em dead for sure. Every terrorist prison cell needs to have that piped in over the P.A. system as mood music.
LMAO
Jotaf
5 / 5 (3) Mar 30, 2012
I was going to write a perfectly eloquent response to each point but seeing Ritchie's disgusting comments made me realize there's just no use. I'm ashamed that the western world still breeds people that think like they did in the middle ages. Have fun living in fear and hatred then, that's exactly what the terrorists want.
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (34) Mar 30, 2012
Torture is the agony that George Bush will feel should he ever leave America for a truly civilized nation.

"It depends on what you define as "torture". Some people consider it keeping someone awake for 24 hours, others would define it as denying access to books..." - Mystic
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (34) Mar 30, 2012
RichieTard is a fine example of modern day Republican filth.

"I was going to write a perfectly eloquent response to each point but seeing Ritchie's disgusting comments" - Jotaf
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (34) Mar 30, 2012
The Conservative American Christian type.... Clearly.

"What sort of future citizen are you breeding if they enjoy torturing people" - BigBob
LEVI506
1.8 / 5 (5) Apr 01, 2012
Torture is all in your point of perspective. Sitting safe in an ivory tower pontificating on a subject does not make you an expert or pronounce your bloviating as anything but opinion. Having control over an individual who has kidnapped your family changes your perspective dramatically. Touch my family and I'll show you real torture and it won't involve water. Most people will do the same when push comes to shove. Conversely, act like a human, leave me and mine alone and you're safe. Torture in any form without knowledge of the information you seek is wasted. In the ivory tower, torture may be almost any removal of ones liberties, pain inclusive. If you've hidden a bomb in my home, my idea of torture might include hot irons or skinning knives. There is very little in nature that is absolutely black or white and in dealing with torture it's the same. Torture to obtain information without reason is abhorrent and uncivilized, but I'm not going to say there may not be times......
Modernmystic
1.7 / 5 (6) Apr 02, 2012
Jotaf, how much time do you spend railing against Islamic terrorists cutting the heads off people? Is that torture? If not is it at least what you'd call...oh say...barbaric?

Or is your ire totally reserved for white Christian Americans? If so, why?

You see I'd be willing to bet a billion dollars that the issue here for Jotaf (and others) has NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with "torture". It has to do with politics and painting a bad picture of political opponents. My guess is they could care less about the folks at Gitmo or Abu Ghraib...

But I don't know that for sure, I won't ascribe attributes to people I don't really know...
Russkiycremepuff
1 / 5 (4) Apr 03, 2012
There are actually justifiable reasons for something like torture in the interrogation of an unwilling and uncooperative terrorist prisoner.
Torture that results in a death is, of course, defeating the purpose of the torture, and therein may eliminate a source of vital information.

One has to look at the method of torture and how much it benefits those who might ordinarily be presented with a dangerous situation if the information is not disclosed in a timely manner. Information extracted through torture regarding a suitcase bomb planted in a crowded location, for instance, would be of vital importance to the people in that location.

Saving lives by any means to preserve the many against the few, or the one, presents torture as a necessary evil. In that situation, the quandary is moot, as the benefits outweigh all other aspects of the torture.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 04, 2012
I agree with Russkiv. The end justifies the means.

But isn't this the same "logic" that his "terrorist" opponents use?

Perhaps Russkiv should be tortured until he publicly changes his tune on torture. Or perhaps his family should be murdered. After all, the ending of torture is and end that is greater in value than the the collective lives of Russkiv and his family.

Isn't it?

Vendicar_Decarian
0.3 / 5 (35) Apr 04, 2012
Exactly.

"Have fun living in fear and hatred then, that's exactly what the terrorists want." - Jotaf

Few Americans can even comprehend why they have already lost their "war on terrorism".

Jotaf knows very well.

Only Cowards and Losers fear terrorism.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Apr 04, 2012
It seems pretty easy to me to decide if torture is sadistic or not.

Simply collect those who believe it is not and torture them for a few months.

If the bulk of them do not change their opinion then torture isn't sadistic.

Pretty simple.

Start with the ring leader. George Bush Jr.