Mike the Mad Biologist

Torture: I Hate It When I’m Right

Tristero, who is also disgusted by Bush’s de facto admission that he authorized torture, writes (emphasis original):

I think bloggers should focus on the essential issue and constantly remind our readers what it is:

There is no longer the shadow of a doubt that the torture of prisoners was planned at the highest levels of the US government with the explicit knowledge and approval of the president. How do we know this? Bush himself admitted it.

What we also need to do is to remind people exactly what it means to torture, and that torture is profoundly immoral. Furthermore we should make it clear that among the numerous reasons that torture is profoundly immoral is that torture makes societies who torture less safe. Specifically, there is no correlation between torture and accurate, actionable intelligence, despite Bush’s lies and the propaganda fed to the American public in shows like “24.”

A while ago, I wrote about how torture never happens in isolation. For there to be any logic, albeit an immoral and twisted one, torture must be routine:

Figuring out what is reliable intelligence is difficult even with voluntary walk-ins; it will be much harder with someone who is actively trying to hinder you. So how do you figure out whether or not the torture victim is telling the truth? Corroborating evidence.

In other words, evidence acquired through torture will never reveal unique, unknown information. It is only useful when there is other confirmatory evidence. So torture serves no purpose in the Jack Bauer situation, since it, at best, further supports what you already knew or suspected. For torture to have any possibility of being an effective interrogation technique, you have to torture lots of people in the hope that multiple torture victims will confirm each others’ information. This means that torture has to become a routine component of interrogation.

I hate being right.

Related post: Helmut goes to Washington.


  1. #1 _Arthur
    April 14, 2008

    Wingnuts always present the “ticking bomb” scenario to justify torture.
    Of course, in real life, the torturees are SUSPECTS.
    You torture sympatisants, hanger-ons and relatives, maybe they’ll lead to bigger fish.

    What do you do when your torturee turns out to be innocent of what you didn’t formally accuse him (her) of ? Apologize ? Detain him (her) indefinitely ?

  2. #2 Matt Platte
    April 14, 2008

    “…[W]hen your torturee turns out to be innocent,” they simply disappear. Duh.

  3. #3 photoshop eklenti
    April 15, 2008


  4. #4 Mac
    April 29, 2008

    Nobody “turns out to be innocent,” if the interrogators are even halfway competent. And while some people take comfort in being assured that many of the US’ interrogators skilled in “enhanced techniques” are nothing less than piggish, cruel, brutes, the truth is most of them are rather bright, cool, and creative.

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