Friday October 26 2007

Is water boarding torture?

methods of Gathering Intelligence

  • mass information gathering - deforest
  • mass toture - elkins
  • Ausureases

intelligence is essential to COIN

  • allows you to identify insurgents
  • to win you need to identify and isolate them
  • Intelligence is also essential to insurgency

non-coercive interrogation

  • no actual or perceived threat of pain of discomfort
  • no penalty to the individual who refuses to cooperate

coercive Interrogation:

  • involves fear of punishment


  • using pain and terror to ascertain information
  • lasting psychological or physical pain or damage

attitudes toward torture

  • you are 1/3 more likely to support torture if a terrorist attack had occurred and vice versa

ethics of responsibility

  • duty
  • public duty trumps individual morality
  • you can use extraordinary means to protect the public when time is of the essence
  • the ticking time bomb is rare
  • Max Weber


  • 5 year old boy is abducted in germany
  • police set up a sting at the ransom drop
  • the boy was apparently trapped in an oxygen depleting environment
  • the only sure way to find the child was to convince the kidnapper to tell the police where the kid was located
  • torture ensued - the kidnapper cracked
  • it turned out the kid was already dead
  • what was that kids life worth - it was worth the human rights of the kidnapper
  • the chief was fired and then rehired by a neighboring province


  • up to 20 people are involved in a bombing
  • remember the hierarchical structures of insurgents
  • if a courier is caught - then within 24 hours the insurgent structure is changed
  • this reduces the value of the prisoner to the COIN units
  • the insurgent has information he doesn't even know is valuable
  • this is the ticking bomb in COIN
  • beat the clock

Under these circumstances you resort to torture

Why is torture ineffective?

unreliable information

  • people will say anything to get you to stop


  • the solution to unreliable information
  • everyone lies all the time
  • torture is no more or less likely to produce a lie than a non coercive measures

moral reasons

  • in an ideological contest - both sides want to be the champion of a higher cause
  • for example social justice, democracy,
  • a political agenda presupposes a moral agenda
  • trinquier said that torture destroys the morale of soldiers - specialists and veterans do it to prevent corrupting the youth

Torture is not about pain

  • it does inflict pain
  • fear makes for a successful interrogation
  • all interrogations are coercive
  • pain is secondary
  • the victim is scared of punishment and weighs the costs of giving information vs. punishment


  • Kenya
  • black, grey white, streaming of people in the pipeline
  • torture is never the first
  • Ausereasses - most of the people obviously coerced into participating were let go
  • colleague of professor
  • has a simplified manual of distinguishing between arabic names for people who do not read and write arabic
  • by understanding flags and information about their name you can conduct a verification
  • When in doubt bring out the flexcuffs
  • error on the side of caution
  • another egyptian colleague says that this would mean a number of her family members would be in flexcuffs
  • suspicion is not the same as guilt - should they still be punished?

Habius Corpus

  • the body of a prisoner must be produced
  • very difficult to revoke
  • lincoln tried to suspend it and it triggered a constitutional crisis

Quote of the Day
"How many of you have ever been arrested"
"Just one?"
"None of you little flowers would last 5 minutes in Saskatchewan."
Akash: "Do you think this the norm, isn't this a good thing?"

COIN is still war and it is a festival of brutality

  • there is no incentive for the system to let you go unless you can prove you are not a threat
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