Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Torture Is a Weapon, Not an Interrogation Technique

How often must it be said? Torture isn't an effective interrogation technique. People who think otherwise are just plain wrong. They've been watching too many Diehard movies and 24 episodes. Information gleaned from torture is notoriously unreliable. Either it's fragmentary, or it's dated, or it's fiction.

So why do nations and terrorist groups and prison systems (keep in mind that the vast majority of torture victims are criminal, not political, prisoners) continue to torture? No doubt part of the reason is the mistaken assumption that torture is an efficient intelligence-gathering technique. But the primary reason, as Naomi Klein pointed out a couple of years ago, is intimidation. A nation that tortures sends out a clear signal: don't fuck with us, because we're crazy. We'll strap you down and shove an electric cattle prod up your ass. We're crazy.
Torture is a weapon of deterrence. The government that makes use of it hopes it will terrorize enemies foreign and domestic.