Torture, methods and society

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Torture, methods and society

Unread postby willow » Wed Sep 16, 2009 7:52 pm

TOPIC: Torture, methods and society

Torture and Democracy - Darius Rejali

The book is Torture and Democracy a comprehensive study of torture methods and there history and migration in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a major focus on usage by western democracies.

The authors premise is that international monitoring through human rights groups, doctors, media, and aid agencies has caused a major shift from tortures that leave scars like whips, to those that dont like electrotorture and waterboarding. It is cases where there is external scruiteny or interest in the prisoner that governments take care to ensure there methods leave no traces in order to reduce the credibility of any future claims of torture.

There is also an effort made to show how utterly useless these methods are for purposes of intelligence gathering, much inferior and slower then traditional policing methods. As well as attempts to debunk many myths associated with torture, its practice, history, and effects.

http://www.chapters.indigo.ca/books/Tor ... ejali%2527
From the Publisher
This is the most comprehensive, and most comprehensively chilling, study of modern torture yet written. Darius Rejali, one of the world''s leading experts on torture, takes the reader from the late nineteenth century to the aftermath of Abu Ghraib, from slavery and the electric chair to electrotorture in American inner cities, and from French and British colonial prison cells and the Spanish-American War to the fields of Vietnam, the wars of the Middle East, and the new democracies of Latin America and Europe. As Rejali traces the development and application of one torture technique after another in these settings, he reaches startling conclusions. As the twentieth century progressed, he argues, democracies not only tortured, but set the international pace for torture. Dictatorships may have tortured more, and more indiscriminately, but the United States, Britain, and France pioneered and exported techniques that have become the lingua franca of modern torture: methods that leave no marks. Under the watchful eyes of reporters and human rights activists, low-level authorities in the world''s oldest democracies were the first to learn that to scar a victim was to advertise iniquity and invite scandal. Long before the CIA even existed, police and soldiers turned instead to "clean" techniques, such as torture by electricity, ice, water, noise, drugs, and stress positions. As democracy and human rights spread after World War II, so too did these methods. Rejali makes this troubling case in fluid, arresting prose and on the basis of unprecedented research--conducted in multiple languages and on several continents--begun years before most of us had ever heard of Osama bin Laden or Abu Ghraib. The author of a major study of Iranian torture, Rejali also tackles the controversial question of whether torture really works, answering the new apologists for torture point by point. A brave and disturbing book, this is the benchmark against which all future studies of modern torture will be measured.


And a few lectures and debates by the author.
http://fora.tv/2009/06/02/Torture_and_D ... y_What_Now
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid ... ius+rejali
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zxn_S55GP_c

And a previous thread on the subject:
http://www.rationalskepticssociety.com/ ... ?f=1&t=440

The book on google books
'http://books.google.ca/books?id=L8QLvrX-iL0C&dq=torture+and+democracy+review&printsec=frontcover&source=bn&hl=en&ei=TxyyStXAKdTQlAegsYn5Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4#v=onepage&q=torture%20and%20democracy%20review&f=false
dirty work... the right google key words...
-willow 07/22/09
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Re: Torture, methods and society

Unread postby Azmodan Kijur » Thu Sep 17, 2009 12:19 pm

The topic post, with the links to the actual pages and the pieces on the author, is a great resource. I am reading sections of the book and it seems that the author tried to stay as neutral as possible regarding the practive in his descriptions, which is commendable for a topic that rises so much ire and hate in many people. Darius Rejali is listed as an expert in the field and the detail in the book makes that apparent.

The topic line and the questions that arise from it have made me wonder. We have all heard that the United States condoned the use of torture against "enemy combatants" in their "War on Terror". We have also heard a long laundry list of defenses for torture (such as here: http://www.law.gmu.edu/assets/subsites/gmulawreview/files/13-1/documents/ProRaviv.pdf). These defenses generally argue that "in extreme cases, torture is effective", that in a tense situation, the negatives of doing such an act are outweighed by the good that is done.

But is that the case? Can there possibly be a situation wherein electrocuting someone is not just acceptable, but justified? Can you think of a situation where torturing someone would be a net benefit to the torturer? For the sake of argument, let us assume that the torturer is a Western Democracy as Darius uses in his book. That is, assume that the torturer is not a dictatorship silencing dissenters nor is the torturer a sadist looking to get his rocks off. Is there any circumstances wherein torture can truly be justified?
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Re: Torture, methods and society

Unread postby willow » Thu Oct 22, 2009 6:15 pm

I finished the book a week ago and probably should have gotten to this when it was more fresh in my mind... sorry Az.

In response to your question, Rejali has an entire chapter dedicated to debunking the pro torture argument point by point, with various historical and contemporary examples. Im doing this mostly from memory so any errors in reasoning are mine. As a brief summary of the contents of said chapter:

1. can torture be scientific?
Scientific devices and torture by technological means are a failure and more myth then fact, as torture is most often and preferably done with devices that are common, have other purposes other then torture, are used in the routine completion of other unrelated tasts and are cheap and available.
Think field telephones in the military, police batons or tasers for police, buckets and hoses, rope or restraints. You cant strip a military unit of its communications devices in the field, and those devices have a proper purpose outside torture which legitimizes there possession.

2. Can one produce pain in a controlled manner
No, torture relies on the application of pain which everyone handles differently and since you cannot know anothers pain directly torturers have no idea how much they need to apply or how much any one person can withstand. Generally fainting and passing out are common when too much is applied to quickly. People also have a maximum pain threshold past which they cannot feel any more pain, the body goes numb. Because of this pain is a subjective personal thing not something to be monitored externally and thus outside of the control of the torturer. As per Rejali this leads to two basics in torture. 1) cause as much pain as possible 2) because techniques affect people differently, vary the techniques you use.
The required varience precludes any list of "approved" means of torture and invariably leads the torturers to "think outside the box" as it were in comming up with new ways to inflict pain.

3. Does Technology help torturers in this respect?
See question 1

4. can pain be administered respectfully and professionally?
Partly anwsered in question 2, torture leads to the deprofessionalization of any force allowed to use it as it creates a parallel command structure of units that can use "enhanced interrogation" methods and those units that cant. Generally the units that can, tend to become more secrative and demand more independance to do things "there way". Torturers generally overstep the approved regulations and often engage in competative brutality as they try to make sure that the prisoner "breaks" under there interrogation instead of another interrogator.
This also leads to resentment in the regular forces who are aware of these techniques, which they may falsely belive work, and are prevented from using. Generally it causes deprofessionalization in the military or police force engaging in the practice while causing a process of "Deskilling" in which other police and investigative methods are under utalized in favour of "easy confessions" through torture.

5) Can interrogators separate deceptive from accurate information when it is given to them?
In short, no. Psychological meta-analysis of studies done on "human lie detectors", police, judges and professional interrogators, in short people trained to detect falsehoods, have shown an accuracy rate between 56-57%. Keep in mind this is in professionals trained to detect falsehoods, and yet barely more reliable then a cointoss despite there very confident claims otherwise. Actually there accuracy rates are very compairable to the general public. Most professional interrogators receive very very limited training in actual interrogation and evey by there own accounts are often left to "find what works"

6) How accurately do co-operative prisoners remember information after torture?
Torture and Democracy, page 466 wrote:After torture, cooperative prisoners make two kinds of errors in relating information. They express high confidence in mistaken information, and they suffer peculiar lapses in memory remember recent events. While prisoners want to cooperate, these problems are not in there control

The pricipal here is "Ribot's Gradient" a phenomenon documented in several quantitative studies since hte 1970's which shows that when there is severe trauma to the brain (beating around the head, ECT, electro torture) the most recent memories are the first to suffer damage and loss, the unique recent memories first of these. older routine memories are most resistant to damage, therefore the information most desired is often the first to be corrupted due to impaired brain function. The mind then works to fill in the blanks so to speak creating false information and unreliable intel.

7)Does the investigative method yield better results then others normally at an army's disposal?
Again no, proper investigative techniques and informant networks are infinitely more valuable then coerced information. One of the largest problems with coerced information is that it has to be independantly verified by outside sources to be of any value, otherwise you dont know if the prisoner is lying etc. When you torture people, since in the vast majority of cases your torturing people who you "think" but dont "know", may have information you want, you create a deluge of intel which then has to be sorted and validated before its of any real use. This creates a backlog of useless information which quickly becomes old and of little relivance.

8) the ticking time bomb.
The closest to a ticking time bomb situation we have EVER been was in the London bus bombings, and it wasnt torture that broke the case it was a tip off from the suspected terrorists own parents who saw footage of him on the news. Does anyone really think that a parent would give up there child if they new the state was going to torture them? The whole case was broken through traditional police methods using existing laws, and the london police even managed to locate a "ticking time bomb" through information gained by investigation rather then coercion.

The truth of the matter is that traditional investigative and police techniques along with public cooperation are the best means of solving any crime, and without the cooperation of the public even with the best investigative techniques the odds of solving ANY crime drop to less then 25%.

Torture is a method that takes time, its not a matter of hours or days sessions but more often weeks or months. As such it often finds its greatest expressions and inovations in times of peace inside western democracies, where time is not an issue. It works best to punish, intimidate and gain false confessions. Not useful information.
dirty work... the right google key words...
-willow 07/22/09
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