The CIA's case for torture

  • Article by: WILLIAM SALETAN , Slate
  • Updated: February 2, 2013 - 8:29 PM

Do we really understand what the CIA did and why? Was the payoff worth the moral cost? And what can we learn from it?

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chablis28Feb. 3, 13 9:10 AM

This was an amazing talk shown on CSPAN last night. Whether, pro or con enhanced interrogation you should see this or shut up. These guys lay everything they did out on table and for me its very difficult to argue against what they did. Go to CSPAN and watch the video yourself.

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monkeyplanetFeb. 3, 13 9:12 AM

This article and officials quoted in it represent a lot of rationalization to try and get around a simple fact: torture is not something that any civilized society practices. The United States has passed numerous laws and been party to several major international treaties outlawing this degrading, dehumanizing tactic. We are therefore breaking our own laws as well as international standards. Torture may sometimes produce valuable information, but most of the time it is ineffective, because ultimately the person being tortured will simply tell the interrogator whatever he wants to hear in order to stop the pain. Moreover, there are few things more degrading or morally hazardous than torture - not for the person undergoing it, but for the perpetrator. It's a system that rewards sadism and cruelty for their own sake due to the unreliability of the information obtained. Finally, once a culture has condoned torture of foreigners, it's only a short step to start approving of it for our own citizens. At that point, we will have completely lost our national soul, and will be no better than the regimes we decry.

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owatonnabillFeb. 3, 13 9:14 AM

This is a fascinating piece from a philosophical as well as practical standpoint. Part of it discusses the reliability of "enhanced interrogation". It seems pretty obvious by now that such techniques work: as I understand it the U.S. Military itself recognizes that, and to protect service people from torture if captured has gone away from the "name, rank and serial number" concept in favor of allowing the service people to tell everything they know. Just make sure that they don't really know squat. But is it morally permissible? Well, owatonnabill believes that it is morally worse to allow people to die, than it is to cause one to suffer (with no permanent injury) in order to prevent those deaths. The lesser of two evils, as it were. We're engaged in a war, not playing a game, and our opponents are ruthless. The first rule of war is to win it, after all.

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chablis28Feb. 3, 1310:16 AM

One question, monkeyplanet, did you watch the 90 minute ( no commercials) talk on CSPAN? If not, watch it. Hayden says they never asked for new information or information they didn't allready know during the rougher first phase of enhanced interrogation. The new information came freely later when they did the good guy part of EIT and the detainee had already been softened up and was now receptive to honestly offering new info. I don't see what they did as "torture". "Torture" is permenant injury like cutting off fingers etc. They subjected these guys to toughened up interrogation. I'm at peace with that. As Hayden said, at no time were the interrogators frelancing or going beyond authorized bounds. The program was carefully, legally administered and effective with no permenant harm to the detainee.

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monkeyplanetFeb. 3, 1310:31 AM

chablis28: You're wrong. Waterboarding is torture. It was illegal in the United States during WWII, and it's illegal according to a treaty ratified by the US Senate and approved by that great liberal Ronald Reagan in 1988. The physical damage need not be permanent for it to be torture; the psychological damage is more significant anyway. Question for you: are the practices that the Soviet Union engaged in that also did not necessarily inflict permanent physical damage, such as putting people in boxes full of bedbugs or making people stand barefoot in cold water for hours, torture? Or not? Or are these awful things only torture when practiced by regimes we don't like?

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chablis28Feb. 3, 1311:37 AM

Monkey planet, I'm assuming you still, haven't watched the CSPAN video on thier website???? You know what you know and you don't want more information that may reshape your views. We agree to disagree on the definition of "torture" as practiced in a much more limited manner by the US vs. your Soviewt Union examples. Had we "torchured", CIA guys would be sitting in jail.

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okaybruceFeb. 3, 13 1:07 PM

During the Bush administration, it was a war crime and torture. During the Obama administration it is not a war crime or torture. This was too easy to see through. Politics trumps all, doesn't it Slate? It was torture and criminal then as it is now.

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hawkeye56379Feb. 3, 13 4:27 PM

The article says: "What we've really done, they argued, is replace interrogations with drone strikes."------- Well, if we have replaced torturing prisoners with military action, then that's a major improvement.

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hawkeye56379Feb. 3, 13 4:30 PM

okaybruce said: "During the Bush administration, it was a war crime and torture. During the Obama administration it is not a war crime or torture."------- no, it would still be torture if were done today, but it has been banned and isn't being done anymore.

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monkeyplanetFeb. 3, 13 8:34 PM

chablis28: It doesn't matter what your subjective definition of torture is (or mine, for that matter). The point is that it is illegal according to international law - no exceptions. And for very good reason: torture is destructive to the person enduring it and morally degrading to the person or the nation that practices it. It whets the appetites of the darker elements of human nature like little else. The fact that you want to hedge on this fundamental point proves how low we've already fallen.

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