I’ll give you a hint. It wasn’t because we waterboarded someone. As this article points out, it was because of traditional interrogation methods:

His larger argument is that methods like waterboarding are wholly unnecessary — traditional interrogation methods, a combination of guile and graft, are the best way to break down even the most stubborn subjects. He told a recent hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee that it was these methods, not the harsh techniques, that prompted al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah to give up the identities of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks,

29 Responses to “How We Located Saddam Hussein, KSM and Zarqawi”


  • Here you have real evidence, in the form of successful interrogation attempts, from experienced interrogators, but it doesn’t matter. Torture apologists will defend it to the death, no matter the facts.


  • http://www.salon.com/opinion/kamiya/2009/04/23/torture/

    “The argument that torture works cannot simply be dismissed. During World War II, for example, the Gestapo used torture with considerable effectiveness on captured agents working for Britain’s Special Operations Executive, the top-secret organization dedicated to sabotage and subversion behind Axis lines. A number of agents, unable to withstand the pain or, in some cases, even the prospect of pain, told their captors everything they knew, including the identity of other agents, the arrival time of flights, and the location of safe houses. During France’s brutal war in Algeria, the colonial power used torture effectively. As historian Alistair Horne, the author of the classic analysis of the French-Algerian war, “A Savage War of Peace,” told me in a 2007 interview, “In Algeria, the French used torture — as opposed to abuse — very effectively as an instrument of war. They had some success with it; they did undoubtedly get some intelligence from the use of torture.” That intelligence included information about future terrorist strikes and the infrastructure of terror networks in Algiers.”

    Couple this with both the facts that British police echo these sentiments from the days of their fight against the IRA, and German police have the same to say about their fight against Red Army Faction, and you have the underpinnings of an empirical falsification of the notion that torture doesn’t work.


  • No, it is not always necessary, Silke, which is why waterboarding was used on 3 – count them, three, a very small number – of high value terrorists. Sheesh, move on already.

    No one is say we have to use it on all of them, and it was only used as a last resort. Different methods work on different people.

    Quick question, which I am sure you and Reasic will duck: we’ve just caught Bin laden or Zawahiri. They have information about an impeding attack that will be devastating. Cookies aren’t working. Talking to them doesn’t work. Pretty please won’t work. What do you do? Will you get rough with them, or potentially let thousands or more Americans die?


  • LB, the point is we don’t need to resort to torture. The traditional methods work.

    Teach, I would use all legal methods available to me to get the information we need. Torture would not be an option.


  • Silke, on some, you might. Let’s say I were imbedded with a military unit in a civilian capacity. I’ve seen where some proposed airstrike targets are. Al Qeada captures me but kills the soldiers I was embedded with. They’ve seen a couple maps and think the US is about to airstrike some proposed targets. They would like to know so they can evac their operatives and equipment. Two ways they can approach this:

    1. They can offer me sugar-free cookies to betray my country and undermine our war against terror. Do you think doing this is going to make me forget about 9-11, forget about 3 generations of my family that fought for this country, and forget that I’m going to go home and will be seen as a traitor for probably the rest of my life? And for what, because some of the terrorists can be nice some of the time, and usually when they want something from you?

    2. They can whip out a tin of naplam and burn my fingers off one by one. Do you think maybe, just maybe, after the first finger or two I might give up everything I know? Do you think maybe, just maybe I will be so distracted and in such distress that I can’t visualize enough to lie? That maybe, just maybe, if they ask non-leading open-ended questions I will tell the truth because I want the torture over and can’t think straight enough to tell a convincing lie?

    We approach this question from our perspective too often. We don’t appreciate just what we are trying to penetrate here. You need to penetrate family, community, country, and religion to get someone to talk. We might be able to do that with rapport-building (incidently, “traditional methods” would refer to torture. It has a far longer history in interrogations than do rapport-building methods) on some people, but not on others. The others will need far tougher methods employed.

    Before you fall back and regurgitate this author again (and as I recall this is the second time you have cited this same Ali Soufan testimony), answer me this, what would it take to make you turn your back on your family, community, country, and religion and start helping the enemy? What would it take to make you betray America and help Al Qeada?


  • You guys can conjure up as many ticking time-bomb scenarios as you like, but the fact is that this does not happen in reality. LB, even the article you linked stated as much. All you are doing is guessing, hypothesizing, conjecturing, and assuming. You don’t have any concrete evidence that any of your cooked up scenarios would or could work. I’m not prepared to back a morally reprehensible tactic based on your guessing and wishing for some scenario in which it is justified.

    For me, it boils down to this: torture is unAmerican. Any time I’ve heard about someone using torture, it’s always been “them”, never “us”. I don’t want to see “us” become “them”.

    We have other methods, which according to reliable sources, have worked for us. We don’t need torture, and we especially don’t need to concoct crazy, unrealistic tv show scenarios in order to justify it.


  • LB said: We might be able to do that with rapport-building…on some people, but not on others. The others will need far tougher methods employed.

    I don’t know how you define “tougher methods” but I certainly agree all legal interrogation methods should be employed. But if by “tougher methods” you mean waterboarding I disagree. The lack of cooperation by a detainee should not be the metric by which we decide whether to break the law or compromise our principles. What if the detainee doesn’t have more information? Isn’t it possible to confuse lack of knowledge with lack of cooperation?

    I’m intrigued by how you turned the scenario around…what would it take to make me talk? Of course that scenario presumes I have information the terrorists need. The problem with thought experiments is that they assume perfect knowledge. But that’s not how the real world works. If the ticking time bomb scenario is the standard for waterboarding a detainee, what if there is no actual ticking time bomb? Sure, there may have been aspirations to use one at some time in the future or the detainee may have known someone talking about using one in the future. But that’s not really the same thing. And we can always justify our actions after the fact by saying this person would have eventually killed innocent people. If torture is to be used only as a last resort then the question becomes how can we be certain the detainee has the information we need? We can’t because if we were certain we probably wouldn’t need the detainee’s information in the first place. Unfortunately, every time we capture a high value detainee the exception becomes the rule.

    Bottom line…torture is immoral, illegal and counter-productive. As any intelligence analyst will tell you, anything someone says after being tortured is considered extremely suspect.


  • Reasic:
    “You guys can conjure up as many ticking time-bomb scenarios as you like,”

    I didn’t. I stated a reversed concept for Silke to have her examine the situation from the detainees point of view. I don’t need a ticking time bomb. I’m much more pragmatic about things than that.

    “but the fact is that this does not happen in reality.”

    No, reality is a cell that places IEDs along a road, or a group that kidnaps people and beheads them to incite an ethnic war. Information helps us catch or kill these people before they act again and kill more people. War isn’t pretty or neat.

    “LB, even the article you linked stated as much.”

    He stated that time bomb scenarios aren’t real. They generally aren’t in any clear cut sense of the concept. The real scenarios are much more like I suggested above.

    “All you are doing is guessing, hypothesizing, conjecturing, and assuming.”

    No, I’ve continuously cited fact based sources that detail the preference of intelligence agencies and anti-terror police to use torture as an information-gathering tool. That’s not conjecture, that’s history.

    “You don’t have any concrete evidence that any of your cooked up scenarios would or could work.”

    They worked in extracting info from British agents during WWII, IRA operatives during the British police effort against that group, and against Red Army Faction in Germany.

    “I’m not prepared to back a morally reprehensible tactic based on your guessing and wishing for some scenario in which it is justified.”

    Your mind was made up before any facts were ever presented to you, let’s not pretend you were ever prepared to back anything outside your little box.

    “For me, it boils down to this: torture is unAmerican.”

    We used it in the Civil War and against German agents in WWII.

    “Any time I’ve heard about someone using torture, it’s always been “them”, never “us”.”

    Any time you ever heard about ethnic cleansing it was “them” and never “us,” mainly because we focus on the negative of others and the positive of ourselves. Head on down to a Native American tribe, if any remain near you, and ask to hear about the illustrious history of US ethnic cleansing.

    “We have other methods, which according to reliable sources, have worked for us.”

    Who told you they were reliable sources? The mainstream media? In case you never noticed, they’re expertise is stoking outrage to sell papers and boost ratings. These are not technical experts, which is why when a computer virus or new strain of flu hits the public the articles are heavy on panic and light on information. You think this same media knows the first thing about intelligence gathering? Let me give you the honest truth here. Non-torture methods work to a point, but will yield you less information. The British observed this in their fight against the IRA when they were compelled to abandon torture. We don’t avoid torture because the other methods are more effective, we avoid using it to feel better about ourselves. That’s it. We dance a little dance to get a guy to tell us where his buddies are hanging out, then we airstrike them with a remote control plane and kill 10 of his terrorist buddies and five innocent bystanders that become “collateral damage.” War is hell, intel is ugly.

    Silke:
    “But if by “tougher methods” you mean waterboarding I disagree.”

    Are you willing to let Americans die to avoid the use of waterboarding? Don’t dance around it and insist that won’t happen, just answer the question.

    “The lack of cooperation by a detainee should not be the metric by which we decide whether to break the law or compromise our principles.”

    It doesn’t sound to me like you have a metric by which you would make that decision. Hell, I don’t think people should steal, but I turn a blind eye to a flood victim looting a store for bread and water.

    “What if the detainee doesn’t have more information?”

    That’s why professionals with training handle these matters. You wouldn’t send in an untrained individual to conduct this, just the same as you wouldn’t have an untrained individual handle heart surgery. A trained individual should be able to recognize this limit.

    “Isn’t it possible to confuse lack of knowledge with lack of cooperation?”

    Yes, in just the same way it’s possible to confuse a wedding celebration with a small arms fire attack. Tragedies happen in war. That’s why war is supposed to be fought between states by conventional means and under the conduct regulated by blankets worth of treaties. When one side throws out the playbook, the niceties of war are stripped away for the other as well.

    “I’m intrigued by how you turned the scenario around…what would it take to make me talk? Of course that scenario presumes I have information the terrorists need.”

    Intrigued, but apparently not enough to engage the question any further and segue immediately into a rebuttal tangent. Answer the question, what would it take to make you talk? If you cannot conceive of what it would take to make you talk, you cannot conceive of what it would take to make an enemy talk. I assure you, our enemies are no less resolute than we.

    “The problem with thought experiments is that they assume perfect knowledge.”

    That’s the purpose of thought experiments, to establish basic ideas and concepts to guide us in more murky situations. They clarify thinking.

    “If the ticking time bomb scenario is the standard”

    It isn’t, nor did I ever advance it.

    “And we can always justify our actions after the fact by saying this person would have eventually killed innocent people.”

    But this is as opposed to letting the individual actually kill innocent people first, and failing in our duty to protect the public. Do you prefer that?

    “If torture is to be used only as a last resort then the question becomes how can we be certain the detainee has the information we need?”

    Conversely, how can you be certain in other methods that the detainee isn’t simply holding out on you? The door swings both ways on this.

    “Bottom line…torture is immoral,”

    Morality is amorphous.

    “illegal”

    On that you are correct.

    “and counter-productive.”

    On the contrary. If non-torture interrogation were more effective the Nazis and Soviets would have employed those methods. It is only in the democratic west that we have deep qualms about these methods.


  • LB said: Are you willing to let Americans die to avoid the use of waterboarding? Don’t dance around it and insist that won’t happen, just answer the question.

    Yes, I’m willing to take that risk but it’s not a fair question. You make it sound as if there are only two choices. Either we torture or Americans die. Heads you win. Tails I lose. That is neither realistic nor worth breaking our laws for. We don’t just get to ignore the law when things get hard and people might die.

    Let me ask you a question. Are you willing to torture a potentially innocent person who may not even have the information you need? If we question them legally then they may provide the information we’re looking for and if they don’t have it we will have done nothing wrong.

    Answer the question, what would it take to make you talk?

    Honestly, I don’t know. I would like to think that the only reason I would betray my country is because I was tortured but it’s possible I could be tricked into providing useful information. It’s possible I could be convinced if someone told me it would help my family. It’s also very possible I don’t have the information they are looking for.

    I assure you, our enemies are no less resolute than we.

    Yes, but apparently it is possible to extract valuable information without waterboarding because we have actual examples of it. So much for the argument that we have to choose between our safety and our laws and values.


  • “Yes, I’m willing to take that risk but it’s not a fair question.”

    Sure it is. What you’re willing to do is always a fair question. “Do you think it is likely” adresses what you wanted me to ask, not what I asked.

    “Either we torture or Americans die. Heads you win. Tails I lose. That is neither realistic nor worth breaking our laws for.”

    *sigh* Okay, here goes. Terror cells don’t chalk sidewalks, make placards, or throw pies at people. Terror cells sit around and think of ways to kill people, and then they go kill people. That’s what they do. Some take longer than others to get to a viable stage, some never reach a viable stage but get funding, some just have ideas that won’t work. All the same, they exist to kill people, that’s their goal. We use information to catch them before they do. It’s simple arithmatic, it’s a rate problem. If we obtain information at a rate faster than or equal to the rate that terror cells reach fruition we will prevent Americans from dying. If terror plots reach fruition faster than we can obtain vital information, they will kill people. We have no hard statistical data on the average actionable bits of intelligence per captive that either method generates. We have only anecdotal accounts on both ends to justify the efficacy and a historical record of torture’s use. We might not have all the info, but let’s not pretend that there aren’t life and death calls to be made here, no matter how morally inconveniant they may be. Torture is the Hiroshima and Nagasaki of our day.

    “Let me ask you a question. Are you willing to torture a potentially innocent person who may not even have the information you need?”

    Yes! This is a war. We didn’t ask for it, it was brought to us. We would welcome peace, it has not been offered. We are left with the inglorious task of having to fight at home and abroad an enemy hell bent on killing us. We will make mistakes. We already have. We have bombed wedding celebrations, killed civilians with unexploded cluster bomb packets, and killed those unfortunate enough to get in our way. We don’t seek to make these mistakes, but they will be made. Such is the price that has been imposed on us. We will not, as policy, seek to torture the innocent, but some might be as a result of our need for information to stop terror attacks. Al Qeada can end this war right now if it wishes. Till then, we are obligated to do what we must to protect our people.

    “Yes, but apparently it is possible to extract valuable information without waterboarding because we have actual examples of it.”

    You also can see your flow of information slow greatly when you move away from using these tactics. The British witnessed this in their fight with the IRA.

    “So much for the argument that we have to choose between our safety and our laws and values.”

    You can refer to Teach on this. We only ever employed torture against 3 subjects. Nobody is saying torture should be our only interrogation method. Some tough nuts, though, will have information we need. I would put the screws to them, you would not. You are satisfied to let them hold on to their info if they are that adamant, I am not. You feel the principle of being “clean” is worth letting our people die over, I feel the duty of the government to defend the country is more important. Neither of us has a moral high ground here.


  • LB said: You also can see your flow of information slow greatly when you move away from using these tactics. The British witnessed this in their fight with the IRA.

    And yet they still prevailed. Thank you for making my point.


  • And what you miss is that torture tactics were discontinued in interrogations in the later 1970s, and the IRA regrouped and carried out bombing campaigns in the UK throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s. Could these bombings have been prevented if the UK had continued in its use of torture in interrogations? Whose to say. Obviously the method you advocate didn’t fully protect the British public during the campaign, dozens of corpses speak to this fact.


  • LB, you’ve continually stated a few examples as “proof” that torture works. I’d like to spend some time on those (when I have time, which is rare). I’ve looked into the IRA issue first, since you’ve mentioned it the most, and what I’ve found is that it is not quite as cut and dry as you have portrayed it to be. For instance, from Wiki:

    The policy has been widely criticised by achieving the opposite of its desired effect as it helped increase support for Irish Republicans and further isolate the Nationalist community. Following internment a serving officer of the British Marines declared, “It (internment) has, in fact, increased terrorist activity, perhaps boosted IRA recruitment, polarised further the Catholic and Protestant communities and reduced the ranks of the much needed Catholic moderates.”

    Also, from a recent book by International lawyer Philippe Sands:

    The thinking in the British military and the thinking across the board politically — it’s really not a left right issue, it is a broad consensus in the United Kingdom — is that coercion doesn’t work. That the experience of the United Kingdom, which moved in the early 1970’s to use techniques that were very similar to those that were used on Detainee 063, putting stress positions, humiliation, and so on and so forth, did not work. The view is taken in the United Kingdom that it extended the conflict with the IRA probably by between 15 and 20 years.

    I’m still looking for more sources, but right now, I have three main problems with this assertion. First, you seem to be working from one source (a WP article). Other sources do not seem to corroborate your version of the events. Second, you don’t seem to be taking into consideration the negative effects of using such tactics. In other words, you might be getting people to talk, but at what cost? Let’s say you prevent an attack or two, but you inspire many more people to join the terrorist organization as a result. Finally, you’re assuming that the British and others resorted to torture because conventional means were not effective. I haven’t seen any documentation that conventional means were tried first and subsequently found to be ineffective.

    Lastly, I’d like to point out that very high ranking officials within our military and intelligence agencies, such as Gen. Petraeus, have stated that torture is not only wrong, but also INEFFECTIVE:

    Some may argue that we would be more effective if we sanctioned torture or other expedient methods to obtain information from the enemy. That would be wrong. Beyond the basic fact that such actions are illegal, history shows that they also are frequently neither useful nor necessary. Certainly, extreme physical action can make someone ‘talk;’ however, what the individual says may be of questionable value.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/documents/petraeus_values_051007.pdf

    I would think if the truth was actually that it works, but that we shouldn’t use it, Petraeus either would’ve stated as much, or at least wouldn’t have made the extra effort to state that information obtained by these methods would be of questionable value.

    As Silke said earlier, “As any intelligence analyst will tell you, anything someone says after being tortured is considered extremely suspect.” And I would add that, if you’re looking to try them in any sort of tribunal or court, anything obtained would most likely be useless.


  • I didn’t. I stated a reversed concept for Silke to have her examine the situation from the detainees point of view. I don’t need a ticking time bomb. I’m much more pragmatic about things than that.

    No, you didn’t use any ticking time bomb scenarios:

    Let’s say I were imbedded with a military unit in a civilian capacity. I’ve seen where some proposed airstrike targets are. Al Qeada captures me but kills the soldiers I was embedded with. They’ve seen a couple maps and think the US is about to airstrike some proposed targets. They would like to know so they can evac their operatives and equipment.


  • LB,

    I know you may be busy, and I respect that, but I really hope you would respond here when you get a chance. I’m just afraid that this will crop up again in the future, and we’ll be back at square one. Many times when I debate a conservative on a major issue, like global warming, I make a rebuttal, which goes unaddressed, and then a week or a month later, the very point I refuted resurfaces. It’s very counterproductive. I’d much rather settle the matter.


  • Welcome to internet debate. That’s how it works. People lose interest and drop off, and the more polarized someone is, and the less willing they seem to be to consider another perspective, the quicker it happens. You want to “settle” the matter, but have you ever considered what you think settling the issue really is? Odds are your notion of it is that anyone you debate tucks tail, has the epiphany that you are 100% right, and good lord you certainly never change your mind or yield an inch or really probe the merits of your own argument in the process. That’s why people lose interest with you and stop debating. Any debate with you is going to be predictable, and unless someone lacks any firm convictions in life, eternal. In this respect, you and William Teach are really no different, you just come from different ends of the spectrum.

    I engage Silke because I get the vibe from her that, agree or disagree, she will actually take time to think about what someone else says and not dismiss it out of hand. She also seems to possess that rare capacity to agree to disagree, even on an important issue (if you are unfamiliar with the concept, think of what you want in debate, “settlement,” this is the opposite). She’s at least willing to probe her rationales on an argument, and address a paradigm that supports it. Ergo, I went into Silke’s post, addressed a point directed towards that post, responded to a comment SHE made, and totally ignored you till you came after me directly. So yes, I’ll discuss pretty much anything with her at any time because at least it’s not just a pointless pissing contest. Taking a first big step and accepting that you will probably not change anybody in an internet debate will probably enhance the nature of your debating as a whole, and probably make dealing with you more appealing. Approaching other people with a desire to know their mindset, rather than win a rhetorical pissing contest, will probably seal the deal. I mean, honestly, do you really think you’re going to change my opinion on whether or not we should torture detainees just because you can link to one or two more articles that say the opposite of the ones I link to?


  • Silke, I would have thought you had worn out the torture arguments by now. LB, I generally ignore Reasic as well. We’re so far apart and he shows no potential for ever seeking common ground, there’s really little point in engaging him.


  • Good lord, I just noticed that Reasic has his own post on this site on 6/4 called “Obama’s Speech”. There goes the neighborhood.


  • Scott said: Silke, I would have thought you had worn out the torture arguments by now.

    Not at all. I thought LB made some valid points. I don’t agree with him and I’m appalled that some people still defend torture in this day and age but I guess “the ends justifies the means” argument can be a seductive one.

    There goes the neighborhood.

    So it’s only a good neighborhood when everyone agrees with you? Personally, I think the more voices we have the better.

    LB said: I mean, honestly, do you really think you’re going to change my opinion on whether or not we should torture detainees just because you can link to one or two more articles that say the opposite of the ones I link to?

    At the risk of extending a discussion you have lost interest in, what would it take to change your opinion? You’re argument that torture works seems based on the circular reasoning that the evidence it works is because people still use it – hence Reasic’s challenge to your example of Britain’s recent history with the IRA.


  • “what would it take to change your opinion?”

    Probably nothing. I don’t really think anything would change your opinion on this, would it? Certainly nothing said over an internet debate is going to do it. I imagine if over the next decade we weather the storm without any attacks of any serious nature occurring on the homeland it might make a dent in what I maintain. The real thing you need to have an objective debate on this matter is statistical evidence, and fat chance on getting any of that. Intelligence networks would have to declassify too much sensitive information, give up too many sources, and do countless decades worth of damage to intelligence gathering activities just to provide something authoritative. No intel agency will ever do that, they’ll just say “yes sir” and work around or in spite of any ban that comes up. You probably think the US isn’t going to torture detainees now, but we’ll just send them to the Egyptians and they’ll do it for us. Torture will still be used, we just won’t get our hands dirty.

    “You’re argument that torture works seems based on the circular reasoning”

    You’re confusing circular with inductive. Intel agencies can see if their methods of info gathering work or not. You don’t have to force an intelligence agency to give up a method that doesn’t work, an agency gives it up all on its own if that’s the case. As it stands, in every country where torture was used as in information gathering tool it was forced out, not abandoned voluntarily.

    Think of it this way. You and I fight a war. You have a choice of arming your troops with muskets, or M-16s. You MIGHT try the muskets at first, but once you go head to head against my troops, who tote the M-16s, you will probably abandon the muskets and go for the M-16s instead. Intelligence gathering techniques adhere to the same forces.

    “hence Reasic’s challenge to your example”

    The only hence in his challenge is to have a never-ending pissing contest. He cited an “International Lawyer” who had nothing but anecdotal citation to back his claims. This international lawyer is also noted for the following: “Sands is notable for writing a book, Lawless World, in which he accused US President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair of conspiring to invade Iraq in violation of international law.” Wiki So, we know what politics his source wears on his sleeve. Again, it boils down to he will cite however many he wants, I will cite however many I want, but in the end does he, or even you expect to change my opinion over an internet debate?


  • I’ll tell you what though, Silke. I’ll meet you halfway on this. I think it should remain an option for interrogators, and that empirical data suggests it works. However, there is the question of what US POLICY should be (as opposed to my individual opinion). And if the will of the people is that they would prefer your stance (that they would rather innocent people die than torture be used [phrases like “risk innocent people dying” are merely escape hatches to bail on making a difficult but powerful moral choice]), then agencies acting in the capacity of the US SHOULD abide by the will of the people (last I checked the people still run this country).


  • I mean, honestly, do you really think you’re going to change my opinion on whether or not we should torture detainees just because you can link to one or two more articles that say the opposite of the ones I link to?

    Wow. Is this how you always react when your arguments are challenged?

    Taking a first big step and accepting that you will probably not change anybody in an internet debate will probably enhance the nature of your debating as a whole, and probably make dealing with you more appealing.

    Let me clarify something here: I’m not trying to “change” you. I simply approach these conversations on this blog as an opportunity to objectively find the truth. My mindset here is one that is based on the idea that there is a right and a wrong answer. I don’t live in a wishy-washy world in which everyone can have their own relative truths, based on what they think or feel. Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, but in most cases, if you and I disagree, one of us is incorrect.

    I’m also extremely open to the possibility that I’m wrong. I just need some proof of that. I need to see that your assertions are backed by credible sources, and that those sources trump mine. I’m honestly not trying to be a jerk when I challenge you on your beliefs. I just believe that, through the exchange of ideas, we could discover the truth. There have actually been a couple of times in this debate when I questioned myself on the veracity of my own statements about the efficiency of torture in extracting information. However, I kept digging. As I gathered more information, I shared it. If the overall case pointed the other way, I would’ve conceded that it works, but shouldn’t be used based solely on moral grounds. I could still be convinced of that, but I want to see you or anyone else supply more evidence to support your case, or to debunk mine. THAT’S debating.

    I engage Silke because I get the vibe from her that, agree or disagree, she will actually take time to think about what someone else says and not dismiss it out of hand.

    It seems that you’re implying that I have dismissed your arguments out of hand. If that were the case, I would’ve just said “no, your wrong” without any evidence to back it up, or simply ignored your argument. On the contrary, I challenged your assertion on torture and backed it up with evidence.

    Again, it boils down to he will cite however many he wants, I will cite however many I want, but in the end does he, or even you expect to change my opinion over an internet debate?

    Um… you slammed my Sands quote, but ignored the Petraus quote. You know, maybe you’re right about Sands. Maybe he’s a flaming liberal, who’s main drive is ideology, rather than empirical evidence, but prove it. All I’ve seen from you is a WP article, in which the author stated that he had talked to a British intel agent.

    I’m sorry to hear that you despise me, because I actually like you. I can tell that you are an intelligent person, with an ability to express your beliefs in a clear and concise manner. You seem to have thought things through, and to have the ability to reason, which I unfortunately can’t say about everyone I’ve debated on the internet. I’m sorry for coming across as a pompous ass. I’m sure if you met me in person, you’d see that that’s really not the case. I guess that’s part of the problem with commenting on blogs, versus having a real conversation.


  • LB said: I don’t really think anything would change your opinion on this, would it?

    Not about using torture as a matter of policy but you have given me more to think about in terms of its efficacy. However, I still believe it does more harm than good.

    The real thing you need to have an objective debate on this matter is statistical evidence, and fat chance on getting any of that.

    I agree, which makes me wonder how you can conclude that empirical data suggests it works. I’m not saying it does or it doesn’t. My position is that there is no objective way of knowing this.

    You don’t have to force an intelligence agency to give up a method that doesn’t work, an agency gives it up all on its own if that’s the case. As it stands, in every country where torture was used as in information gathering tool it was forced out, not abandoned voluntarily.

    The FBI, the nation’s lead domestic agency for the collection of foreign counterintelligence information, gave it up. They could have petitioned to use it just as the CIA did. But they chose not to because they concluded it is not the most effective way to obtain accurate information.

    You’re confusing circular with inductive. Intel agencies can see if their methods of info gathering work or not.

    Induction formulates general propositions based on limited observations. I’ve given you a case where one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world concluded that torture was not the best method of gathering information yet your general proposition stands.

    Circular reasoning occurs when the conclusion of an argument (i.e. torture works) is essentially the same as one of the premises in the argument (i.e. intel agencies wouldn’t use it unless torture works, since they use it, it must work).


  • Silke:
    “However, I still believe it does more harm than good.”

    Does more harm than good drives us into numbers analysis. Like I said, we will never have the requisite tools needed to resolve that. But, it you’re on my vein of thinking here, at least. This ultimately boils down to a numbers calculation.

    “I agree, which makes me wonder how you can conclude that empirical data suggests it works.”

    The techniques outlined in non-torture information gathering from detainees aren’t new. They’ve been around forever. They’re just persuasion and manipulation techniques. They have their use. I’m not saying to abandon them. However, you will also notice a large preponderance of modern nations have used torture methods. Short of hard statistical analysis, the preferences of intelligence agencies is the closest thing we have to a statement of efficacy. We also have statements of many of our servicemen that admit, horrible though it is to endure, they talked under torture.

    “The FBI, the nation’s lead domestic agency for the collection of foreign counterintelligence information, gave it up.”

    Two things. First, you had to qualify the FBI’s role as a “lead domestic agency.” That’s because the CIA is the lead foreign agency and lead agency overall in the gathering of US intelligence. Secondly, the FBI is under the jurisdiction of the Justice Dept. and by virtue of this is responsible for bringing those it uncovers to trial. That means they have to preserve evidence for admissibility. The CIA submits evidence for tactical strikes. Big difference. It also bears mention that many things the CIA does legally the FBI cannot do legally. The CIA doesn’t need warrants to wiretap and bug foreign subjects and offices, the FBI cannot make use of its intelligence without them. Obviously the FBI would be much more sensitive to 5th and 8th Amendment concerns. It’s more a statement on the disposition of the FBI, and less on the efficacy of the practice, which would be the domain of the CIA.

    “Induction formulates general propositions based on limited observations.”

    And that’s what we have here, a general proposition, based on the limited observations that agencies have used it, claimed it works, and that individuals who have undergone it have claimed it worked.

    “I’ve given you a case where one of the most respected intelligence agencies in the world concluded that torture was not the best method of gathering information yet your general proposition stands.”

    The existence of a counter-example does not render the argument circular.

    Reasic:
    “Is this how you always react when your arguments are challenged? ”

    No. I, in fact, probably spend about 10 hours a week online debating people. I used to moderate a political debate forum, and admin a fairly amateurish political club online. I know when a debate has run its course, and I know when I’ve lost interest. What you witnessed was how I react when someone isn’t content to have the last word and wants me to return to beat a dead equine.

    “I simply approach these conversations on this blog as an opportunity to objectively find the truth.”

    Using internet debate to find the truth is a fool’s errand. Using it to find how those who disagree with you think is a more productive approach.

    “Sure, you’re entitled to your opinion, but in most cases, if you and I disagree, one of us is incorrect.”

    Yes, and this is how most internet debate is conducted. It’s very formulaic. You just haven’t realized yet that there are no winners and losers in internet debate, and nobody is willing to continue one debate in perpetuity. That means short of a refer or judge intervening to declare a winner and a debate over, you have to learn when the interest is over and let it die.

    “I just need some proof of that.”

    You’ll never find the trump card piece of objective proof you’re looking for in this debate. It’s like most social science problems, we have some ideas and some compelling counter-arguments. That’s why politics features more than one party. If the right answers were all out there and concrete there would be no need of dispute in the matter.

    “I just believe that, through the exchange of ideas, we could discover the truth.”

    Take that idea and club it repeatedly like a baby seal. That doesn’t happen on internet forums.

    “If the overall case pointed the other way, I would’ve conceded that it works, but shouldn’t be used based solely on moral grounds.”

    And that belies the futility of this debate. It’s a band-aid. You don’t really care if it works or not. It not working is just an issue of assuaging your moral superiority with practical superiority too. I.E., you like to think your position is not only the correct moral one, but there’s no practical grounds on which it can be assailed. Morals are not debatable, they are simply shared or not. I do not share the same morals as you.

    “I’m sorry to hear that you despise me”

    I never said that. I said you and William Teach are the same in terms of your approach. You’re both ideological as hell and more concerned with winning than with any other purpose of debate. Nowhere in there did I say I disliked you.


  • If it aids either of you in understanding where the bulk of my opinion is formed, I have friends in intelligence. I don’t expect you to debate that point, it’s anecdotal, but all the same, I’ll take their words over most you could provide on the subject.


  • LB,

    I wanted to add real quick that I’ve done some soul searching, and I think I’ve figured out why I debate the way that I do — or what my goal in debating is. You’ve stated that you think I’m ideological as hell, and only concerned about winning, but I don’t think that’s the case.

    My first blog ended up centering around the global warming debate. In that process, I encountered many different skeptical arguments, the vast majority of them wrong. In debating skeptics on the issue of global warming, I discovered that there is a plethora of misinformation out there. There are people who believe that “An Inconvenient Truth” is filled with lies, when it’s not; that Mann’s “hockey stick” graph is completely debunked when it’s not; that water vapor is the most important greenhouse gas, when it’s a feedback; that the Sun is causing Mars to warm and therefore also the Earth, when it’s not; etc., etc., etc. There are a great number of skeptical arguments that are built on a foundation of red herrings and anecdotal evidence.

    What I tried to get across to people was that I’m okay with agreeing to disagree on the main issue. I just want to see them base their disagreement on factual information. So, I kept on with my efforts to shed some light on the fallacies that so many “skeptics” believe.

    Fast forward to this debate. I’m fine with you disagreeing with me. My approach, though, is to check your facts. You’ve stated multiple times that the Brits used torture effectively against the IRA. So, I started there. We may not agree on whether torture is useful or moral, but we should be able to look at the facts regarding its past uses, and from that, agree whether it was indeed an effective intelligence gathering tool. Right?

    Now, what if we could do that with all of the cases you’ve mentioned. Then, we’d have a set of previously agreed upon facts that we could then use to build an argument one way or the other.

    So, I know it may seem that I’m “ideological as hell”, probably because I disagree with you, but I really just try to follow the facts. Does that make sense?


  • It’s more a statement on the disposition of the FBI, and less on the efficacy of the practice, which would be the domain of the CIA.

    That may have been the case before 9/11 but after 9/11 the FBI’s mission changed regarding counterterrorism. Their focus now became preventing attacks rather than reacting to attacks – to include collecting intelligence overseas. The Attorney General and the FBI Director elevated counterterrorism and the prevention of future terrorist attacks against United States interests as the top priority of the FBI.

    This is the FBI’s opinion on the efficacy of torture during this time:

    However, constitutional and evidentiary considerations were not the only rationales for the FBI’s prohibition on the use of coercive interview techniques. On various occasions, the FBI has asserted its belief that the most effective way to obtain accurate information is to use rapport-building techniques in interviews. (pg. 47)

    http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/s0805/final.pdf

    The existence of a counter-example does not render the argument circular.

    I was using that example to challenge your argument that you say was based on inductive reasoning. A counter-example weakens your general proposition. But you seem to be asking for special pleading in the case of any intelligence agency that doesn’t use torture (i.e. they don’t count because either they have been forced to stop it or they have a different focus). The FBI claims it’s not the most effective method and there are recent cases where people who have been tortured have given false leads (as in the case of Abu Zubaida). It would be more accurate to say that torture makes people talk. But that doesn’t guarantee what they say is useful (in fact most intelligence professionals would question the reliability because it was forced) nor does it necessarily justify breaking the law.

    If it aids either of you in understanding where the bulk of my opinion is formed, I have friends in intelligence.

    I have friends (and a family member) in intelligence too. In addition, I served as an intelligence officer in the United States Army. My own experience with intelligence professionals and trained interrogators has lead me to reach a different conclusion about the use of torture.


  • “heir focus now became preventing attacks rather than reacting to attacks – to include collecting intelligence overseas.”

    Intelligence overseas pertaining to domestic activity. Again, the FBI reports to the justice dept. and their subjects are prosecuted. The CIA reports to the military and a missile blows somebody up.

    “This is the FBI’s opinion on the efficacy of torture”

    Because the FBI would actually put out a statement supporting it? That would look really good in the hands of a defense attorney.

    “I was using that example to challenge your argument that you say was based on inductive reasoning.”

    You were using it and then insisting that it changed the structure of my argument, big difference.

    “But you seem to be asking for special pleading in the case of any intelligence agency that doesn’t use torture (i.e. they don’t count because either they have been forced to stop it or they have a different focus).”

    It’s a counter argument to your counter argument. It isn’t special pleading.

    “The FBI claims it’s not the most effective method and there are recent cases where people who have been tortured have given false leads (as in the case of Abu Zubaida).”

    You continue repeating this. I’ve already told you the degree to which I regard it. Also, non-tortured detainees give false leads too.

    “in fact most intelligence professionals would question the reliability because it was forced”

    You, of course, have reliably conducted opinion polls to back up that assertion, correct.

    “In addition, I served as an intelligence officer in the United States Army.”

    Great. Did you ever torture a detainee, follow up the information he gave, then use non-torturous interrogation methods to extract information, and compare the two?

    Incidentally, the novelty of all facets of this discussion has long since worn off for me and I’m done whipping this badly decomposed horse.


  • LB said: Intelligence overseas pertaining to domestic activity. Again, the FBI reports to the justice dept. and their subjects are prosecuted. The CIA reports to the military and a missile blows somebody up.

    And they both report to the President, who ultimately makes the big decisions on national security. The entire national security apparatus is trying to prevent the next 9/ll from happening on American soil so the FBI’s intelligence role is more important now than ever. You can overlook their new focus all you want but it doesn’t change the fact that it clearly has a major role to play in preventing the next attack (not just legal prosecution) and they reject the method you support.

    You, of course, have reliably conducted opinion polls to back up that assertion, correct.

    Yup, similar to the ones you have conducted among your friends in intelligence that tell you torture works.

    Great. Did you ever torture a detainee, follow up the information he gave, then use non-torturous interrogation methods to extract information, and compare the two?

    No, and neither have you. The fact is your conversations with your friends and my conversations with my friends (combined with my own training and experience in intelligence) amount to anecdotal evidence. We both agree there is no objective way to measure the effectiveness of torture so this all ultimately comes down to our opinions.

    Incidentally, the novelty of all facets of this discussion has long since worn off for me and I’m done whipping this badly decomposed horse.

    I understand. Thank you for an interesting discussion.

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