Symposium 2015: Torture or enhanced interrogation? How far is too far in dealing with terrorism?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-In a perfect world, we (the “good guys”) would never have to resort to the tactics and methods used by our adversaries to combat them. We’d be able to wrap ourselves in our cloaks of righteousness and overcome our enemies by sheer civic virtue, right-mindedness and devotion to the American Way.

We, however, are cursed with the necessity of living in the real world, where nice guys frequently do finish last, and where turning the other cheek will more often than not result in twice the bruising.  The Geneva Conventions were drawn up to shake a finger at the horrors of war, and to set a framework for the conduct between nations in times of armed conflict.  What we face in the War on Terror, however, is not a conflict with another nation (well, not officially … but that’s another matter, Yemen) but a conflict with groups of heavily armed, social media-savvy fanatical thugs who will stop at nothing to propitiate their worldview and suck in new followers and malcontents.

However, the benefits of the medieval-style torture techniques used in Guantanamo and elsewhere are not the most effective ways to get information out of those elected for Uncle Sam’s Fun Camp.  Numerous studies have shown that what the waterboarders get is frequently manufactured, either made up from whole cloth or pieced together from fact and fiction in an effort to get off the torture table.

The specter of mind-control research is one no one wants to discuss, but with more being learned every year about the workings of the human brain, I think it’s an area worthy of exploration.  With tight controls, and with full bipartisan congressional oversight of the proceedings, I would fully support exploration of ways to extract the truth from known terrorists and other national security threats.  Either by pharmaceutical means or by some as-yet-uncreated technology, there has to be a better way than barbarism to get what we need.

Sheffield, Jamaica Correspondent-Terrorism, an act of terror on civilians, has had ravaging effects for years. Terrorism have torn families to pieces, inflict much pain and suffering and has affected the economic standing of the country in question. These individuals who are infamous for their acts of terror, should efforts be made to apprehend them? Better yet, should torture or enhanced interrogation be used to get answers?

While strong measures need to be taken to apprehend and extract information from these individuals, it’s important that this matter of terrorism is handled fragile and with care. These individuals are dangerous. If they’re willing to strap themselves to a bomb in the name of religion or politics, torturing them for information will only make matters worse. Really, no good would come of it.

There are so many enhanced interrogations used throughout the years by the CIA. These should be continued, as they are euphemism for torture and provide much better results. In fact, some people say enhanced interrogation is “justified”. This particular technique does not create monsters, but retains humanity in those tasked with enforcing law against terrorism. How far is too far in dealing with terrorism? Torture is taking things too far in dealing with acts of terrorism. In fact, those who deal out these tortures for answers are just as guilty as those men who terrorize civilians.

Myrtle Beach, SC Correspondent-On the face of this one I say “Go for it, torture the crap out of those terrorist bad guys!” But it’s just not that simple. Sadly we DO need to maintain a “working” relationship with other countries. If we go around torturing people and using extreme interrogation methods we may raise some eyebrows and make more enemies than friends.

All you have to do is put the shoe on the other foot. Americans have been kidnapped and tortured for information, and how did we feel? We were MAD! Other countries are mad too. While their methods may be effective in obtaining information we are all human beings, civilized mostly, and as humans we shouldn’t be torturing other humans.

Prescott Valley, AZ Correspondent-In dealing with terrorism and the interrogation of terrorists, there are fine lines that may or may not be crossed.  Enhanced interrogation is not torture unless it crosses those lines.  There is a purpose for enhanced interrogation and it involves extracting information from difficult and determined individuals.   Those that question interrogation and its use are unaware of the seriousness of the tactic and how intelligence agencies have to bear the obligations of eliciting information from very bad people.  While demanding protection from terrorists and their plots, these same detractors fail to realize that niceties are not part of enhanced interrogation procedures.  When they discover that they don’t like the dirty details involved with interrogation, they automatically close their eyes and cover their ears and refuse to acknowledge the effectiveness of any action that indirectly serves to protect them.   If enhanced interrogation doesn’t fit their mental picture of what they believe the process should or should not be, or how it should be conducted, they automatically accuse the interrogator of wrongdoing or crossing the line. Interrogation is not supposed to be a pleasant experience for suspected terrorists, and if the individual has critical information, it is only reasonable to attempt to extract information in the most expedient way, which involves manipulation and intimidation in various forms.  Preventing a terrorist attack is enough of a reason to go beyond certain limits of restraint.

There is no reason to be congenial with terrorists or treat them with kid gloves, but there are the factors of basic respect for maintaining the psychological and bodily integrity of other human beings.  Though terrorists are most certainly not upright individuals, with many fitting the definition of pure evil, they are still human beings and are afforded the dignity and worth that befits all human life.  This is the basic distinction that separates thinking and moral societies from terrorist organizations and dictatorial societies.

With enhanced interrogation, it is usually necessary to bring about discomfort or pain to an individual to achieve critical ends, and respect for the individual cannot be achieved by purposely mutilating, crippling or injuring an individual to the point of incapacitation or death.  Even enhanced interrogation methods can go over the edge towards torture.  Sleep deprivation to extremes can cause psychological damage or even death, and water boarding if done enough can cause permanent damage and death.  It’s all in the hands of the interrogator’s ability to avoid extremes and still get the sought after information without causing irreparable damage.

The same is true of breaking an individual psychologically.  If a person’s humanity is shattered through psychological means, there is little left of his dignity and his interrogator’s.  This is where how far is too far comes into the picture.   The lines are crossed and enhanced interrogation transitions to torture.  Enhanced interrogation may be quite uncomfortable, but it strives to leave the interrogated person physically and psychologically whole without far reaching and permanent effects.

Both enhanced interrogation and torture are not making suspected terrorists sit in uncomfortable chairs, or increasing or decreasing the temperature in an interrogation room, or keeping prisoners up all night for questioning, or depriving them of special diets, or using loud, rude and abusive language during an interrogation.   Torture does not take any concessions into consideration and only sees the individual as a source of information and forgoes any sense of human dignity in the process.  In the eyes of torture tactics, the person becomes expendable.

No play by the rules dictates exist for enhanced interrogation, other than that interrogation happens under secret conditions, and there is no way of knowing whether true torture is happening to even the worst of the worst.   It is almost next to impossible for interrogators to do their jobs without making critical mistakes, but an intuitive and humane interrogator can recognize the state of a prisoner’s psychological, physical and moral state and formulate a line of questioning that produces results, but sometimes even wise decisions take a turn for the worse.  There is simply no foolproof way of interrogating without possible difficulties arising.

There must be a clear understanding of what enhanced interrogation is and its differentiation from torture, and there also must  be an awareness  that trained interrogators are doing a job that requires analyzing suspects and dealing with them in specific ways in order to extract pertinent information, which is information that protects the public from future terrorist plots and actions.  Dealing with terrorist subjects in the interrogation room is a process that ordinary citizens have difficulty dealing with and comprehending and until the public realizes that gaining information can be a dirty business, there will continue to be questions about enhanced interrogation versus torture and the limits on both.

Owatanna, MN Correspondent-Modern-day terrorism against the United States is primarily a self-inflicted problem caused by our addiction to foreign oil and our belief in nation building. It’s a logical assumption that the government anticipated having to set up an interrogation policy for captured or arrested terror suspects. It also follows that an appropriate response to terrorist attacks would be terroristic interrogation techniques, namely torture. What the government didn’t figure on was having their tactics exposed by investigative journalists, eyewitnesses to interrogations, or surviving victims. So the great debate began about what is proper when interrogating terror suspects.

If the United States sincerely claims to be a Christian, democratic, peace-loving nation, then laws would have been passed outlawing any physical or mental torture. Also, breakers of those interrogation laws who were convicted would receive severe prison sentences. Interrogation laws appear to be weak. Convicted offenders seem to be few. The few who have been caught and convicted don’t appear to have been severely penalized. One must assume that torture is at least tacitly permissible in the United States.

Many studies have shown that torture is not a reliably effective method of gaining information from prisoners. This is perhaps the strongest reason that torture should not be used during interrogation. But even if torture worked, the moral outrage of treating prisoners inhumanely should give our leaders pause. Most of the world’s governments condemn torture publicly, although we must assume some other governments privately use torture. Using torture on suspected terrorists will only encourage terrorists to use torture on any U.S. soldiers or citizens they capture. Let’s take the high road and outlaw torture in this country, then uphold and enforce those laws.

Cartwright—I don’t think the terrorists are interested in torturing anyone.  They’re simply looking to cut off our heads, burn us alive, or cause as much death and destruction at one time as possible.  If you have a high ranking terrorist in custody and you know that he has information on a planned terrorist attack on a major city in America, how far would you be willing to go to get the information to stop the attack and save the lives of tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of innocent people?  Personally, I say do whatever it takes.  I’m not worried about the “rights” of terrorists or their mental state or their dignity or what other countries think.

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