Extremely interesting interview on torture with a conscientious interrogator who got very unpopular in Iraq, at NPR:
What you're describing is taking techniques that U.S. military personnel had been trained to resist ... [and] using those very techniques on the people the U.S. was detaining in Iraq?
Exactly, and I think a key point that your listeners need to understand, so they can grasp the gravity of the situation, is that the primary objective of that approach to interrogation was not truth … but somebody's political truth. In the Korean War, they actually compelled some of our pilots to admit to dropping chemical weapons on cities and so forth, when in fact that didn't happen. Now, that stands in stark contrast to intelligence interrogation, where the overriding objective is provide timely, accurate, reliable, comprehensive intelligence.
And these harsh interrogation methods had been used by the Soviets and the Chinese to get people to say things that weren't true?
That's true. And it's not just harsh physically, but I think the element that was more persuasive was their ability to induce what is known as debility, depression and dread through emotional and psychological techniques that profoundly altered somebody's ability to answer questions truthfully even if they wanted to. It truly undermined their ability to recall, so therefore it would call into question its efficacy in an intelligence-based interrogation.
Tito watched the old man fold the copy of the New York Times he’d been reading. The light was going. Fading above this other ocean, the Pacific, which Tito had never seen before.
“I remember proofs of a CIA interrogation manual, something we’d been sent unofficially, for comment,” the old man said. “The first chapter laid out the ways in which torture is fundamentally counterproductive to intelligence. The argument had nothing to do with ethics, everything to do with quality and depth of product, with not squandering potential assets.” He removed his gold-rimmed glasses. “If the man who keeps returning to question you avoids behaving as if he were your enemy, you begin to lose your sense of who you are. Gradually, in the crisis of self that your captivity becomes, he guides you in your discovery of who you are becoming.”
“Did you interrogate people, yourself?” asked Garreth. The three of them were seated in the back of an open jeep, the black Pelican case under Garreth’s feet.
“No,” said the old man, “I only reviewed the product. It’s a terribly intimate process. An ordinary cigarette lighter will cause a man to tell you anything, whatever he thinks you want to hear. And will prevent him ever trusting you again, even slightly. And will confirm him, in his sense of self, as few things will.” He tapped the folded paper. “When I first saw what they were doing, I knew that they’d turned the SERE lessons inside out. That meant that we were using techniques the Koreans had specifically developed in order to prepare prisoners for show trials.” He fell silent.
Tito heard the lapping of waves.