Saturday, May 07, 2011

Leon Panetta: Okay, I Admit it. Waterboarding Gave Us Some of the Information That Led to the Killing of bin Laden (Video Added)

Aaron Worthing comments on tough interrogation techniques. Patterico's Pontifications » Leon Panetta: Okay, I Admit it. Waterboarding Gave Us Some of the Information That Led to the Killing of bin Laden (Video Added)

So, um, can we stop claiming that waterboarding doesn’t work?

I mean let’s back up a little. Just about everyone opposes hard-core torture, like ripping out fingernails and electroshock (except maybe in a ticking bomb scenario). And only a few loons want us to limit our interrogation to name, rank and serial number. The question is when does interrogation become torture, and one thing you can say for certain is that waterboarding is close to the line. It might be barely over it, or barely under it, but it’s clearly a close call. So I completely respect anyone who says it is torture even if I disagree.

But the most ridiculous claim is that it supposedly doesn’t work. Now of course pressuring anyone in any way to get a mere confession is of dubious value. Torturing a guy to say “I did it,” is unreliable. But if they are telling the truth, they can tell you things that are objectively verifiable. Consider, for instance, this classic scene from Dirty Harry...

The context of the clip is this. The psychopath had buried a girl alive and claimed he would give the location of the girl (giving them the chance to save her) if they paid a ransom. They paid, with Eastwood delivering it, but the man refused to give the location, and so the torture in that scene followed. So it was a “ticking bomb” scenario. Also, alluded to and not shown, they find the girl where the psycho said, but she was already dead. If memory serves she never had a chance of being saved in time. [And this sort of case isn't restricted to fiction. – KL]

Now if that hypothetical went to trial, the confession would be excluded from evidence (and in theory the body might be, too). Why? Not because it was unreliable. Even in isolation the mere fact he knew where the girl was buried was highly incriminating. But instead all of it, including the fact he knew where the body was, would be excluded on the theory that even then torture is not justified, and thus they wanted to remove an important incentive to police to engage in such conduct.

So let’s please stop the childish claim that waterboarding—hell, even torture—cannot be effective. And let’s instead have the adult conversation about whether we as a people believe it is morally justified and if so, when.

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