Evidence shows that torture isn’t good way to get accurate information

A Newsweek article headlined “Science shows that torture doesn’t work and is counterproductive” offers a brief look at some solid arguments against torture. Of course, many of us oppose torture on legal and, more importantly, moral grounds. But for those who believe torture, or “enhanced interrogation techniques”, are necessary to gain important information about the enemy, this piece offers some good counter-arguments.

Meanwhile, compelling scientific evidence is emerging that torture and coercion are, at best, ineffective means of gathering intelligence. Worse, as Shane O’Mara, a professor of experimental brain research at Trinity College Dublin, wrote in a recent book, “Why Torture Doesn’t Work: The Neuroscience of Interrogation”, torture can produce false information by harming those areas of the brain associated with memory. O’Mara marshals a large amount of scientific literature to make his point.

Indeed, the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape school used to subject U.S. soldiers to waterboarding as part of their resistance training (it stopped in 2007), and former instructor Malcolm Nance says the procedure does not elicit reliable information. It does, on the other hand, generate false confessions. “The captive will say absolutely anything and agree to anything to make the torture stop,” says Nance. Most of those subjected to waterboarding, he says, confess as a result—and their distress is so intense, they do not even remember confessing. In a recent BBC documentary, for which Nance served as a consultant, a volunteer underwent waterboarding and confessed to “being born a bunny rabbit.” He had no recollection of making such an admission.

The sad truth is that some advocates of torture, including Donald Trump, would support brutal tactics whether they “work” or not, because they believe the enemy deserves to be abused and punished. There may also be some for whom the word “works” doesn’t mean what it means to most of us. To many people, torture only “works” if it produces information that is accurate and could not be obtained any other way.

But if you’re interested only in obtaining certain information or a confession, whether it’s true or not, then torture may absolutely “work” for you.

If you’re interested in morality and humanity, as well as common sense and the experience of good interrogators, this article offers more evidence against torture.

U.N. issues report on U.S. regarding torture and other human rights issues

This NBC News article summarizes the recently released report by the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The report can be read here.

I doubt that a report like this will lead to the U.S. government actually prosecuting any high-level officials for the use of torture and other human rights violations. Still, it’s important as a reminder that holding people accountable for torture is not only morally right, it’s a requirement of a torture to which this country is a party.