Last night, in an interview with ABC News, Donald Trump made the claim that torture works and that the US should use it in some way, ostensibly in a war with Daesh.source
There are a number of things wrong with what he was saying. For one, he didn’t even seem to be aware that the controversy about torture has to do with it’s efficacy as an interrogation technique. He seemed to be talking about it being used as some kind of method of revenge against jihadists for whatever acts they commit. His muddled understanding of the differences between acts of terror, acts of war and intelligence gathering through interrogation are disconcerting and seem to indicate that he is perhaps operating on information one of his advisors obtained in a comic book.
One doesn’t have to look too far to find seasoned and successful interrogation experts who make the case for other methods of interrogation, specifically rapport based interrogation. Do a search for, and read some interviews with, Matthew Alexander, Col. Steven Kleinman or Frazier R. Thompson.
The common thread that runs through what these guys say is that, aside from the moral implications of using it, torture is simply less effective than other methods. It is slower and yields worse results.
Here are a few things they have said on the matter:
MA: First, the evidence that is now coming out is pretty clear that torture and abuse slowed down the hunt for bin Laden. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad lied to his interrogators about the courier’s name and tried to mislead them about his whereabouts. They didn’t need to torture him so that they could recognize this lie. That actually only made it more difficult to discern if he was lying. Instead, there are many law enforcement methods based on deception that can be used to test the same information.source
FT: “Just when you have to fight a certain legal battle, you’re going to call a lawyer, when you have a significant arrest for law enforcement you have to make, you’re going to call that SWAT team in — that’s what I equate the HIG interrogators as. We’re those specialized experts that aren’t distracted by those normal day-to-day demands on your time, that other case agents have to worry about it,” he said. “And we can practice and hone those skills of actually talking to someone else, getting that individual to open up, understanding their behavioral traits, what makes them tick, understanding what motivates them.”source
Matthew Alexander has also written a book about his work as an interrogator that further makes his case. It is readily available through just about any book seller.
Bloodlust and desire for revenge must not cause the US as a nation to make dumb decisions. People, both the man on the street and in elected office, seem to forget that what makes the US ostensibly great is the constitution and laws we follow. Along with the laws we all follow, there have always been rules of engagement for soldiers on the battlefield and rules that the CIA and others are supposed to follow when doing their job. These rules, including prohibitions against torture, are not intended to hamstring their efforts, but are there to keep them from doing counterproductive work as well as keep them safe.