Technology vs. Torture

Psychopharmaceuticals and brain imaging could make prisoner interrogation more humane. Should we use them?: “Interrogation methods based on non-consensual and passive medical interventions would give rise to criticism, but it’s certainly plausible that in the eyes of international law they would be less objectionable than methods based on the threat and reality of physical beatings.

The goal here wouldn’t be to update the CIA’s notorious MK-Ultra ‘mind control’ experiments of the 1950s, which administered LSD and performed other experiments on unwitting prisoners. Rather, the point would be to declare that, just as America’s armed forces use precision-guided munitions and ‘smart bombs’ to minimize civilian casualties, America’s interrogation methods rely upon new technologies to decrease the risk of illegal abuse.

Even if torture and abuse were effective interrogation tactics, they intrinsically undermine the values American society says it stands for. By contrast, using minimally invasive technologies explicitly designed not to be harmful represents values that can be defended both at home and abroad.”

This is written by a professor of law and an ‘advisor to the MIT Security Studies Program’, whatever that is. The only problem is, they sound like they did not consult a psychiatrist or neuroscientist before going off halfcocked. The lie-detecting functions of brain imaging techniques which they describe are quite fanciful, whether the Pentagon is funding research into their interrogation applications or not. And the SSRI antidepressants do not do anything to ‘reduce…the urge to deceive’ as they assert! Far from it; they probably improve a subject’s resistance to fear-based interrogation techniques and give the subject a higher pain threshold. Moreover, if they could do what the authors assert they do, the ethical dilemma would be much like that around ‘kinder gentler’ ways of executing condemned prisoners which require physicians to violate their Hippocratic oath against “first doing no harm”. The techniques the authors allude to would, in my opinion, undermine American values no less than the torture and abuse American interrogators currently use. Finally, there is nothing to indicate that the jingoistic thug types who conduct debriefings of the demonized adversaries we come up against, when faced with a spectrum of choices of techniques, would choose the less abusive, less invasive ones for any reason. After all, new interrogation methodologies do not supplant old ones….