Is Obama’s rejecting torture endangering the US?

Cheney certainly thinks so.

Since taking office, Mr. Obama has reversed many of the policies championed by Mr. Cheney in his eight years of serving under President George W. Bush. Mr. Obama has announced plans to close the detention camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within the year, suspended military trials for terrorism suspects and prohibited the interrogation practice known as waterboarding.

But on Sunday, Mr. Cheney said those very policies had produced intelligence — still classified — that helped uncover specific plots.

But there are severe problems with getting truth from torture.  Even if it worked,  we should arguably reject its use, but if it doesn’t work, it is pointless barbarism. 

One problem with using torture to get intelligence is that one has to be able to tell whether what is said is what is believed.  In order words, torture may produce lies or truth, and what is said is useless unless we know it is not a lie.  Sorting lies from truth is an additional task that has to follow the torture.  But it is one at which human beings not at all good. 

2 thoughts on “Is Obama’s rejecting torture endangering the US?

  1. i heard somewhere that there’s a further problem with the torture that went on during the bush years. (i can’t remember where i heard this, so please chime in if i’m getting it wrong, etc.) apparently, the people who are currently being held in guantanamo, because they’ve been tortured to get confessions, etc, are most likely un-trialable. whatever evidence there is against them would be thrown out in a proper court because of the way that investigations have been carried out. so it’s looking like obama is just going to have to let some people go without trying them at all. one suspects that in a lot of cases, that’s exactly as it should be. but who knows, maybe there are a few actual terrorists in guantanamo. and if there are, bush policy has (so i hear) made it such that they are legally untouchable.

  2. elp, Obama has said they won’t be tried by military courts, and I wonder if that’s part of the same picture.

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