Lucas Shelton The Ethics and Application of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques Eastern Kentucky University 30 April 2018
The Ethics and Application of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
Eastern Kentucky University
30 April 2018
In light of recent terroristic events, it has become increasingly apparent that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques (ETIs) should be legitimized in order to prevent the devastating effects of future attacks. To confirm this hypothesis, three differing worldviews of torture will be analyzed, along with the positive and negative aspects of each. They will tested through a hypothetical scenario known as “the ticking time bomb dilemma”, in which time plays a significant role and the consequences are drastic. The behavior that generates the least amount of pain and suffering but also effectively deters the threat should be heavily considered as a replacement for current foreign and domestic policy directives.
A majority of research surrounding the topic of EITs is concerned with the mistreatment of subjects and the tendency for individuals to negatively associate these measures with the moral character of an entire country. In an extensive evaluation of the issue, the American Psychological Association (APA) has shared a few of their initial thoughts: 1. EITs are commonly utilized as a method of punishment rather than one to gather information that is vital to national security, 2. the identity of victims is often flawed, and 3. the lack of congressional oversight will ultimately lead to further instances of misconduct (O’Donohue, W., Maragakis, A., Snipes, C., ; Soto 2015). However, these arguments are heavily based on speculation and fail to take exigent circumstances into consideration. The purpose of this essay is to present a challenging hypothetical scenario in which the lives of innocent civilians are jeopardized by the actions of a singular man/woman. This eliminates the possibility of bias in that the suspect is knowingly guilty of the crime and EITs occur purely from an interrogative perspective. The simulation itself is typically referred to as the “ticking time bomb dilemma”.
The ticking time bomb dilemma is frequently deliberated among analysts when discussing the psychological effects of torture on both the inflictor and the victim. It involves the pursuit and capture of a fictional character that is personally connected with a future terrorist attack or other deadly initiative (Yemini 2014). The acquisition of his/her knowledge would allow the detainer to prevent the disaster from occurring, saving countless lives in the process. In the scenario, it is assumed that the interrogator will receive the information in an adequate amount of time so that they may effectively shape the outcome. Additionally, it is possible that the suspect played no role in the direct institution of the attack, but that they are aware of the details and are simply hesitant to cooperate. In this regard, the use of EITs is a relevant option, but it is completely dependent on the moral obligation of the questioning agent (Arrigo, J. M., DeBatto, D., Rockwood, L., ; Mawe, T. G. 2015). A final note is that this person must have exhausted every alternative means of interrogation before resulting to EITs. Consequently, a greater understanding of the issue may be gained through an assessment of both the positive and negative aspects of varying worldviews. The following paragraphs will address the belief systems of an individual in favor of torture as a reasonable tactic for withdrawing information, another who supports the manipulation of torture with certain caveats, and a final who would never encourage the torture of a human being under any circumstances.
This person finds that the prolonged use of EITs is warranted in the case of the ticking time bomb dilemma, and that their application will be beneficial in minimizing the overall number of casualties. They rationalize torture by weighing the demographics of the intended target with the human rights of the suspect in custody. In general, the agent will discover that the propensity for pain and suffering is greater with innocent men, women, and children than one that has been indicted on terroristic charges (Bellaby 2015). An interrogator that holds this particular ideology may not necessarily agree with the practice of torture, but often casts ethical barriers to the side when facing such dire consequences (Zimbardo 2007). A key characteristic of those that are willing to conduct EITs is their stunning absence of empathy for the convicted party. They believe that an individual with the capacity to commit such heinous crimes is worthy of the same, if not worse, fate as his/her victims. A comparison could easily be drawn between this situation and the current U.S. conflict in the Middle East. An American soldier that witnesses an Iraqi insurgent kill a member of his platoon is likely to show no remorse when eliminating the perpetrator (O’Donohue, W., Snipes, C., Dalto, G., Soto, C., Maragakis, A., & Im, S. 2014). Similarly, an agent employed by a federal organization should not delay in exploiting a radical that threatens to undermine the sense of national security.
This is not to say that a person with an open mindset to torture has no morals. As previously stated, to engage in EITs may run in opposition with their chosen religious, political, or social affiliation. Regardless of their unique views toward the issue, an agent must take a variety of external factors into account before participating in controversial behaviors (Yemini 2014). First, they should gauge the potential impact on each of the related parties (the alleged victims of the crime and the instigator). Secondly, they are to appraise the gravity of these malicious events, and use their findings determine whether EITs should be mandated. Another stipulation is for the interrogators to express confidence in the specified tactics and their ability to produce quality results. This also hinges on the importance of the desired outcome. For example, they must ask the question “If this attack were to occur, would it leave a permanent mark on the history of the United States?” Finally, torture would need to significantly differentiate itself from other forms of interrogation in terms of effectiveness prior to being fully integrated into the American society. This argument contends that EITs are permissible in the event of the ticking time bomb dilemma, but discouraged in other situations where the stakes are not as drastic.
EITs with Caveats
While those in favor of torture specifically focus on the outcome of the ticking time bomb dilemma, others place a particular emphasis on the actions leading up to that point. They want to ensure that their choices are consistent with underlying moral principles. From their position, torture is thought to be an unprecedented evil, with no place in an ordinary environment. It is an extremely brutal approach to extract information from an individual, consisting of such steps as malnutrition, sleep deprivation, and various patterns of physical abuse. Therefore, the goal of this crowd is to systematically legitimize torture (Arrigo, J. M., DeBatto, D., Rockwood, L., & Mawe, T. G. 2015). They propose that rather than utilizing EITs, less intensive methods of interrogation should be put in place to preserve the decency of human rights. Or, in certain situations where EITs prove to be unavoidable, congressional oversight may compensate as a type of checks and balances (O’Donohue, W., Snipes, C., Dalto, G., Soto, C., Maragakis, A., ; Im, S. 2014). Yet, this attempt to remain ethically pure may cause problems for the investigating agent. He/she may be rendered incapable of gathering sufficient evidence with the tools at their disposal. The suspect could easily remain resilient until the time of detonation if the corrective measures do not reach the optimum level of force. Still, even the most upstanding citizens may be pressured into violent tendencies under the correct variables.
The most important aspect of EITs with caveats is the conviction that all people have access to human rights and should not be mistreated in spite of their shortcomings (van der Rijt, J. 2016). While it is true that terrorists possess the same privileges as their counterparts, these may be revoked immediately after he/she takes part in an activity that places innocent lives in the path of danger. One of the before mentioned privileges includes the right to be protected against elements of torture. On U.S. soil, this is related to the innate freedoms awarded to naturalized American citizens. They are trusted with said freedoms until they are otherwise proven to be irresponsible (i.e. being placed in prison) (O’Donohue, W., Snipes, C., Dalto, G., Soto, C., Maragakis, A., & Im, S. 2014). A firm supporter of the caveat worldview would typically endorse an equal balance in which both parties are able to preserve both their dignity and lives. The ticking time bomb dilemma provides the adverse conditions necessary in order for them to make a difficult distinction. That is, choosing to inflict temporary pain and suffering on a wanted criminal in exchange for thousands of lives, or remaining idle and allowing the actions of a singular man/woman to orchestrate a national catastrophe. In this case, it is the moral requirement of an agent to put aside their own biases and operate in the best interest of the U.S. It is impossible for them to adopt an impartial stance, as their silence will elicit a devastating effect on its own accord.
The final breed of agent is neither concerned with the execution or outcome of EITs, but instead with the negative association that these measures will have on their own character as well as that of their country (van der Rijt, J. 2016). However, these individuals should wait to draw conclusions about the ethics of torture until they are able to properly examine the purpose and extent of these corrective measures. A thought provoking example would be that of a serial killer, who tortures others out of sheer pleasure and compulsion. Certainly, this person should not be perceived as a hero, as their actions do not reflect moral values and are not geared toward upholding national security. The same argument can be made for one that objectifies torture as a method of punishment, or as a way of asserting dominance over an unpopular cultural group (O’Donohue, W., Snipes, C., Dalto, G., Soto, C., Maragakis, A., ; Im, S. 2014). Indeed, these scenarios have contributed to feelings of hostility toward EITs and advanced the myth that torture is indicative of clinical insanity. Once again, the ticking time bomb dilemma offers an explanation to escape from these proposed “norms”. Presume that an interrogator tortures solely as a means of gathering secrets that will save a number of innocent bystanders, and hardly ever results to violence unless it has shown to be insurmountable. Furthermore, they have chosen to violate human rights in the pursuit of answers, but have remained loyal to other dispositions such as: respect for fellow citizens, a love for country, and the preservation of the greater good (Bellaby 2015). The context of this scenario provides sufficient evidence to condone the use of EITs without having to forfeit established virtues.
Challenges of EITs
On the off chance that a radical was willing to concede information regarding the details of the attack, an agent would face an abundance of struggles throughout the interrogation process. Because the individual has chosen to engage in EITs, it is likely that his/her knowledge on the subject is limited. With this in mind, the terrorist could potentially make a false confession in order to make the pain stop or buy time until the specified time of detonation (Zimbardo 2007). It is also worth mentioning that after an extended period of time being subjected to physical or psychological abuse that the victim may not be in a suitable condition to yield reliable data. Historically, it has not been uncommon for the person to go into shock or be left unresponsive (Weaver 2011), which means that the questioning agent must proceed with caution. Another consideration is that despite the rigorous nature of EITs, there is no substantive guarantee that the tactics will lead to the desired results. A majority of those who participate in events intended to subvert the U.S. government have received some sort of military training, in which they are taught to manage pain if captured by the enemy. This prior experience gives them a strategic advantage over the agent, as they could voluntarily withhold critical information and ensure that the attack was effectively carried out (Weaver 2011). A final point that was not necessarily relevant in the case of ticking time bomb dilemma is the time constraint. The interrogator is often operating within set parameters, including the digital stopwatch attached to the bomb that is rapidly approaching the end time. Subsequently, they are under extreme distress to produce the location and capabilities of the explosive device in the allotted period. Theoretically, the agent might be able to extract the information in a reasonable amount of time, but cannot relay it quickly enough to disable the bomb and mitigate the extreme loss of life.
A few meaningful interpretations may be derived from the analysis of the ticking time bomb dilemma. The APA is flawed in its previous claims about the fundamental misuse of EITs. Several points have deemed EITs to be not only acceptable, but a moral responsibility when national security is at risk.
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Bellaby, R. W. (2015). The Ethics of Torture-Lite: A Justifiable Middle-Ground?. International Journal Of Applied Philosophy, 29(2), 177-190. doi:10.5840/ijap201612048
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van der Rijt, J. (2016). Torture, Dignity, and Humiliation. Southern Journal Of Philosophy, 54(4), 480-501. doi:10.1111/sjp.12204
Weaver, J. (2011, January 11). Study: U.S. Torture Techniques Unethical, Ineffective. Retrieved April 30, 2018, from https://www.livescience.com/9209-study-torture-techniques-unethical-ineffective.html
Yemini, M. (2014). Conflictual Moralities, Ethical Torture: Revisiting the Problem of ‘Dirty Hands’. Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 17(1), 163-180. doi:10.1007/s10677-013-9429-0
Zimbardo, P. G. (2007). Thoughts on Psychologists, Ethics, and the Use of Torture in Interrogations: Don’t Ignore Varying Roles and Complexities. Analyses Of Social Issues ; Public Policy, 7(1), 65-73. doi:10.1111/j.1530-2415.2007.00122.x
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