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May 12, 2004


David Duff

As I provoked your comment on torture/interrogation perhaps I should add some thoughts.

It is important to differentiate between what I might call a 'police' interrogation carried out in order to discover the perpetrator of a crime, and an 'intelligence' interrogation carried out in order to discover information on terrorist activities. Obviously the first is a quasi-legal activity and, as Oliver points out, any confession obtained under duress would be (or should be!) worthless in a court of law.

However, the second is not so clear cut. The intelligence interrogator has no primary interest in the guilt or otherwise of the subject. He simply wants to know, by fair means or foul, what the subject knows.

It is obvious that 'pressure', above and beyond that allowed to a British 'bobbie' will be required. It only remains for the authorities to spell out, not least to their operatives, exactly what they mean by 'pressure'. I can say from experience that hooding, sleeplessness, cold, hunger, thirst (well short of physical danger) and isolation all reduce a subject's will to resist and that some will break. Those of sterner stuff will hold out and, arguably, sterner means will be required.

In a war situation, it is never necessary to break all POWs, just a few to get the info, and a few more to corroberate it. But in a terrorist conflict, such as we face for the next few decades, *all* suspects will need in-depth interrogation. Fine decisions will need to be taken because such activities will jeapardise court action, and the authorities will be faced with choosing between interrogation for intelligence and the necessity afterwards of keeping a dangerous subject locked up without trial, or to forgo the information and let the subject take it with him to court.

I believe rules can be made that will cover the activities of intelligence interrogators and that they can be made public and a mature democracy will see the sense in them - assuming they are sensible! One thing is certain, there must be a strict separation between police and intelligence interrogation centres. The guards in an intelligence centre are part of the interrogation attack in that they set a threatening ambience. They need to be specially trained for this to avoid the stupidities we have seen highlighted recently.


I agree that the ideological war has been badly fought on Bush's part. If his polls are as high as they are, it is due to all the pundits and bloggers explaining him to the rest of the American public. Good thing blogging was invented in time! But I wish he would understand the importance of frequent redundant communication. He should have been doing weekly fireside chats like Roosevelt. Maybe he didn't because he's not that good verbally. His VP should be someone who can take that on and has respect from the US public, which is why I think Bush is missing a bet if he doesn't bring Giuliani onto the ticket.


yehudit: actually, roosevelt only did a handful of fireside chats, not weekly. he got a lot of mileage out of surrogates like harold ickes.
but i'm not sure how well bush could put his case over if he did speak every week. i've seen commentators (ny times' david brooks or wm. safire on the right, washington post's wm. raspberry on the left) try to imagine things bush might say in his own defense, and they sound a lot more convincing than anything he does for himself.

Andrew Ian Dodge

Bush does not do that well on TV or radio. He does much better in person, coming across the average American as one "of them" who just happens to be President. Whether the intelligensia of both left and right like or not is irrelevant if they great masses of Americans in the fly-over states and the South like him. Despite what Democrats and RINOs think, these people hate to be patronised by Ivy-league educated know it alls that speak to them as if they are in kindergarten (ala Gore).

WJ Phillips

During WW2, GIs in the Pacific Theatre decapitated Japanese PoWs, shrunk the heads and sent them home to their girlfriends as trophies of war. One such skull was featured in a celebrated photo in "Life" magazine.

It's good to feel sure, intuitively, that such "peculiarly harrowing and heinous" murders don't happen any more on "our" side-- only the impersonal dealing of death to thousands of Iraqi civilians, from the air if possible, as regrettable collateral casualties of an invasion whose legality many international jurists doubt.


WJPhillips."We are all Guilty!!!!"

Bruce Kent misses the point that bin Laden would love an international trial,it would give him a place centre stage and provide publicity he couldn't buy.
My understanding is that they have been going after the money from day one.

WJ Phillips

Peter: What are you trying to say?

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