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efreysson
11-17-2008, 03:55 AM
In relation to the whole Guantanamo Bay mess, I've repeatedly heard people state that aside from ethical issues, torture just isn't effective for gathering information. Spreading fear and extracting false confessions, sure, but not for making a person reveal sensitive information when they could just lie instead.

But is it true? Can I have my antihero put a captured enemy through living hell to make him squeal reliably? And keep in mind this is in a world without human rights issues, or basically anyone telling him how far he can or can't go?

scarletpeaches
11-17-2008, 03:56 AM
You can do anything you want in your own book, but answer me this - how would your antihero know the information he'd extracted was reliable?

katiemac
11-17-2008, 03:59 AM
In relation to the whole Guantanamo Bay mess, I've repeatedly heard people state that aside from ethical issues, torture just isn't effective for gathering information. Spreading fear and extracting false confessions, sure, but not for making a person reveal sensitive information when they could just lie instead.

But is it true? Can I have my antihero put a captured enemy through living hell to make him squeal reliably? And keep in mind this is in a world without human rights issues, or basically anyone telling him how far he can or can't go?

What is the enemy like? Is he resolute under any circumstance, or willing to go to hell and back to keep his secrets? That's your line--will your character give in under torture or not?

Smiling Ted
11-17-2008, 07:10 AM
This article (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200310/bowden) was one of the best I've read on the subject.

The author, Mark Bowden, has serious foreign-journalism chops. (It was his story that led to the movie Blackhawk Down.)

ETA: IIRC, the article includes interviews with the "interrogators." Might as well get it from the horse's mouth.

StephanieFox
11-17-2008, 07:31 AM
After about 24 hours, whatever the prisoner knows would be outdated info.

Remember the thousands (or more) people who confessed to being witches, changing in to animals, having sex with the devil, etc., just to make the torture stop? I'd say that torture only makes people suffer, but it doesn't give you reliable info.

Medievalist
11-17-2008, 07:41 AM
Torture doesn't work. People will say anything, anything at all, to make it stop.

The Romans officially abandoned it as a technique.

The Inquisition formally and officially abandoned it.

So no, it doesn't work.

dmytryp
11-17-2008, 12:29 PM
There is no simple answer. The answer is "it depends". It depends on a lot of factors. If you are seeking an easily verifiable info (like a code to a safe) the torture might work. If you are seeking accomplices or something it might work, too, but you have a strong chance of getting false info (like people said -- the tortured person would say anything to make the torture stop). It also depends on the strength and resolution of the tortured person. Though, this said, everybody has a breaking point and torture doesn't necessary mean physical beating or pain. Keeping someone awake for hours and days can be considered torture. It is relatively standard police technique, and I doubt you can say it doesn't work. Sticking somebody into a 6 by 6 concrete vault without windows can be considered torture, too. It'd work on some, not so well on others. This is your book, you can do whatever you want. Usually, the most effective torture techniques are not just physical beatings. It is finding the fears of the person under torture and exploiting them. George Martin in his Song of Ice and Fire series has a nice torture technique. There is a castle on a cliff. The prison cells have no outside wall and the floor is slightly sloped outward:)

Mac H.
11-17-2008, 01:16 PM
This is an interesting area.

It is agreed that threats of torture can backfire ... when the US indicated that an Egyptian man's wife and children would be tortured unless he admitted to being a terrorist, the man did what any decent family man would do .. he lied to the US forces and gave them false information.Cite (http://www.psychsound.com/2007/10/a_tale_of_two_decisions_or_how.html)

How much money and resources was wasted because of his sensible response to the torture threat?

Obviously we can all come up with a scenario where torture would work in a specific case ... but the real question is whether it is a useful tool. If I had a job opening locked cars, I could justify carrying a jackhammer for the task on the grounds of being able to come up with an imaginary scenario where it was vital to save a life ... but surely when every time I used the jackhammer and it made the situation worse, then my employers would soon ban jackhammers?

However, loth though I am to admit it, perhaps there have been situations where military objectives were helped by having the 'torture' card in the deck to play. (That doesn't mean that ultimately it would be better not to play it .. just that it might have been useful in the past)


After about 24 hours, whatever the prisoner knows would be outdated info.Unfortunately this isn't always correct.

Look at the capture of Saddam Hussein, for example. The intel that led to his capture was obtained from what US forces described rather euphemistically as 'hostile questioning' of prisoners several weeks before he was captured.

In that example, clearly the information that the prisoners knew was not out of date in 24hrs.

If the US had never used 'hostile questioning' of the prisoners, perhaps he would not have been captured.

As pointed out in an earlier link, threats of torture was also successfully by US forces in other wars, such as the Vietnam War.

So when he captured a Vietcong soldier who could warn of ambushes and lead them to hidden troops but who refused to speak, wires were attached to the man's scrotum with alligator clips and electricity was cranked out of a 110-volt generator.

"It worked like a charm," Cowan told me. "The minute the crank started to turn, he was ready to talk. We never had to do more than make it clear we could deliver a jolt. It was the fear more than the pain that made them talk."Cite (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200310/bowden)

It was also used effectively by the Marquis groups of the French Resistance in the Second World War. Nancy Wake (the liaison between one of the Marquis group and the UK military) mentioned in her autobiography that it was common to torture German collaborators before killing them ... as information was vital. She found the approach of questioning a prisoner under torture before putting a gun against their head and blowing their brains out was so obvious that any other action was naive and laughable .. it was one of her objections of the film made about her.Cite (https://www.alibris.co.uk/search/books/isbn/0725107553)

Obviously I don't have the personal experience to say whether the information the Marquis got was useful ... but it would seem that they were the experts on the subject of their own situation and found it useful.

As a counter example, Lt Col Oreste Pinto found that the method wasn't useful .. and he was also clearly an expert of the same war.

Sometimes reality doesn't conform to what I would like reality to be.

Mac

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-17-2008, 03:30 PM
The autobiography of a pre-WWII German Communist and Nazi Gestapo (it's complicated: he was a double agent several times over) operative indicates that torture was successful, within minutes to months.

The reliability of the information is always suspect - telling them what they want to hear is a short term solution to make it stop.

JJ Cooper
11-17-2008, 03:46 PM
And yet, arguably the most sucessful interrogator during WWII (Hanns Scharff), never needed torture. His skill - the art of conversation. The intelligence he gathered proved highly reliable.

JJ

Mac H.
11-17-2008, 04:44 PM
And yet, arguably the most successful interrogator during WWII (Hanns Scharff), never needed torture. His skill - the art of conversation.Indeed.

However, if the question was 'Do nail guns work?', clearly 'The most successful carpenter didn't use them' isn't really an answer.

Sadly, even though good carpenters may choose to construct a building without using nail guns, nail guns DO work.

They may be more trouble than they are worth in many cases.

We may choose not to use them.

But we shouldn't kid ourselves that people haven't found them effective in the past.

Mac

Don Allen
11-17-2008, 05:31 PM
I like torture, oops this isn't a hardcore post is it? My bad...... slinks away....

donroc
11-17-2008, 06:02 PM
And yet, arguably the most sucessful interrogator during WWII (Hanns Scharff), never needed torture. His skill - the art of conversation. The intelligence he gathered proved highly reliable.

JJ

Conversation plus charm and cognac.

Fluent in English, Scharff was so respected by the POWs, they rescued him from the Soviets who would have executed him because he was from eastern Germany, an officer, and the son of a factory owner capitalist.

I met Scharff and his family at a special evening hosted by my late friend, Colonel Raymond F. Toliver who wrote Scharff's bio, The Interrogator. It was quite an opportunity to meet some heroes of my boyhood.

Among the other guests were General Kurtz of Swoose Goose fame, several fighter aces: Bud Mahurin, Jim Brooks who was there with his wife, "Liltin'" Martha Tilton, and an "odd couple" -- 101 victory ace Luftwaffe General Adolf Galland (Toliver wrote his bio as well) and RAF 30 victory Jewish ace and planner of The Great Escape, Robert Roland Sanford Tuck, who were touring the USA together and giving speeches. Tuck and Galland became friends when the former was shot down in 1942 and Galland was his captor. Ironically, each had shot down the other's wingman during the Battle of Britain.

dpaterso
11-17-2008, 06:12 PM
This very subject appears in one of my NaNo WIPs but so far, none of the specific points raised above have been touched. <whew!>

-Derek

Tsu Dho Nimh
11-18-2008, 09:39 PM
And yet, arguably the most sucessful interrogator during WWII (Hanns Scharff), never needed torture. His skill - the art of conversation. The intelligence he gathered proved highly reliable.
JJ

The guy I was reading about was almost undone by a Scotland Yard detective with that sort of talent.

Book: Out of the Night
Author: Jan Valtin

Shail
11-18-2008, 10:08 PM
I have to ask. Wait a sec. *Finds large metal object to hide behind* Have you read any books on this subject? I know it's a dumb question, but there are some readily available books on the subject - such as SAS manuals and the like, that go into techniques that are really used by various military branches. Some of these books explain the reasoning behind the method, such as the 'nice interrogator/nasty interrogator' and social isolation. The manuals also detail some pros and cons of most methods. It might help you determine if your interrogator's method would work, and how your detainee's psychology might make your torture choice a good or bad choice. Just a suggestion.

Fresie
11-18-2008, 10:19 PM
The irony of it is, the person who by his character has a tendency to betray his accomplices and/or give away information, will do it long before they even threaten to use torture. It's usually the ones with stronger principles who stand their ground and refuse to speak and consequently face torture. But many people are so weak-hearted and eager to tell everything they know they do it at the first opportunity.

Buffysquirrel
11-18-2008, 11:06 PM
Squeal? Yes. Reliably? Depends.

If you have a cashbox and you are torturing someone for the combination that opens it, you will probably get it out of them because you can verify their confession on the spot. You might also be able to box someone in by asking them apparently harmless questions that enable a process of elimination. But mostly people will just say anything to make it stop.

Daniel P. Mannix's "The History of Torture" is a decent introductory book on the subject. At one point, Mannix describes how the Duke of Brunswick convinced two Jesuit scholars of the ineffectiveness of torture by persuading a "witch" to accuse them of witchcraft--which, as she was on the rack, she immediately did. 'I have often seen them at the Sabbat. They can turn themselves into goats, wolves and other animals...one woman even had eight children whom these men fathered. The children had heads like toads and legs like spiders.' (pp134)

Some kind of psychological manipulation is more likely to succeed than the infliction of pain, but it also tends to take longer.

JJ Cooper
11-18-2008, 11:59 PM
I met Scharff and his family at a special evening hosted by my late friend, Colonel Raymond F. Toliver who wrote Scharff's bio, The Interrogator. It was quite an opportunity to meet some heroes of my boyhood.

This is the first book on the 'Required Reading' list that we'd send out to trainees prior to their interrogation course. Amazing book.

JJ

CalGrave
11-19-2008, 03:51 AM
No straight answer for that. The man who planned the original WTC bombing was captured and because of that an entire cell of terrorists were found.

JJ Cooper
11-19-2008, 01:27 PM
As an instructor and practioner of interrogation, I studied techniques and methods and the historical uses of torture as a means to get information. As an interrogator, I was obliged to abide by the Geneva Conventions. The subject of torture was interesting, but a no-go in extracting information within that legal context. So, I'm probably biased in that sense.

I have been fortunate to meet (and have deliver presentations to my former students) Maj-Gen W.B. 'Sandy' Thomas CB DSO MC* ED Silver Star, USA. An extraordinary man and military legend and author of the book 'Dare to be Free'

Synopsis
When the Germans invaded Crete in 1941, Sandy Thomas was shipped to the Greek mainland as one of their prisoners. Despite being severely wounded in the leg he attempted several escapes, including being carried out of his POW camp in a coffin. He finally succeeded in a spectacular escape, and made his way across Greece to Mount Athos, a rocky peninsula populated solely by monks. Here he evaded capture for over a year, before finally stealing a boat and navigating his way through winter seas to freedom in Turkey. This, his story, is one of the great escape narratives of the Second World War.

Sandy always went into great detail of what it was like to be a Prisoner of War. The type of presentation that had every one on the edge of their seats and a little disappointed when it had to end.

I think Sandy just hit the 90 mark and is still writing about his experiences. The main thing we all took away from his talks was that the only time he really was caught off guard with giving away valuable information was right at the point of capture. He just wanted to talk to someone and couldn't help answering questions to those he treated him well before he got over the shock of capture.

JJ

Mac H.
11-19-2008, 02:14 PM
A fascinating subject ... thanks for the info JJ.


The main thing we all took away from his talks was that the only time he really was caught off guard with giving away valuable information was right at the point of capture. He just wanted to talk to someone and couldn't help answering questions to those he treated him well before he got over the shock of capture.Oreste Pinto mentioned the same thing ... he talked when they used to sneak over and pick up some poor sentry on duty it was absolutely vital to interrogate them on the boat coming back... just the time for the trip back was enough for them to get over the shock and have some kind of rational response.

I must read up on Sandy Thomas.

Thanks again!

Mac

JJ Cooper
11-19-2008, 03:20 PM
Absolutely facinating, Mac. I could babble for hours.

When I was on the job, we would spend countless hours on the spectrum of questioning/interrogation and overall the art of extracting information. Not surprisingly (if we looked 'outside the box'), the Germans were masters at gaining information at the point of capture. As Sandy described, he was shot up after a long battle, didn't know if he would survive. After he was found, one of the first people to talk to him addressed him in almost near perfect English. The Germans had their first line interrogators right at the front line - very smart. The shock of capture is limited to circumstances in the context of time. But, generally in all of our research this was where we would get the majority of information.

Ironically, it took me almost three years in lobbying our superiors with this information before our modis operandi changed. In 2003, our new techniques and methods changed. I'll let you join the dots on where we were and the sucess the Aus boys and gals had. I have since left, but from all accounts our strategic partners have come around and have started adapting something we should have learnt a long time ago. Point of capture.

JJ

Tornadoboy
11-22-2008, 06:30 AM
I can personally attest to the fact that torture doesn't work, I went through 12 years of public school and didn't tell them a thing.

donroc
11-22-2008, 06:37 AM
Having done extensive research on the Spanish Inquisition for my HF novel, torture worked on some and not on others. Those whose faith was strong never abjured or confessed. Others could not withstand tortures used in the 17th century: Repeated hoists on the strappado; the jarra (rag in thoat, water poured into mouth, rag pulled out before suffocation; and flames placed near feet rubbed with combustable substances. All in the presence of physicians who would stop the torture if it appeared to be causing death.

And long periods in a foul dungeon as well.

WriteKnight
11-22-2008, 06:53 AM
Bribery is an effective way of getting reliable information. Police use it all the time in witness protection programs. "Give us what we want, and we will let you live free in another place."

It would be interesting to compare the reliability response to bribery vs torture .

(Its all reward v punishment in the long run.)