Now that torture is legal

Excuse me, the rule is now to call it "harsh interrogation." In any case, there may now be people wanting to join the U.S. Torture Corps.

Possibly of interest to anybody who regards the use of violence against suspects in an interrogation as necessary: I have recently been rereading an old favorite, Criminal Interrogation and Confessions, by Fred E. Inbau, John E. Reid and Joseph P. Buckley (3rd ed, Williams and Wilkins, 1986). This book is more or less the standard one used in the training of police detectives, and interesting in its own right mostly for its semi-hard boiled style (a little Nathaniel West, a little Erving Goffman, some Quentin Tarantino, simmer without stirring...). Inbau, Reid and Buckley are openly in favor of all kinds of deception and psychological tricks, and ofer a wide variety of suggestions for achieving them effectively -- peruse a file with nothing in it, pay attention to the distance between chairs, that sort of thing. They draw the line at two places, though. First, at the use of techniques that "would cause an innocent person to confess" (how well they achieve this is a matter of intense debate, and there is some good evidence that the techniques they suggest are more likely to produce coerced-internalized false confessions than they think). Second, they absolutely draw the line at the use of force or the "third degree," including threats and promises, both on the practical grounds that these techniques are likely to produce false information and on the legal grounds that confessions which are not voluntary are more likely than not to be rejected by courts.


Anonymous said...

I appreciate your giving a reference people can use to learn about this. For one thing, even if it's 'legal' I don't think it works. I don't like the hypotheticals that are given as justification,hypotheticals only are so good anyway.
Good policework is going to do more to catch people who have been up to no good anyway. That takes two things, time and paying attention to detail.

Eric Gordy said...

Just for the record, though, Inbau et al are totally irresponsible. I didn't even mention earlier versions of the book, which discuss using racist stereotypes to gather more information, and offer specific instructions on how to get gay people to name other gay people. It's a whole other world, this police academy thing. The only thing that makes these folks appear to be rational is the idiotic polics of this administration. It's a way of seeing how far we have travelled from anyplace we would like to be.

Anonymous said...

Good point, I'm still going to see if I can get my hands on this book, hmmm now the earlier versions sound interesting.

Just because something is from a less than desirable source doesn't mean it can't be learned from, I learned a lot about how to cross-examine people from watching Milosevic at the Hague, and I never thought he was good for much of anything. I hate to say it but his method works.

rufakec: a particularly Balkans looking word but it's just Klingons making fun of the language.