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January 15, 2007

Comments

Thanks, Hilzoy for this very detailed, documented observation and analysis of the effects of sensory deprivation (also observed in U.S. prisons, as you remarked...) Since you conclude that the point of such techniques of interrogation is to reduce the prisoner to becoming a piece of furniture (to crush his or her soul, I'm tempted to say), one can only ask, what can possibly be the motivation for an individual (interrogator) and the system behind him to engage in such overtly sadistic behavior ? Glenn Greenwald's recent piece about the dangerousness of a weakened George W. Bush perhaps offers some insight into the way the Bush presidency cautions this entire process : people who themselves feel belittled, humiliated and react in terms of who's tougher, stronger, smarter, etc. require a victim who must at all costs be belittled, humiliated, etc. in order for them to feel different, i.e. superior. Pretty scary how something so banal, so frighteningly ordinary can take on apocalyptic proportions, huh ? It can take on such proportions because there is no one in control, and no one willing to assume anything resembling personal responsibility for their actions in this case.

Debra: I will probably have more to say about it, all with the caveat that of course I'm just speculating. However, I think that part of the motivation behind the Cold War experiments was the idea that the Soviets and Chinese were developing Mind Control.

Experimental psychology was in its infancy, and people were still figuring out what to make of the idea that we have unconscious drives that can take over our lives, and the idea that the mind might be an object of scientific study, like planets or molecules. The thought: what if the mind is something that we can actually program, like a machine? or take apart? What if, generally, there is a technique out there that will cause a person to give up his secrets, not via hit-or-miss questioning, but the way a key unlocks a door? -- was all over the place.

They were looking for that key, and they suspected the Soviets had found it.

"Thanks, Hilzoy for this very detailed, documented observation and analysis of the effects of sensory deprivation (also observed in U.S. prisons, as you remarked...)"

That last phrase conflates the two experiences to a point of being somewhat misleading. Prisons, for all their horrors, and even in Super-Max, don't do this, as Hilzoy aptly quoted above:

[...] Results produced only after weeks or months of imprisonment in an ordinary cell can be duplicated in hours or days in a cell which has no light (or weak artificial light which never varies), which is sound-proofed, in which odors are eliminated, etc. An environment still more subject to control, such as water-tank or iron lung, is even more effective.
Part of the point here is that these techniques are, in fact, orders of magnitude stronger than anything found in mere imprisonment, and that are consciously applied to break down the subject's mind each day; this is not, in fact, something found in ordinary prisons.

I can hardly bear to read this. How could you stand writing it.....?

Two years to go and I'm nowhere near done flinching....

"Two years to go and I'm nowhere near done flinching...."

The KUBARK manual was written in 1963 (drawing on earlier work from the Fifties), which is how we were able to read chunks of it, and about it, back in the Seventies, when it was written up in various books and magazine articles; I'm not in the least defending George Bush, but it's a complete mistake, if you're horrified about it, to put the blame solely on George W. Bush, and to think that these issues will magically disappear in two years.

If you want to blame a President for KUBARK and American use of such techniques, blame Eisenhower (and to some degree Truman and Kennedy) first.

It would be nice to think that this sort of thing can all be neatly tucked under the heading of "George W. Bush," and that it goes away with him, but that would be completely wrong; even if Congress and a saintly new President sweep away all use of such techniques sometime in the next decade, the manuals and techniques will just be waiting for yet another President to find the need.

Eternal vigilance, etc., are what we have "to go" -- not "two years."

Gary, I don't think there's all that much conflation wrt the SuperMax isolation cells in which the light is always on, in which everything is painted white, in which there is no window or radio or television or human contact. Those seem every bit as dangerous.

Those conditions were first tested in the early 1980s on political/terror prisoners, Puerto Rican nationalists.

The HNN link is to an article by Alfred McCoy, whose book A Question of Torture somehow showed up in my public library in Ridgeland, Mississippi. Not "definitive" or anything, but very much worth a read, for those interested/appalled.

"Those seem every bit as dangerous."

If they were "every bit as dangerous," Nell, terrible as they are, why would there be a need for all the additional techniques that KUBARK uses, that are applied as forms of disorientation, and questioning, on a daily basis, to the people in CIA custody? (The same is true of the earlier KGB practices, and of the North Koreans.)

There actually is a terrible, on the one hand, and an even worse, on the other, here.

Considering that the mind control experiments have proven nothing other than that it is possible to deliberately drive someone insane, the only conceivable use for these tactics is sadistic. Manuals written in the early 60s were written before the tactic was totally discredited (as anything other than sadism).

We can't make the manuals disappear, anymore than we can make sadists and psychopaths disappear. But we can do our best to choose non-insane, non-idiot, non-sadists to run our country. We can also not keep supporting them when they reveal themselves as such.

To some extent, the intelligence agencies and military will always attract more than a normal share of psychopaths, though I was surprised and relieved by the numbers of people in those services who've loudly and strenuously repudiated torture. Torture is not an accepted mode for interrogation, even among people whose notions of what's acceptable are based on pragmatism rather than ethical concerns.

For that reason, I dispute the notion that "any other President" will inevitably find a need for those techniques. It is not our inescapable fate to elect idiots and monsters to high office.

Fraternity pranks. @#!@#!@#$@#$!!!!

Okay, Gary, you are right about the degrees. My point is that conditions in some supermax isolation units are as effective in bringing about the breakdown of people condemned to them as the KUBARK techniques, just not as rapid.

Hilzoy, I envy your strength of mind, as well as your reasonableness and generosity in attributing motives (or explanations) for actions. It's likely the two are related. An inspiration to try to resist settling on worst-case explanations.

There are moments when I allow myself to believe that a significant enough part of the American public will develop a real understanding of what we've done to thousands of people in the last few years, and the connection to our history over the last sixty years. Sometimes I go so far as to believe in the possibility that that understanding will produce a change not only in detainee policy but in domestic prison conditions and imprisonment policies and rates in general.

Nell: you're right about the supermax's potential for horror. There's a chart I tried to include in the post, but when I tried to clip it out of the article it kept coming out all black. (Apparently, my graphics program has a sense of irony.) Here it is in text: symptoms, and then the proportion of the supermax prisoners under study who have them:

Ruminations 88
Irrational anger 88
Oversensitivity to stimuli 86
Confused thought process 84
Social withdrawal 83
Chronic depression 77
Emotional flatness 73
Mood, emotional swings 71
Overall deterioration 67
Talking to self 63
Violent fantasies 61
Perceptual distor tions 44
Hallucinations 41
Suicidal thoughts 27

(from this article; unfortunately, subscription required. Thank you, O university that employs me.)

Those are terrifying numbers, and the idea that prisoners are more likely to have mental health problems beforehand does not, imho, begin to explain them.

There's a chart I tried to include in the post, but when I tried to clip it out of the article it kept coming out all black. (Apparently, my graphics program has a sense of irony.)

Can you just do a screen capture of it? (If you're using a Mac, as your philo birthday calender comment recently implied, I can't say how to do this, but this page (theoretically) can.)

(And if you already tried to get a screen cap, please do pardon my pedantic suggestion...)

"Manuals written in the early 60s were written before the tactic was totally discredited (as anything other than sadism)."

I'm unclear: if you are asserting that such methods are utterly ineffective in making people disclose information they wouldn't have wanted to when they started, rather than that such methods shouldn't be used by human beings are other human beings, or some other argument as regards humanitarian concerns, I'm unaware of what source you have in mind to discredit the effectiveness of such techniques.

In fact, the techniques work pretty well. It would be nice if it were otherwise, but I know of no reason to think so. But perhaps I misunderstand you.

Please note that this is a very different question from, say, whether torture is, overall, an effective (setting aside the moral questions for a moment) policy for a nation. For a great many reasons, I don't believe it is. But that's a different question from whether regression can be induced in someone. It can.

Well, the research into how wonderfully effective N. Korea was at "breaking people" and what we could learn from their techniques stemmed partly from a bunch of FALSE confessions that U.S. soldiers made--see ch. 7 of the Margulies book. It does make people "disclose" information, but there is no particular reason to believe that information is true--as with any other form of abuse when you break people's will they tell you what you want to hear, and unless you have some independent way of verifying it a lot of it is going to be crap.

It was actually a joint Canadian, British, US effort, top-secret effort, and Dr Donald O. Hebb at McGill University found that he could induce a state akin to psychosis in a subject within 48 hours.

Wow. For those who don't know, Donald Hebb articulated one of the fundamental axioms of modern neuroscience: cells that fire together wire together. Within the field he has been awarded the ultimate accolade: the usage of his name as a lower-case adjective, as in hebbian learning. I knew he was a psychologist by trade, but I had no idea he did this kind of experiment.

Gary: I will be getting to this, eventually, but: there's overwhelming evidence that these techniques are effective at doing something. I'm sure that the effect of that something is, at times, that someone reveals stuff s/he wouldn't have wanted to reveal. But there's very little evidence that it's effective at getting people to reveal the truth, as they know it.

the loss of those defenses most recently acquired by civilized man

Ooh.... could it be.... Evol-OOOOOO-tion?

I think the Religious Right needs to know that the torture manuals they endorse in such Christlike fashion are based on a Darwinistic worldview. Not that the most extreme elements would care, seeing as how George W. Bush is a good Christian man and therefore infallible and all.

"It does make people 'disclose' information, but there is no particular reason to believe that information is true"

Quite so. Of course, any information under any interrogation circumstances must be approached understanding that, as well. That's why I'm distinguishing between what's desirable/undesirable national policy, and whether or not these techniques can induce regression; they're very different questions. Arguing that the techniques do not succeed at inducing regression, and a lot of talking, isn't a useful line of argument for shutting down torture as a policy, convenient as that would be. Arguing for the long list of reasons why torture remains terrible policy is useful.

Hilzoy: "But there's very little evidence that it's effective at getting people to reveal the truth, as they know it."

Yes. But that argument won't shut down those who will observe that all intelligence tips and information must be cross-checked and verified to be of worth, so by itself it's an insufficient argument. It's only when brought into the larger context of the many reasons why torture is bad policy that that point becomes truly useful.

I think you get a sig. higher proportion of false information with abusive techniques, and it is harder for the interrogator to evaluate the info...

"I think you get a sig. higher proportion of false information with abusive techniques,"

Depends. An actually guilty spy or terrorist will, after all, under normal circumstances, be trying their utmost to be deceptive. It's hard to get a higher proportion than "100% of what matters."

But this is missing the larger point: arguing what national policy should be about torture and abusive techniques on the basis only of effectiveness isn't a route that's reliably going to get us where we want to be, and it gets us into all sorts of detours to places we don't want to be (like, hey, if a technique proves at least partially effective, than it's okay, even if the subject is left a semi-vegetable!).

"Depends. An actually guilty spy or terrorist will, after all, under normal circumstances, be trying their utmost to be deceptive. It's hard to get a higher proportion than "100% of what matters."

This is the sort of "well obviously this is how terrorists behave" observation that does not actually seem to completely mesh with what actual interrogators say.

I am no interrogator, neither are you, so I don't think either of us can convince the other.

I think the ineffectiveness of torture is INTERTWINED WITH its moral problems. One way I think it's related is what it does to the interrogator--my hunch is that if you are waterboarding a guy because you believe it's necessary to get information, you are not going to treat that information with the skepticism you would if he was just bullsh*tting you in the way you'd expect a terrorist to do. Also, the false information obtained under torture is going to be given because the prisoner decides this is what the interrogator wants to hear--which, again, is more likely to be believed than KSM or whoever just spinning yarns. And then the abuse seems to become an end in itself, to the point where people aren't even asking questions.

I think the lack of effectiveness and immorality are inseparable. It's delusional to think that these techniques are going to be used by "trained professionals" who will torture only as much as they need to be effective and no more. Absolute power corrupts absolutely, and the original justifications for it get thrown right out the window. It's amazing the degree to which KUBARK talks about "breaking" people to get this information without any examination at all about whether it is true--and the way they seem impressed by the "effectiveness" of e.g. North Korean technqiues even though most of the confessions produced were completely false.

So I don't think you argue effectiveness in a vaccuum, leaving morality out of it, but I also don't think you do the opposite. They're related.

"This is the sort of 'well obviously this is how terrorists behave' observation that does not actually seem to completely mesh with what actual interrogators say."

I didn't comment on how successful actual spies and/or terrorists are at concealing information (short answer: it depends).

Also, interrogators aren't analysts, and their personal opinion as regards information isn't all that important, anyway, as regards overall intelligence analysis.

"and the way they seem impressed by the 'effectiveness' of e.g. North Korean technqiues even though most of the confessions produced were completely false."

The confessions were for propaganda value; there actually wasn't all that much valuable information, for more than a few days, that soldiers on the ground, and in the air above, Korea, had as regards military disposition and plans.

"So I don't think you argue effectiveness in a vaccuum, leaving morality out of it, but I also don't think you do the opposite. They're related."

This seems to have missed the point I was making about torture-as-a-policy being a separate question from whether regression can be induced. It can. That was my point. No one has argued against it; other arguments are other arguments, and I leave folks to them.

Gary, who has claimed that regression can't be induced? I don't understand who you're arguing against on that point.

"Gary, who has claimed that regression can't be induced? I don't understand who you're arguing against on that point."

Katherine was responding to what I wrote here, above. It concluded:

[...] Please note that this is a very different question from, say, whether torture is, overall, an effective (setting aside the moral questions for a moment) policy for a nation. For a great many reasons, I don't believe it is. But that's a different question from whether regression can be induced in someone. It can.
Katherine then took issue, seemingly missing my point.

I was responding to this, which I guess I should have read more narrowly than I did: : "I'm unclear: if you are asserting that such methods are utterly ineffective in making people disclose information they wouldn't have wanted to when they started, rather than that such methods shouldn't be used by human beings are other human beings, or some other argument as regards humanitarian concerns...

I'm unaware of what source you have in mind to discredit the effectiveness of such techniques.

In fact, the techniques work pretty well."

I was assuming you meant "disclosing information" that was true, and the tecniques "work pretty well" to get accurate information, since if the confessions are not accurate the techniques do not in fact "work pretty well" towards any legitimate goal. And you then argued back at me that there was nothing in particular about torture that would make information less accurate. And then said the "larger point" was something else.

I had read that, Gary, and had (and still have) no idea how "But that's a different question from whether regression can be induced in someone. It can." related to anything Katherine had said.

I was assuming you meant "disclosing information" that was true, and the tecniques "work pretty well" to get accurate information,
I said neither things; yes, you assumed. I further carefully elaborated on what I was and was not saying.
That was since if the confessions are not accurate the techniques do not in fact "work pretty well" towards any legitimate goal.
I didn't say a thing about "legitimate goal[s], either.

I really wish people wouldn't decide I must mean something I didn't write, because they imagine it's what I must have meant, let alone when I've specifically disclaimed such an interpretation in advance.

"And you then argued back at me that there was nothing in particular about torture that would make information less accurate."

I said absolutely no such thing.

I thought this was clear:

[...] Please note that this is a very different question from, say, whether torture is, overall, an effective (setting aside the moral questions for a moment) policy for a nation. For a great many reasons, I don't believe it is. But that's a different question from whether regression can be induced in someone. It can.
But clearly it wasn't clear.

"I had read that, Gary, and had (and still have) no idea how 'But that's a different question from whether regression can be induced in someone. It can.' related to anything Katherine had said."

It didn't; she hadn't commented yet. Look, it's all up there; my repeating what's readable is pointless.

Incidentally, you don't want to put periods in the middle of your sentence; you change it to a comma when you quote it.

Okay, you were responding to CaseyL, not Katherine, but that doesn't really change anything. All I'm saying is that it's not surprising that people are confused when you carry on an argument against a point that no one is making.

I would have changed it to a comma, but there were two sentences, so it still wouldn't have worked. I realize I would have had to rearrange things somehow to get it into an edited publication. I apologize for offending your esthetic sense.

"...but there were two sentences, so it still wouldn't have worked."

That's what blockquoting is for, online.

"I apologize for offending your esthetic sense."

No offense in the slightest; apologies if it was unwanted advice.

Ah, but blockquotes in the middle of sentences offend my esthetic sense slightly more than in-line quoted sentences in the middle of sentences do -- thus the need for rearrangement to put the quote at the end, however it was going to be formatted (if I hadn't been feeling lazy).

Being a programmer and former technical editor makes my views on strings enclosed by quotation marks a little different from some copyeditors'.

According to the McCoy book, the CIA's interest in these techniques grew out of the postwar "confessions" of eastern European leaders who'd done a turn in KGB prisons, and of course the North Korean "brainwashing" that Gary mentions.

At first, we couldn't believe that chemicals weren't being used. But research showed that sensory & sleep deprivation did the trick just fine.

So, our interest in these methods *from the beginning* was their utility for false confessions.

"So, our interest in these methods *from the beginning* was their utility for false confessions."

I really don't want to sound like I'm defending anything -- but probably someone will assume that's what I "really mean," which I don't -- but it's not at all clear to me that the jump from your first two paragraphs, which are correct, to your third paragraph's assertions, is supported by the historical record. Do you have some cites from the Forties/Fifties to support it? I'd be extremely interested, but also surprised, to see them, and learn that I was unaware of them.

As I recall, the motivation was threefold, more or less. In no particular order: a) explore the limits of possibilities of interrogation (without direct use of pain as a primary tool); b) find out what it was possible for the Russians/Chinese/North Koreans/anyone to accomplish as regards "brainwashing" and psychological methods, drugs, regression, etc.; c) part of the motivation for that was to attempt to better understand how well or not our own agents could withstand interrogation, and part was to see what could be accomplished as regards the enemy.

I don't recall that there were a lot of memos/talk about obtaining false confessions, but I certainly grant that I'm not remotely all-knowing on the topic -- merely well-read -- and it's entirely possible I've forgotten stuff or missed it.

But I assume you can support your statement about the Forties/Fifties ("*from the beginning*") with some cites?

Andreson: add to Gary's (b) my much earlier comment -- I think that a very bizarre idea of what "the science of the mind" might accomplish was out there, and we thought that things like the detailed (false) confessions by US airmen in the Korean war showed not just that you could break people into tiny little pieces, but that you could somehow gain control of their minds and maneuver them around like robot cars. (OK, I exaggerate, but not much. Think of The Manchurian Candidate.)

I mean: it wasn't just that the airmen confessed; it was that they gave elaborate, detailed confessions that were way more than the sullen monosyllables you might expect from "normal" beatings and the like.

Andreson: add to Gary's (b) my much earlier comment -- I think that a very bizarre idea of what "the science of the mind" might accomplish was out there, and we thought that things like the detailed (false) confessions by US airmen in the Korean war showed not just that you could break people into tiny little pieces, but that you could somehow gain control of their minds and maneuver them around like robot cars. (OK, I exaggerate, but not much. Think of The Manchurian Candidate.)

I mean: it wasn't just that the airmen confessed; it was that they gave elaborate, detailed confessions that were way more than the sullen monosyllables you might expect from "normal" beatings and the like.

I should point out that the pedigree of these confessions goes back past the Korea war and perhps should be related to the 1930's show trials in the Soviet Union. I am not sure how they were able to elicit detailed confessions that were completely untrue, but as I understand it, there was an absence of physical torture, so I imagine the same sorts of techniques must have been used.

Gary: Do you have some cites from the Forties/Fifties to support it?

That's my recollection from the McCoy A Question of Torture book, which I don't have before me. I or it could be mistaken.

I mean: it wasn't just that the airmen confessed; it was that they gave elaborate, detailed confessions that were way more than the sullen monosyllables you might expect from "normal" beatings and the like.

Right, hence the guess that chemicals, etc. must've been used. I think Gary's right that we were interested in protecting our own people from being "brainwashed," but IIRC, both sides of the coin were on our minds pretty early. This was the era when it was popular to see an unfolding war of propaganda (er, "persuasion") that would decide the fate of the world.

LJ: perhps should be related to the 1930's show trials in the Soviet Union

Absolutely; tho some of those victims were beaten etc. as well, the beatings weren't decisive. I am curious what entity, if any, in the U.S. gov't took the kind of interest in those "trials" that the CIA would later display in their postwar kin.

I'd just like to point out that Al McCoy is actually a Philippine historian (!) as well as an expert on the international drug trade (he first came to prominence documenting "The Politics of Heroin in Indochina"), the Australian mafia (?!), and just about anything else he puts his formidable energy to. I get tired just thinking about him sometimes.

We're not all useless layabouts who stake out a really obscure corner of knowledge and then do as little as possible, waiting for some unwary fool to stumble into our Lair Of Expertise.

"...but as I understand it, there was an absence of physical torture, so I imagine the same sorts of techniques must have been used."

Also just simple blackmail/coercion, as in threats to kill people's families, and the like.

Plus, it can't be underestimated how many people simply bought into the system, and the Revolution, back in the Twenties and Thirties, and thus duly did, in many cases, what Authority Instructed. For the Good Of The Party, after all.

"I am curious what entity, if any, in the U.S. gov't took the kind of interest in those 'trials' that the CIA would later display in their postwar kin."

There really wasn't anything resembling an intelligence agency in the U.S. looking at the Soviet Union in the Thirties. The closest entity was the State Department, which had an observer in Finland, prior to FDR recognizing the USSR in 1933, after which we had a small number of diplomats in Moscow, of course.

Other than that, pretty much nada, other than maybe a couple of folks in Army Intelligence informally reading up now and again. I could be missing something, but offhand, I can't think what it might be. The FBI's foreign intelligence involvement under Hoover started off in Latin America, not Europe, and didn't really get going until the Forties. And before WWII, other than the cryptographic operation of WWI that had been shut down, the only other intelligence was from Army Intelligence, and Navy Intelligence (which had, understandably, no interest in the Soviet Union).

Domestically, of course, with the Red Scares starting back in the WWI era, under Attorney-General Palmer, lots of attention was paid to "Reds," but there just wasn't much of anything done about the Soviet Union, per se (after the Intervention was over, that is, but there wasn't much intelligence involved in that, in very possible meaning of the word).

One of my friends is serious into state government and budget statistics and he reels off something ludicrous about the Wisconsin state budget and Supermax -- something like the Supermax budget is the fastest growing line item in Wisconsin with expenditures exceeding all non-tertiary education. I'll ask him about it when I see him next.

Unfortunately, I don't have access to this journal, but this article looks pretty interesting in regards to this

link

In terms of the extent of torture used, I have two comments:

First, torturers probably end up being those who like it - the sadism and power. Ordinary people probably burn out rather quickly. So the idea of objective torture is probably wrong; these guys *like* it, and were doing as much as they could get away with.

Second, when torturing somebody, how does one know when one has the answers sought? There are two obvious ways; first, the answers given are what the people in charge expect/want; the second is that the victim is dead or otherwise incapacitated, and so no further information could be obtained.


There's a chapter of Solzhenitsyn's 'The Gulag Archipelago' floating around on the web. It's the one about how the KGB obtained confessions. It's very informative, both for how they were able to obtain confessions without official torture, and for the bureaucratic obsession with confessions.

To Hilzoy and Gary :
For once this subject is one that I have some competency to discuss : as for experimental psychology, I refer both of you to the work of René Spitz, in The First Year of Life, particularly the passage discussing Emotional Deficiency Diseases in the Infant, also called Hospitalism (yes, Gary, I know that this paper addresses the formation of normal object relations in the infant, but I believe that the deterioration of personality induced by sensory deprivation( (not to be confused with regression which is a normal functioning present in every human being, illustrated by the state of dreaming, for instance) )can also apply to adults). In "experiments" dating from 1946 Spitz pinpointed and described the effects of meaningful human relationships in the care of infants in a postwar daycare center. He found that an "efficient" system where infants were physically taken care of, changed (often by interchangeable personnel) but received minimal physical and emotional contact, the infants pined, and many developed serious physical illnesses, withdrawal, resulting in irreparable psychological damage (hospitalism).
Why do I bring up this study ? Because contrary to what most laypeople believe, a one to one hands on torture experience is paradoxically more liable to keep a subject psychologically alive (not physically, of course) than the impersonal, diffuse sensory deprivation involved, sorry, Gary, in supermax prisons in the U.S. where prison conditions are designed in order to reduce all contact to the strict minimum (trays arriving in grey cells by remote control) all this to "protect" inmates and guards.
As for the logic of this reasoning, can anyone explain to me why death row inmates who have no right to contact visits (they see their relatives behind plexiglass barriers) are subjected to full body searches (that's right, full body searches) after each visit ?
Sounds like sheer, unadulterated and unrecognized sadism to me...
And of course, any intelligent psychologist working for the military would have been in an excellent position to exploit Spitz's findings, even at the time.

Relevant WaPo stories here and here.

Some at Guantanamo Mark 5 Years in Limbo
Big Questions About Low-Profile Inmates

Interrogation Research Is Lacking, Report Says
Few Studies Have Examined U.S. Methods

Margulies:

U.S. can't tell a combatant from a cook

Everyone read the Margulies piece! (I did a lot of the research for that one.)

The Wash. Post one is good too.

Katherine - Margulies says we held a 10, 12 and 13 year old boys at Gittmo, I hadn't heard that before (youngest I had heard was 16 or 17). I mean, 10, jeebus.

"One of my friends is serious into state government and budget statistics and he reels off something ludicrous about the Wisconsin state budget and Supermax -- something like the Supermax budget is the fastest growing line item in Wisconsin with expenditures exceeding all non-tertiary education. I'll ask him about it when I see him next."

Trivial confusion/technical point: Supermax is in Florence, Colorado. It's the only federal Super-Max. (There are four state facilities deemed "Super-Max," in California, Illinois, Ohio, and Virginia.)

The prison you're referring to in Wisconsin (Boscobel) is neither federal nor a lesser State super-max, any more, but "merely" a Maximum Security prison, having been downgraded (but only in the past year, which is why it's entirely reasonable for you to have heard what you heard).

"Second, when torturing somebody, how does one know when one has the answers sought?"

This kinda confuses/conflates interrogation and intelligence analysis.

having been downgraded (but only in the past year, which is why it's entirely reasonable for you to have heard what you heard).

Huh; everyone still refers to it as Supermax around here, which is why I didn't know that. Ta.

Tho weirdly, even at the Florence CO Supermax, the Unabomber gets to write erudite letters to the NY Review of Books, suggesting a fair access to books as well. (On laptop while out of town, so forgive me if I don't provide a link -- google should work.)

Not that Supermax is thus like freshman dorm or anything.

hilzoy,

I just finished reading all three parts of this horrible situation. You're research is impeccable, and must be applauded.

One thing I need to note. In your description of the Mosaic Theory, you don't mention one important point: How do the interrogators even know if detainees are telling them the truth? What do interrogators do to verify information given by detainees? How far can you press a detainee before you completely lose his mind?

This strategy seems to be really the most wasteful strategy in terms of a real commodity. These detainees might know some things that might be valuable to us. Instead of trying to purposefully completely destroy their minds, why not instead treat them with the utmost respect and wealth (hello, these are Afghan poppy farmers; I'm sure they'd love a few American amenities!). Not only would you have a better chance of getting more accurate information, but you also save a life. It would seem the better way to go.

Just why are we so wasteful with the human mind....unless...well, that's a dark road to take if we consider the alternative reason to why we would do such a thing.

Hilzoy,

Seriously: why do you hang out with these losers?

Seriously.

"Seriously: why do you hang out with these losers?"

It's possible this is not as flattering, or insightful, a comment as intended.

help

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