The Corrosive Effects of Torture

The use of torture overseas in enemy interrogations has attracted considerable opposition, for good reason. Military interrogators have recently criticized the practice, saying it is generally ineffective and counterproductive and a diversion from other, more effective techniques.

As I have noted before, “torture acclimatizes investigators and interrogators to cut corners in their inquiries, by relying on a speedy but often unreliable method of collecting information (torture) for time-consuming but more reliable methods of collecting information such as carefully gathering intelligence.” It also psychologically damages some interrogators and corrupts others, undermining the quality of interrogations.

Moreover, it is naive to assume that torture will only be used on enemy combatants. There is always the danger of mistaken identity: in Afghanistan, for example, it appears that some of the detainees who died after mistreatment had no connection to either Al Qaeda or the Taliban.