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Not enough (official) torture in the world?

 
 
dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 May, 2005 05:40 pm
not to cast aspersions or seque this topic but everyone should know that Thomas, at the now famous London Conference, suggested that I, the Dyslexia of A2k, should be named as US representative to the United Nations, this is not a man to be trusted to make well reasoned judgements. This nomination was seconded by Francis (if you get my drift)Ok now back to the chambers.
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val
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 02:27 am
Re: Not enough (official) torture in the world?
Joe from Chicago


Quote:
Torture is permissible where the evidence suggests that this is the only means, due to the immediacy of the situation, to save the life of an innocent person.


So, Bagaric has already made a judgement. The suspect and candidate for torture has been already sentenced by him. Without a trial.


Quote:
Given the choice between inflicting a relatively small level of harm on a wrongdoer and saving an innocent person, it is verging on moral indecency to prefer the interests of the wrongdoer.


How small is that level of harm? If the "wrongdoer" is able to resist the first stages of torture, then should we continue until he is physically or mentally destroyed?


Quote:
The analogy with self-defence is sharpened by considering the hostage-taking scenario, where a wrongdoer takes a hostage and points a gun to the hostage's head, threatening to kill the hostage unless a certain (unreasonable) demand is met. In such a case it is not only permissible, but desirable for police to shoot (and kill) the wrongdoer if they get a "clear shot". This is especially true if it's known that the wrongdoer has a history of serious violence, and hence is more likely to carry out the threat.


This example has nothing to do with torture. Here we have a case of legitimated defence - regarding the life of others.

*
The problem with Bagaric perspective is not the torture in itself. It is to define the situations when torture must be applied.
Someone is suspect of having put a bomb in a public place. But the police doesn't know where. So, according to Bagaric, we must torture the suspect.
But how does he know that the suspect is more than that? Well, following Bagaric ideas, there is a way to know. Torture. If he is guilty he will say, sooner or later, the place where the bomb is. But, if he is not guilty?
Well, we will only know that when he dies under torture. "After all, he didn't really know. Bad luck. Now, let's pick the next suspect. Maybe this one is the right one".

About the logic of self defence, I only say that, based in that principle, all crime is possible. A killer, facing the police, would be entitled to kill them because of his right of self defence.
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dlowan
 
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Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 03:29 am
Aaah - an interesting discussion (I mean bookmark, really - sorry.)
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Merry Andrew
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 03:57 am
Apart from the moral and ethical question, no one has yet commented on the efficacy of torture as an investigative tool. I don't see Bergerac saying anywhere in his essay what the purpose of torture would be. If it is for the purpose of eliciting information, this is a notoriously inefficient method of doing so. A torture victim will usually tell the interrogator anything he (the tortured) thinks the interrogator wishes to hear. Truth of the statement has nothing whatever to do with it. The statements are made only in hopes of stopping the pain.

[size=7](edited once by aithor for egregious typos)[/size]
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djbt
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 04:03 am
A British journalist (sorry to lower the tone) wrote an interesting article on this topic in, I think G2, I forget the name.

He concluded that, while there are circumstances where torture is necessary and justified, it should always be illegal. Then a person would only use torture if they felt that it were so important that they would be willing to go to jail in order to retrive the information. Since due process, beyond-reasonable-doubt evidence cannot be done in the circumstances where torture might be necessary, I would agree that willingness to personally go to jail is a reasonable litmus test for the necessity of torture.

A related question, which may be an the heart of this topic is: Are you less responisble for your inactions that your actions? What is the moral difference between inaction and action? What is the practical difference between inaction and action (since both, obviously, involve some actions)?
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 04:30 am
As to the practical difference, i will leave that to others. I did want to point out that according to the tenets of the faith of the Roman Catholics, which was foisted upon me in my youth, often accompanied by physical violence, there are sins of commission and sins of omission.

One can only fervently and piously hope that those who fail to inflict, with appropriate sadistic glee, excruciating torture upon their fellow human beings when the pretext offers itself, will writhe in eternal agony in a lake of molten brimstone. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spook, amen.
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val
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 04:58 am
djbt

I agree with you.
If someone kidnaps someone I love, and refuses to tell where that person is, but I know she will die soon if not rescued, then I would use torture on the kidnapper to obtain the information. But I would do that knowing that I am doing something illegal and must, later, answer for it.

About actions and inactions.
Inaction is punished in all juridical systems, in several situations, specially
in the case of legal duties. You have the duty of taking care of your children, and absence of action in order to fulfil those obligations creating situations of risk to your children's safety can be sanctioned by criminal codes.
And if you have a dangerous dog and don't take the necessary measures to prevent the animal of attacking other people, you are the responsible.

In general, we can say that inaction is criminally punished in situations where action is imposed by law.
In other cases, I think inaction cannot be punished. There is not a general duty of action, only specific situations.

Example: if you see someone drowning in the sea and, although you are a great swimmer you do nothing to help, you cannot be punished.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 08:11 am
Thomas wrote:
I had a feeling you might bring up that one Smile. You will remember, of course, that I didn't predict a decrease in drug use after legalization -- only that the increase would turn out to be modest, especially in hard drugs. Still, I am confident that on Mr. Bagaric's reasoning, you and I will eventually find a way to settle our agreements and reach a common misunderstanding.

I also remain optimistic that we will eventually arrive at a mutually satisfactory disagreement.

As for Bagaric's kidnapper, I think that the main difference between his two hostage-taking scenarios is the kind of slippery slope that you and Setanta have pointed out. In Scenario No. 1, where the hostage-taker is directly confronted by the police, there is no danger of the precedent being expanded: in other words, using deadly force to subdue a hostage-taker who is caught in the act of threatening a hostage is situation-specific. If we confine our use of deadly force to those who are caught in the act of committing a crime, there is little chance that we will impermissibly expand that precedent to people who may not be guilty of any crime. Compare that with Scenario No. 2, where the hostage-taker's accomplice is in police custody. In that case, there is a greater danger that a precedent will be set, whereby the police will be tempted to use deadly force (i.e. torture) against people who are merely suspected of being accomplices.

Although I am not one of those who believes that all slippery slope arguments are logical fallacies, I do not find them to be, on the whole, particularly compelling arguments. I am, therefore, not entirely satisfied with the argument above, but it is the only one that I can come up with that differentiates Bagaric's two scenarios.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 08:16 am
I, too, was uncomfortable with a "slippery slope" argument. That is why i was at pains to point out the underlying principles of individual freedom which are at risk in such a situation, and in particular, of course, the right of due process of law.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 08:29 am
Re: Not enough (official) torture in the world?
val wrote:
So, Bagaric has already made a judgement. The suspect and candidate for torture has been already sentenced by him. Without a trial.

In essence, I believe that is correct.

val wrote:
How small is that level of harm? If the "wrongdoer" is able to resist the first stages of torture, then should we continue until he is physically or mentally destroyed?

I'm sure Prof. Bagaric would view any degree of torture to a wrongdoer, short of death, to be a smaller level of harm than the death of an innocent person. Of course, for a determined wrongdoer, there must be the threat of death behind any torture or it will fail to effect its desired ends (there's a great line of dialogue in The Maltese Falcon that makes this point better than I can -- unfortunately, I can't find it on the web and I can't remember it well enough to reproduce it here).

val wrote:
The problem with Bagaric perspective is not the torture in itself. It is to define the situations when torture must be applied.
Someone is suspect of having put a bomb in a public place. But the police doesn't know where. So, according to Bagaric, we must torture the suspect.
But how does he know that the suspect is more than that? Well, following Bagaric ideas, there is a way to know. Torture. If he is guilty he will say, sooner or later, the place where the bomb is. But, if he is not guilty?
Well, we will only know that when he dies under torture. "After all, he didn't really know. Bad luck. Now, let's pick the next suspect. Maybe this one is the right one".

There does seem to be a certain amount of bootstrapping in Bagaric's argument.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 10:07 am
Suppose the suspect, ignorant of the actual location of the bomb, admits to a false location simply to stop the pain. Is he/she then guilty of making a false statement impeding an investigation?
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 10:08 am
delete repeat post
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val
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 May, 2005 07:29 pm
Re: Not enough (official) torture in the world?
joefromchicago


Quote:
There does seem to be a certain amount of bootstrapping in Bagaric's argument.


Yes, you are right. But it was intentional. You see, the problem of torturing a suspect - not to mention the moral issue - is in the fact that the suspect of a crime is not necessarily the author of the crime. We can be wrong, our suspicions can be wrong. In this case we are torturing an innocent in order to save an innocent.
But there is worse. If we can use torture to obtain information about the localization of, let's say, a bomb, and the suspect we tortured was innocent, then, why not try the same method with the next suspect?

In fact, since we are ready to torture someone because we suspect him, that means we considerer that person already guilty, without trial. We are depriving him of any rights. He cannot present his own defense.
Then, if after torturing him, we discover he knows nothing about the bomb, that fact doesn't prevent us, according to Bagaric's argument, of trying again the same methods in the next suspect. Assuming we have 100 suspects, we torture all of them, and, if the last one knows where the bomb is, we have succeeded.
That reminds me the methods used in middle-age to decide if someone was guilty.

I think Bagaric is very conscious of the extreme danger of his argument. That is why he uses the word "wrongdoer". Not suspect, but wrongdoer. But that leads us to the question: what method has Mr. Bagaric do decide if someone suspected of some crime is a wrongdoer? Since we are going to torture him, there is only one answer: we will only know after torture.
A vicious circle.
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FreeDuck
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 May, 2005 07:30 am
joefromchicago wrote:
Thomas wrote:
By contrast, I would contend that it is foolish to pass laws without considering the probability that people will sometimes break them, lie about breaking them, and get away with it.

I agree with you, Thomas (that, in itself, is worth noting). But, to be fair to Prof. Bagaric, I think he takes this possibility into account. As he states:
    The first is the slippery slope argument: if you start allowing torture in a limited context, the situations in which it will be used will increase. This argument is not sound in the context of torture. First, the floodgates are already open - torture is used widely, despite the absolute legal prohibition against it. Amnesty International has recently reported that it had received, during 2003, reports of torture and ill-treatment from 132 countries, including the United States, Japan and France. It is, in fact, arguable that it is the existence of an unrealistic absolute ban that has driven torture beneath the radar of accountability, and that legalisation in very rare circumstances would in fact reduce instances of it.
In other words, according to Bagaric it is not a valid objection to argue that legalizing torture would increase its usage, since torture is already widely used. Legalization would, if anything, militate against the worst abuses by formalizing torture and regulating it. Now, frankly, I find that argument less than persuasive, but it is at least a perspective that deserves to be considered.


As you already noted, the argument for legalisation of torture is almost identical to the argument for legalisation of drugs, prostitution, and even abortion (previously). That argument is flawed in any case, but even assuming that it works for those it still doesn't work for torture. The difference appears to be that drug use, prostitution, and arguably abortion are all consentual and hurt only those who choose to hurt themselves. Torture, on the other hand, allows one person to infringe on another's rights. Just because that can happen without legal authorization does not mean that we should just go ahead and make it legal.

Still thinking about the hostage scenario.
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Thu 19 May, 2005 09:15 am
Re: Not enough (official) torture in the world?
val wrote:
In fact, since we are ready to torture someone because we suspect him, that means we considerer that person already guilty, without trial. We are depriving him of any rights. He cannot present his own defense.
Then, if after torturing him, we discover he knows nothing about the bomb, that fact doesn't prevent us, according to Bagaric's argument, of trying again the same methods in the next suspect. Assuming we have 100 suspects, we torture all of them, and, if the last one knows where the bomb is, we have succeeded.
That reminds me the methods used in middle-age to decide if someone was guilty.

We don't have to go all the way back to the middle ages to find examples of this kind of warped reasoning.

val wrote:
I think Bagaric is very conscious of the extreme danger of his argument. That is why he uses the word "wrongdoer". Not suspect, but wrongdoer. But that leads us to the question: what method has Mr. Bagaric do decide if someone suspected of some crime is a wrongdoer? Since we are going to torture him, there is only one answer: we will only know after torture.
A vicious circle.

Quite right. Prof. Bagaric uses "wrongdoer" to describe suspects for the same reasons that the Bush administration uses "terrorist" to describe detainees in Guantanamo. It's impermissible to torture "suspects," but it is perfectly reasonable to torture "wrongdoers" or "terrorists." The label, therefore, is the verdict.
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Acquiunk
 
  1  
Reply Fri 20 May, 2005 01:02 pm
In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths

By TIM GOLDEN
Published: May 20, 2005 New York Times
Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen.

Link NYT
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parados
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 09:01 am
I found this topic doing a search for Dilawar and his torture and death. But I find the discussion so far to be intriguing. I have a different bone to pick with the author however.
Quote:
The analogy with self-defence is sharpened by considering the hostage-taking scenario, where a wrongdoer takes a hostage and points a gun to the hostage's head, threatening to kill the hostage unless a certain (unreasonable) demand is met. In such a case it is not only permissible, but desirable for police to shoot (and kill) the wrongdoer if they get a "clear shot". This is especially true if it's known that the wrongdoer has a history of serious violence, and hence is more likely to carry out the threat.

There is no logical or moral difference between this scenario and one where there is overwhelming evidence that a wrongdoer has kidnapped an innocent person and informs police that the victim will be killed by a co-offender if certain demands are not met.


I do see a very large logical difference between the 2. It is simple risk/reward. With a single hostage taker holding a gun to the head of a hostage it is easy to calculate that risk/reward. The reward is great since it stops the threat. The risk is based solely on the attempt not succeeding which is small because the intent is to take a "clear shot." So you have a high reward to low risk factor.

In the second case you have no way of ascertaining the risk of failure. Even if you get the correct information by using torture you still have to deal with a co-offender who can kill the victim before you even get close enough to assess the situation. Simply by taking the first offender into custody you can increase the risk for the victim. If the perpetrator was smart enough to have a co-offender there is the very likely possibility of contact being required periodically between the 2 offenders to prevent harm to the victim. The person may be willing to lie long enough under the torture to increase the risk. If the person has a "history of violence" there is probably a good chance they would lie. They would have a very real desire for revenge at that point that could outlast torture.

It is certainly possible to build all kinds of scenarios where torture would have a greater reward than it does risk but those are all hypotheticals that would be almost impossible to ascertain in the heat of the moment during an actual incident. The risk/reward might change depending on the situation but it will never be as high as a "clear shot" is in the first scenario.

Because of this large difference in probablities of outcome between the 2 I don't think there is any way to say they are logically the same.

The author addresses part of my argument but never addresses how you assess the risk/reward so that torture becomes a better probability than any other choice. Even his example of a captor of Mr Wood leaves a very large probability gap in knowing that you actually have one of his captors.
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 09:51 am
bookmark
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joefromchicago
 
  1  
Reply Sat 21 May, 2005 11:23 am
parados wrote:
I do see a very large logical difference between the 2. It is simple risk/reward. With a single hostage taker holding a gun to the head of a hostage it is easy to calculate that risk/reward. The reward is great since it stops the threat. The risk is based solely on the attempt not succeeding which is small because the intent is to take a "clear shot." So you have a high reward to low risk factor.

That's not a logical difference, that's a prudential difference. If shooting hostage takers is likely to be more successful than torturing accomplices, that simply means that, on the whole, it is more prudent to do the former than the latter.

Now, of course, if you adhere to a utilitarian form of ethics, then the fact that one course of action may be more prudent than the other can lead to a moral difference between the two scenarios, even if there is no logical difference between the two. I don't subscribe to utilitarian ethics, however, which may be one reason why I think the distinction here is more difficult to draw.
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thethinkfactory
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 May, 2005 05:48 am
Thought this thread might like this resource:

http://slate.msn.com/id/2119122/nav/ais/

TTF
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