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“Enhanced Interrogation” versus Torture

By Amy Brown
10 Dec 2014

On December 9, the Senate released their assessment of CIA documents relating to “enhanced interrogation.” The question of course is whether “enhanced interrogation” was anything other than torture. The report includes multiple accounts of water boarding; one man was water-boarded 183 times. Other CIA detainees were subjected to freezing temperatures, kept in complete darkness with loud background noises, kept awake for 180 hours, and threats were made against their families. One detainee died of hypothermia from being chained to a concrete floor, partially unclothed. These tactics that the CIA call enhanced interrogation certainly appear to be torture.

Furthermore, the Senate reports that these interrogation tactics have not been effective in gaining intelligence. Specifically, no intelligence was gained to help in the search for Osama bin Laden via enhanced interrogation. The CIA, of course, insists that enhanced interrogation provided crucial information and helped US intelligence. The Senate claims that false confessions under torture actually harmed intelligence. Additionally, CIA records have vanished, and the CIA has misled the White House, Department of Justice, and Congress with their reports. The company that the CIA hired to design their interrogation program, run by two psychologists with no terrorism expertise, has made $81 million from the government; they’ve made money off designing torture methods to get information while having no knowledge of counterterrorism theory. This company gave the recommendation that resulted in the death of a detainee.

It seems apparent to me that the ethical questions now facing our government are clear. Should we allow the CIA to use “enhanced interrogation” tactics, which are clearly inhumane, in order to gain intelligence information? Should we trust information given under torture? In a country that claims to be free and equal, and to not provide degrading treatment to anyone, can we really justify allowing our intelligence operatives to torture people? Also, should the government ever outsource any form of interrogation programs to a for-profit company? How do we deal with intelligence gathering and transparency between government agencies moving forward?

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
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