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Torturing Detainees Will Not Help Us

based on a column by Larry Johnson. November 11, 2005

I'm a former CIA officer and a former counterterrorism official. During the last few months, I have spoken with three good friends who are CIA operations officers, all of whom have worked on terrorism at the highest levels. They all agree that torturing detainees will not help us. In fact, they believe that it will hurt us in many ways. These are the very people the vice president wants to empower to torture — and they don't want to do it.

I have some experience of my own with "duress interrogation." Back when I was undergoing paramilitary training at a CIA facility in 1986, my colleagues and I were interrogated to prepare us in case we were taken hostage. At one point we were "captured" by faux terrorists. After being stripped naked and given baggy military uniforms, we entered a CIA version of Gitmo.

We were deprived of sleep for 36 hours, given limited rice and water and forced to stand in place. Our interrogators — all U.S. military personnel — coaxed and harangued us by turns. Those of us who declined to cooperate were stuffed into punishment boxes — miniature coffins that induced claustrophobia. One of my classmates gave me up in exchange for a grape soda and a ham sandwich.

Everyone has a breaking point. If you inflict enough pain on someone, they will give you information, but what they tell you may not be true. It is better to build a relationship of trust — even with a terrorist, even if it's time-consuming — than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets.

We should never use our fear of being attacked as justification for dehumanizing ourselves or others. Tough, relentless questioning is OK. Torture is not.

You have been reading excerpts from " ... And why it should never be done" by Larry Johnson. You can read the entire piece here: tinyurl.com/a2kva. Thanks to Larry Johnson and boomantribune.com. We visit often and we hope you will too.

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