This panel included:
-Juliette Kayyem, Lecturer in Public Policy, Beffer Center for Science and International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government-Marty Lederman, Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center-Deborah N. Pearlstein, Director, U.S. Law and Security Program, Human Rights First-Eric Posner, Professor of Law, University of Chicago Law School-Anthony Romero, Executive Director, American Civil Liberties Union
"Where is the public outrage?" Anthony Romero said of the medieval interrogation practices unearthed by the ACLU through a Freedom of Information Act suit. According to Romero, the 60,000 pages of documents released by the Department of Defense and the FBI concerning detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo reveal stunning cruelty: a man's hands being doused in alcohol and set aflame, lit cigarettes placed on a prisoner's eardrums, the mock execution of another's 14-year-old son, and fake burials. The Red Cross estimates that 70-90% of those arrested in Iraq and Afghanistan were arrested by mistake. Perhaps most shocking is the documentation of a split within the Administration--records show FBI officials at Guantanamo literally on the sidelines refusing to participate in interrogations performed by the CIA and Department of Defense.
Romero asserted that torture was not necessary to combat domestic terrorism. America dealt successfully with it before, from the radical fringes of the labor movement at the turn of the last century, without resorting to torture. Even Israel has managed without torture, as its supreme court has banned use of highly coercive techniques as offensive to human dignity. Romero urged the formation of a Truth Commission, modeled on South Africa's post-apartheid, in order for us to come clean with what happened under our watch.
The panelists disagreed on how effective torture is at obtaining information. Professor Lederman pointed out that the conventional interrogation techniques from the Army Field Manual didn't work because al Qaeda trained its people to resist them. He suggested that what works is disorientation rather than pain. He was "troubled" by the idea that what's most effective is the threat of pain and the uncertainty caused by not knowing what the law is-the implication being, as the Administration argues, that you can't have a public law on interrogation practices for them to be effective. Deborah Pearlstein disputed that torture was ever effective-"the only thing torture gets you is pain." Traditional FBI and CIA interrogation techniques should be applied, like getting to know detainees in order to establish a rapport.
Professor Posner urged that these issues not be approached in a legalistic way, by applying earlier rules and doctrines as if they are more settled than they are and applicable to present policy considerations. He also noted that most people support torture in a "ticking time-bomb" scenario. From that he concluded that most people believe in some kind of utilitarian balancing to discern when torture should be authorized. Lederman noted in response that if the situation really warrants it, the President will order it regardless of the law.
Interrogation, Torture, and the War on Terror
This panel included: