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Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Info: 2969 words (12 pages) Law Essay
Published: 12th Aug 2019

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Jurisdiction(s): US Law

The Benefits of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques in Today’s Society


The issues involving enhanced interrogation techniques are still alive today. This has become a heated topic from the White House to every individual American. Some view these techniques as morally unjustifiable and to others it seems to be a small price to pay for finding the source to stop the War to Terror. This paper will discuss the leaked techniques approved by the Bush administration then later denied by Obama. It will educate on the previous treaties signed against torture and touch on possible violations. Lastly, the arguments within enhanced interrogation techniques will be visited. I conclude that some of the techniques should be approved to use in specified circumstances.

The Benefits of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques in Today’s Society

Enhanced interrogation techniques have been referred to as harsh interrogation methods or a form a torture by cruel and unusual punishment for decades. Torture has been defined by Article I of the Torture Convention as “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purpose as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession”. (Huhn, 2008) Yet during the term of President George W. Bush, certain techniques were approved for use. The authorized enhanced interrogation techniques were prominently used during the war on terror. When Obama took office he declared that the previously approved techniques were in violation of many treaties that America was a party to.

The use of enhanced interrogation techniques is still a prevalent argue it today’s society. The argument surrounds issues like should it be practiced, who should be allowed to practice it, and when is it okay to practice it. Some people feel it is a necessary practice in order to keep America secure and others feel the techniques are morally unacceptable. After looking at the types of used enhanced interrogation techniques that were being used, the history of approval and disapproval, and the arguments of today’s concern, it is clear that survival should come before certain moral values.


Techniques being used

To gain a complete understanding of what enhanced interrogating techniques entail¸ there will be a descriptive breakdown of ten techniques that were used in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo. In these locations detainees were held and interrogated constantly in hopes of collecting new evidence. All ten techniques were authorized by an Executive Order in 2002 and used by U.S. personnel including the Central Intelligence Agency and the U.S. Military. The techniques were hidden in secret and are only available due to a leak from the Central Intelligence Agency. These mandated techniques were used to gain imperative information or confessions, and were not meant cause long term damage nor result in death (Costanzo, 2007). In most uses of these techniques, a physician was made available to insure the most amount of torture for the least amount of damage.

Stress positions are techniques that force a detainee to stay in an uncomfortable position for prolonged periods of time (Ruga, 2007). These may include not being able to stand, having to hold a pose, or even body suspension. Sometimes shackles were incorporated to maintain these postures. The Central Intelligence Agency was authorized to use the technique of short shackling in 2002 at Guantánamo. Short shackling is when detainees were made to stand for forty hours in handcuffs during an interview.

Beatings were integrated into interrogations to strike fear (Ruga, 2007). This was done through animate or inanimate physical force ranging from slaps to heavy blows. In 2002 the Central Intelligence Agency was authorized to deliver belly slaps. Belly slaps were made to be irritating and only demagogically painful.

Temperature manipulation is where a detainee is exposed to extreme heat or cold for prolonged periods of time. (Ruga, 2007) If taken to extreme, this can involve stripping the detainee naked or repeatedly dousing them in cold water. In 2003, a Department of Defense Memorandum authorized the use of environmental manipulation. This was popular in interrogations in Iraq and was announced beneficial through causes of exhaustion, both physically and mentally.

Threats of harm to a detainee’s friends or family were used (Ruga, 2007). This remains an effective scare tactic to accumulate wanted knowledge. Military officials would threaten to cause physical harm to the detainee or their family and make the threat feel extremely real.

Sleep deprivation is used to create extreme fatigue, disorientation, and short term psychological impairment (Ruga, 2007). This technique was authorized in 2002 for use in Guantánamo during twenty hour interrogations. Military created sleep deprivation by placing detainees in stress positions, sensory overload, and continuously waking them up physically.

Sensory bombardment by noise and light has been used during interrogations multiple times becoming very popular by the Military and Central Intelligence Agency in Guantánamo. Strobe lights and loud continuous music showed to be very effective in the process of breaking down a detainee (Ruga, 2007).

Violent Shaking was authorized for Central Intelligent Agency to use in interrogations. This can be simply shaking the detainee’s torso and neck or what is referred to as the attention grab. This is where the interviewer grabs the front of a detainee’s shirt and begins to rapidly shake them (Ruga, 2007).

Sexual humiliation has shown to be beneficial by exploiting cultural and religious stereotypes (Ruga, 2007). The humiliation ranges from being left unclothed to being forced to perform sexual acts. For some cultures this causes a large amount of shame and guilt. These acts were greatly practiced on women. The Central Intelligence Agency identified this as an interrogation tactic used to strip victims of their identities and make them feel powerless.

Prolonged isolation is when a detainee is denied contact with other human beings for prolonged periods of time (Ruga, 2007). This can be dated back to medieval times. Sensory deprivation tends to go hand in hand with this technique by locking a detainee in a completely dark cell to only break for interrogations. The Department of Defense authorized the use of this technique for use in Guantánamo.

Waterboarding is the most controversial technique used. Even though it was authorized for use by the Central Intelligence Agency, it is the one method that makes the detainee think they will die immediately by creating the sensation of drowning. Waterboarding is when a detainee is immobilized flat to a board and positioned so that their feet are above their head. Then a cloth or an absorbent material that collects water is placed over their head while someone pours or drips water on it simulating drowning and suffocation. In all reality, “drowning during waterboarding torture is rare due to the fact that the position of the lungs in relation to the head prevents enough water from filling the lungs”(Reynolds,2010).

Historical approval and denial

There are three major treaties that the United States is partied to. The oldest and most referred to is the 1955 Geneva Convention. It prohibits the parties to the treaty from acts upon prisoners including “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture”. A more recent attempt to clarity in 1992 is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This treaty insures that no one will be subjected to torturous or cruel treatment by any means. Soon after, in 1994, the final treaty was created and named United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhumane Degrading Treatment. This treaty specified that each state would have to do everything they could to prevent and cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment (Huhn, 2008).

The Executive Order 13440, signed by President George W. Bush, it states “I determine for the United States that members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, and associated forces are unlawful enemy combatants who are not entitled to the protections that the Third Geneva Convention provides to prisoners of war”. The order continues to approve enhanced interrogation techniques that are to be created and approved by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The order does not state specific techniques allowing almost free range of any kind of techniques some of which may never go public. Bush’s Executive Order on enhanced interrogation techniques adhered with the Bush’s administration’s interpretation of the fifth and eighth amendment’s of the Constitution of America and their interpretation of the previously discussed treaties (Bush, 2007).

Seven days after becoming President, Obama signed off on Executive Order 13491. This order revoked Bush’s Executive Order 13440 and its entirety. Its purpose was to ensure lawful interrogations by his interpretation of the law and treaties. Then Obama exonerated any other interpretations of the law, allowing only his own. The order also included the closing of all detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency including Guantánamo and termination of The Special Task Force (Obama, 2010).

Obama only allowed nineteen interrogation techniques to remain. These nineteen techniques are available in the Army Field Manual 2-22.3 which the entire world can obtain. This poses a problem when the enemy has access to these techniques and can provide training against them. This is why Bush’s approved techniques remained hidden. If the enemy can provide a counteract to America’s plan there is not really a plan.

These techniques are meant to aid in gathering some of the most imperative information and confessions pertaining to issues of national and world wide security. The person or persons being interviewed are most likely highly educated and train professionals set out to potentially cause immense amounts of harm and havoc. The techniques that the Military and Central Intelligence Agency are left to use are sufficient enough to only be used by local law enforcement to get a confession on a misdemeanor; they are built for breaking down amateurs. The subject being interviewed has been trained to with stand torture yet, most of these techniques use emotional approaches and none are physical (Obama, 2010).

Emotional love is a persuasive method that uses the incentive of being release to see their family or go home for a trade of a confession (Schoomake, 2006). This has the reflection of giving candy to a child in turn for good behavior. When a soldier enters into a war he or she must begin with accepting the fact that they may not see their loved ones for prolonged periods of time. In being prepared for deployment, this technique should not faze them in comparison to staying loyal to their country.
Emotional fear-down is when the interrogator tries to convince the person to view them as their protector (Schoomake, 2006). If no physical harm is being allowed or even threatened, the interviewee should not have the feeling they need protection.

File and dossier technique involves the interrogator making an entrance into the room with many important looking files then taking the “We know all” approach. These files are just for show (Schoomake, 2006). They will rarely ever contain true pertinent factual information. If the interrogator is looking for a confession this might work but, the subject is going to want to hear what the interrogator knows and view the files the interrogator has before a giving confession.

Establish your identity is a lying tactic where the subject is told they have been identified as an infamous individual wanted by higher authorities in hopes of them revealing their true identify and further leads (Schoomake, 2006). The subject will initially refuse the fact that they are even associated with any type of terrorists to avoid further questioning. This tactic does not establish a tough enough treat to gain a confession. If the subject is wanted by the higher authorities then the higher authorities would be conducting the interview.

Repetition technique is simply repeating the interview questions even after being answered in hopes of boring the subject into revealing information (Schoomake, 2006). The subjects that would be dealt with are trained to with stand temperature manipulation and sleep deprivation. Repeating questions in a room where all of the subject’s necessities are met will not boar them into submissions.

Rapid fire is a tactic used to confuse the subject into confession (Schoomake, 2006). In this method there are multiple interrogators that ask a serious of questions and do not allow enough time for the subject to answer. The subject may get lies so mixed up that it becomes noticeable but with no threats intact all that the interviewer is left with is a string of jumbled lies they must make sense of. Separation technique shows the most potential. The subject will endure physical separation from other detainees but only for a limit of thirty days maximum (Schoomake, 2006). All necessities will be met and since this information is so available the enemy now knows that this tactic has a legal obligation of only being carried out for thirty day and can potentially be trained for.

These tactics provided by Obama’s Executive order are suppose to keep America safe and provide the best way of maintaining national security. Without the approval of scare tactics like treats or strong enough initiatives like physical pain, it will become very difficult to collect information or reach a confession.

Arguments in today’s society

The ticking bomb argument argues that while torture is morally wrong and should not be practiced there should be an exclusionary rule set that allows for such techniques in extreme circumstances. For instance, a terrorist is captured and there is reasonable belief that their knowledge could lead to the location of Al Qaeda, then in these situations the techniques should be used to the fullest. With all of the hypothetical situations being examined there are three common elements: the lives of a large number of innocent civilians are in danger, the catastrophe is imminent with little time available; and a terrorist has been captured who holds information that could prevent the catastrophe from occurring. (Bufacchi,2006) The philosopher Richard Posner argues that “There is such a thing as a lesser wrong committed to avoid a greater one. There is such a thing as fighting fire with fire, and it is an apt metaphor for the use of torture and other extreme measures when nothing else will avert catastrophe”.

(Bufacchi,2006) These techniques are not made to cause death. They are painful and uncomfortable yet most of the techniques have very little permanent physical damage. If one person’s short time suffrage could potentially save millions of people then there should be no argument left. The Military and Central Intelligence Agency should be trained professionals and avoid causing death in every way possible but they should be able to practice these methods. By being able to practice these techniques they are protecting national security.


“Torture has become justified, glorified, and most importantly, further and entrenched in popular” (Hron, 08). The only thing fair about war is that nothing is fair. The enemy has not adhered to the laws of war and by America playing by the rules the enemy wins. The techniques approved by the Bush administration were beneficial in keeping national security. The new techniques approved by Obama are weak and time consuming. There should be an exclusionary rule allowing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.


Bufacchi, V. (2006). Torture, terrorism and the state: a refutation of the ticking-bomb argument. Journal of Applied Philsophy, 23(3), 355-373.

Bush, G. W. (2007, July 24). 2009 Executive Orders Signed by Barack Obama. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/2009-obama.html

Costanzo, M. (2007). Psychologists and the use of torture in interrogations. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 7(1), 7-20.

Hron, M. (2008). Torture goes pop. Journal of Social Justice, 20(1), 22-30.

Huhn, W. (2008, May 10). Waterboarding is Illegal . Washington University Law Review. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from www.lawreview.wustl.edu

Obama, B. (2009, January 27). 2009 Executive Orders Signed by Barack Obama. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/2009-obama.html

Reynolds, D. (2010, February 21). What is Waterboarding?. wiseGEEK: clear answers for common questions. Retrieved March 25, 2010, from http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-waterboarding.htm

Ruga, G. (2007). Leave no marks enhanced interrogation techniques and the risk of criminality. Journal of Physicians for Human Rights, 5(1), 1-44.

Schoomaker, P. (2006). FM2-22-3 Human Intelligence collector Operations. Washington: United States Army.

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