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The Ethics of Interrogation

The Ethics of Interrogation: Professional Responsibility in an Age of Terror

Paul Lauritzen
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    The Ethics of Interrogation
    Book Description:

    Can harsh interrogation techniques and torture ever be morally justified for a nation at war or under the threat of imminent attack? In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, the United States and other liberal democracies were forced to grapple once again with the issue of balancing national security concerns against the protection of individual civil and political rights. This question was particularly poignant when US forces took prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq who arguably had information about additional attacks. In this volume, ethicist Paul Lauritzen takes on ethical debates about counterterrorism techniques that are increasingly central to US foreign policy and discusses the ramifications for the future of interrogation. Lauritzen examines how doctors, lawyers, psychologists, military officers, and other professionals addressed the issue of the appropriate limits in interrogating detainees. In the case of each of these professions, a vigorous debate ensued about whether the interrogation policy developed by the Bush administration violated codes of ethics governing professional practice. These codes are critical, according to Lauritzen, because they provide resources for democracies and professionals seeking to balance concerns about safety with civil liberties, while also shaping the character of those within these professional guilds. This volume argues that some of the techniques used at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere were morally impermissible; nevertheless, the healthy debates that raged among professionals provide hope that we may safeguard human rights and the rule of law more effectively in the future.

    eISBN: 978-1-58901-973-7
    Subjects: Law, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Toward the end of his book Democracy and Tradition, Jeffrey Stout argues that the virtues necessary to sustain traditions of democratic practice in the United States will be sorely tested in the coming years by the struggle against terrorism. Fear and resentment are the enemy of critical self-reflection, and democracy cannot flourish where self-reflection and the virtues that sustain such scrutiny are absent. Yet terrorism is designed precisely to induce fear, and fear can paralyze thought. I agree with Stout on this point, as well as with his contention that we had better be prepared to demand from our leaders...

  5. Part I

    • One If You Can’t Oppose Torture, What Can You Oppose? Psychologists Confront Coercive Interrogations
      (pp. 21-43)

      If there is an iconic image of the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, it is that of Satar Jabar standing on a wooden box, his arms extended out to his sides. He is clothed in what appears to be a tattered blanket with a hole cut in the middle so that it can be draped over him like a poncho. Electrodes are attached to fingers on both hands, which are turned outward toward the camera, almost in supplication. An electrode snakes under the blanket, apparently attached to his genitals. He is barefoot and his head is covered with a...

    • Two What’s Wrong with Supporting National Security? Psychology and the Pursuit of National Security
      (pp. 44-66)

      We saw in chapter 1 what a commitment to democratic deliberation looks like in the context of a debate among professionals about their role in serving the common good. At the core of the debate about whether psychologists should be involved with national security–related interrogations was a disagreement about whether the expertise gained through the study of human psychology could be used to design and implement coercive interrogations in the service of safeguarding the common good. For the majority of the members of the PENS task force the answer appeared to be that psychology could serve these ends, even...

    • Three Interrogating Justice: The Torture Memos and the Office of Legal Counsel
      (pp. 67-90)

      In the first two chapters, we saw how professionals in the field of psychology became involved in interrogations of detainees in the war on terror that arguably amounted to torture. Some psychologists facilitated abusive practices, but others sought to end any support for (or participation in) abusive interrogations. In some cases, the very same psychologists who facilitated abuse also belatedly sought to curtail it. Yet, as Nancy Sherman rightly notes, torture and abuse are the end points of an interlocking set of activities, which typically involve professionals of many stripes. Our discussion of the role of psychologists thus needs to...

    • Four Ticking Bombs and Dirty Hands: Coercive Interrogation and the Rule of Law
      (pp. 91-112)

      One of the striking claims Alberto Mora makes in his “Statement for the Record” memorandum is that, while he is uncertain about the morality of torture in a “ticking bomb” case, he can imagine a scenario in which he might be prepared to torture a suspected terrorist. In such a case, he says, he would apply the torture himself, but “with full knowledge of potentially severe personal consequences.”¹ Even in that case, however, he argues that the laws and values of the nation should not be changed to render torture lawful.

      Discussions of the ticking bomb scenario have been pervasive...

  6. Part II

    • Five Treating Terrorists: The Conflicting Pull of Role Responsibility
      (pp. 115-134)

      We saw in the last chapter how tightly legal analysis of coercive interrogations was tied to medical monitoring and assessment of the health needs of detainees. Interrogation techniques that are arguably abusive were justified, in part, by the fact that doctors would carefully monitor the medical status of detainees who were undergoing such treatment. Medical findings were also used to calibrate coercive interrogations so that long-term, permanent physical damage or death would not result from interrogation techniques.¹ Indeed, reading the OMS guidelines together with the Bradbury “Techniques” and “Combined Techniques” memoranda provides a concrete sense of Elaine Scarry’s assertion, quoted...

    • Six Discipline and Punish: The Importance of Professional Accountability
      (pp. 135-149)

      If the argument in the previous chapter is correct, the efforts of those who resisted the participation of psychologists, lawyers, and doctors in abusive interrogations were an attempt, in Eliot Freidson’s words, to save the soul of their professions. In speaking of the “soul” of a profession, I am not invoking any metaphysical or essentialist claim about the nature of particular professions. On the contrary, as I said in chapter 5, I take very seriously Applbaum’s view that professions are what they are and not what they ought to be or what we want them to be. If Applbaum is...

    • Seven Professional Responsibility and the Virtuous Professional
      (pp. 150-163)

      Thus far we have examined how codes of ethics and professional responsibility have structured debates among professionals about appropriate conduct in assisting the government in the war on terror. We have also examined an account of how such codes function normatively in regulating behavior. This exploration has taken us a long way toward the goal of understanding how some of our fellow citizens are reasoning in deciding how to act morally in the war on terror. Recall Jeffrey Stout’s view that democracy is a tradition in which reason giving is central. The fact that professionals have reasoned by appeal to...

    • Eight The Day They Enter Active Service: The Military Conscience
      (pp. 164-179)

      At several points in this study I have drawn attention to Alberto Mora’s opposition to the EITs that were authorized for use with detainees at Guantánamo Bay. I have cited Mora’s actions in part because his opposition is well documented and for that reason is better known than the actions of many other critics of the use of enhanced techniques. But I have also noted Mora’s opposition because it appears to be rooted in a military mindset that understands professional life inescapably to involve service to American and military values. Mora never served in the military, but his work as...

    • Nine Lessons Learned: Dignity and the Rule of Law
      (pp. 180-194)

      I began this study by noting the threat that terrorism poses to democratic institutions and by asking how the United States has fared in responding to that threat. The concrete example for approaching these matters has been the issue of coercive interrogations, for as Amos Guiora suggests, how a society handles interrogation in the face of terrorist threats tells us a lot about the moral compass of that society. When suspected terrorists are in custody, at least two values may be deeply at odds. We have a moral responsibility to safeguard the lives of innocent civilians by maintaining national security,...

    • Ten This We Do Not Do: The Future of Interrogation and the Ethics of Professional Responsibility
      (pp. 195-208)

      I write this concluding chapter of The Ethics of Interrogation a little over ten and a half years after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Two items in the news suggest both why debates about counterterrorism practices are not likely to go away and how we might frame the national discussion our country ought to have about the ethics of interrogation and professional responsibility going forward. The first is the publication of a book, Hard Measures, by Jose Rodriguez, the former director of the National Clandestine Service of the CIA. In the book and in various interviews during the promotional...

  7. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-214)
  8. Index
    (pp. 215-227)