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In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on April 4, 2016 at 12:09 am

Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe that the use of torture can be justified to force suspected terrorists to talk, according to a March 30 Reuters/lpsos poll. 

A growing fear by Americans of Islamic terrorism has been ignited by a series of deadly Islamic terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States.

  • On November 13, 2015 in Paris, France, terrorists belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) killed more than 100 people.  
  • On December 2, a married Islamic couple shot and killed 14 people at the Department of Public Health in San Bernardino, California.  
  • And on  March 22, a series of ISIS attacks struck Brussels, Belgium. Two explosions at the city’s main international airport and a third in a subway station killed 31 persons and injured 270 more.

Click here: Most Americans Say Torturing Suspected Terrorists Is Justifiable 

And the chief beneficiary of this growing fear among Americans is likely to be Donald Trump.

Donald Trump August 19, 2015 (cropped).jpg

Donald Trump

Since declaring his candidacy for the 2016 Republican nomination for President in June, 2015, Trump has made the use of torture a major campaign issue. He has promised to end the waterboarding ban that President Barack Obama declared at the start of his term in 2009. 

During a campaign event at Arizona’s Sun City retirement community, Trump said he would reinstate waterboarding and techniques that are “so much worse” and “much stronger.”  

“Don’t tell me it doesn’t work–torture works,” Trump said. “Okay, folks? Torture–you know, half these guys [say]: ‘torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works. Okay?”  

And in a February 15 Op-Ed piece for USA Today, Trump declared: “I will do whatever it takes.

“I have made it clear in my campaign that I would support and endorse the use of enhanced interrogation techniques if the use of these methods would enhance the protection and safety of the nation,” he wrote.

“Though the effectiveness of many of these methods may be in dispute, nothing should be taken off the table when American lives are at stake.

“The enemy is cutting off the heads of Christians and drowning them in cages, and yet we are too politically correct to respond in kind.”

The Reuters/lpsos online poll of 1,976 Americans occurred between March 22 and 28.  Among its findings:

  • About 25% said that the use of torture can “often” be justified against suspected terrorists. 
  • Another 38% said such tactics were “sometimes” appropriate in order to obtain information. 
  • Only 15% opposed torture under all circumstances.

Past surveys found Americans less comfortable with the controversial tactic. 

In 2014, a poll by Amnesty International revealed that about 45% of Americans supported the use of torture against terrorism suspects.

Unfortunately for Americans, the truth about torture generally–and waterboarding in particular–is that it doesn’t work.

Victims will say anything they think their captors want to hear to stop the agony.  And, in fact, subsequent investigations have shown that just that happened with Al Qaeda suspects.

Waterboarding a captive

Shortly after the invasion of Afghanistan in October, 2001, hundreds of Al Qaeda members started falling into American hands.  And so did a great many others who were simply accused by rival warlords of being Al Qaeda members.

The only way to learn if Al Qaeda was planning any more 9/11-style attacks on the United States was to interrogate those suspected captives.  The question was: How?

The CIA and the Pentagon quickly took the “gloves off” approach.  Their methods included such “stress techniques” as playing loud music and flashing strobe lights to keep detainees awake.

Some were “softened up” prior to interrogation by “third-degree” beatings.  And still others were waterboarded.

In 2003, an FBI agent observing a CIA “interrogation” at Guantanamo was stunned to see a detainee sitting on the floor, wrapped in an Israeli flag.  Nearby, music blared and strobe slights flashed.

In Osama bin Laden’s 1998 declaration of war against America, he had accused the country of being controlled by the Jews, saying the United States “served the Jews’ petty state.”

Draping an Islamic captive with an Israeli flag could only confirm such propaganda.

The FBI, on the other hand, followed its traditional “kill them with kindness” approach to interrogation.

Pat D’Amuro, a veteran FBI agent who had led the Bureau’s investigation into the 1998 bombing of the American embasy in Nairobi, Kenya, warned FBI Director Robert Mueller III:

The FBI should not be a party in the use of “enhanced intrrogation techniques.” They wouldn’t work and wouldn’t produce the dramatic results the CIA hoped for.

But there was a bigger danger, D’Amuro warned: “We’ll be handing every future defense attorney Giglio material.”

The Supreme Court had ruled in Giglio vs. the United States (1972) that the personal credibility of a government official was admissible in court.

Any FBI agent who made use of extra-legal interrogation techniques could potentially have that issue raised every time he testified in court on any other matter.

It was a defense attorney’s dream-come-true recipe for impeaching an agent’s credibility–and thus ruin his investigative career.

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