Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Uncle Jimbo on waterboarding - Updated

by shamanic

Uncle Jimbo of Blackfive:

I will grant that the procedure is horrifying and repulsive, but that is part of it's effectiveness. The fact that it causes no lasting damage at all is another reason to favor it's use. But the number one reason to use it is because it works. It is the perfect answer to the lie that you cannot coerce useful information from bad guys. KSM broke very quickly and the info we got from him allowed us to scarf up dozens of AQ killers and saved countless lives. While other methods may have eventually procured this intelligence, the time spent doing so made it more likely his info would be out of date and we would miss the chance to capture or kill the terrorists. As awful as that makes me, I think that means we have an obligation to do it and I would consider it's banning a blow to our security.
My question for those who support torture because they believe it's effective is always: should local cops use waterboarding to gather evidence from suspected criminals?

After all, if the cops pick up a crack dealer with a little baggy of rock in his pocket, they know he got that from somone higher up the black market food chain. Crack is a lethal drug and when it isn't killing people, the addiction to it causes all kinds of other crime. Just ask the assholes who keep breaking into cars in my neighborhood to steal whatever they may be able to trade for a little.

So, if it is true that our hypothetical crack dealer is part of a larger web of black market trade in a lethal product whose use leads to plenty of other crime, is it appropriate for police to waterboard the dealer in order to round up suppliers and clients?

And, if it's so effective and timely, in what circumstances would it be wrong for local police to employ waterboarding for evidence gathering in criminal cases?

Updated: Uncle Jimbo e-mailed me a reply (I e-mailed him to tell him about this post), and effectively said - truthfully enough - that the mission of local law enforcement and that of the military and CIA are different. He noted that if there was some Dirty Harry-style, many lives in the balance situation being dealt with by cops, he would not object to doing whatever it takes to free hostages or what not (I wouldn't either), but otherwise, no coercive interrogation for civilians.*

All of which is exceeding fair and thoughtful, but I couldn't resist replying thusly:
Hey Jimbo, thanks for your response. I remain unconvinced that there isn't a strong argument to be made for torturing criminal suspects in order to round up their associates and keep lots of people safe, kids off of drugs, etc. Terrorist suspects may or may not have information about future attacks, but Americans in possession of illegal drugs or firearms certainly have insight into the networks that supply those things to criminals who threaten us in our day-to-day lives. Restraining the police from extracting that information in order to protect our communities seems counterproductive.

Perhaps we need to amend the Constitution and rewrite the relevant sections of federal and state law to allow local cops to "outsource" interrogation to military or CIA personnel. Based on the universally agreed speed with which waterboarding produces confessions and the contention of many that it produces valuable, accurate information, it seems to me that it could be used to swiftly round up massive criminal networks in the United States and, by virtue of the confesions it extracts, unclog our court system as well. I really don't see a downside, truth be told. We'll need more prisons, but it's not like we aren't building those anyway.

It's really just a matter of whether congress has the spine to empower law enforcement in this way, and sadly, we know about congress and spines. I guess American law enforcement personnel will continue to be hampered by a lack of the valuable tools that the military and CIA use to protect Iraqis, leaving Americans wide open to whatever predatory criminals might happen to be nearby.

Anyway, thanks again for the response.
It really frightens me how reasonable all of this sounds when you put it in the context that those who support these activities paint when the topic arises. If it's as effective as they claim, but even they don't think it should be applied at home, then there's a deeper wrong they're avoiding when they pen their advocacy columns. I think someone should ask Rudy about it, personally.

* I didn't reprint his e-mail because I never asked permission and find that sort of thing a bit unseemly. I do believe my summary is both accurate and fair.