Friday, September 25, 2009

Tough Old Woman Resists Torture

As I've pointed out many times, criminals are well aware that torture can be an effective means of obtaining accurate information -- unlike some who pretend otherwise. Torture has been used throughout history to extract specific, verifiable information such as the location of valuables. Since the advent of ATM cards, that use has been extended to forcing victims to divulge PIN numbers. And torture is often quite successful at producing accurate information in these situations.

But as I've also argued repeatedly, the success or failure of any interrogation technique, including torture, is highly dependent on the particular circumstances, the interrogator, and the interrogatee. Things that work on one person may not succeed on another, and vice versa. In Michigan, eighty year-old Betty Oosterhouse faced a home invasion by a vicious criminal. When he left she was in the following condition:

suffering from severe facial injuries, specifically a cracked jaw and a concussion...[and] her hearing has been affected by the attack
Despite being punched several times in the face, threatened with death, and with a knife at her throat, Mrs. Oosterhouse refused to give up her PIN numbers. 

Whenever I post one of these cases, which usually result in torture succeeding, someone tends to come by arguing that criminals torturing people isn't analogous to an interrogator torturing a terrorist ( ignoring the fact that information is information).  Ordinary people aren't trained to resist, it's only money, etc. But some people take their money very seriously. Some would give up information such as a PIN number at the mere threat of torture; others, like Mrs. Oosterhouse, would rather die. There are all sorts of other variables. Different people respond differently to different types of threats. Whenever someone makes a sweeping statement, such as "torture doesn't work," or "torture produces inaccurate information," it's based on ignorance, wishful thinking, denial of reality, or ideological bias. Reality is much more complicated.

No comments:

Post a Comment