Where Necessity Makes Law: The Effectiveness and Implementation of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques

Peay, Richard [Browse]
Senior thesis


Shapiro, Jacob N. [Browse]
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs [Browse]
Class year
Restrictions note
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Summary note
In a democracy, the people grant the state the power to govern. The people express their desires and objectives at the voting booth, and policymakers are charged with executing them in an appropriate manner. Occasionally, the state creates and enforces laws contrary to traditional democratic norms for the sake of greater security. Even then, or perhaps, especially then, the state must be cautious not to abuse such authority. But without proper oversight or checks, the state—particularly portions of which work with closely guarded secrets—may easily abuse that power. During the War on Terror, the government grossly distorted the responsibility to protect U.S. citizens into the authority to torture those accused of terrorism. The existing literature on enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) consists largely of politically charged documents and memoirs of those who had a stake in the Program. Most Americans are not convinced by mere moral arguments concerning torture, and yet, to date, no one has attempted to capture the vast complexity of the effectiveness and implementation of EITs. This thesis attempts to fill that gap by evaluating both aspects using theoretical, historical, and practical measures. This thesis contends that, in the War on Terror, the Bush Administration and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) erred by creating an ineffective system of interrogations and neglecting to conduct a proper calculus. The lack of analysis can be attributed to elevated emotions following the September 11 Attacks (specifically the fear of a second wave of strikes and the desire for punishment) and bureaucratic interests. The culmination of nearly 150 sources, including interviews, government records, reports, investigations, and academic works indicates that EITs were not effective in both law enforcement and intelligence gathering contexts. The history, psychology, and the application of EITs all demonstrate that, in fact, rapport-based interrogation approaches are superior. The ramifications of EITs, too, are significant. By using EITs, the CIA certainly diminished its own intelligence gathering capabilities, but it also damaged the reputation of the United States and opened the door to further abuses of power. There existed, before the CIA implemented them, evidence of EITs’ ineffectiveness. By examining why officials chose to implement EITs despite such indications, and subsequently represent them as effective, the United States can avoid future temptations to turn to undemocratic processes of ensuring justice and security. This thesis does not stand to condemn the Bush Administration, the CIA, or its interrogators. Similarly, it has no place in praising those like Ali Soufan, who used only rapport-based techniques to interrogate detainees. Without reviewing every cable and record (most of which are classified), this thesis cannot, and will not serve as an indictment to those who were charged with protecting the United States after the September 11 Attacks. However, as a democracy, the United States should never again allow its laws to be defined merely by its difficulties.

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