Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Enhanced Interrogation: Objections and Responses #2

Continuing from HERE and HERE and HERE.

Technical objections continued,

2. The techniques are unreliable. There is a low yield of useful and truthful information. (Unreliability Objection)

Re: This is another technical or empirical claim. A response can be made that assumes the claim’s truth:

Even if the ratio of truthful/useful to false/useless information is skewed toward the latter, it is still the case that if circumstances are right, and if the verifiably ‘true’ and actionable nuggets extracted in past similar circumstances lend compensatory weight to consideration of implementation of EIT, then the (alleged) fact that a majority of the information extracted is inaccurate does not sufficiently argue against use of EIT. If, in a temporally constrained scenario, the risk is dire, and a person has resisted other techniques, this last resort seems advisable, and defensible. Also; interrogation information is rarely isolated, but can be evaluated in the face of other information. We can make use of other sources of intelligence to ‘cross-check’, allowing a sifting of the true from the false. So, while in simplistic quantitative terms, a subject may yield more bogus information than accurate, such cross-checking greatly nullifies the possible countereffects of this greater sum of bogus information.

As long as there is a reasonable possibility that some useful information will be garnered, (even if mixed with misleading information), and acquisition of the information is essential to prevention of the harm, and it is also the case that other methods have not, or for various reasons, cannot yield the information, a case must be made by the absolutist that the morally preferable course of action would be to abstain from using EIT in an attempt to extract said information. Arguments must be presented that show reasonable people that despite the possible consequences, abstention is the morally preferable option. [A note here, philosophical literature is replete with arguments, like Walzer’s, that allow for the ‘override’ of fundamental moral values or fundamental ‘rights’ in supreme emergency. In Walzer’s case, he argues that a government’s ‘job’ is to take the utilitarian view in such circumstances, and this obligates it to do things that are, in normal circumstances, morally repugnant. He has in mind existential threats as was Nazi Germany for England. England’s dire position “allowed,” for a time, the bomber command’s bombing of civilian areas of Germany. While such situations are rare, Walzer argues, they must be allowed for in formulating policy. It would seem that an argument for the substantially less mortifying option of utilizing water boarding against a single individual or some small number, in like circumstances would be easier to make. Thus the absolutists position is considerably less tenable in this case than was the case made for Bomber Command’s actions.]

If the absolutist sticks to his guns, even in such cases as this, he is going to have to move into some new territory, marshal some further argumentation in his cause. This is the territory we move into with the next set of objections (in the next few posts). Each of these arguments has us look at what we might call ‘the bigger picture’, or the long term consequences of sanctioned EIT use. These arguments no longer make technical/empirical claims about the alleged track-record of EIT. Instead, they shift focus and ask us to consider the consequences of what will necessarily be official policy. They ask us to consider the impact professionalization of use of EIT will have on such professionals, on our military, on the world, on or our country and its professed values.