White House nears completion of new torture guidelines
Critics say administration's endorsement of 'enhanced interrogation' is 'immoral,' draw comparisons to Nazi war crimes.
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But while the Nazis' interrogative methods were found to be torture, The New York Times writes that the Allies' methods at the time were far more effective and far less abusive than those the United States uses now, according to a December 2006 report (PDF) by the Intelligence Science Board.Skip to next paragraph
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"It far outclassed what we've done," said Steven M. Kleinman, a former Air Force interrogator and trainer, who has studied the World War II program of interrogating Germans. The questioners at Fort Hunt, Va., "had graduate degrees in law and philosophy, spoke the language flawlessly," and prepared for four to six hours for each hour of questioning, said Mr. Kleinman, who wrote two chapters for the December report.
Mr. Kleinman, who worked as an interrogator in Iraq in 2003, called the post-Sept. 11 efforts "amateurish" by comparison to the World War II program, with inexperienced interrogators who worked through interpreters and had little familiarity with the prisoners' culture.
The Washington Post wrote in January - when the report was publicly released - that the researchers found "little or no development of sustained capacity for interrogation practice, training, or research within intelligence or military communities in the post-Soviet period," which led to interrogators making up techniques "on the fly."
In [the report], experts find that popular culture and ad hoc experimentation have fueled the use of aggressive and sometimes physical interrogation techniques to get those captured on the battlefields to talk, even if there is no evidence to support the tactics' effectiveness. The board, which advises the director of national intelligence, recommends studying the matter.
"There is little systematic knowledge available to tell us 'what works' in interrogation," wrote Robert Coulam, a research professor at the Simmons School for Health Studies in Boston. Coulam also wrote that interrogation practices that offend ethical concerns and "skirt the rule of law" may be narrowly useful, if at all, because such practices could undermine the legitimacy of government action and support for the fight against terrorism.
The effect of popular culture, particularly of the FOX television show "24," on Americans' perception of torture, remains hotly debated. In a commentary for the Los Angeles Times, Wesleyan University professor Kelly M. Greenhill writes that there is a long history of works of fiction affecting politics, and that "24" may be fostering an increased acceptance of torture in the United States. The US military has shown similar concerns - members of the US military met with the "24" creative team last November to voice worries that the show was promoting "unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers," according to a February article in The New Yorker.