The Instigator
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The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

"Enhanced interrogation" and other "techniques" are ok in cases of national security

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/29/2012 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,830 times Debate No: 27617
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (4)
Votes (1)




For this debate I am establishing a set of rules to be followed. While this is a very controversial topic and may involve discussions on ethics, questioning morality and other issues, please refrain from personal attacks both in arguments and comments. This is meant to be an intellectual forum to exchange ideas and opinions and beliefs, not attack one another.

Round 1 - Accepting the debate and a brief synopsis of your position and reasons for, limit to a few sentence.
Round 2 - Establishing a factual basis for your argument.
Round 3-4 - Refuting and responding to opponent's argument and evidence.
Round 5 - Closing remarks and gesture of thanks and respect to opponent.

Position Synopsis:
Enhanced interrogation, as it is often called, is a technique of extracting information from individuals through use of force, induced psychological and physical stress, and other techniques often considered morally wrong. However, in cases of national security, when there are innocent civilians and other people who have not engaged in threats of violence against an offender, I feel there is nothing wrong with using any and all means necessary to retrieve that information. I think it should be done only in cases that the perpetrator is confirmed to be involved in the potential threat but if so then all means should be allowed.


Thank you to my opponent for the opportunity to debate this important subject.

"Enhanced interrogation and other techniques" I take to be a euphemism for torture. This is affirmed up by the proposition that "any means necessary" should be used in matters of national security.

"ok" must mean permissible in all senses. If torture is permissible in some sense but not legally permissible, then it cannot be said to be permissible in the overall sense. So I hope my opponent agrees that he must establish that torture is morally,legally, and pragmatically permissible, otherwise it cannot be said to be permissible.

My position is that torture is illegal, immoral, and impractical. I look forward to the debate.
Debate Round No. 1


The argument I wish to present is a matter of rights. Both the rights of the detained as well as the rights of those that may get hurt. While I do understand your position, I think the only real point that truly must be established is the legality, or why it should be considered legal.
All people have rights. All people have the right to life, to liberty, and lastly "to property" according to John Locke, "pursuit of happiness" according to the US Declaration of Independence, and "security of person" as stated in the Declaration of Human Rights. In addition the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 5 "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The problem here lies in the rights of two groups, those that are subject to the interrogation and those that the former are attempting to harm.
While it has been established that no one should be subject to torture, we also have a fundamental duty to protect those that cannot protect themselves, either due to inability or lack of knowledge of the danger. The problem arises, and as I see it, you can"t protect the rights of both groups. If one party to the event is in a position where they know of or have put into place the means of killing of injuring other people and those people are not involved in any conflict with the person threatening them, (i.e. they are non-combatants who, through no action of their own, gained participation in the conflict, whereas combatants are those that chose to or volunteered into a position where they may become involved in a dangerous situation like signing up to be a cop or soldier) then the person threatening the life of others therefore has shown disregard for the rights of others. If they are so loose to disregard rights of others then they should have no expectations for the respecting of their own rights. Response to consequences.
Therefore, if someone is to threaten the lives of those that have no participation in armed conflict with another person or group and through no action of their own, became part of it, then the person attacking them is therefore relinquishing their own rights otherwise it would be hypocritical of them to request respect of their rights.


Torture is: (a) the intentional infliction of extreme physical suffering on some non-consenting, defenceless person; (b) the intentional, substantial curtailment of the exercise of the person's autonomy (achieved by means of (a)); (c) in general, undertaken for the purpose of breaking the victim's will.[1]

Reasons not to legalize torture:

1. Erosion of civilian rights

In order to legalize torture, then much human rights legislation must be repealed, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (henceforth referred to as "the UDHR") and the right to remain silent.

2. Human rights cannot be surrendered, repudiated, or overridden.

The UDHR preamble states that

"recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." [1]

inalienable adj. Not transferable to another or capable of being repudiated. [2]

Dignity is inherent.

inherent adj. existing in someone or something as a permanent and inseparable element, quality, or attribute. [3]

The UDHR affirms then that both human rights and human dignity are permanent and cannot be surrendered.

In order to make his case, my opponent has to establish that the UDHR is a flawed document, and that human rights can be surrendered, repudiated, and overridden.

It is my contention that these rights safeguard individuals against abuse of power and as such are essential to ensuring well-being, and thus should be considered inalienable. These inalienable rights help protect what every human being should be allowed to retain at minimum: their humanity. By according these rights to all, we also help safeguard our own humanity from the dangers of falling prey to tyranny.

2a. Someone who harms non-combatants does not surrender their human rights.

My opponent says that someone who harms non-combatants surrenders their human rights.

In war, non-combatants are harmed. If harming non-combatants is a criterion for the surrendering of human rights, then soldiers in war are liable to surrender their human rights, thus negating the UDHR and the Geneva Conventions. Does my opponent think that soldiers in a war should surrender their human rights? Is he also advocating that all accused of harming civilians surrender their human rights?

3. Torture tilts an already asymmetric power relation even further against individuals and small groups.

The power relations between state and individual are asymmetric. Thus the individual is exposed to potential domination. Any extra power given to the state needs to be weighed against potential harm to the individual. Studies such as The Stanford Prison Experiment, where ordinary students became sadistic when given the role of guard in a mock prison, show that merely making power relations asymetric is often sufficient for extreme abuse of the less powerful individual to take place.[4] The psychologist responsible for the Stanford Prison Experiment, Professor Phillip Zimbardo, said

"The study is the classic demonstration of the power of situations and systems to overwhelm good intentions of participants and transform ordinary, normal young men into sadistic guards."[5]

Torture allows an act which deprives the individual of autonomy, dignity, and self-determination. Their acceptance of their powerlessness is implicit to the act. Allowing the state the right to torture individuals places extreme power into the hands of the state. This power is apt to be abused, and has been abused many times, as I will demonstrate if necessary. There are many examples of a state using torture as a means of repression. Legitimizing torture can only lead to abuses of power.

3a. It is in the interests of all except the most powerful that the balance of power not be tipped further in favour of the state

Labelling non-state aggressors "terrorists" allows the state to make their own determination of "good" v "evil".

Having illegitimized their opponents, there is a danger that the state can then use their power to do what they want against their opponents.

This is not to say that all aggressors labelled "terrorists" have a moral case, but to make the important point that the aggressor may have the moral case. Think of the French Resistance in WWII, or the ANC under apartheid.

Furthermore, you are less secure than you think. History shows that circumstances change unforseeably. It could be you and yours who have to oppose a state.

It is then important to protect the interests of groups and individuals against state power.

3b. The state defines what is "National Security", so such a limit on its remit is subject to abuse and is not enforceable.

Any threat to the status quo can be defined as an issue of "National security", so such a limitation is in effect useless. Particularly as "in the interests of National Security" the state does not have to be overt with evidence or justify to the public that an issue is indeed a grave threat.

4. It is not a case of one set of rights in conflict with others.

"you can"t protect the rights of both groups"

This statement is incorrect. My opponent assumes here that torture and only torture is efficacious at protecting the rights of non-combatants. This assumption is unwarranted. I will show in later rounds that torture is in fact ineffective. Other methods produce far better results.

5. Torture is immoral

5a. Torture is an immoral act perpetrated against its victims.

Each individual occupies their own universe of thoughts and feelings. The universe of an individual is a fully realized place with the potential for great joy or great suffering. The suffering inflicted by the terror of torture is so great that it should be absolutely avoided. We should not want to have any human being experience the terrors of torture at the hands of another. During torture, all autonomy is stripped away, the victim is like an all too conscious horrified puppet, who must be a witness to their powerlessness, their reactions against their own will, without prospect of relief. They may want to die rather than live with the pain and degradation. It is an absolute disintegration of their humanity. It is a window on Hell. The prospect of any internal universe being so deliberately disturbed should, on empathic grounds, be something we never wish to happen. Therefore, the moral proscription against torture should be absolute, and not even subject to a cost/benefits analysis.

5b. Torture harms the torturer

Perpetrators of serious harm are liable to suffer from trauma. A study found that 46% of respondents reported distressing intrusive memories, with 6% diagnosed with PTSD. In this study, dissociation during the trauma also occurred for some perpetrators.[6]

The act of torture dehumanises the torturer, necessarily robbing them of empathy.

"When the state itself beats and extorts, it can no longer be said to rest on foundations of morality and justice, but rather on force."[7]

6. Torture is ineffective

I will demonstrate this in later rounds.

[6] Intrusive memories in perpetrators of violent crime: Emotions and cognitions.
Evans, Ceri; Ehlers, Anke; Mezey, Gillian; Clark, David M.
Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 75(1), Feb 2007, 134-144. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.75.1.134
[7] Mordecai Kremnitzer quoted in Marcy Strauss, Torture, New York Law School Law Review, 2004

Debate Round No. 2


Muddy-Rivers forfeited this round.


6. Torture is ineffective

6a. Torture is an ineffective interrogation tool

The torturer can never be certain that the information given is not simply to stop the pain. Under torture, the prisoner may say anything he or she thinks the torturer wants to hear. Torture victims have been documented to make up stories to prevent further torture.[1][2] Many survivors of torture report that they would have said anything to “make the torture stop.” [3][4]

In the first Salem witch trials of 1692, 47 people confessed to witchcraft. Either we may believe that there were 47 witches in the town of Salem, or we may apply some skeptical thought and conclude that confessions were made to stop further torture.[5]

In an examination of 625 instances of torture in France between 1500 and 1750, between 67 percent and 95 percent of victims never confessed, even “on the rack, under repeated drowning, crushing of joints, and the like.”

During the Vietnam War, despite torture, only about 5 percent of the four hundred airmen captured signed anti-American propaganda statements, let alone divulged sensitive information.[6]

Glenn Carle — who served 23 years in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations and for a time led the interrogation of a high value detainee says

"almost all the information obtained from EITs [Enhanced interrogation techniques] was recalled...because it was viewed as unreliable."[7]

The Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats report on enhanced interrogation techniques negated the utility of torture. The report says the notion that the so-called enhanced interrogation methods helped the C.I.A. find Bin Laden by identifying his courier is “misguided and misinformed.” In addition, the report rejected claims that tough treatment drew valuable information about Bin Laden’s courier from a third detainee, unidentified in the statement. While the third detainee did provide useful information about the courier, he did so before he was subjected to the tough C.I.A. methods, the senators said.[8]

A statement issued by 37 retired US Generals says

"The Army Field Manual was the product of decades of experience – experience that has shown, among other things, that torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading
treatment produces unreliable results and often impedes further intelligence collection. Discounting the Manual’s wisdom on this central point shows a disturbing disregard for the decades of hard-won knowledge of the professional American military."[9]

It is known from the civilian criminal justice system that techniques much less coercive than torture have produced verifiably false confessions in a large number of cases. False confessions are a major cause of wrongful convictions, accounting for 24% of the total. In a large-scale study, Drizin and Leo (2004) identified 125 proven false confessions over a 30-year period. The fundamental finding from this and other studies of false confessions is that as the coerciveness of the interrogation increases, so does the probability of false confession.[10][11][12][13]

6b. Torture leaves the state liable to lose the propaganda war.

"Not only will torture create a dedicated core of anti-American jihadists, their stories will lose us the "hearts and minds" campaign with the larger Muslim population."[14]

6c. Torture perverts the process of law

An argument for torture makes the assumption that those being tortured are indeed responsible for the harming of non-combatants. However, torture takes place in detention before (or wholly without) trial. The guilt of the tortured party has not been established. Torture subverts the judicial process. A suspect has a right to trial. Potentially an innocent may be physically abused.

Of the more than 700 men held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, many are now acknowledged as “merely guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.” Originally described as “the worst of the worst,” many were subjected to torture. Now, more than 400 of these men have been released or
cleared for release.

In the two and a half years following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, U.S. intelligence agencies arrested more
that 5,000 suspected terrorists. Only three of these suspects were formally charged.[15]

[1] Conroy, J. (2000). Unspeakable acts, ordinary people. New York: Knopf.
[2] Haritos-Fatouros, M. (2003). The psychological origins of institutionalized torture. London: Routledge.
[3] Mayer, J. (2005). The Gitmo experiment. Retrieved April 3, 2006, from
[4] McCoy, A. (2006). A question of torture: CIA interrogation, from the cold war to the war on terror. New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt.
[10] Drizin, S. A., & Leo, R. A. (2004). The problem of false confessions in the post-DNA world. North Carolina Law Review, 82, 891–1007.
[11] Kassin, S., & Gudjonsson, G. H. (2004). The psychology of confessions: A review of the literature and issues. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 33–67.
[12] Leo, R. A. (2008). Police interrogation and American justice. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[13] Leo, R. A., Costanzo, M., & Shaked-Schroer, N. (2009). Psychological and cultural aspects of interrogations and false confessions: Using research to inform legal decision-making. In D. Krauss & J. Lieberman (Eds.), Psychological expertise in court. Surrey, England: Ashgate Publishing.
[14] Jeannie L. Johnson, Exploiting Weakness in the Far Enemy Ideology, Strategic Insights, 2005
Debate Round No. 3


Muddy-Rivers forfeited this round.


Vote CON.
Debate Round No. 4


Muddy-Rivers forfeited this round.


Thank you for reading.
Debate Round No. 5
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by bergeneric63 5 years ago
It is not wrong and seeing you are a Christian you should understand this. Why would God wipe out the nation without reason...
Posted by Malachi30 5 years ago
It is not unless the athiest sees the God of the Bible do it then it is immoral and He is a monster. When He wipes out a wicked murderous baby sacrificing nation in Scripture then it is wrong.
Posted by bergeneric63 5 years ago
How is it immoral if it can save many more lives? Beside that is it immoral to hurt those that want to destroy others. Furthermore Is it right to allow countless lives to die on the behalf of the unritious...
Posted by Muddy-Rivers 5 years ago
I will be responding to this in the afternoon.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by 1Devilsadvocate 5 years ago
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Total points awarded:06 
Reasons for voting decision: F.F.