The USFG should allow the limited use of Torture
Debate Rounds (4)
Standard DDO rules apply -- first round for acceptance, shared burden of proof, no new arguments in the final round, no semantics, no trolling, etc, etc etc.
Good luck, FourTrouble!
DISCLAIMER: I have borrowed large portions of my case from a debate I did on Edeb8.
I can provide evidence that the Romanii of Edeb8 is the Romanii of DDO upon request.
Torture is a blatant violation of human rights, and is therefore a moral abomination that should not be practiced under any circumstance. The USFG is a signatory of the UN's "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment", which reads:
"Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person. Considering the obligation of States under the Charter, in particular Article 55, to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Having regard to article 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, both of which provide that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment" . The USFG is contractually bound to this universally-accepted conception of human rights, and the practice of torture is in clear violation of it.
But torture also violates human rights on a more fundamental, moral level. What exactly grants human beings any ethical significance in the first place? It is quite plain to see that the most striking factor which distinguishes humans from the rest of the amoral universe is their faculty of *self-ownership*. The existence of self-ownership is intuitively obvious -- since you are the sole user and occupier of your own body, you are the only one who can exert any sort of authority or control over it. Moreover, denying self-ownership results in a performative contradiction because simply the act of denying it (via speaking/typing) requires you to exercise your faculty of self-ownership. Thus, we conclude that all human beings possess ownership over themselves and, by extension, moral rights to autonomy and bodily integrity.
With such rights established, we can easily see why torture should be considered morally unacceptable. It is literally the epitome of infringing upon autonomy & bodily integrity -- torture is the purposeful infliction of severe physical harm upon a person's body in an attempt to force them to act/speak against their own will. Thus, it is a moral abomination which only serves to dehumanize its victims by violating their most basic human rights. Given the gravely impermissible nature of torture by both legal and ethical standards, it is quite obvious that it should never be used, especially by the United States' *government*, which is given the responsibility of *protecting* people's rights.
Torture is a highly ineffective means of obtaining information, thus virtually erasing any benefit that could possibly come from using it. Under the duress which is invoked by torture, the victim is very likely to give false information or become completely unresponsive, as is confirmed by a growing body of research on the subject:
"...a growing number of behavioral scientists has begun researching interrogation and lie-detection methods in an effort to scientifically determine what works, what doesn't, and why... a general consensus has emerged that supports the experience of interrogators like Soufan: torture doesn't provide reliable intelligence, the U.S. government's list of approved interrogation techniques is outdated, and detecting liars based solely on body language is barely more reliable than flipping a coin... According to Reuters, a Senate Intelligence Committee report, which will be released this summer, is also expected to find little evidence that the CIA's enhanced-interrogation [torture] program led to any major breakthroughs in the war on terror. And in a report released in 2009, the CIA's own inspector general found no evidence that the agency's practices stopped any imminent attacks. Nor could it ascertain whether the enhanced-interrogation techniques obtained information that the agency couldn't have obtained through less coercive means," .
Psychological studies such as the one conducted by the FBI's High Value Detainee Interrogation Group demonstrate that humans are most likely to just do whatever is necessary to make the pain stop, whether that entails fabrications that conform to what the torturers want to hear, or complete unresponsiveness . This especially true given that in the modern world, the most likely subjects of torture are going to be members of radical Islamic terrorist groups, who are infamously capable of valuing their mission over their own well-being . Furthermore, we have empirical evidence of the disastrous results of acting on information obtained via torture: false confessions which were obtained by the torturing of Libyan nationalist Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi in 2001 are what eventually led the US Government to its ultimately pointless invasion of Iraq .
Perhaps most importantly, there are alternative methods of obtaining information that are much more humane, less coercive, and demonstrably more effective. Research on the effects of torture done by Matthew Alexander, who has much experience conducting/overseeing numerous interrogations that occurred during the Iraq War, has conclusively demonstrated that diplomatic methods of interrogation can be used to efficiently obtain consistently accurate information *even* in high-stress situations. In the words of one of the detainee's who Alexander interrogated: "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate." .
III. Public Perception
In the wars of the modern era, one highly important factor for success is public perception, and using torture on the enemy has often proven to be highly detrimental in that sense. Take the example of the United States, when a Senate report was released about the CIA's use of torture in wars abroad: "[One Twitter user] compared the torture to acts of brutality committed by Isil... The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors Islamic militant web activity, said the Senate report had 'ignited an overwhelming response from the online jihadist community, with many calling for retaliation against the US and promoting jihad.'... Experts are worried the report could be used as a recruitment tool by extremists... President Barack Obama admitted some of the tactics detailed in the explosive report's 500-page declassified summary were 'brutal... we took some steps that were contrary to who we are, contrary to our values.'" . In short, the use of torture in war causes the government to lose its "moral high ground", marring its reputation by appearing hypocritical to its own citizens and allies, turning moderates and fence-sitters against it, and opening it up to intensified retaliatory attacks by the enemy.
== CONCLUSION ==
Torture is a categorically immoral abuse of human rights which should not occur any under circumstance, let alone at the hands of the US government. Not only that, but it is also highly ineffective and sometimes even counter-productive, with alternative methods of obtaining information being preferable in literally any scenario. Furthermore, the use of torture in war (which is by far its most common use) has unintended negative consequences on public perception and foreign relations. There is no case in which the government should be using torture.
The resolution is is negated.
This debate is about whether the United States should allow torture. Con cites various laws that make torture illegal, but those laws aren't relevant to this debate. The issue here isn't what the law is but rather what it should be. No matter how many laws oppose torture, the question is still whether those laws are right or wrong.
I argue that torture is justified in exceptional cases where torture is the lesser of two available evils. In other words, the US should allow torture under the necessity defense, which holds that illegal acts are sometimes justified to prevent a greater evil. The underlying idea is that we shouldn't punish someone for violating the law if their action produces a net benefit to society.
The US already recognizes necessity as a defense. Under the Model Penal Code, "conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid a harm or evil to himself or to another is justifiable, provided that ... the evil sought to be avoided by such conduct is greater than that sought to be prevented by the law defining the offense charged."  Self-defense, for example, is a special case of the necessity defense.
In a ticking bomb situation, the torture of a single individual can save lives. And if the moral value of the saved lives exceeds the moral harm of the torture, the torture is justified via necessity. This scenario is no different than shooting a gangster before he or she kills five innocents. In such circumstances, killing the gangster is legally justified because it prevents a greater evil. So too with torture in emergency situations.
The advantage of allowing torture through the necessity defense is that it puts the burden on the torturer. If the torturer cannot establish that he or she chose the lesser of two evils, he or she faces criminal liability (i.e. jail or execution). Thus, would-be torturers need to exercise caution before torturing to avoid potential conviction. This might disincentivize some justifiable torture but it will also prevent any potential abuse.
What are the arguments against applying the necessity defense to torture? Con argues that torture is unacceptable because it violates basic human rights. This argument fails for two reasons. First, under a utilitarian calculus, torture is morally justified if it is the lesser of two evils.
Second, no right is absolute. The United States limits most rights like free speech and the right to vote, so there's no reason it can't place a limit on other rights too. In fact, the government should limit rights when necessary to protect its citizens from harm (e.g. self-defense shows that you can violate someone's right to life under special circumstances). This idea is captured by John Stuart Mill's harm principle, which holds that "power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will,  to prevent harm to others.” 
Con also argues that torture is unjustified because it's ineffective. However, this debate isn't about whether torture is effective or ineffective. That's a factual question with little bearing on the legal question of whether torture falls under the necessity defense. Even if torture is generally ineffective, there are narrow circumstances where torture will save lives. In those situations, the necessity defense still applies.
The only way to negate necessity as a matter of principle is to show that torture never works. That poses a serious problem for Con, because history is replete with concrete examples where torture has worked.  Even John McCain says he gave up more information than he intended. 
The reason torture works is because humans have an intense desire to avoid pain. If a terrorist believes that the torture won't end unless they give up truthful information, they're probably going to give up the truth. This is because the desire to avoid pain outweighs, at least in some circumstances, the desire to conceal information, especially if the torture causes so much pain that the terrorist prefers death to continued suffering.
Finally, Con argues that torture is harmful to public perception. But the necessity defense isn't liable to this criticism because torture is still illegal under its framework. And the US won't lose any "moral high ground" because necessity pits a lesser evil (torture) against a greater evil (the loss of innocent lives). Nobody is going to have a problem with torture if it is only used to prevent a greater evil.
Indeed, TV shows like 24 show that the public accepts torture when it's portrayed as a necessary evil to prevent a greater evil. The context of war itself rests on a necessity principle: killing enemy combatants is justified as a way to prevent a greater evil (i.e. the death of our soldiers). In fact, war is often justified via self-defense, which is just a special case of the necessity defense. Limiting torture to necessity thus solves any problems of perception.
4. John McCain, Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir
Contrary to Pro's assertions, I do *not* need to show that torture can never be effective. My advocacy is that torture is never the best option, and therefore the "necessity defense" defense justification never applies; this fulfills my burden of proof because Pro seems to agree that torture shouldn't be used outside of "necessity defense" situations. Thus, Pro's burden of proof is to show us situations where torture *is* the best option (i.e. where "necessity defense" does apply).
The only time he gets even close to fulfilling this burden is when he brings up the classic ticking time-bomb scenario. The biggest problem here for Pro is that, as I argued last round, there are plenty of ways to extract information from people which do not involve any infliction of physical pain. Pro never contested the efficacy of such methods, so he basically loses the debate on this point alone. Numerous seasoned interrogators have experimented with these alternative interrogation methods and (as far as my research could ascertain) unanimously reported positive results .
"A good interrogation is like a seduction. You sit down. You ask the person questions. You try to develop a very intense personal relationship with another human being so they'll part with information they'd rather not part with. You wheedle, cajole, trick, lie. The point is to collect usable, actionable information... What I saw firsthand as an interrogator and, later, as a JAG in Iraq in 2003 working on detainee issues, has left me with a strong belief that torture is counterproductive. What has proven effective in interrogation, time and again, regardless of what culture the detainee is from, is building a positive relationship with an individual... I would challenge the current administration to come up with one example where torture in interrogation has produced actionable intelligence that saved American lives in the United States."
"I had to use some of the approaches from the field manual. I used 'love of comrades" a couple of times: I would tell somebody, 'You know that if you can help us end this war sooner, fewer of your own people will die.' When I saw them, they were still reeling from the shock of battle and capture. You should never underestimate the power of one's own imagination to create danger... I know the techniques in the field manual work, and I know torture isn't as effective."
These techniques use human psychology to their advantage to extract information with far more accuracy than torture can. However, the most obvious alternative way to save lives in ticking time-bomb situation would be to simply *evacuate* the area(s) where the bomb is thought to be... it is irrational to believe that law enforcement would have enough information to know who to torture, but not enough to have at least a vague sense of where the bomb might be.
Speaking of which, knowing who to torture is another major problem with the use of torture in ticking time-bomb scenarios: there are severe time constraints present which disallow a thorough investigation into the situation, which means that there is a significant chance of the suspect being tortured turning out to be innocent. "Ideally, the decision to interrogate is based on solid evidence linking a suspect to terrorist activities or indicating that a suspect is in possession of vital information. However, too often, the decision to interrogate is based on whether a suspect seems to fit a 'terrorist profile,' behavior that is perceived as suspicious, or association with known or suspected terrorists ... intelligence gathering typically involves the time-consuming and laborious process of sifting through mountains of information to identify suspected terrorists. This process often yields many suspects but few confirmed terrorists." .
Clearly, the "necessity defense" justification does not apply to the ticking time-bomb scenario. Using non-violent methods of interrogation or even simply ordering an evacuation of the area would actually be *more* likely to save lives than torture (because of the strong possibility of inaccurate information with the latter). Moreover, the alternatives avoid the threat of torturing an innocent person, which is a risk inherent to the ticking time-bomb situation.
The resolution is affirmed.
Con admits that torture works. Of course, Con questions its efficacy. And Con says there are better options. But Con drops my evidence that torture has worked in the past, and Con drops my argument that torture works because humans have an intense desire to avoid pain. This concession dooms Con's case.
The concession is fatal because it means the resolution is affirmed if there's any imaginable situation where torture is the only way to save lives. In those situations, torture is justified via necessity.
For a specific example, imagine a situation where you possess a video of a high ranking terrorist making a nuclear bomb. Further imagine that intelligence efforts discover when the bomb will explode, say in 24 hours, but you don't know where. Finally, imagine that you capture this high ranking terrorist, and you give the terrorist an opportunity to tell you where the bomb is but he refuses. In this situation, torture is the only option. You can't "evacuate" because you don't know where the bomb is. And you can't build rapport with the terrorist because there's simply not enough time.
Con asserts that such situations don't exist because there's always better options. But this is nothing more than Con's assertion. And all of Con's sources explicitly acknowledge the limits of "soft" interrogation techniques. For example, Con cites three interrogators who prefer "soft" techniques, but these interrogators explicitly acknowledge that they don't always work.
Another one of Con's sources, Mathew Alexander, explains that building rapport takes weeks, maybe months, to develop.  So in situations where you have 24 hours, rapport simply isn't going to work. And Alexander also concedes that rapport is off the table in the case of terrorists with particulalry strong religious/ideological commitments. 
Thus, torture becomes the best option in situations involving severe time constraints and recalcitrant terrorist captives. And nothing Con argued shows otherwise. Indeed, the TV show 24 offers examples of cases where torture is justified in almost every episode (and notice that even the show's title emphasizes its concern with the nature of time contraints in the context of counter-terrorism activities).
Con also argues that "it is irrational to believe that law enforcement would have enough information to know who to torture, but not enough to have at least a vague sense of where the bomb might be." But why is that irrational? Con offers no answer.
Consider the following scenario: you have video of a kidnapper kidnapping someone but you don't know where the kidnapper is holding his victim. In this situation, which is firmly within the bounds of rationality, you know who the kidnapper is but you don't know where he's keeping his victim. And this logic isn't suddenly irrational in the case of terrorists planning a nuclear attack; the same mismatch is possible.
The kidnapping-scenario thus shows that it's plausible to know someone is a high ranking terrorist but not know every detail of their terrorist activities. Indeed, that's precisely why interrogation is a thing in the first place. And even if you have a vague sense of location, say New York City, time constraints still play a role. It'd be impossible to evacuate NYC in 24 hours. So even if you have a vague sense of location, it's still not always the "best option."
Finally, Con argues that "there is a significant chance of the suspect being tortured turning out to be innocent." But that's just Con's assertion. There's nothing inherent to torture that makes it likely the suspect is innocent. The problem with torture is how and when it's done. But as long as torture is limited to situations where it's necessary, there won't be any problems torturing innocents.
Justifying torture via necessity means limiting torture to situations where law enforcement has proof that the suspect has information that could save lives. There needs to be enough evidence to establish a reasonable belief that the suspect knows crucial information. This is how the necessity defense works. And remember, I'm only advocating torture in these sorts of exceptional circumstances, circumstances that impose an extremely high standard of evidence on would-be torturers.
4. Mathew Alexander and John Bruning, "How To Break A Terrorist" (available on Amazon Prime for 1 cent, lmao)
Romanii forfeited this round.
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Vote Placed by donald.keller 1 year ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.
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