“Enhanced interrogation” techniques involve waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and the exploitation of phobias. These practices were used by the Bush Administration, because they seemed to achieve results better than any other technique. Shane O’Mara, a stress researcher from Ireland’s Trinity College, concludes that no scientific evidence proves that enhanced interrogation works. O’Mara actually argues the opposite that practices such as waterboarding will create false memories for the victim and provide the interrogators with incorrect information. She states:
Severe interrogation techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions and the exploitation of phobias aren’t just morally reprehensible, they’re based on bad science, destroying the very memories they’re supposed to recover.
“There is a vast literature on the effects of extreme stress on motivation, mood and memory, using both animals and humans,” writes Shane O’Mara, a stress researcher at Ireland’s Trinity College Institute of Neuroscience. “These techniques cause severe, repeated and prolonged stress, which compromises brain tissue supporting memory and executive function.”
So-called “enhanced interrogation” was used on suspected terrorists during the Bush administration, and sparked a bitter argument over the nature of torture and its use by the United States. Enhanced interrogation was officially banned by President Obama, but almost certainly continues as part of Obama’s ongoing rendition program, which sends suspects to torture-practicing countries.
Some intelligence officials, from former Vice President Dick Cheney to current intelligence chief Dennis Blair, defend enhanced interrogation as an useful tool in pulling information from terrorists who refuse to talk. But many intelligence officers say that such information has little value, because people being tortured will say anything to make it stop.
A report published by the Intelligence Science Board in 2007 found that no research existed to support the use of enhanced interrogation. And O’Mara’s review, published Monday in Trends in Cognitive Science, describes a wealth of science that supports ending the practice.
What is your opinion of waterboarding? Effective under extreme circumstances, or cruel and unusual punishment? Let us know in the comments section below.