Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Torture -- don't ya just LOVE it? 

Yesterday's Hardball showed an odd Chris Matthews performance -- it was about torture, and Matthews came across as lovin' it. The whole interview gave me a creepy-crawly sensation, like he was feeling himself up under the desk while he was talking about all these delicious torture techniques.
Matthews was interviewing an FBI interrogator named Joe Navarro, who has just published a text on interview techniques -- something needed, I think, considering how poorly trained the CIA and military interrogators apparently are these days.
While Navarro kept trying to deal with the issue seriously, Matthews kept chattering about Famous Torturers I Have Known and Loved. Here are some of the things Matthews said during the interview:
MATTHEWS: . . . I love this title - 'Advanced Interviewing Techniques.' Is that meant to be sarcastic or what? Interviewing techniques --I mean, if somebody has their thumbs in screws, is that an interview technique?
Obviously, he hadn't read the book -- he actually thought it described how to torture someone. Then he continues with a 'torture' example, metaphorically licking his lips as he describes a scenario:
You see a snake pit in front of you, all these snakes down there, killer snakes, horrible looking creatures, and you say to a person, if you don't answer the next three questions, you are going in that, and you are going to die in that pit. That doesn't work?
NAVARRO: It doesn't, because what may happen is, what that will generate is, they may just begin to provide superfluous information.
MATTHEWS: Well, then you say that is not good enough, buddy. You're going in the pit unless you tell us the truth.
NAVARRO: We don't—you need to establish the truth. For instance, if you harass someone long enough or even torture them, one of things that happens is it attenuates our ability to detect deception. The best way to detect deception is to establish some sort of norm. If we are torturing somebody or harassing them, we are, in fact, affecting their limbic system and our ability to read them. So it works against us.
Then Matthews starts into his Famous Torturers riff. First, how about the Mafia?
MATTHEWS: If it doesn't work, why does the mob use it? Don't they use it to find out who ratted who out? They used to do it in the movies.
NAVARRO: They use it because they are psychopaths, Chris.
Next, how about Dirty Harry and Jack Bauer -- the Hollywood script where the good guy KNOWS that the bad guy knows the secret and the-bad-guy-must-talk-or-the-child-will-die:
MATTHEWS: So you don't buy the Alan Dershowitz, the professor at Harvard, who says if you've got somebody in the 11th hour and they know that it's going to be doomsday for the planet like a nuclear weapon in New York, a real nuclear bomb in New York, in the subway system, you don't think you would go to extreme measures?
NAVARRO: Look, Dershowitz is a brilliant attorney. He is not a world-class interviewer. I have talked to world class interviewers, I have taught these individuals. We don't need to torture these individuals.
MATTHEWS: What is the risk though in doing it? If you're really brutal about it, you needed to get the information, what's wrong with torturing somebody if it's a million people or 100,000 people are going to die the next day.
NAVARRO: Number one, the person may die. Number two, he may lie to us. Number three, he may lead us astray. Number four ...
MATTHEWS: Well, what do you have to lose at that point, if they're not talking?
NAVARRO: What do you have to lose? A lot. Because what if he has other information.
Finally, how about those Third-World Secret Police?
MATTHEWS: . . . We send them to parts of the world that don't have this intellectual approach to this. They may have some psychopaths on the payroll down in the basement of some truth ministry in Cairo or Amman or somewhere else over there in that part of the world. Why do we do that if we don't think torture works? Why do we have these renditions to these dark basements in the third world?
NAVARRO: I've never been party to it. And if it is going on, I don't agree to it. I think everything that we do should—or we do should stand up to judicial scrutiny . . . good interrogators don't need these techniques, they don't want these techniques. We just absolutely don't need them . . .
MATTHEWS: Do the Israelis keep their prisoners naked for weeks at a time, like in “Little Drummer Girl,” that movie?
NAVARRO: That I don't know.
MATTHEWS: Do they turn the lights on, like in “Darkness at Noon?”
NAVARRO: You know, a lot of books have been written about some of the techniques. I think they have gotten away from that because the Israeli Supreme Court said knock it off.
MATTHEWS: Do you believe that it's torture to keep a person awake for long periods of time, to use sleep deprivation to weaken their resistance? Is that torture?
NAVARRO: Yes I do. I do. I don't think it works.
MATTHEWS: It doesn't. I bet you become very hallucinatory and weak-minded if you are awake for days after days without getting enough night time.
NAVARRO: Look, if I have a subject I'm working on I want his mind to be lucid.
And at the end of the interview, Matthews still has techniques for torture on his mind:
MATTHEWS: Is there anybody who disagrees with you on this, who thinks torture works?
NAVARRO: There may be, but I'll tell you what, it's not something the FBI has ever taught and I still teach there. And we don't teach that. And we never will.
MATTHEWS: No thumb screws, no electric charges, nothing like that?
NAVARRO: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: God, it makes me surprised. I'm amazed there is no effort like that, even in extreme cases?
NAVARRO: We don't want it.
But Matthews does.

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