What Is Torture?


Greg Djerejian versus Tom Maguire on whether induced hypothermia, sleep deprivation, and waterboarding constitute terrorism. Count me as standing with Djerejian in the view that if you can read accounts of the KGB using the technique that clearly paint it as torture, that it’s probably torture when the CIA does it, too.

And, to repeat an old-time theme around these parts, it’s always worth recalling that it’s not a coincidence that torture is associated with authoritarian regimes; these aren’t really investigative methods, they’re efforts to terrorize a population. Menachim Begin, recalling the use of the “long time standing” method in the USSR, states: “I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them.” False confessions were, of course, an integral element of the Stalinist system and torture is an excellent way to generate them. They’re not, however, actually useful in fighting terrorism.