Police Interrogation and Coercion in Domestic American History: Lessons for the War on Terror
TORTURE, LAW AND WAR: WHAT ARE THE MORAL AND LEGAL BOUNDARIES OF THE USE OF COERCION IN INTERROGATION?, Martha Nussbaum & Scott Anderson, eds., University of Chicago Press, Forthcoming
178 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2010
The use of torture during interrogations conducted by U.S. special forces, military police, CIA agents, the FBI, and private contractors during the War on Terror has been widely documented. While many chroniclers of the use of torture have characterized its use as a dramatic break from the past, the use of torture by American interrogators and the tacit sanctioning by U.S. officials are not new. The routine use of torture by American domestic police during the early part of the twentieth century has been largely ignored by scholars who study contemporary uses of torture in the international context. This chapter discusses the history of the "third degree" to shed more light on the current torture debate. We note that there are numerous parallels between third degree techniques employed by American domestic interrogators in the early twentieth century and coercive techniques used by American military interrogators more recently. This domestic history of torture suggests important lessons for better understanding the dynamics and consequences of military torture and highlights possible pathways to reform. Abandoning abusive interrogation practices in favor of more professional approaches can strengthen institutional legitimacy, restore faith in our systems of justice, improve morale, and result in more reliable intelligence.
Keywords: torture, war on terror, third degree, law enforcement, police, United States military, interrogations
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