One Thousand Shades of Gray: The Effectiveness of Torture

20 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2005 Last revised: 26 Jun 2013

See all articles by Jeannine Bell

Jeannine Bell

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: August 15, 2005


This Essay attempts to add a bit of realism to the theoretical debate on torture by urging that we take a shrewd look at the quality of information brutal interrogations produce. Looking at popular discourse about torture, this Essay recognizes widespread belief in what it calls the torture myth - the idea that torture is the most effective interrogation practice. In reality, this Essay argues, in addition to moral and legal problems, the use of torture carries with it a host of practical problems which seriously blunt its effectiveness. This Essay maintains that contrary to the myth, torture doesn't always produce the desired information and, in the cases in which it does, it may not produce it in a timely fashion. In the end the Essay concludes, that any marginal benefit of torture is low because traditional techniques of interrogation may be as good, and possibly even better at producing valuable intelligence without torture's tremendous costs.

Keywords: torture, interrogation, police

Suggested Citation

Bell, Jeannine, One Thousand Shades of Gray: The Effectiveness of Torture (August 15, 2005). IU Law-Bloomington Research Paper No. 37, Available at SSRN: or

Jeannine Bell (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

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