A utilitarian argument against torture interrogation of terrorists


Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, much support for torture interrogation of terrorists has emerged in the public forum, largely based on the “ticking bomb” scenario. Although deontological and virtue ethics provide incisive arguments against torture, they do not speak directly to scientists and government officials responsible for national security in a utilitarian framework. Drawing from criminology, organizational theory, social psychology, the historical record, and my interviews with military professionals, I assess the potential of an official U.S. program of torture interrogation from a practical perspective. The central element of program design is a sound causal model relating input to output. I explore three principal models of how torture interrogation leads to truth: the animal instinct model, the cognitive failure model, and the data processing model. These models show why torture interrogation fails overall as a counterterrorist tactic. They also expose the processes that lead from a precision torture interrogation program to breakdowns in key institutions—health care, biomedical research, police, judiciary, and military. The breakdowns evolve from institutional dynamics that are independent of the original moral rationale. The counterargument, of course, is that in a society destroyed by terrorism there will be nothing to repair. That is why the actual causal mechanism of torture interrogation in curtailing terrorism must be elucidated by utilitarians rather than presumed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Solomon, A. (2001, December 4) The case against torture [Electronic version.]. The Village Voice.

  2. 2.

    McLaughlin, A. (2001, November 14) How far Americans would go to fight terror. The Christian Science Monitor: 1 & 4.

  3. 3.

    Based on 2417 votes.—Crimeweek Daily. http://crime.miningco.com/gi/pages/poll.htm?poll_id=2149603124&linkbak [Accessed February 11, 2004].

  4. 4.

    Dershowitz, A.M. (2002, January 22) Want to torture? Get a warrant. San Francisco Chronicle: A-19.

  5. 5.

    Hersh, S.M. (2004, May 10). Annals of national security: torture at Abu Ghraib [Electronic version]. The New Yorker.

  6. 6.

    Roeloffsma, D.K. (2004, May 3). The editor: torture, an ugly, perennial question. Association of Former Intelligence Officers Weekly Intelligence Notes, WIN #41-04. [Available online: http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/index_2004.html. Accessed May 6, 2004].

  7. 7.

    Rawls, J. (1955) Two concepts of rules. The Philosophical Review, 44 (1): 3–32.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Trinquier, R. (1964) Modern warfare: a French view of counterinsurgency. Praeger, New York. pp. 21 & 23.

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Salmon, M.H. (2003) Causal explanations of behaviour. Philosophy of Science 70 (4): 720–738. pp. 720 & 721.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Mazmanian, D. & Sabatier, P. (1989) Implementation and public policy (2nd ed.) University Press of America, Lanham, MD: Ch. 2.

    Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Hoffman, B. (2002, January) A nasty business. The Atlantic Monthly: 49–52. p. 52.

  12. 12.

    duBois, P. (1991) Torture and truth. Routledge, London. pp. 50, 51, & 66.

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Hinkle, L.E. (1961) The physiological state of the interrogation subject as it affects brain function. In A.D. Biderman & H. Zimmer (Eds.) The manipulation of human behavior. Wiley, New York: 19–49. p. 19.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Afshari, R. (2001) Tortured confessions [review of Tortured confessions: prisons and public recantations in modern Iran, by E. Abrahamaian, 1999]. Human Rights Quarterly, 23 (1): 290–297. p. 294.

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    An overview and bibliography appear in: Vesti, P., & Somnier, F. E. (1994) Doctor involvement in torture: a historical perspective. Torture 4 (3): 82–89.

    Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Rasmussen, O. V. (1992) Medical aspects of torture [Special issue]. Danish Medical Bulletin 37 (1): 1–88.

    Google Scholar 

  17. 16a.

    Smidt-Nielsen, K. (1998) The participation of health personnel in torture. Torture 8 (3): 93.

    Google Scholar 

  18. 16b.

    Vesti, P.B. (1990) Extreme man-made stress and anti-therapy. Doctors as collaborators in torture [Electronic version, abstract]. Danish Medical Bulletin 37 (5): 466–468.

    Google Scholar 

  19. 17.

    School of the Americas. (1983, 1984, 1988) Human resource exploitation training manual. United States Army School of the Americas, Fort Benning, GA: Section H-24. [Released in 1997 under the Freedom of Information Act. Available through Psychologists for Social Responsibility, 2607 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008.]

    Google Scholar 

  20. 18.

    Sobti, J.C., Chaparwal, B.C. Choudhary, P.K., Holst, E. & Bhatnagar, N.K. (undated, c. 1996) Knowledge, attitude and practice of physicians in India concerning medical aspects of torture. Indian Medical Association, New Delhi.—A random sample of 4000 members was surveyed by mail questionnaire. Statistics were based on 743 (18.6%) respondents.

    Google Scholar 

  21. 19.

    Iacopino, V., Heisler, M., Pishevar, S. & Kirschner, R. H. (1996) Physician complicity in misrepresentation and omission of evidence of torture in postdetention medical examinations in Turkey [Electronic version, abstract]. The Journal of the American Medical Association 276 (5): 396–402.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 20.

    Dôcker, H. (2002) Turkey continues harassment, arrests, and torture of medical doctors. Torture 10 (2): 53.

    Google Scholar 

  23. 21.

    Livingston, G. (1996, December 22) Serving two masters: the ethical dilemmas that military medical students want to avoid—but can’t [Electronic version]. Washington Post. p. C3.

  24. 22.

    Oehmichen, M. (1999) The forensic physician’s conception of himself. Documentation and prevention of maltreatment and torture as a special task [Electronic version, abstract]. Forensic Science International 100 (1–2): 77–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 23.

    Training Mexican doctors to investigate torture. (2002–2003, Winter) Survivors International Outreach 3.

  26. 24.

    Iacopino, V., Keller, A., & Oskenberg, D. (2002) Why torture must not be sanctioned by the United States [Op-ed.] [Electronic version]. Western Journal of Medicine 176: 148–149. p. 149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. 25.

    Amendment to WMA [World Medical Association] resolution on human rights. (1996) Torture 6 (1): 30.

    Google Scholar 

  28. 26.

    E.g., Sciolino, E. (2003, January 22) Iran is said to jail 2 lawyers who reported torture charges [Electronic version]. The New York Times.

  29. 27.

    Silverman, L. (2001) Tortured subjects: pain, truth, and the body in early modern France. University of Chicago Press, Chicago. p. 182.

    Google Scholar 

  30. 28.

    Oskamp, S. & Schultz, P.W. (1998) Applied social psychology (2nd edn.). Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ. p. 34.

    Google Scholar 

  31. 29.

    Greenberg, J., Solomon, V., Mitchell, P., Rosenblat, A., Kirland, S. & Lyon, D. (1990) Evidence for terror management theory II: the effects of mortality salience on reactions to those who threaten or bolster the cultural worldview. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 58 (20): 308–318.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 30.

    Van der Kolk, B.A., van der Hart, O. & Marmar, C.R. (1996) Dissociation and information processing in posttraumatic stress disorder, in: van der Kolk, B.A., McFarlane, A.C. & Weisaeth L. eds. Traumatic stress: the effects of overwhelming experience on mind, body, and society. Guilford Press, New York: 303–327. p. 307.

    Google Scholar 

  33. 31.

    U.S. Air Force interrogator (2003, February 18) Personal communication.

  34. 32.

    Hoffman, P. (1977) The history of the German resistance: 1933–1945, trans. R. Barry, MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. p. 519.

    Google Scholar 

  35. 33.

    Stockdale, J.B. (2001) Courage under fire, in: Department of Philosophy and Fine Arts, United States Military Academy eds, Moral dimensions of the military profession (5th edn.): 321–334. p. 328.

  36. 33a.

    Campbell, K.J. (2002) Surviving Vietnam’s prisons [review of Honor bound: American prisoners of war in Southeast Asia, 1961–1973, by S. I. Rochester & F. Kiley]. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15 (2): 313–316. p. 314.

    Google Scholar 

  37. 34.

    Glücklich, A. (2001) Sacred pain: hurting the body for the sake of the soul. Oxford University Press, New York. p. 11.

    Google Scholar 

  38. 35.

    Qouta, S., Punamaki, R.-L. & Sarraj, E.E. (1997) Prison experiences and coping styles among Palestinian men. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 3 (1): 19–36. pp. 24–29.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 36.

    Op cit., Afshari, R. (2001). p. 294.

    Google Scholar 

  40. 37.

    Quiroga, J. (2002, February 27) Personal communication.

  41. 38.

    Gudjonsson, G. (1992) The psychology of interrogations, confessions, and testimony. Wiley, Chichester, UK. pp. 217–218.

    Google Scholar 

  42. 39.

    Op cit., Silverman, L. (2001). pp. 8, 9, & 66.

    Google Scholar 

  43. 40.

    Segal, J. (1957) Correlates of collaboration and resistance behavior among U.S. Army POWs in Korea, in: Bauer, R.A. & Schein, E.H. eds. Brainwashing [Special issue]. The Journal of Social Issues, 13 (3): 31–40. pp. 31–32, & 35. [Italics in the original.]—Of 6658 American POWs, 3323 were repatriated. Most of the others died in captivity early in the war, before the Chinese Communists initiated the “brainwashing” program. p. 31.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. 41.

    E.g., Toliver, R.F. (1997) The interrogator: the story of Hans-Joachim Scharff, master interrogator of the Luftwaffe. Schiffer, Atglen, PA.

    Google Scholar 

  45. 42.

    Watanabe, S. & Yokota, K. (1999) Psychological factors that facilitate confession to denying suspects [Electronic version, abstract]. Reports of the National Research Institute of Police Science 40 (1): 37–47.

    Google Scholar 

  46. 43.

    “These captured personnel are very valuable assets to our job in the [Middle East]. We depend on them to keep us up to date, so killing them off was not a good thing.... That is why we tried as hard as we could to get the person on our side, to try various methods to convince them we might be able to help [them] if they would come clean.”—U.S. Air Force interrogator (2003, February 17) Personal communication.

  47. 44.

    “There were times when I would actually go inside and sleep inside of the cell where they were being held, and sit there with them, and I could pump more information than anybody could pump under force or pain.... What you do is first you work on their confidence, gaining their confidence. You make them believe that you’re in the same boat that they are. That you yourself have been a victim of the world. And tell them how dissatisfied you are with the system. It’s very easy to do that because you’re actually dissatisifed with the system....”—Garcia, E. (1997). On torture interrogation of Nazis and terrorists. Interview conducted by J.M. Arrigo, Albuquerque, NM. Oral History Series on Ethics of Intelligence and Weapons Development. Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

  48. 45.

    Associated Press. (2003, December 1). Saudi interrogators use new technique [Electronic version]. Washington Post.

  49. 46.

    Maio, G. (2001) History of medical involvement in torture—then and now [Electronic version]. The Lancet, 357 (9268): 1609–1611.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  50. 47.

    Marks, J. (1979) The search for the “Manchurian Candidate”—the CIA and mind control. Times Books, New York. pp. 127–130.

    Google Scholar 

  51. 48.

    U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence and Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources. (1977) Project MKULTRA: the CIA’s program of research in behavioral modification. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC. pp. 7, 12–13, 123 & 148–149.

    Google Scholar 

  52. 49.

    Weinstein, H.M. (1990) Psychiatry and the CIA: victims of mind control. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC Pp. 180–181.—The District Court case was: Orlikow v. U.S., 682 F.Supp. 77 (D.D.C. 1988). The Supreme Court case was: CIA v. Sims, 471 U.S. 159 (1985).

    Google Scholar 

  53. 50.

    U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (2002, January 7) Weekly Intelligence Notes, 94-02 dtd 28 January 02. http://safe.sysplan.com/scihelpamerica/ad.html.

  54. 51.

    Arrigo, J.M. (1999) Sins and salvations in clandestine scientific research: a social psychological and epistemological inquiry. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Claremont Graduate University, p. 357.

  55. 52.

    Executive summary: Farwell Brain Fingerprinting. http://www.brainwavescience.com. Accessed December 23, 2002.

  56. 53.

    U.S. Air Force interrogator. (2002, December 23, & 2003, February 17) Personal communications.

  57. 54.

    p. 26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  58. 55.

    Zeeberg, N. (1998). Torture—a public health puzzle in Europe. Torture 8 (4a) (Suppl. 1): 21–44.

    Google Scholar 

  59. 56.

    Heinz, W.S. (1993) The military, torture and human rights: experiences from Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay, in: Crelinsten, F.D. & Schmid, A.P., eds. The politics of pain torturers and their masters: 73–108. Center for the Study of Social Conflicts, Leiden, The Netherlands. P. 80.

    Google Scholar 

  60. 57.

    Amnesty International. (2000) Stopping the torture trade. Amnesty International, New York. p. 34.

    Google Scholar 

  61. 58.

    For example, MKULTRA psychiatrist Ewen Cameron’s infamous “psychic driving” experiments.—Weinstein, Harvey M. (1990) Psychiatry and the CIA: victims of mind control. American Psychiatric Press, Washington, DC.

  62. 59.

    Kameda, T., Takezawa, M. & Hastie, R. (2003) The logic of social sharing: an evolutionary game analysis of adaptive norm development. Personality and Social Psychology Review 7 (1): 2–19. p. 6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  63. 60.

    Op cit., U.S. Senate, Select Committee on Intelligence and Subcommittee on Health and Scientific Research of the Committee on Human Resources. (1977).

    Google Scholar 

  64. 61.

    Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. (1995, October) Final report: Advisory Committee on Human Radiation Experiments. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC.

    Google Scholar 

  65. 62.

    Rood, H.W. (2001 & 1997) Moral development of an intelligence officer in the clash of civilizations—On torture interrogation of terrorists. Interview conducted by J.M. Arrigo, Claremont, CA. Oral History Series on Ethics of Intelligence and Weapons Development. Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

    Google Scholar 

  66. 63.

    Drogin, B. & Meyer, J. (2002, April 2) Detainee is bin Laden aide; “He knows where people are.” Los AngelesTimes: A1 & A6. p. A6.

  67. 64.

    Haritos-Fatouros, M. (1993) The official torturer: a learning model for obedience to the authority of violence, in: op. cit., Crelinsten, F.D. & Schmid, A.P. eds.: 141–160.

  68. 65.

    Op cit., Heinz, W.S. (1993).

    Google Scholar 

  69. 66.

    Allodi, F. (1993) Somoza’s National Guard: a study of human rights abuses, psychological health and moral development, in: op. cit., Crelinsten, F.D. & Schmid, A.P. eds: 125–140.

  70. 67.

    Cohen, S. & Golan, D. (1991) The interrogation of Palestinians during the Intifada; ill-treatment, “moderate physical pressure” or torture? Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, Jerusalem.

    Google Scholar 

  71. 68.

    Crelinsten, R.D. (1993). In their own words: the world of the torturer, in: op cit., Crelinsten, F.D. & Schmid, A.P. eds: 39–72. p. 71.

  72. 69.

    Horne, A. (1977) A savage war of peace: Algeria 1954–1962. Macmillan, London. P. 206.—Horne referred to “numerous cases like that of the European police inspector found guilty of torturing his own wife and children, which he explained as resulting from what he had been required to do to Algerian suspects...”

    Google Scholar 

  73. 70.

    Op cit., Heinz, Wolfgang S. (1993) p. 98.

    Google Scholar 

  74. 71.

    McNair, R.M. (2002) Perpetration-induced traumatic stress: the psychological consequences of killing. Praeger, Westport, CT.

    Google Scholar 

  75. 72.

    U.S. Air Force interrogator (2002, December 16) Personal communication.

  76. 73.

    Op cit., Rood, H.W. (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  77. 74.

    Carroll, T.P. (2001) The case against intelligence openness. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 14 (4): 559–574. p. 570.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  78. 75.

    Clark, R. (2000) Informers and corruption, in: Billingsley, R., Nemitz, T. & Bean, P. eds. Informers: policing, policy, practice. Willan, Portland, OR: 38–49. p. 40.

    Google Scholar 

  79. 76.

    Powers, T. (2002, October 10) Secrets of September 11. The New York Review of Books: 47–52. p. 48.

    Google Scholar 

  80. 77.

    Allen, T.B. & Polmar, N. (1995) Code-name downfall: the secret plan to invade Japan and why Trauman dropped the bomb. Simon & Schuster, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  81. 78.

    McGee, J. (2001, November 28) Ex-FBI officials criticize tactics on terrorism: detention of suspects not effective, they say [Electronic version]. Washington Post: A01.

  82. 79.

    Aussaresses, P. (2002) The Battle of the Casbah: Terrorism and Counter-Terrorism in Algeria 1955–57. Enigma, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  83. 80.

    Op cit., Horne, A. (1977).

    Google Scholar 

  84. 81.

    Berkowitz, B. (2003, December 19). Learning to break the rules [op-ed] [electronic version]. The New York Times.

  85. 82.

    Op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  86. 83.

    Biletzi, A. (2001) The judicial rhetoric of morality: Israel’s High Court of Justice on the legality of torture [Electronic version]. Unpublished paper. Occasional Papers of the School of Social Science, No. 9. Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv Israel. p. 8.—Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin himself admitted that 8,000 prisoners had been subjected to violent shaking.

  87. 84.

    Seaquist, L. (2004, May 5). US military’s bad-guy dragnet—a terrible way to win a war. The Christian Science Monitor, p. 9.

  88. 85.

    U.S. Air Force interrogator (2003, January 7 & February 17) Personal communication.

  89. 86.

    Op cit., Horne, A. (1977) pp. 204–205.

    Google Scholar 

  90. 87.

    E.g., Gordon, N. J. & Fleisher, W.L. (2002) Effective interviewing and interrogation techniques. Academic Press, San Diego, CA. pp. 19–20. Zulawski, D.E. & Wicklander, D.E. (2002) Practical aspects of interview and interrogation (2nd edn.) Boca Raton, FL: CRC.—Photo captions: “Untruthful individuals might posture themselves in a slumping position, extending their legs toward the interviewer” (p. 130); “Truthful individuals generally hold their heads upright” (p. 143).

    Google Scholar 

  91. 88.

    Dunning, D., Johnson, K., Erlinger, J. & Druger, J. (2003) Why people fail to recognize their own incompetence. Current Directions in Psychological Science 12 (3): 83–87.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  92. 89.

    The U.S. Air Force interrogator gave the example of moral indignation causing a false positive response when the polygrapher accused the subject of a particularly offensive crime.—(2003, February 17) Personal communication.

  93. 90.

    Vrij, A. (2000) Detecting lies and deceit: the psychology of lying and the implications for professional practice. Chichester, UK: Wiley. Pp. 74–76, 96, 159.—Among professional liecatchers, Secret Service members do a little better, and there are rare individuals with high accuracy in lie detection. “[S]ome professional polygraph examiners claim an accuracy rate of 97% or above, whereas the scientific evidence indicates a more modest accuracy of about 85%...”—Op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992) p. 185.

  94. 91.

    Landay, J.S. (2004, February 5) Intelligence officials warned that Iraq WMD information was iffy [i.e. uncertain]. Knight Ridder Washington Bureau. http://www.realcities.com/mld/krwashington/news/columnists/jonathan_s_landay/7886210.htm. [Accessed February 14, 2004].

  95. 92.

    Bowers, F. (2002, October 8) The intelligence divide: can it be bridged? The Christian Science Monitor: 2–3.—Statistics quoted from FBI Director R. Mueller.

  96. 93.

    Op cit., Heinz, W.S. (1993). p. 81.

    Google Scholar 

  97. 94.

    Huff, C. R., Rattner, A. & Sagarin, E. (1986) Guilty until proved innocent: wrongful conviction and public policy. Crime & Delinquency 32(4): 518–544. p. 523.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  98. 95.

    Op cit., Crelinsten, R.D. (1993). p. 61.

  99. 96.

    Schmitt, E. (2004, May 15) Top commander bars coercive tactics in interrogation of Iraqis [Electronic version]. New York Times.

  100. 97.

    Ciezadlo, A. (2004, May 17) Iraqis, desperately seeking detainees, meet frustration. The Christian Science Monitor, pp. 1 & 10.

  101. 98.

    Hudson, R.A. (1999) The sociology and psychology of terrorism: who becomes a terrorist and why? Federal Research Division, Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/Sociology-Psychology%20of%20Terrorism.htm. pp. 56–58. Accessed January 27, 2003.

  102. 99.

    E.g., “[I]f due process is systematically denied to accused al-Qaeda members, one likely consequence is that other categories of accused persons—drug dealers, mass murderers, child molesters, etc.—will be labelled as similarly undeserving.”—Neier, A. (2002, February 14) The military tribunals on trial. The New York Review of Books: 11–15. p. 14.

  103. 100.

    Lichtblau, E. (2003, September 28). U.S. uses terror law to pursue crimes from drugs to swindling [electronic version]. New York Times.

  104. 101.

    Gordon, N.J., & Fleisher, W.L. (2002) Effective interviewing and interrogation techniques, Academic Press, San Diego, CA. p. 29.

    Google Scholar 

  105. 102.

    Gross, S.R. (1998, Autumn). Lost lives: miscarriages of justice in capital cases [Electronic version]. 61 Law & Contemporary Problems.

  106. 103.

    Op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992).

    Google Scholar 

  107. 104.

    Skolnick, Jerome H. & Fyfe, James J. (1993) Above the law: police and the excessive use of force. Free Press, New York.

    Google Scholar 

  108. 105.

    E.g., Pearse, J. & Gudjonnson, G.H. (1996) Police interviewing techniques at two South London police stations [Electronic version, abstract]. Psychology, Crime & Law 3 (1): 63–74.

    Google Scholar 

  109. 106.

    Fricks, R.L. (1997) Criminal confessions: scriptural basis and criminal jurisprudence reconciled [Electronic version, abstract]. Unpublished master’s thesis, School of Law, Robertson School of Government, Regent University, Virginia Beach, Virginia. p. 14.

    Google Scholar 

  110. 107.

    Kassin, S.M. (1997) The psychology of confession evidence [Electronic version, abstract]. American Psychologist 52 (3): 221–233.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  111. 108.

    Op cit., Heinz, W.S. (1993) p. 87.

    Google Scholar 

  112. 109.

    Op cit., Aussaresses, P. (2002).

    Google Scholar 

  113. 110.

    Gur-Arye, M. (1989) Excerpts of the Report. Symposium on the report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Methods of Investigation of the General Security Service Regarding Hostile Terrorist Activity [Special issue]. Israel Law Review 23 (2 & 3): 146–188. pp. 161–162.

    Google Scholar 

  114. 111.

    Op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992).. pp. 269 & 272.

    Google Scholar 

  115. 112.

    For a British example, see the “Birmingham Six,” in: op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992). pp. 269 & 272. For an Israeli example, see the “Nafsu case” in: op cit., Gur-Arye, M. (1989) Introduction. pp. 149–152.

    Google Scholar 

  116. 113.

    Op cit., Dershowitz, A.M. (2002, January 22). p. A-19.

  117. 114.

    Op cit., Heinz, W.S. (1993). p. 95.

    Google Scholar 

  118. 115.

    Chapman, R.D. (2002) The new intelligence agenda [review of Bombs, bugs, drugs, and thugs: Intelligence and America’s quest for security, by L. K. Johnson.]. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15 (1): 133–143. p. 143.

    Google Scholar 

  119. 116.

    Jonkers, Roy. (2002, November 18) In memoriam. Association of Former Intelligence Officers Weekly Intelligence Notes 44–02. http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/index_2002.html.

  120. 117.

    U.S. Air Force interrogator (2003, January 6) Personal communication.

  121. 118.

    Cohen, B. (2001) Democracy and the mis-rule of law: the failure of the Israeli legal system to prevent the torture of Palestinians [Electronic version]. 12 Indiana International and Comparative Law Review 75.

  122. 119.

    Op cit., Rood, H.W. (1997).

    Google Scholar 

  123. 120.

    Wechsler, L. (1991) A miracle, a universe: settling accounts with torturers. Penguin, New York. p. 66.

    Google Scholar 

  124. 121.

    Op cit., Moon, T. (1991) p. 321.

  125. 122.

    Schwab, S.I. (2002) Forging a durable alliance [review of the book Roosevelt and Churchill: men of secrets, by D. Stafford, 2000]. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence 15 (1): 144–149.

    Google Scholar 

  126. 123.

    Anderson, R. (2002) [Review of the book Body of secrets: Anatomy of the ultra-secret National Security Agency, from the Cold War though the dawn of a new century, by J. Bamford]. Intelligence and National Security 17 (1): 16–18. p. 17.

    Google Scholar 

  127. 124.

    Kane, T.M. (2002, March) Strategic analysis: to hear the thunder. Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin: 4–7. p. 6.

    Google Scholar 

  128. 125.

    Ley, M.P. (2002, March) Editors note. Military Intelligence Professional Bulletin: 36.

  129. 126.

    Fox, S. (2000) America’s invisible Gulag: a biography of German American internment and exclusion in World War II. Peter Lang, New York. pp. xv. & xviii.

    Google Scholar 

  130. 127.

    Crockett, R.F. (2002) America’s invisible gulag. [Review of the book America’s invisible gulag, by S. Fox, 2000]. The Oral History Review, 29 (2): 192–195. p. 192.

    Google Scholar 

  131. 128.

    For an exposition of morality as a negative feedback control system, see: Chambers, J. (2001) A cybernetic theory of morality and moral autonomy. Science and Engineering Ethics 7: 177–192.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  132. 129.

    Moore, R.G. (2003, February 4) Personal communication from an ethics instructor at the U.S. Army Logistics Management College, Fort Lee, VA.

  133. 130.

    Kendall, K. (1996 & 1997) My life, not the lives of my children, for my country!—On torture interrogation in the Korean War. Interview conducted by J.M. Arrigo, Portage, IN. Oral History Series on Ethics of Intelligence and Weapons Development. Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley, CA.

  134. 131.

    Jonkers, R. (2001, October 15) Disruption as an anti-terrorist weapon. Association of Former Intelligence Officers Weekly Intelligence Notes 41-01: http://www.afio.com/sections/wins/2001/2001-41.html]

  135. 132.

    USA: Deporting for torture? (2003, November 14). Amnesty International Press Release. http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR511392003?open&of=ENG-USA. Accessed February 14, 2004.

  136. 133.

    Gordon, N. (2002). Outsourcing violations: the Israeli case. Journal of Human Rights 1 (3): 321–337. p. 328.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  137. 134.

    Bowden, M. (2003, October). The dark art of interrogation. The Atlantic Monthly. pp. 51–58, 60, 62, 64–65, 68–70, 72–74, & 76. p. 76.

  138. 135.

    Op cit.: Kendall, K. (1996 & 1997).

  139. 136.

    Judging from newsletters and personal communications with members. ACHES-MC, 363 Pearl St., #2, Thunder Bay, Ontario, P7B1E9; http://www.aches-mc.org. SMART, P.O. Box 1295, Easthampton, MA 01027; http://www.members.aol.com/SMARTNEWS. SurvivorShip, 139 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94110; http://www.survivorship.org. CAHRA: http://www.den.davis.ca.us/~welsh/ (primarily concerned with electro-magnetic resonance targeting of civilians).

  140. 137.

    Campbell, Rodney. (1977) The Luciano Project: the secret wartime collaboration of the mafia and the U.S. Navy. New York: McGraw-Hill.—Based on the 1954 files of the New York State Commissioner of Investigations.

  141. 138.

    Anonymous. Personal communications from four participants.

  142. 139.

    Op cit., Dershowitz, A.M. (2002, January 22).

  143. 140.

    Op cit., Mazmanian, D. & Sabatier, P. (1989). p. 28.

    Google Scholar 

  144. 141.

    Leibowitz, R.B. (1991) The psychology of police confession and the impact of Miranda: a study of interrogation methods over a 50 year period [Electronic version, abstract]. Unpublished dissertation. University of California, Santa Cruz.

    Google Scholar 

  145. 142.

    Fletcher, L.E. & Weinstein, H. (2002) Violence and social repair: rethinking the contribution of justice to reconciliation. Human Rights Quarterly 24 (3): 573–649. pp. 615 & 625.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  146. 143.

    Hamber, B. & Wilson, R. A. (2002) Symbolic closure through memory, reparation and revenge in post-conflict societies. Journal of Human Rights 1 (1): 35–53. p. 47.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  147. 144.

    Task Force tells government...we are still seeking justice! (1996, Winter) National Association of Radiation Survivors. 1 & 3. [Bulletin available from NARS, P.O. Box 2815, Weaverville, CA 96093-2815].

  148. 145.

    McConville, M. & Baldwin, J. (1982) The role of interrogation in crime discovery and conviction [Electronic version, abstract]. British Journal of Criminology, 22 (2): 165–175.—Although not directed to the same point, another source stated that confession evidence is important in the prosecution of about 20% of criminal cases.—Op cit., Gudjonsson, G. (1992) p. 324.

    Google Scholar 

  149. 146.

    A cognitive process called “moral disengagement.”—Grussendorf, J., McAlister, A., Sandström, P., Udd, L. & Morrison, T.C. (2002) Resisting moral disengagement in support for war. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology 8 (1) 73–83, p. 73.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  150. 147.

    Buhelt, A. (2001) Torture in well-functioning democracies. [Book review of Torture in the Basque Country, Report 2000, by TAT Group Against Torture. (1999).] Torture 11 (3): 92.

    Google Scholar 

  151. 148.

    Kazdin, A.E. & Benjet, C. (2003) Spanking children: evidence and issues. Current Directions in Psychological Science 12 (3): 99–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  152. 149.

    Op cit., Horne, A. (1977) pp. 206–207.

    Google Scholar 

  153. 150.

    Dershowitz, A.M. (2002) Torture of terrorists: is it necessary to do and to lie about it?, in: Dershowitz, A.M., Shouting fire: Civil liberties in a turbulent age: Little, Brown, & Co., Boston: 470–479. p. 477.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jean Maria Arrigo Ph.D..

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Arrigo, J.M. A utilitarian argument against torture interrogation of terrorists. SCI ENG ETHICS 10, 543–572 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-004-0011-y

Download citation


  • torture
  • interrogation
  • terrorism
  • utilitarianism
  • military ethics
  • human rights