So what can I possibly add to the national debate about CIA torture? I can compare it to the practices that local police departments use to get confessions from suspects. I think you’ll be surprised at the direction and history these practices can teach us in the international arena.
Do police still use rubber hoses to get people to confess to crimes? I’ve worked for over thirty years in the criminal justice system in my state of Minnesota. I can tell you they don’t use rubber hoses! But for years, all states in the country have looked upon coerced confessions with great suspicion. All courts, including the federal courts, are quick to throw-out confessions of suspects if there’s any hint the statement came from coercion, pressure, or torture. Why would there be such a quick and drastic response to these kinds of practices?
1. In our country, every suspect who is in custody and is questioned about the crime, must be advised of their rights to remain silent and to have a lawyer present. Why? The U.S. and most state constitutions give each citizen these rights and the suspect must be reminded of them. What about the case where the police are interrogating an illegal immigrant? They still read them “their rights.” This is because the fairness that is inherent in the right to remain silent and have a lawyer with you is so embedded in our collective sense ofthe protections for anyone suspected of a crime. When the CIA was interrogating war criminals, the constitution wouldn’t apply to them, of course. But our sense of justice should require some aspect of fairness, don’t you think?
2. In Minnesota, our supreme court requires that all statements/confessions taken from suspects also be recorded. That way the reviewing court can listen to the rights advisory given by the police and also hear the circumstances of the confession—were there any brutal methods used to get the suspect to talk? If so, the confession would be thrown out. Obviously, this requirement to record the statement wouldn’t apply in CIA interrogation situations. But again, it’s an indication of how careful we are to make sure the statement is not forced through torture or pressure on the suspect.
3. The bottom line for the above two requirements is the long known fact that forced confessions are not reliable. If torture or coercion is used to get someone to talk, courts have known that these statements are often not true. That’s why they routinely kick-out any confessions if there’s even a hint of coercion.
Considering the long history of how confessions are obtained by the police in our country, shouldn’t the same standards apply to the CIA while interrogating prisoners? What do you think?