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The use of Torture in Information Extraction Research Paper


In various parts of the world, state security agencies employ torture as one of the methods of information extraction from criminals, even though it is considered illegal given the fact that it inflicts pain on suspects who are not proven guilty. The Convention against Torture has a specific definition of torture, which is applicable even in the United States. Torture is defined as any action that inflicts severe pain or suffering to an individual for the purposes of obtaining critical information.

The pain can be physical or mental, depending on the kind of information needed. However, inflicting pain on an innocent individual owing to his or her skin color, race, ethnicity, or gender for purposes of punishing is also considered torture.

The validity or justification of torture is highly contested with some scholars and analysts approving it while others are opposed to the act1. After the December bombing of the two US buildings, the state resumed to an ambitious program of eradicating terrorism in the world, with the Middle East states being the prime targets.

The president declared war on Afghanistan and Iraq mainly to flush out members of the illegal terrorist group referred to as Al Qaeda, as well as its affiliated terrorist government termed as Taliban. As some scholars observe, information serves a great purpose of designing winning strategies in any war2.

The US needed enough information to deal effectively with the illegal terrorist groups in the Middle East, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq. In this regard, torture was viewed as one of the information extraction techniques, even though its legitimacy and use is highly contested even in the modern global system.

The major aim of this paper is to conduct a study to establish whether the US has achieved its security objectives using torture as an information extraction technique. The American state security agencies have struggled a lot to introduce torture as one of the legal techniques of obtaining information from suspects. The military and the intelligence changed their strategy in 2009 when it was factual that the public was unwilling to approve any bill touching on the privacy of the individual.

The election of Barrack Obama brought many changes since he promised the citizenry to end torture and affiliated inhuman acts. Upon taking office in 2009, the president ordered the security agencies to follow the law in Article 3, which is closely related to the Geneva Convention and the Army Field Manual.

Based on this, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was ordered to shut down all the torture camps. This article traces all the major constitutional orders, as well as executive orders that talk about torture in the United States.

Research Question and Hypothesis

Why is torture considered an efficient and accurate means for extracting information, which is vital to U.S. national security? If torture is legalized and is adopted as a judicially sanctioned practice then torture maybe appropriate under certain well-defined circumstances to save innocent lives and ensure national security in the United States.

Literature Review

Theoretical review

A number of theories have been formulated to explain the efficiency of torture in extracting information from suspects, criminals, and the minorities. The theories are mostly ethical since they pose the question “can the use of torture be justified in obtaining information from suspects?” Through a critical analysis, Emmanuel Kant suggested that reason is the final authority for morality meaning that the use of torture can only be validated in case it is logical.

An act is considered moral in case it is carried out for the benefit of the majority in society. In other words, Kant suggested that any action taken should satisfy all groups in the society. This means that torture is not justifiable since it violates the rights of other people in the society. The Kantian theory is related to the principles of the major world religions, such as Christianity and Islam. The Bible states categorically that an individual should do to others as he or she would wish them to do to him or her3.

Deontological theory suggests that human actions are either intrinsically right or wrong. In this regard, torture is largely viewed as being unacceptable under all circumstances. Torture is effective in extracting information from a suspect, but deontologists are of the view that it cannot be applied even though its outcome is ethically desired.

An article by Edmund Burke talks about the geographical morality. The scholar suggested that even those who support torture in their jurisdictions, but condemn it using strongest words possible in other authorities.

For instance, the British government seemed to support torture against those individuals who failed to comply with their rule in the third world, but the same government opposed the use of torture in foreign countries. Many western governments suffer from geographical morality in the sense that they oppose the use of torture in developing countries, but they apply it in extracting information from criminals in their jurisdictions.

Some theories support the use of torture since it enables effective collection of intelligence. John Stuart Mill formulated the utilitarian theory, which suggests that each individual should work hard to bring the promising equilibrium of good over evil for each person involved. Consequently, torture is legal since its outcomes are desirable in the sense that it saves lives. The use of torture facilitates critical information that can be used in preventing the loss of lives of property.

Based on the Stuart Mill’s theory, the end will always justify the means since lives will be saved at last. Terrorism is one of the problems affecting development in the modern international system hence the use of torture to extract information, which might be used in designing strategies, is justifiable. Consequentialism is another theory that supports the use of torture. The theory posits that validity of an act is determined by its potential effect.

The main effect of torture on security is reduced rates of terrorism and criminality among citizens. Since torture is a product of war, some scholars pose the question “can war ever be justified”. Based on this, Just War Theory is often applied in justifying the use of torture in information extraction and intelligence collection.

Thomas Aquinas came up with a number of principles that should be considered before justifying any war or torture. One of the principles is that war or a legitimate authority should declare torture. Based this view, the use of torture in the United States is justified since it was sanctioned by the presidency.

The second principle suggests that the conditions forcing the state or any legitimate authority to engage in war or torture should be rational. In other words, the actions of the aggressor should be a threat to the national security or the state interests. Since terrorism posed serious challenges to the United States and other actors in the International system, the US is allowed to engage in war and consequently apply torture as an information extraction and intelligence collection technique.

Theories talking about torture suggest that intentions and ideologies play critical roles as far as its use is concerned. The acts of a torturer make a big difference regarding the moral value of the torture action. Kant suggests that the intention of torture establishes whether the act is morally wrong or right.

The ideology of the group might force the security agency to apply torture implying that the religious beliefs and cultural beliefs have a role to play as far as the use of torture is concerned. The philosophy of the extremists is often believed to be erroneous and only torture is considered the best technique of ending the dogma hence its application is permissible.

Deontological Theories

Among several theories talking about justification and opposition of torture as one of the advanced interrogation techniques, deontological theories are best suited to explain why the US government should reject the use of forceful extraction of information from suspected criminals. The theory is considered a normative theory in the sense that it judges the morality of any action using some of the established rules and laws.

Te theory is sometimes termed as the rule-based ethics mainly because it calls on all people to play their rules dutifully. The theory is different from consequentialism and virtue ethics in a number of ways. Emmanuel Kant is among theorists who subscribe to the deontological theory.

Kant was of the view that every person ought to act based on the rules governing his or her duty. In this regard, it is noted that the consequences of any act does not make such an act wrong or right. What matters most is the motive or the reason behind any action. In this case, Kant noted that the use of force in extracting information is unjustified in the sense that the motive is wrong.

The main aim of state security agencies is to force an individual to avail information, which is a violation of nationally and internationally recognized laws and regulations. All state security agencies are expected to act based purely on their duty, which is to protect lives and reduce human suffering.

Exposing a section of the population to torture with an aim of extracting critical information and collecting intelligence is uncalled for, as it violates human rights. Kant supported the idea that any action ought to be good in without any qualification. An action is considered good when it does not bring any form of suffering to another person.

Kant noted that some of the concepts considered good, such as intelligence, perseverance, and pleasure, are not usually good. The state security agencies might take pleasure seeing someone suffering, as he or she is taken through a torturous situation. This makes the act worse and ethically wrong.

The theorist suggested that only one thing is good, which include good will. Therefore, state security agencies charged with the responsibility of information extraction should ensure that they act out of good will instead of victimizing innocent citizens. The use of torture might be good to an extent that it allows extensive collection of information. This means that the goodness of something might arise accidently even though the action was intended to harm another person.

In some situations, an individual might bring about suffering to another person, even though the aim was to bring satisfaction. Kant advised that people should abide by the provisions of the moral law to ensure that human suffering is prevented. Every person has a duty to act within the provisions of the moral law. Based on the, the scholar instructs people to act according to the maxim, which can be conceived as a universal law.

Whenever an individual engages in any form of behavior, he or she has to respect humanity and treat human beings in a compassionately. In this regard, the use of torture should be conceived as a means, as well as an end. Supporters of torture argue that its usage is simply a means of achieving the main objective related to maintenance of national security.

Some supporters of deontological theories subscribe to moral absolutism meaning that some actions are right while others are wrong. For such scholars, the intention or the reason of action does not matter at all. Kant is believed to be an absolute deontologist since he believed that the consequences of an action do not make it right or wrong. Some scholars, such as W.D Ross, are non-absolutists. Such theorists hold that the consequences of an action might make it right or wrong.

Based on this, the use of torture in extraction information from criminals and enhancing intelligence is valid. Even though the action is wrong, its results are admirable in the sense that it enables maintenance of peace and national security in the United States. Contemporary deontologists support the use of torture, as one of the advanced interrogation techniques in the world. Such scholars argue that a harmful technique can perhaps be employed in saving more lives.

For instance, a driver carrying over twenty passengers is allowed to ram into a salon car carrying only one person if that will save the lives of the majority. Similarly, a suspected Al Qaeda operative should be forced to give information if only it will save the lives of several Americans who are always threatened.

However, contemporary deontologists allow the use of force in saving lives under special circumstances. For instance, one person cannot be killed for his organs to be used in saving five lives. Divine deontological theorists are of the view that people should do those things that God permits only. For instance, killing to safe other lives is not allowed whatsoever. Based on this reality, the use of torture is not acceptable since it might lead to death.

Conceptual Review

A scholar by the name Moher conducted a study, which concluded that the continued use of force in extracting information among suspects in the United States is a gross violation of the international law, which provides that an individual should never be forced to offer information against his or her wish4.

The establishment of the Guantanamo Bay detention camps and their persistent upgrading suggests that the world’s remaining superpower is determined to employ force as far as information extraction is concerned. Moher is critical about the international law on torture since it does not provide mechanisms for prevention of torture.

In fact, many states, such as the United States, take advantage of the weaknesses of the international law to apply unscrupulous techniques in collecting intelligence from suspects. The above scholar claims there is adequate evidence showing that the United States has consistently applied torture in extracting information. Kim engaged in extensive research to establish whether the United States has ever applied torture to collect critical information from suspects5.

The study revealed that torture has always been applied in information extraction among the American state security agencies. For instance, reports from the FBI, the CIA, the Red Cross, and the military observers prove that the government has always employed torture when engaging with terrorists or suspects of serious crimes.


Research Method

This chapter focuses on various aspects of research development. It includes methods of data collection, analysis, and presentation. Every research project applies a certain research method to achieve its objectives depending on its goals. The methods used to conduct research in this project compared closely with the methods anticipated in the project proposal.

In research, design deals primarily with aims, uses, purposes, intentions, and plans within the practical constraints of time, location, money, and availability of staff. In this study, respondents were briefed in advance.

The study population was also amicably informed in order to get prepared for the study. Briefing was important because it enhances the reliability of the study. It is also ethical to inform people before researching on them. The findings would be made public to the researched as one way of ensuring morality in the study.

Research Strategy

The study utilized deductive scaffold because some theories were used to give a certain picture of the study. Deductive reasoning starts by analyzing some concepts before moving to the field to confirm the claims. The researcher analyzed some theories related to the use of torture before moving to the field to collect data. The technique is constructive because it equips the researcher with relevant information.

In other words, deductive reasoning moves from generalizations to the specific idea. A number of theories talking about the effectiveness of torture as an information collection technique were first analyzed before moving to the field. The most applicable sampling method for this exercise was random sampling. Considering that the targeted population consisted of staff in two major security agencies, there was no much risk of having biased data.

If the survey needed to cover the entire staff the CIA and the military, systematic sampling, coupled with stratified sampling would be ideal to ensure cross-departmental representation. However, this survey targeted the security staff hence random sampling proved sufficient to collect required data.

Findings and Analysis

There were several interesting observations made in the process of data collection. The observations include those made from the literature review and those made from analysis of data collected through the questionnaire. In this section, the two sources of data present the categories used for disseminating the findings.

In the first case, the information covers the data retrieved from various academic sources such as journals, reports, and books on issues of torture and intelligence collection. In the second section, the attitudes and thoughts of the CIA and military staff at the state security organs form the basis of the report as covered by the questionnaire.

There were four major observation made from the literature reviewed

  • Why agencies use torture as a means to obtain intelligence
  • Chances that torture could result in negative backlash.
  • Torture verses other forms of intelligence gathering
  • Enhanced interrogation techniques

Why agencies use torture as a means to obtain intelligence

The search for literature to uncover issues related torture revealed that the use of torture is growing in popularity not just in the national security agencies, but also local security organs. Governments in Europe started applying torture in the eighteenth century to force opponents to support their non-inclusive programs6.

The US prefers the use of torture in terrorism detection, prevention, and management. The views of Blakeley suggest that torture is an effective information extraction technique, which has the potential of preserving the national interests of the United States. The scholar borrowed the views of psychologists, which suggest that a human being can perhaps give information if some pain is inflicted on him or her7.

In the United States, thorough beating, electric shock, rape, and suffocation are widely employed as some of the techniques of torture. In some occasions, an individual is forced to give information in case he or she witnesses the torture of the loved ones. Torture is considered effective mainly because of its consequences on the victim. Many individuals would prefer cooperating with the state agencies rather than go through inhuman processes, such as rape and suffocation.

Torture instills fear on other people who might be planning to commit serious crimes that are considered transnational, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. The views of Blakeley on the effectiveness of torture conclude that it minimizes cases of insecurity owing to the fact that an individual would not attempt to destabilize peace knowing the consequences.

Chances that torture could result in negative backlash

One of the interesting findings from literature review is the role of torture in information extraction. It was interesting to discover that torture on its own may not provide much information, but security agencies apply other techniques as well. In fact, torture no longer provides enough information for security agencies8.The findings show that information obtained through torture is inaccurate compared as other sources of information that are mostly voluntary.

Justification of the use of torture is a miscalculation that has always resulted to negative consequences in the United States. The government has always justified application of force in extracting critical information with claims of maintaining national security. Many individuals consider this type of technique immoral, as well as illegal since it does not give the accused the freedom to volunteer information.

In 2001, the US government claimed to have extracted adequate information from a Libyan born terrorist who offered training to the Al-Qaeda. However, evidence was provided the US state security officials applied force when the suspect, al-Libi, was transferred to Libya. Based this, the US national interests, particularly in terms security, has deteriorated over the years.

Torture versus other forms of intelligence gathering

State security agencies believe that torture is the most efficient information extraction and intelligence collection technique, even though its usage is highly contested9. However, studies show that other effective and widely accepted techniques exist, but they are costly to apply. Compared to other forms of intelligence collection, torture is the most controversial of all the techniques.

In the fight of terrorism, torture is considered effective, but its application is widely contested given the fact that it violates the rights of an individual.

The US government came up with several methods of combating terrorism following the bombing of the twin towers and the world trade center. The review of literature and the analysis of the gathered information through the questionnaire suggest that torture is the most effective technique, but it is illegal and unacceptable under the international and national law.

Enhanced interrogation techniques

Torture is perceived as one of the enhanced interrogation techniques in the United States owing to its effectiveness. Studies show that the changing techniques applied by terrorists and other transnational criminals call for the application of enhanced interrogation techniques.


Torture is preferred in dealing with terrorism mainly because the adversaries do not wear uniforms and neither do they carry weapons openly. Under the provisions of the international law, torture is unjustifiable and should never be applied to an individual as far as information extraction is concerned. Under the Geneva conventions, the UN Conventions against Torture and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, torture is a serious crime that is comparable to genocide.

Based on this, torture is unacceptable because it is inhuman and degrades human dignity. The US state officials are always aware the use of force to extract information from an individual is not allowed, but torture was widely used in obtaining critical information just after 9/11 incident, which resulted to the loss of life and destruction of property.

The American Attorneys under the Bush-Cheney administration drafted policies that allowed systematic torture of individuals suspected to be engaged or supporting terrorism. The Bush administration adopted the findings of scientists in the field of medicine who suggested that torture is innocuous, legitimate, and an operational method of information extraction.

The government defended its actions by suggesting that it could only safe lives in case information was provided, irrespective of the technique employed. However, the use of force has continuously threatened the security and the peace efforts in the United States citizens internationally since many feel unsecure.

The US government under the Bush administration applied torture under a new name. The government officials believed torture is an enhanced interrogation technique, as compared to forceful extraction of information as many would thing. The CIA report recommended that torture had been applied effectively in revealing the hideout of the world known terrorist in the name of Osama Bin Laden.

The culture of many Islamic extremists does not allow them to volunteer information that would lead to the capture of one of their own. In this regard, the government had to advance the interrogation techniques to maintain the security of the nation. A number of the enemy combatants being held at the Guantanamo Bay at the time had to be forced to give information. Torture was viewed as the only viable technique given the fact that the government lacked other reliable techniques.

Records obtained from the Department of Defense show that detainees volunteered critical information that revealed the managerial structures of Al Qaeda, its operatives, sources of finances, the means of communication, recruitment processes, training methods, and the major programs of the terrorist organization10. Moreover, the use of torture proved critical in revealing the infrastructure of the terrorist hub, the major plans, as well as the principles of the illegal group.


Blakeley, Ruth. “Why torture?” Review of International Studies, 33.3 (2007): 373-397.

Bravin, Jess. “Pentagon report set framework for use of torture; security or legal factors could trump restrictions, memo to Rumsfeld argued”. Wall Street Journal, 6.7 (2004): 1-25.

Crawford, Robert. “Torture and the ideology of national security”.Global Dialogue, 12.1 (2010): 1-15.

Iacopino, Vincent. 2011. US torture and national security: The imperative of accountability. Journal of Psychology 219.3 (2011): 190-192, search.proquest.com/docview/899158668?accountid=8289.

International: Is torture ever justified? Terrorism and civil liberty. 2007. The Economist, Sep 22, 76. search.proquest.com/docview/224005756?accountid=8289.

Kim, Lane. Evidence from torture: dilemmas for international and domestic law.Washington, DC: American Society of International Law, 2005.

Kleinman, Steven. National Security Interrogations: Myth v. Reality.The National Security Program, 1.1 (2011), 1-23.

Marsella, Anthony. “Psychology, the CIA, and torture: A hidden history…no longer!” PsycCRITIQUES, 51.30 (2006), 1-32.

Miller, Peter. “Torture Approval in Comparative Perspective.”Human Rights Review, 12.4 (2011): 441-463.

Moher, Andrew. The lesser of two evils? An argument for judicially sanctioned torture in A Post-9/11 World. Thomas Jefferson Law Review, 26.2 (2004): 469-489.

Our opposition to torture must be non-negotiable. 2009. New Statesman, Aug 10, 4.search.proquest.com/docview/224347646?accountid=8289

Terrorism; terrorist detainee documents demonstrate value of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that led to Osama bin laden capture. 2011. Bioterrorism Week: 32, search.proquest.com/docview/865812831?accountid=8289.


1Steven Kleinman, National Security Interrogations: Myth v. Reality, the National Security Program, 1.1, 2011, 14.

2Terrorism; terrorist detainee documents demonstrate value of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that led to Osama bin laden capture. 2011. Bioterrorism Week: 32, search.proquest.com/docview/865812831?accountid=8289

3Jess Bravin, “Pentagon report set framework for use of torture; security or legal factors could trump restrictions, memo to Rumsfeld argued”. Wall Street Journal, 6.7, 2004, 4.

4Andrew Moher, The lesser of two evils? An argument for judicially sanctioned torture in A Post-9/11 World, Thomas Jefferson Law Review, 26.2, 2004, 469.

5Lane Kim, Evidence from torture: dilemmas for international and domestic law (Washington, DC: American Society of International Law, 2005), 15.

6 International: Is torture ever justified? terrorism and civil liberty. 2007. The Economist, Sep 22, 76. search.proquest.com/docview/224005756?accountid=8289.

7Ruth Blakeley,“Why torture?”Review of International Studies, 33.3, 2007, 373.

8Iacopino, Vincent. “US torture and national security: The imperative of accountability”. Journal of Psychology 219.3 (2011): 190-192

9Our opposition to torture must be non-negotiable. 2009. New Statesman, Aug 10, 4.search.proquest.com/docview/224347646?accountid=8289

10Robert Crawford, Torture and the ideology of national security, Global Dialogue, 12.1 2010, 13.

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