The Speech Privilege, Redux

May 13, 2009 § 16 Comments

Lots of diligent effort has gone into an attempt to characterize the water torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as having been done “to extract life-saving information” as opposed to “in order to extract a confession”. The reason this putative distinction is important is because the latter is unequivocally condemned in the Catechism in language which simply cannot be parsed by proposing that “intrinsically immoral” means that water torture is OK when done for one purpose but immoral when done for a different purpose; language which echoes doctrinal (as opposed to juridical) statements by the Magisterium with a long pedigree. (I think the putative distinction between extracting information about the crimes a prisoner is involved in from extracting a confession is bunk; but as we shall see, it is also irrelevant to the particular case at hand).

So for Catholics of a certain persuasion the distinction is crucial: if KSM was subjected to water torture in order to extract a confession, it was unequivocally an evil act which we must condemn, unless one wants to just intransigently dissent from the Catechism. There isn’t any “parsing room” available by positing this or that spin on the moral theology of intrinsically immoral acts.

But the thing is, the water torture of KSM was done in order to extract a confession. In particular, it was done in order to extract a confession to the murder of Daniel Pearl (source); a confession the veracity of which the family of Daniel Pearl doubts (source), not that that matters in the moral evaluation.

Any legitimate public discussion of torture definitions by faithful Catholics ought to acknowledge, as prerequisite to even discussing the matter, that waterboarding KSM was immoral torture. Anything else is scandalous.

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§ 16 Responses to The Speech Privilege, Redux

  • Billy says:

    Ok, I'll bite.

    First, I will state as clearly as I can: torture administered in order to extract a confession is immoral, and this teaching is a clear teaching of the Church. Pope Nicholas said it quite clearly ages ago.

    Now, I want to ask questions and pose qualifications. Zippy, do you understand the reported data to be
    (A) that the people who administered the waterboard treatment to KSM did so in order to get him to confess to the murder of Daniel Pearl? Or,
    (B) the people who administered the waterboard treatment did so in order to get him to talk about AQ, & terrorist orgs and methods, and eventually in the course of his meanderings he admitted to the murder of Daniel Pearl?

    I personally would not trust this “confession” either, not without a whole host of corroborating evidence. But whether it is trustworthy is not my point, I am just trying to understand what the reports claim.

    If you putatively want to explore and winnow through opponents claims that torture for confession, and torture for information about future events or general situations of conspirators, are morally distinct, I predict that you won't make much headway with an article that seems (to me at least) to intentionally ignore the difference between A and B above. I didn't think the report you linked clearly said A above, did you?

    And I'll end: if the torture administered to KSM was done under A, intentionally directed to extracting a confession concerning the murder of Mr. Pearl, then it was clearly and CERTAINLY immoral under current and long-standing Church teaching.

  • Jeff Miller says:

    I think there is a misunderstanding of the word confession as translated from the Latin as Red Cardigan points out.

    http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/2009/05/answering-some-torture-objections.html

  • Billy says:

    According to redcardigan, confiteor means <>confiteor,” which means “to confess , admit, acknowledge; to reveal (one’s deeds, thoughts, or actions). <>

    According to a Latin-English online dictionary, it means <> to confess, own up, admit, acknowledge <>

    I confess that I don’t see much difference. And in all of the references, the meaning is roughly the same – to tell out that you are guilty, or responsible, or the one that did or thought something. As far as I can tell, that is exactly the sense that I was using it, and exactly the sense that my confreres who distinguish between using coercion to get a confession and to get intelligence. Intelligence does NOT IMPLY anything like “I did it” or “Here is what I was guilty of thinking”. It can be “here is what I heard them say”, or “I saw them do this…”, or “I think they intended to go to this spot.” These don’t fall under <> to confess, own up, admit, acknowledge <>, at least not in any ordinary usage that normal people would use in daily life.

    There was no misunderstanding of confession.

    Here is what Zippy posted from Pope Nicholas: <> If a thief or a robber is apprehended and denies that he is involved, you say that in your country the judge would beat his head with lashes and prick his sides with iron goads until he came up with the truth. Neither divine nor human law allows this practice in any way, since a confession should be spontaneous, <>

    This makes it absolutely clear that what the Pope is talking about is a confession specifically of the crime of which he is accused, in the exact sense we have been using it.

  • William Luse says:

    “if the torture administered to KSM was done under A, intentionally directed to extracting a confession concerning the murder of Mr. Pearl, then it was clearly and CERTAINLY immoral…”

    It was clearly and certainly immoral for <>whatever<> reason it was done. Period. Because torture is always immoral.

  • Anonymous says:

    <>This makes it absolutely clear that what the Pope is talking about is a confession specifically of the crime of which he is accused, in the exact sense we have been using it.<>So when Pope Benedict XVI said “The prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstances”, by any circumstances, he meant confession only?

    – Kurt

  • Billy says:

    <> “The prohibition against torture cannot be contravened under any circumstances”, by any circumstances, he meant confession only? <>

    I did not say that, and did not mean that.

    The Church has clearly said that torture is immoral. Accepted.

    The Church has also said that using torture to extract confessions is immoral, and has said it in such a way as to indicate (at least, for my money) that any sort of coercion used to extract confessions is immoral. Accepted.

    What the Church has not said is that coercion through pain is always and everywhere morally the same as torture, nor has the Church said that coercion is always and everywhere immoral.

    It is left open as a matter for debate whether forms of coercion that are not torture are morally licit in some circumstances or always immoral. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, I am open to arguments on the subject. I have not yet seen an argument that the Church has spoken substantively, much less definitively, on that express point.

    I also accept that the Church has spoken definitively on the subject of intrinsically immoral acts, in VS. Part of what is at issue here is whether coercion is of itself the same species of moral act as torture. I don’t think the case has been made, and don’t see how it can be made.

    William, I am willing to accept your statement as long as you recognize that torture and coercion are not identical.

  • William Luse says:

    <>William, I am willing to accept your statement as long as you recognize that torture and coercion are not identical.<>That’s never been at issue, at least for me. “Torture” was the word you used to describe what was done to KSM, and I was trying to point out that as a result there can be no valid distinction between A and B in your original comment. Upon re-reading I see that the attempt to make the distinction may not be yours, but represents what others might say.

  • Billy says:

    <> “Torture” was the word you used to describe what was done to KSM, and I was trying to point out that as a result there can be no valid distinction between A and B in your original comment. <>

    I’m sorry, I must be dense tonight, I don’t quite follow that. A scenario has the interrogators explicitly thinking of a confession of the murder of Daniel Pearl before starting the interrogation, and present the issue as such to the prisoner. In B they never think specifically of this murder – until after the confession, that is – and they certainly never mention the murder to KSM before or during the waterboarding treatments. How are these identical?

    KSM’s treatment can be torture under either scenario. That may make his treatment immoral under either scenario. It does not resolve the question of whether interrogation for confession is morally identical to interrogation for intelligence. (As, for example, murderous rape is intrinsically evil, just as rape alone is. The fact that the perpetrator for murderous rape will go to hell for his sin just as the simple raper will does not imply that they committed the same identical sin – at least the survivor doesn’t think so.)

  • William Luse says:

    “KSM’s treatment can be torture under either scenario.”

    Yes, that’s all I meant, because you stipulated that he was waterboarded for both A and B.

    “That may make his treatment immoral under either scenario.”

    No, that most definitely makes his treatment immoral under either scenario.

    “It does not resolve the question of whether interrogation for confession is morally identical to interrogation for intelligence.”

    I don’t know why “torture” morphed into “interrogation”, but in the very particular case under discussion the question doesn’t need resolving because it’s irrelevant. The intrinsic evil of water torture cannot be justified by whatever end one has in mind.

  • Billy says:

    I agree that it is irrelevant for some discussions. For this discussion, though, Zippy contends specifically that in this concrete case of torture the distinction between torture used for confession and torture used to get intelligence is bunk, because the KSM torture was clearly for confession.

    I was questioning that, because the reports don’t appear to support that conclusion. In fact, in order to come to that conclusion at all, I think that mentally one must have been confusing the distinction, because there is NOTHING about the report he linked that really points in the direction of saying that the interrogation happened with a confession of a specific murder as its explicit goal all along.

    Zippy’s post explicitly raises the issue of the supposed distinction: <> as having been done “to extract life-saving information” as opposed to “in order to extract a confession” <>

    In that context, it cannot be irrelevant as to whether the coercion imposed on KSM was for a confession or for intelligence.

  • Anonymous says:

    Billy apparently wants us to consider the possibility that it was a <>complete accident<> that KSM confessed to several different crimes under torture; that his tormentors never asked him about them but he volunteered his confessions as something completely unrelated to what they were asking him.

  • Billy says:

    I am asking nothing of the sort. Zippy linked a report on the treatment that KSM received, and then commented that at least in this case there is no issue of whether the treatment was intended to extract the confession of Daniel Pearl. The report does not actually sustain this conclusion. Whether the treatment was intended to extract a confession of some other crime I don’t think there is enough evidence to support one way or another.

    I hope I am not stressing your powers of logic too much here: Going back at least as far as Pope Nicholas (which Zippy kindly excerpted), the Church made a particular point of objecting to torture or coercion in order to get a confession of a specific crime the prisoner is accused of. And he made it clear that <> at least part of the moral condemnation <> is on account of the fact that the prisoner will tell whatever the torturers want to hear – if they tell him they want to hear him confess to the murder of Daniel Pearl, he will confess to that to get the pain to stop.

    If, on the other hand, the interrogators do not provide leading questions, and thus do not provide the prisoner with a clue as to what information they expect to extract, the prisoner cannot conclude that “if I tell them I did X crime as they suggest, they will stop the pain.” No clear option is available to him than to either tell them (A) some real crime or plot that he did or knows about, or (B) some fictitious crime or plot. Anyone can easily see a motivation to do B, so anything the prisoner says under coercion would be highly suspect. Naturally. By itself it would be useless as a confession in any reasonable court of law. But the information delivered does not have to be <> by itself. <> If he says “I know about Y plot, the explosives are in a garage on Xinx street”, the torturers have the option to believe him or not, <> or to accept his statement only sufficiently to check out the facts. <> If they check out the garage and find the explosives, then ipso facto they were right to put enough tentative belief in his statement to at least go through the motion of checking it out. If they check out the garage and prove conclusively that the explosives are not there and never were, then they can go back to the prisoner and prove that he was lying, and present him with another level of pain for the lies – providing an incentive for the prisoner to deliver facts rather than lies.

    You can use innuendo to suggest that I am naive to think that it is reasonable to <> consider the possibility that it was a complete accident that KSM confessed to several different crimes under torture <>. Innuendo is not actually an argument. It is also naive to think that the interrogators were not also aware of the foolishness of relying on torture to extract a confession to a specific crime, and that they succumbed to this foolishness anyway. In spite of the fact that nobody thinks that that particular murder represented a threat to America, and nobody in America (other than the family) really cared whether they found the specific murderers. How naive.

    <> <> I AM NOT HERE PROPOSING THAT ANY OF THIS IS MORALLY PERMISSIBLE <> <>. I am only pointing out that using coercion with leading questions to extract a specific confession is distinct from using coercion without leading questions to see what the prisoner comes up with on his own. The latter is not subject to that aspect of Pope Nicholas’s condemnation that hinged on the coercion being directed to a specific, stated crime.

    <> I am also not proposing that this method works well, or works often, or is not open to all sorts of problems. <> It is subject to all sorts of problems. That still does not establish that at least from the evidence we have, in the report Zippy linked, that the interrogators were using coercion to extract a confession to one (or more) specific, STATED crimes.

  • William Luse says:

    “I AM NOT HERE PROPOSING THAT ANY OF THIS IS MORALLY PERMISSIBLE”

    Then let’s just hear you say it straight out: waterboarding KSM was absolutely morally impermissible because it was torture. Period. End stop.

  • Billy says:

    <> Then let’s just hear you say it straight out: waterboarding KSM was absolutely morally impermissible because it was torture. <>

    I said it above:
    <> The Church has clearly said that torture is immoral. Accepted. <>

    I already said that. Why do you think you should be grilling me on whether I believe that torturing KSM was immoral when I already stated that it was? Is this some personal litmus test or something?

    Was that the purpose of this thread, to introduce a new litmus test? I thought Zippy introduced it to get at another issue: the issue of the “so-called” distinction between getting a confession and extracting intelligence, a distinction he thinks either fails to exist at all, or fails to matter, or fails to be present in the case of KSM.

    Does the validity of this “so-called” distinction somehow rest on the arguer ALSO stating publicly that torturing KSM was immoral? Either the argument for this distinction makes sense or it does not.

  • William Luse says:

    “I said it above:
    The Church has clearly said that torture is immoral. Accepted.”

    Yes you did. But then you also say: “What the Church has not said is that coercion through pain is always and everywhere morally the same as torture, nor has the Church said that coercion is always and everywhere immoral.”

    But why is this brought up? We're not talking about coercion, but about torture.

    What you said in your initial comment was that “torture administered in order to extract a confession is immoral.” You then draw distinctions A&B between torturing for confession and for some other reason, when there is no such distinction to be drawn since intrinsically immoral acts don't admit of “reasons” by which to justify them. Zippy himself says that the distinction is “bunk”, and “irrelevant”, so that was not at all the point of his post, but rather, in his own words, to point out that “Any legitimate public discussion of torture definitions by faithful Catholics ought to acknowledge, as prerequisite to even discussing the matter, that waterboarding KSM was immoral torture. Anything else is scandalous.”

    But if you say I'm misreading you, I'll take your word for it, and we're done.

  • Anonymous says:

    Ours is an envionment where evil is perceived to be rewarded while good is punished. As with everything the Gods have a reason for creating this perception::::
    People who fall on the good side of the good/evil scale have more favor, and when they do something wrong the Gods punish them BECAUSE THEY WANT THEM TO LEARN. The Gods want them to receive this feedback in hope they make corrections and begin to behave appropriately. The Gods DON'T like evil and refuse to grant this feedback.
    EVERYBODY pays for what they do wrong, only evil people must wait until their next life before they will experience the wrath of the Gods, manifested in their reincarnation as a lower form of life into environments with increased/enhanced temptations.
    Sadly, this allows the Gods to position this perception of evil rewarded as temptation, one which they use as an EXTREMELY effective corruptor.

    Both Africa and the Medittereanean are regions which have sexual issues. This is a sign of morbid disfavor once you understand that females are the God's favored gender. Muhammad's (Mohammed's) polygamy halfway through his life as a prophet was preditory. Now a huge percentage of Muslims believes in male superiority and that the abuse of women is God's will. Female genital mutilation is still practiced in Africa. Black misogyny is the most eggregious example in the recent past.
    Black member size is temptation to a predisposed population.
    The patriarchal cancer spread throughout Europe because of Christianity, of which the majority of policy makers were Italian men. Expect the largest landowner in Europe and the continent's original superpower also played a major role in African slavery.

    Militancy in Africa is consistant with the Iraqi example, as was slavery and the KKK here in America:::Fear enforces proper behavior. Without it we see what happens as a result of gross/morbid disfavor:::::AIDS, crack babies, dead young men in gangland retaliation killings. This is the purpose behind many black's historical tendancy towards resistance.
    The same principle was true in Europe and throughout the world for centuries:::People whom lived under iron fists were conditioned to think the right way. As a result they experienced higher numbers of children accend into heaven because they were taught to think and behave appropriately, which they passed on to their children. Our preditory envionment of “freedom” was the primary purpose the Gods had when implimenting this strategy that is the United States, one which they used to spred the cancer of democracy and westernization throughout the world. And the Gods use this tool that is America to prey on the disfavored both at home and abroad:::Much like the ghetto, America in general experiences a heightened level of temptation due to the people's disfavor.

    Even the Old Testiment is not to be taken literally, but the Gods do offer clues throughout to help the disfavored:::The apple is a tool of temptation used to corrupt Adam and Eve and cast them out of the Garden of Eden.
    There is another lesson to be learned from this passage, and it is quite similar to the vailing issue and the discourse over women's attire which ultimately died in the 70s:::Women are responsible for and control the fate of mankind.

    Think about what I say. Consider what I teach. Society is going to become disturbingly ugly as we approach the Apocalypse due to spiralling, runaway disfavor.
    I do not know when this will occurr, but it is the God's way to grant some time before they end on Planet Earth.
    Make the decision to always be good and never look back. Until you do this technology will employ tactics to test your resolve:::Ridicule, beligerance, doubt and refusal to abandon what people perceive to be their “investment”.
    Pray daily. Think appropriately. Too many are confident, unaware of the God's awesome powers or their status as antients. Others may fall prey to their positioning.
    Be humbled, God-fearing and beware of the God's temptations, for everyone is tested to evaluate their worthiness.
    Search rest

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