Comprehensive coverage

About witches and terrorists or why torture is ineffective

We have known for 400 years that torture does not achieve its goal.

A 14th century illustration depicting the torture and burning of women accused of witchcraft. Source: Wikimedia.
A 14th century illustration depicting the torture and burning of women accused of witchcraft. source: Wikimedia.

By Michael Shermer, the article is published with the approval of Scientific American Israel and the Ort Israel Network 13.06.2017

The writer and journalist Daniel P. Mannix He wrote [in his book The history of torture] that during witch hunt In Europe he ordered Duke of Braunschweig that in Germany there are two scholars Jesuits To examine the use ofThe Inquisition uses torture to extort information from women accused of witchcraft. "The investigators of the Inquisition are doing their duty. They only arrest women who were incriminated through the confession of other witches," the Jesuits reported. The duke remained skeptical. Suspecting that humans would say anything to stop the pain, he invited the Jesuits to join him in the local dungeon to watch the woman whose body the torturers stretched on the torture rack. "Look woman, you are a witch by your own admission," he turned to the torturer. “I suspect that these two men are sorcerers. What do you say?" Then he commanded the torturers: "Turn the handle of the brace one more turn." The Jesuits could not believe what they heard when the woman moaned and cried, "No, no! You're right. I saw them often on Saturday. They can turn themselves into goats, wolves and other animals... Some witches have given birth to children. One woman even has eight children from them. The children had heads of toads and legs of spiders." The duke turned to the astonished Jesus and asked: "Should I now torture you until you confess?"

One of these Jesuits was Frederick Spey, who, following this harsh experiment in the psychology of torture, published the book in 1631 Cautio Criminalis (Literally: precautions for prosecutors). The book played a role in stopping the witch hunt craze and demonstrated why torture is not an effective tool in obtaining useful information. This is the reason, in addition to their cruel elements, that torture is prohibited in all Western countries, including the United States, whose Eighth Amendment to the Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishments."

And what about the method to extract information using Cover the face with a wet cloth? This is not torture but a method"Increased investigation", Right? When the late journalist Christopher Hitchens He underwent such a water investigation for one of the articles he prepared for the magazine and Annie Fair, he was warned (in a document he was required to sign) that he could "suffer serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death. Among other things, the injuries or death may be caused by a reaction of the respiratory and nervous systems in the body." Although Hitchens was a political hawk on the issue of terrorism, he summed up the experience this way: "If water interrogation is not torture, then nothing can be torture."

And yet, what about a scenarioThe ticking bomb” which is supposed to explode in a major city and we have a terrorist who knows where it is buried. Would it then be ethical to answer him to extract the information from him? There is no doubt that the suffering and death of an individual is justified when they save the lives of millions. is not it? Let's call it the “torture theory of Jack Bower.” In the hit television series 24, the actor Kiefer Sutherland plays the character of an aggressive secret agent who fights terrorism and whose worldview, advocating that the end justifies the means, makes himThomas de Torquemadamodern. In all of these scenarios, Bower (and we, the audience) know that he has captured the terrorist who has precise information about the time and place where the next terrorist attack will occur. We are also sure that with the appropriate amount of pain he will extract the right intelligence just in time to prevent the disaster. But this is a Hollywood fantasy. In reality, it is possible (although not certain) that the detainee we have is a terrorist, that it is possible (although not certain) that he has accurate information about a terrorist attack, and that he will give (although not certain) the intelligence information we need, especially if his motive is to stop the The torture.

Contrary to this, in a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, entitled "The questions of who, what and why in collecting human intelligence", the authors of the study interviewed 152 intelligence researchers and found that "the most common methods of investigation are methods of building trust and close relationships. These methods achieve the most effective results, regardless of the context and the defined purpose of the investigation. This is especially true when compared to confrontational investigative methods." In another study in the same journal and from the same year, entitled "Interrogation of high value detainees", the researchers sampled 64 professionals and detainees and found that "detainees are more likely to disclose meaningful information... and to do so in the earlier stages of the investigation, when investigators use trust-building techniques."

And finally, an exhaustive report that she published US Senate Intelligence Committee In 2014, he details an analysis of millions of internal documents of the American Intelligence Service (CIA) related to the torture of terror suspects. The report concludes that "the CIA's use of its enhanced interrogation methods was not effective in obtaining intelligence or cooperation from the detainees." The report added that "many CIA detainees fabricated information and produced false intelligence."

Terrorists are a real thing. Witches are not real. But whether it's real or imagined, torture doesn't work.

About the writers

Michael Shermer - The publisher of the journal Skeptic ( His new book: "The Moral Noah's Ark" was recently published. Follow him on Twitter: @michaelshermer

More of the topic in Hayadan:

16 תגובות

  1. To Yossi, think about the following points:

    . You justified the actions of Assad, the president of Syria, who, according to publications, tortured and murdered tens of thousands of prisoners.
    . The suspect will waste valuable time by providing incorrect information about the identity of the suspect car.
    . When common sense is dictated by fear, error is guaranteed, purity of motives is in doubt, control of thoughts is lost, actions will cause more harm than good, humanity will be lost.
    . Every act of inhuman cruelty will be justified by the text: "If not..., then millions will die"; If new medicines are not developed on animals (or captives), then...

    The principle is that the end does not justify the means. The road is a test, achieving one's goal without losing one's humanity succeeds, loses one's humanity in failure.
    Never lose humanity, conscience, never submit to threats and fear of any kind and measure, this is the test.
    who does not stand the test, serves a fierce selfishness and is no different from his enemies.

    It is about giving up the ego and sacrificing it for its blind selfishness, the result doesn't matter, whatever the result is. It is morally right to sacrifice only oneself.

    Who is predisposed to acts of cruelty and however justified the goal may be in his eyes, who does not distinguish between his intoxication by the ambitious and selfish ego and his true self, he is no different from the wicked among his enemies.

    In short - a moral action is an action that is free from fear and hatred.

  2. Let's not be naive, the common good is better than the good of the individual. After all, prison is also a form of torture and yet it is a consensus.
    So the disagreement is about the degree of torture and not whether it is allowed to answer.
    Let's assume that a couple of terrorists set out to blow up high-rise buildings in the central area. One was caught and he refuses to reveal the color and type of vehicle in which the other terrorist is currently on his way to the next tower.

    It is not possible to dub the terrorist in the ways of Noam. If there is anyone here who thinks it is more moral to let hundreds of civilians explode and not torture the terrorist? If so, he probably has a problem with the moral compass.

    Most of the comments here in the article are fanatical. The fanaticism is easy to recognize because the fanatic knows only one way and is not willing to hear about other options except the one he believes in. I'm not saying that torture is always the solution but humanity is a variety of people for some trusting relationships work and for some torture will work better. It all depends on the case and personality.

  3. Esi, punishment by torture on live broadcast is not prohibited only because the trial is not vindictive but is only intended to protect the public from "dangers" and/or to deter others. Punishment by torture is prohibited mainly because the only thing it will do to the public is to become "bloodthirsty" and violent. We do not want to answer live for us and for our child so that they will not be corrupted by watching violence as Daesh did in the mass killings in public in front of children. Is this what you would want your child to see? Your desire to answer live is not a need to show the rest of the world that there are acts that will not pass in silence but pure revenge. And very dangerous for society.

  4. In general, and what about arrest, humiliating a detainee, interrogations in the wee hours of the night when he is tired and many other techniques to "break" the detainee until he confesses his guilt?
    One of the logical laws in the law that I can't understand how they didn't enter the modern law is "No man calls himself evil". And it makes so much sense. It's just that the investigators (all over the western world) today are so in love with trying to "break" the suspect in order to get him to confess (not just get him to tell things that will later lead to finding evidence), that this has become the prevailing policy in investigations. There is no difference between physical torture and mental torture as far as the investigation of the truth is concerned, but only as stated in the article in order to obtain details that can later be verified (a terrorist suspect that leads to a ticking bomb is the extreme example), but not for a confession. And in my opinion, modern law must accept the law of Jewish law on the matter, and state that "no man calls himself evil", unless he was led to do so in non-conventional ways.

  5. Yehuda, you wrote beautifully.

    There is nothing like cruelty as a hallmark of insanity, which all the tormentors of their generations, who had the "holy" commandment "the end justifies the means" as a lamp at their feet, excelled in it more than their victims.

    This is true in the field of animal experiments, and in any case that insanity takes over the person who becomes a slave to his selfishness and cruelty, who is alienated from himself and his essence which is love.

  6. Chen Chen Nisim,
    Sometimes there are dark things that are unacceptable to both of us...
    Happy holiday!

  7. Findings "The study's editors interviewed 152 intelligence researchers and found that "the most common methods of investigation are methods of building trust and close relationships. These methods achieve the most effective results, regardless of the context and the defined purpose of the investigation."
    Conclusion "But whether it is reality or imagination, torture does not work"
    The writer's ability to draw conclusions requires serious improvement

  8. Findings "The study's editors interviewed 152 intelligence researchers and found that "the most common methods of investigation are methods of building trust and close relationships. These methods achieve the most effective results, regardless of the context and the defined purpose of the investigation."
    Conclusion "But whether it is reality or imagination, torture does not work"
    The writer's ability to draw conclusions needs improvement

  9. On June 30, 1948, Meir Tobiansky, an IDF officer and employee of the Jerusalem Electric Company, who was accused of not being unjustly accused, as it turned out in retrospect, of spying against Israel during the War of Independence, was executed. Tobiansky was brought before a field court, convicted and executed in a unique decision of its kind in the history of the State of Israel.
    Not only is it forbidden to torture detainees in order to extort a confession from them, but it is also forbidden to execute them even based on their confession. Tobiansky was in charge of delivering the important places that should receive electricity during the war. He was accused of giving these places to the enemy, but it was his job to give the location to the British. When he was accused of treason, he admitted that it was something he committed and apologized in tears for harming the security of the young country. His youngest son whose father was a "spy" suffered harassment throughout his childhood until the extent of the mistake made to the Tobiansky family was understood and the state apologized to his family.
    That's why I'm angry with Alor Azaria, don't be an accuser, judge, and execute a death sentence that you decided on, even of a hardened terrorist. At Tobiansky's they still had a field trial before they executed him. For Elor Azaria it was unnecessary.
    History is full of such stories. A verdict should not be passed without a fair trial and without torture of any kind.
    Please respond gently

  10. Great article. But torture works squarely.
    The writer may be aware that information obtained through torture has saved people he knows from dying.
    A country that has a reputation for torture is not required to answer because the criminal only speaks out of fear. Check

  11. And what about punishment?

    A man who quietly crept into a house and slaughtered its occupants, children and their parents.
    Prison is not enough for him! Ordinary death is not enough for him!

    There are people who need to die under torture and live in order to punish them and to show the rest of the world that there are acts that will not go by in silence

Leave a Reply

Email will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismat to prevent spam messages. Click here to learn how your response data is processed.