A meaningful debate about a given interrogation technique should focus primarily on two issues — its efficacy and its degree of severity. With these factors in mind, Michael Ledeen offers this analysis:
I have long been critical of torture on the grounds that whatever “information” it produces must be highly suspect. A man will say anything to stop the pain, won’t he? So how can we believe what he says? But there are phases of gray in between the blackness of torture and the whiteness of gentle inquiry, and many of the gray methods have been effective. So say experts from, say, the Chicago police force in the glory days, or the British questioners of the IRA over the years, or the Spanish judges who have dealt with ETA, or the Israelis who interrogate Arab terrorists.
I know there are forms of torture that are both disgusting and counterproductive, and they should be rejected. But I’m quite prepared to believe that there are slightly less disgusting yet significantly more productive methods that we should employ.
Ledeen also points out that the Clinton administration developed one of the most ethically questionable approaches to extracting information — turning over terrorists to friendly, less scrupulous governments for interrogation. If the Senate Democrats expressed their outrage over this, I missed it.