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Critical Analysis of the Utilitarian Case for Torture and the Situational Factors That Lead Some People to Become Torturers (From International Developments in Investigative Interviewing, P 129-148, 2009, Tom Williamson, Becky Milne, and Stephen P. Savage, eds. - See NCJ-228326)

NCJ Number
Rod Morgan; Tom Williamson
Date Published
20 pages
This chapter first considers whether torture or "near-torture" can ever be justified on utilitarian grounds (i.e., it is uniquely effective in obtaining critical security information rapidly), followed by a discussion of the circumstances under which the use of torture is likely to thrive and who may be drawn into the practice.
This chapter develops the general argument that the practice of torture and "near-torture" cannot be justified on utilitarian groups. When torture occurs, evidence of its being practiced almost always emerges. If some suspects linked to an identified enemy (such as al Qaeda) are tortured, then inevitably all such suspects will claim to have been tortured in order to discredit the values, credibility, and character of the state that engages in torture. The state thus loses its identity based on core values of human rights, which leads to mistrust and disrespect not only among enemies and potential enemies, but also among its own citizens and the civilized nations of the world. A degeneration of human-rights values under a regime of torture creates a climate in which new moralities are created and previous moral considerations are discarded under a climate of blind obedience in which victims are dehumanized and personal and social accountability is neutralized. When such a climate develops, more and more of the state's institutions and its professionals are drawn into the degeneration of professional ethics in order to comply with the approved "patriotic" response to a hated enemy. 34 references