Instigator / Pro

MICRO DEBATE The US should cease the use of enhanced interrogation techniques


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 10 votes and with 10 points ahead, the winner is...

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Three days
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Contender / Con

I'm going to diverge a little from the rues CaptainSceptic outlined in the forums to be a bit more lenient but still restrictive.

Max characters: 2.5k
Max sources: 4 per round
We default to Merriam Webster for definitions
3 days for arguments

Round 1
C1: Inaccurate Info

Despite some alleged success using enhanced interrogation techniques (EIT), the CIA has overstated the usefulness of the program. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in their 2014 study found that of the 39 detainees known to have been subject to EIT, 7 provided no information at all, and those that did provide info often lied to stop the torture (1).
Neuroscience provides a likely explanation for why intel gained from EIT is suspect. Not only does torture flood the brain with stress hormones, making memory retrieval much harder, stress could also cause confabulation, which is when people start believing falsified memories (2). Even if suspected terrorists wanted to tell the truth, many wouldn’t be able to under the harsh conditions.
Inaccurate information jeopardizes national security. If the CIA and other intelligence bureaus are busy investigating fabricated terrorist sects and plots, it means that resources are necessarily diverted from fruitful investigations. The CIA can stop terrorist plots and has done so in the past. Those 20 alleged successes were real, but they were not due to EIT. The CIA can thwart plots, but it takes concerted effort. Don’t let it be squandered.

C2: Innocence

At least 26 people were wrongfully detained at Gitmo according to the 2014 report. 1 was an intellectually challenged person who was detained as leverage to get family members to submit information, 2 were purportedly Al Qaeda operatives solely based on the false testimony of other detainees (1). Many of them remained in confinement for months before being released (1). It is unclear how many of them were tortured, but given sparse record keeping from the CIA, it is possible that many of there were subject to EIT.
The personal rights of the innocent should not be infringed upon nor should the CIA shells out millions to host countries to keep black sites. What’s most disquieting though is the standards for detainment. In many cases, innocuous criteria like wearing a particular brand of watch could label someone as a potential terrorist (3). Arbitrary standards mean that many are subject to EIT who, because they are innocent, may not have info for the CIA.


Affirmative Case

EIT’s were ended by the CIA in 2007 and made illegal by the Obama administration in 2009.[1] This undermines the premise in pro’s case that this still occurs and con should be awarded the win by default. Pro admits this qualifies as a loss in comment 18 on the debate;

We still do torture people. If we didn't that would have been a short debate”

I extended an offer to just assume this was the case, so we could avoid the debate going off track, but he ignored the request and agreed if EIT’s were abolished he would be the defacto loser here. However despite him being the defacto loser, hopefully we can still discuss the effectiveness of EIT’s , because it is an interesting topic unto itself.

Look, torture works. We know this because almost every day, somewhere in America some poor bastard is tortured for his ATM pin number and gives it up.[2] It’s not just in civilian life these brutal methods work. For example Abu Zubaydah was subjected to EIT on April 19th and August 20th of which led to information that helped capture Ramzi bin al-Shibh and a lot of his associates in the Karachi safe house raids on the anniversary of 9/11. [3 pg. 527]

According to the same study pro cites we have investigators claiming no useful information was obtained from 7 out of 39 detainees, this means it had an 83% success rate, detainees not subjected to EIT usually have a mere 57% success rate of providing useful information(pg 530).

Ethical framework

My opponent has failed to offer and ethical framework for the debate, so I will place that unfortunate burden on myself. Individuals ought to act in their own self interest. We are in the best position to know what is best for ourselves and in a poor position to know how to act for the best interests of others. We also have pro assuming some sort of altruism, the problem with altruism is that it denies the value of an individual, and is therefore destructive to society. In fact the fight against radical Islam is in fact a fight against altruism as these individuals while martyr themselves for the betterment of the terrorist organizations they belong to.


Round 2
First off, comments don’t count as arguments. Second, torture is still happening. Al-Baluchi, a man accused of assisting 9/11 perpetrators, is still subject to sleep deprivation, and excessive noise and vibration (1). This is classic EIT, whether the government admits it or not. Moreover, torture is not banned completely. There is a potent loophole that can be exploited. The guideline Con discusses that allegedly bans EIT starts with this:

"unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance… (2)”

This loophole presents an opportunity for torture to continue. Therefore, it must be ended.

Oh, and the “agreement” that I would be the de-facto loser never happened. Peruse the comments.

As for the bulk of his case…

He admits that someone, “every day” in the US is tortured for his ATM pin number. He concedes that torture happens.

Pro’s sole example of success is Abu Zubaydah, and he offered information to the FBI and CIA prior to being subject to EIT. It’s unclear how much good info was gained from his torture. However, we do know that he offered the mastermind of the 9/11 hijacking prior to torture. He also fessed up info on a Jose Padilla and Binyam Mohammad, which the CIA said they got from torture, but that was a lie (3 p 47). The Senate Intel Report Notes:

“… a quantitative review of Abu Zubaydah's intelligence reporting indicates that more intelligence reports were disseminated from Abu Zubaydah's first two months of interrogation, before the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques. (3 p 208)”

His success rate is wrong. 7/39 detainees provided no information, not no useful information. Many others lied and offered false info, which the report notes in its opening pages. It’s also unclear how many would offer info in the absence of EIT. Even if one or two successful applications of the EIT occurred, it would be buried underneath the lies, which jeopardizes the US because wasted resources are used for fruitless investigations.

The ethical framework is also flawed. I never suggested that we operate on altruism. Torture hampers our ability to investigate successfully due to a deluge of wrong information. This makes the US less, not more, safe.

He drops my scientific journal explaining how torture makes it hard for memory recall, worsening intel quality reaped from torture too as well as the arbitrary standards for detention. 

Round 3
Extend my arguments.

Note that I won't be able to respond to new arguments.