Sleep Deprivation is Ineffective

October 23, 2006 at 6:23 pm | Posted in American politics, Iraq, King George, Torture, War on Terror | Leave a comment

I’m glad to see more and more coming out to give evidence of the ineffectual nature of torture techniques. Here is another. And again, the question is, if these techniques are not harmful, how can they supposedly be effective against hardened terrorists?

Many experts question whether such methods are even effective. Sleep deprivation in particular has been used as an interrogation tool in different places around the globe throughout the past century, with questionable results. In America’s Prohibition era, cops in the Chicago Police Department were known to sleep-deprive suspected criminals to extract confessions, many of which turned out to be false. In Northern Ireland, British troops used it in crackdowns on the IRA until a European court ruled in a minority opinion that it constitutes torture. When the CIA studied the utility of various interrogation methods in a broad 1960s survey known as Kubark, the agency concluded sleep deprivation made suspects more apathetic under questioning, not necessarily more compliant. Yet by 2001, the measure was being used on Afghan guerrillas in secret CIA detention centers, according to the testimony of both prisoners and soldiers.

One really has to wonder why people who should know better still advocate for this. Perhaps they really don’t know better. Well….what does that say about America today, then? How smart are Americans? I ask sincerely because apparently Americans know Jack Bauer, but don’t know reality…..

Part of the problem is that sleeplessness inhibits clear thinking and can trigger hallucinations. “It’s a little like getting drunk,” says Mark Mahowald, a neurologist who heads the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorder Center. While little is known about why humans need sleep, Mahowald says, the effects of deprivation have been widely studied. Within 24 hours, parts of the brain that control higher-level tasks—judgment, reasoning, self-monitoring—become impaired. Beyond a day, the subject actually slips into a state of semiconsciousness—something akin to a sleepwalker who can perform physical activities but has limited cognitive power. “Those kinds of changes might help an interrogator get someone to talk,” Mahowald said. “But the things he says should not be counted on as reliable.”

An Israeli official claims sleep deprivation works—

The Israelis think it can help to pry valuable information from reluctant captives. Though Israel’s Supreme Court banned torture in a 1999 ruling, interrogators regularly use sleep deprivation against Palestinians. Avi Dichter, Israel’s minister of Public Security and the former head of Shabak, Israel’s FBI, defends the technique: “When you’re tired, is it easier to question you? I think yes. And I think we’re all built the same, including terrorists.”

yeah, that’s why you’re at peace with Palestinians, eh dude? Sure it is easier to question, that’s not the point though, is it? It is not the question that matters, but the answer. What kind of answer do you give in a dreamy state?

Allbright, the sergeant who served in Afghanistan, has doubts. By the time questioning of sleep-deprived prisoners began, he recalls, they were so desperate to nod off they’d provide whatever answers the interrogators wanted to hear. Confessions included details about WMD that didn’t exist. Allbright, a reservist who now studies law at the University of Arkansas, Little Rock, also believes sleep deprivation leads to a slippery slope. In sessions he says he witnessed, when interrogators couldn’t wrench information from tired suspects, they’d resort to threats and in some cases to physical abuse. Allbright had read the Geneva accords on his breaks from guard duty, and complained to superiors about the breach of conduct. “They’d either laugh it off or they’d tell me it’s above my pay grade,” he says. (The Pentagon had no comment on Allbright’s allegations.) Eventually, he was transferred to another base and given a different job. That was in late 2003, when the war in Iraq was still fresh and the procedures often vague. With a new law now in place, only some of them are clearer.

So again, if these techniques are 1) not that harmful and 2) turn detainees into “drunkards”, then how would they be effective against hardened men? If sleep deprivation is no worse than getting drunk, why not just give detainees alcohol and let them speak their minds?

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