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Churchill vs Cheney

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F6   Thursday, 04/30/09 01:58:41 AM
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Churchill vs Cheney



Andrew Sullivan
23 Apr 2009 11:48 am

The West has been attacked many times before by barbarians. As someone who grew up in Southern England between London and the Channel, this was perhaps more obvious to me than to some Americans. In the countryside around my home, there were still occasional concrete constructions designed to impede Nazi tanks left rotting in the woods. My high-school playground retained its air-raid shelters (we stored our dirty books there). My great aunt was blind in one eye from a bomb blast in the blitz; my grandfather lived with a brain injury when he was a prison guard in the war and was attacked by a prison inmate during an air-raid; my mother was knocked over by the impact of a rocket at the end of the war; my parents and aunts and uncles were evacuated. Most ordinary people lived through the Blitz, a random 9/11 a week, from an army poised to invade, and turn England's democratic heritage into a footnote in a Nazi empire.

As all that was happening, and as intelligence was vital, the British captured over 500 enemy spies operating in Britain and elsewhere. Most went through Camp 020, a Victorian pile crammed with interrogators. As Britain's very survival hung in the balance, as women and children were being killed on a daily basis and London turned into rubble, Churchill nonetheless knew that embracing torture was the equivalent of surrender to the barbarism he was fighting. The chief interrogator at Camp 020 was someone out of the movies [ http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/ben_macintyre/article729216.ece (in full below)]:

Colonel Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens was the commander of the wartime spy prison and interrogation centre codenamed Camp 020, an ugly Victorian mansion surrounded by barbed wire on the edge of Ham Common. In the course of the war, some 500 enemy spies from 44 countries passed through Camp 020; most were interrogated, at some point, by Stephens; all but a tiny handful crumbled.

Stephens was a bristling, xenophobic martinet; in appearance, with his glinting monocle and cigarette holder, he looked exactly like the caricature Gestapo interrogator who has “vays of making you talk”.

Stephens had ways of making anyone talk. In a top secret report, recently declassified by MI5 and now in the Public Records Office, he listed the tactics needed to break down a suspect: “A breaker is born and not made . . . pressure is attained by personality, tone, and rapidity of questions, a driving attack in the nature of a blast which will scare a man out of his wits.”

The terrifying commandant of Camp 020 refined psychological intimidation to an art form. Suspects often left the interrogation cells legless with fear after an all-night grilling. An inspired amateur psychologist, Stephens used every trick, lie and bullying tactic to get what he needed; he deployed threats, drugs, drink and deceit. But he never once resorted to violence. “Figuratively,” he said, “a spy in war should be at the point of a bayonet.” But only ever figuratively. As one colleague wrote: “The Commandant obtained results without recourse to assault and battery. It was the very basis of Camp 020 procedure that nobody raised a hand against a prisoner.”

Stephens did not eschew torture out of mercy. This was no squishy liberal: the eye was made of tin, and the rest of him out of tungsten. (Indeed, he was disappointed that only 16 spies were executed during the war.) His motives were strictly practical. “Never strike a man. It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise.”...


Torture is the weapon of cowards and bullies and monsters. Cheney is all three. Prosecute him.

Copyright © 2009 Andrew Sullivan

http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/04/churchill-vs-cheney.html


==========


The truth that Tin Eye saw

The celebrated wartime spy-breaker was terrifying — but he understood that torture never works

Ben Macintyre
February 10, 2006

TORTURE IS MORALLY abhorrent, self-perpetuating, and illegal. But the most important argument against torture is that it doesn’t work. To illustrate this let me escort you, not to the cells of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, but to a London basement in 1942, where a British MI5 officer wearing a monocle is extracting a confession from a Nazi spy.

Colonel Robin “Tin Eye” Stephens was the commander of the wartime spy prison and interrogation centre codenamed Camp 020, an ugly Victorian mansion surrounded by barbed wire on the edge of Ham Common. In the course of the war, some 500 enemy spies from 44 countries passed through Camp 020; most were interrogated, at some point, by Stephens; all but a tiny handful crumbled.

Stephens was a bristling, xenophobic martinet; in appearance, with his glinting monocle and cigarette holder, he looked exactly like the caricature Gestapo interrogator who has “vays of making you talk”.

Stephens had ways of making anyone talk. In a top secret report, recently declassified by MI5 and now in the Public Records Office, he listed the tactics needed to break down a suspect: “A breaker is born and not made . . . pressure is attained by personality, tone, and rapidity of questions, a driving attack in the nature of a blast which will scare a man out of his wits.”

The terrifying commandant of Camp 020 refined psychological intimidation to an art form. Suspects often left the interrogation cells legless with fear after an all-night grilling. An inspired amateur psychologist, Stephens used every trick, lie and bullying tactic to get what he needed; he deployed threats, drugs, drink and deceit. But he never once resorted to violence. “Figuratively,” he said, “a spy in war should be at the point of a bayonet.” But only ever figuratively. As one colleague wrote: “The Commandant obtained results without recourse to assault and battery. It was the very basis of Camp 020 procedure that nobody raised a hand against a prisoner.”

Stephens did not eschew torture out of mercy. This was no squishy liberal: the eye was made of tin, and the rest of him out of tungsten. (Indeed, he was disappointed that only 16 spies were executed during the war.) His motives were strictly practical. “Never strike a man. It is unintelligent, for the spy will give an answer to please, an answer to escape punishment. And having given a false answer, all else depends upon the false premise.”

Confessions extracted by inflicting pain are most likely to be whatever the victim believes the torturer desires to hear, whatever is necessary to stop the agony.

The Stephens Principle should be recalled at a time when the myth that torture works is gaining ground once again. “Extraordinary renditions”, the grainy images of violence on prisoners, the litany of abuses in Iraq, Afghanistan and Cuba, have raised the old argument that in times of extremism, extreme methods may be necessary. Alan Dershowitz, the American legal scholar, has argued that when interrogators believe that a suspect terrorist has, say, planted a bomb that will shortly go off with huge loss of life, they should be able to apply to a judge for a “torture warrant” to extract the necessary intelligence by non-lethal means.

The so-called “ticking bomb” scenario, however, presupposes that torture gets results, whereas the evidence suggests precisely the reverse. Torture did not work in Ulster or Vietnam. The US scholar Darius Rejali has trawled the archives of the brutal Algerian war of independence and found no evidence that torture did anything to aid France or delay defeat. Even medieval torturers began to look to other methods once it became clear that the rack and thumbscrews were not producing reliable statements of guilt.

Torture is an effective way of intimidating prisoners; it certainly produces confessions. But as information these tend to be useless, if not actively misleading. The vast majority of intelligence professionals agree that evidence obtained by torture is of dubious value. This is what makes the case against the MI6 station chief in Athens, recently accused of involvement in the violent interrogation of suspects, seem so unlikely. MI6 officers know better than anyone that torture is, broadly speaking, pointless and counter-productive.

Torture is a moral corrosive in any society. As Jean-Paul Sartre observed: “You cannot make your young people practise torture 24 hours a day and not expect to pay a price for it.” If democracies stoop to it, citing exceptional circumstances, then despots will feel even less constrained, and deploy mass torture as a matter of routine.

But all the legal and moral arguments surely become moot if torture, scientifically and professionally applied, is a practical failure. In 1942 “Tin-Eye” Stephens faced a genuine “ticking bomb”. Europe was already exploding, and he knew that the spies in his custody had information that could save countless innocent lives. He made them squeal, but he never laid a finger on them. “Violence is taboo,” he insisted.

“Not only does it produce answers to please, but it lowers the standard of information.”

A hard man in a hard war, Stephens was later accused of ill-treating prisoners. He was cleared of all charges.

Stephens cared not for morality but for results, and these were extraordinary. Once a prisoner in Camp 020 realised he was safe from physical violence, he tended to sing all the louder. Many became double agents, secretly working for the British and sending false information back to Germany. This could never have happened if they had been tortured. The double-agent system, in which Stephens played a vital role, was probably the greatest espionage coup of all time, culminating in the strategic deception over the D-Day landings, when the Germans were successfully fooled into believing Britain would attack in the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy.

Torture does not work; but deliberately and consistently shunning torture can win wars.

Copyright 2009 Times Newspapers Ltd. (emphasis added)

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/ben_macintyre/article729216.ece





Greensburg, KS - 5/4/07

"Eternal vigilance is the price of Liberty."
from John Philpot Curran, Speech
upon the Right of Election, 1790


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