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The Ethics of Interrogation

Professional Responsibility in an Age of Terror

Paul Lauritzen

Publication Year: 2013

Can harsh interrogation techniques and torture ever be morally justified for a nation at war or under the threat of imminent attack? In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist strikes, the United States and other liberal democracies were forced to grapple once again with the issue of balancing national security concerns against the protection of individual civil and political rights. This question was particularly poignant when US forces took prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq who arguably had information about additional attacks. In this volume, ethicist Paul Lauritzen takes on ethical debates about counterterrorism techniques that are increasingly central to US foreign policy and discusses the ramifications for the future of interrogation.

Lauritzen examines how doctors, lawyers, psychologists, military officers, and other professionals addressed the issue of the appropriate limits in interrogating detainees. In the case of each of these professions, a vigorous debate ensued about whether the interrogation policy developed by the Bush administration violated codes of ethics governing professional practice. These codes are critical, according to Lauritzen, because they provide resources for democracies and professionals seeking to balance concerns about safety with civil liberties, while also shaping the character of those within these professional guilds.

This volume argues that some of the techniques used at Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere were morally impermissible; nevertheless, the healthy debates that raged among professionals provide hope that we may safeguard human rights and the rule of law more effectively in the future.

Published by: Georgetown University Press


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p. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-x

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pp. 1-18

Toward the end of his book Democracy and Tradition, Jeffrey Stout argues that the virtues necessary to sustain traditions of democratic practice in the United States will be sorely tested in the coming years by the struggle against terrorism. Fear and resentment are the enemy of critical ...

Part I

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Chapter One: If You Can’t Oppose Torture, What Can You Oppose? Psychologists Confront Coercive Interrogations

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pp. 21-43

If there is an iconic image of the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib, it is that of Satar Jabar standing on a wooden box, his arms extended out to his sides. He is clothed in what appears to be a tattered blanket with a hole cut in the middle so that it can be draped over him like a poncho. Electrodes are attached to fingers on both hands, which are turned outward...

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Chapter Two: What’s Wrong with Supporting National Security? Psychology and the Pursuit of National Security

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pp. 44-66

We saw in chapter 1 what a commitment to democratic deliberation looks like in the context of a debate among professionals about their role in serving the common good. At the core of the debate about whether psychologists should be involved with national security–related ...

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Chapter Three: Interrogating Justice: The Torture Memos and the Office of Legal Counsel

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pp. 67-90

In the first two chapters, we saw how professionals in the field of psychology became involved in interrogations of detainees in the war on terror that arguably amounted to torture. Some psychologists facilitated abusive practices, but others sought to end any support for (or participation in) abusive interrogations. In some cases, the very same...

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Chapter Four: Ticking Bombs and Dirty Hands: Coercive Interrogation and the Rule of Law

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pp. 91-112

One of the striking claims Alberto Mora makes in his “Statement for the Record” memorandum is that, while he is uncertain about the morality of torture in a “ticking bomb” case, he can imagine a scenario in which he might be prepared to torture a suspected terrorist. In such a...

Part II

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Chapter Five: Treating Terrorists: The Conflicting Pull of Role Responsibility

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pp. 115-134

We saw in the last chapter how tightly legal analysis of coercive interrogations was tied to medical monitoring and assessment of the health needs of detainees. Interrogation techniques that are arguably abusive were justified, in part, by the fact that doctors would carefully monitor...

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Chapter Six: Discipline and Punish: The Importance of Professional Accountability

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pp. 135-149

If the argument in the previous chapter is correct, the efforts of those who resisted the participation of psychologists, lawyers, and doctors in abusive interrogations were an attempt, in Eliot Freidson’s words, to save the soul of their professions. In speaking of the “soul” of a profession, ...

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Chapter Seven: Professional Responsibility and the Virtuous Professional

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pp. 150-163

Thus far we have examined how codes of ethics and professional responsibility have structured debates among professionals about appropriate conduct in assisting the government in the war on terror. We have also examined an account of how such codes function normatively...

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Chapter Eight: The Day They Enter Active Service: The Military Conscience

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pp. 164-179

At several points in this study I have drawn attention to Alberto Mora’s opposition to the EITs that were authorized for use with detainees at Guantánamo Bay. I have cited Mora’s actions in part because his opposition is well documented and for that reason is better known than...

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Chapter Nine: Lessons Learned: Dignity and the Rule of Law

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pp. 180-194

I began this study by noting the threat that terrorism poses to democratic institutions and by asking how the United States has fared in responding to that threat. The concrete example for approaching these matters has been the issue of coercive interrogations, for as Amos Guiora...

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Chapter Ten: This We Do Not Do: The Future of Interrogation and the Ethics of Professional Responsibility

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pp. 195-208

I write this concluding chapter of The Ethics of Interrogation a little over ten and a half years after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Two items in the news suggest both why debates about counterterrorism practices are not likely to go away and how we might frame the national discussion our country ought to have about the ethics of interrogation and...


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pp. 209-214


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pp. 215-227

E-ISBN-13: 9781589019737
E-ISBN-10: 1589019733
Print-ISBN-13: 9781589019720

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013