Sunday, December 30, 2007

Torture and involuntary interrogation - the human mind is sovereign

There has certainly been a lot of discussion and angst expressed over the meaning of and use of torture in interrogation of terrorist suspects. Years ago I thought about this issue and concluded that the only real solution was to simply ban involuntary interrogation in any form. If a prisoner or even a citizen or non-citizen being questioned by law enforcement authorities declines to answer questions, the "interrogation" is over. Sure, "the authorities" can offer some degree of positive incentives to encourage participation in questioning, but it has to be crystal clear that any such participation is not coerced in any way. If the subject agrees to answer questions, the process is one of "conversational questioning" rather than "pressured interrogation." In short, voluntary questioning is okay, but involuntary or coerced or forced interrogation should be out.

We need to take the concept of protection against self-incrimination seriously and simply not go there or anywhere even close to it. We need an outright ban on confessions since it is far too easy to coerce them without even trying.

Rather than focus on a precise definition of torture, I would focus on the coercive aspect of interrogation. If the process of questioning begins to take on a coercive, abusive, forceful, pressured character, the line has been crossed and that is not acceptable. We should not require the character of the questioning to cross from merely forceful to painful or to some arbitrary level of pain before we draw the line and call it torture. The only line that is necessary to recognize is that the subject (prisoner or citizen or non-citizen) has declined to participate in questioning. And even if the subject has agreed to questioning, the character of the questioning must be limited to a strictly conversational and non-pressured tone.

In short, let us formally ban both involuntary interrogation and interrogation that attempts to utilize any form of pressure, physical, intellectual, mental, emotional, financial, social, or otherwise.

Basically, we need to revamp our constitution to make it crystal clear that the government has no right to access that which is in our mind nor any right to attempt to negatively induce us to grant access to that which is in our minds. The constitution needs to recognize that the human mind is sovereign and beyond the reach of the government or any law enforcement authority.

-- Jack Krupansky

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