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Chemical Interrogation for Counter-Terrorism? July 18, 2009

Posted by federalist in Natural Rights, Open Questions, Social Politics.

If the War on Terror left any doubt, episode after contrived episode of TV series 24 has shown that there are circumstances in which we may want to use any means necessary to extract life-saving information from a hostile captive.  Following years of controversy over what interrogation methods should be publicized and allowed to fight terrorism, the federal government is considering the creation of a special interrogation team with new tactics.

Note that we are not talking about securing information for use in judicial proceedings, but rather about extracting accurate information from subjects intent on resisting interrogation that could thwart future — perhaps imminent — homicides.  It is fatuous to discuss whether interrogation methods in such scenarios are “degrading” or “coercive.”  Most pragmatic people probably don’t particularly care whether methods constitute “torture,” so long as they are effective.  Many may even countenance real torture that causes permanent physical damage to a subject withholding information that could avert a mass homicide.  But one problem with torture and coercion on any level is that subjects can be prepared to resist known tactics.  And even when a subject appears to break interrogators can’t always be certain he hasn’t provided them with false information.

So what happened to the art of chemical interrogation: I.e., dosing subjects with drugs that diminish their capacity to consciously evade questions or formulate deceptive answers?  Jed Babbin addressed this early in the War on Terror:

So-called “truth serums” are not foolproof, and do not guarantee success. But chemically assisted interrogation can significantly increase the interrogator’s chance to get the facts without descending into barbarism. There are legitimate differences between the constitutional and legal limits we impose on police interrogating a suspected criminal for prosecution in a civilian court and the means interrogators use to get as much as they can — as quickly as they can — from Mohammed and his ilk. Those limits do not require us to forego chemically assisted interrogation.

Intelligence agencies and the military have been experimenting with so-called “truth drugs” since the Egyptians began making beer about 5,000 years ago. During World War II, Germany and Japan both used chemical interrogation with very mixed results. Today, there are several drugs that are more effective and safe than the ones used then.

The object of a chemically assisted interrogation is to release the cortical functions of the brain. Most of the drugs that would be used — sodium amatol and related drugs — are sedatives that have a general calming effect. So do barbiturates. Another group — valium and its progeny, including Versed — have essentially the same effect, but also induce short-term memory loss, so the subject won’t remember this morning what he told you last night. The beauty of these chemicals is that there is a minimal danger of allergic reaction, and they can be administered in relative safety to all but the most elderly or those with diabetes, or other conditions that can generally be detected by blood tests and an electrocardiogram.

If a suspect is being interrogated while under the influence of one of these drugs, it is possible to further boost the ability of the interrogator to succeed by administering an amphetamine. If administered properly, the sedative calms the suspect and breaks down resistance. The amphetamine can raise his anxiety level, causing him to blurt out what he might otherwise conceal even under sedation.

Even if the a drugged subject doesn’t crack, the short-term amnesia that can be induced with some of these drugs can itself be a useful interrogation tactic: leading him to believe he has given up useful information, and thereby weakening his resolve against further questioning.

The Geneva Conventions prohibit chemical interrogation.  But terrorists are not covered by the Geneva Conventions.  Drugs used for chemical interrogation are neither painful nor, when administered to healthy individuals, particularly dangerous.  Rather than continue to debate the boundaries of torture for official policy, our terrorist interrogation guidelines should include the routine use of helpful drugs.



1. Pedro Delgato-Pinto - September 14, 2013

Research on a synthetic isomer of lysergic acid diethylamide, Ditran, proved to give a very bad trip every time. It was thought to be a good interrogation technique as one had only to “suggest” a snake coming put of the subjects eye socket for them to feel and see it led to them divulging detailed information with the promise of relief. As with all severely cohesive techniques, a skilled operator would flood you with a detailed bogus story unless you had some way of verifying details. The Benzodiazepine/barbiturate/hallucinogen is a nicer way to go and befriending the subject in their hallucinogenic world as a friendly guide would get you better results. The Sorcerers Apprentice.

2. Jeffery Guyer - May 10, 2016

Single agent and conjuctive agents can lead to Dythsia, which can last from several minutes, to in some settings, that continues the remainder of the subjects life. To even conceive a use of any of these agents as a tool of any being to gain any soughtout unknowns and taking advantage of a drug or drug side effects and there are countless side effects. Is in, any setting imagined, a violation on any level of ethical treatment of a human, animal, or any living being in any setting, a violation of the very moral fiber of the soul. Should bring about such a outrage at any suggested, muchless conducted situtation, that any living, rationalizing created being protest and take any measures to stop such a happening without thought, risking life and limb to stop such violations of our creators moral laws.

3. Robin Garces - October 19, 2016

Excellent artical. Western law and it’s protections are now exploited by our enemies to thier advantage because or leftist liberals twisting the system to create weekness in western civilization to destroy it. Chemical interrogation should be advanced and perfected with urgency to aid in defeating terrorisim and violent crime in general.

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