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May 22, 2004

Dershowitz: U.S. Needs Improved Torture Tactics

HARVARD Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, who urged that terrorists be tortured in a Nov. 2001 column he wrote for the Los Angeles Times, isn't backing away from his position one bit in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

In fact, the noted civil libertarian said Thursday [May 20, 2004] that the only thing U.S. did wrong was to use tactics that were amateurish and ineffective.

"We should never do what we did at Abu Ghraib, which is turn a bunch amateurs with no experience on to a bunch of low-level detainees and tell them essentially, do what you have to do to soften them up," Dershowitz told MSNBC's "Scarborough Country."

Instead, torture of high value terror suspects should be authorized by either the President, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Secretary of Defense, he urged.

Asked if he thought Americans were ready to "do what it takes" to get information from terrorists who threaten American lives, Dershowitz told host Joe Scarborough, "I think so. But I think Americans want us to do it smarter, want us to do it better. We could have done it a lot smarter."

"If we were to limit our rough interrogation methods to the most important, high-value detainees," he said, the critics would be few. "Nobody is complaining about what we have done to [9/11 mastermind] Shaikh Khalid Mohammed," he noted.

The acceptance of torture in the Khalid Mohammed case, said Dershowitz, shows that "Americans are prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to save American lives and the lives of many others, as long as we do it smart, and we do it with accountability."

And he challenged the claims by some pundits who say torture almost never works because the subject will inevitably say anything to alleviate the pain.

"We had a case in the Philippines where [local police] tortured somebody and revealed a plot to knock down 11 or 12 commercial airliners flying over the Pacific and a plot to kill the pope," he noted.

And Dershowitz even defended sexual humiliation as a good way to press Muslim detainees for critical information.

"It's a good thing to use women interrogators on radical Muslim extremists," he told MSNBC. "I think it's a good thing to make them be stripped naked. I think these are legitimate forms of interrogation in cases where we have high-level prisoners who can provide high-level information."

The top legal thinker recommended that the U.S. should unabashedly tell the world that torturing high value terrorist suspects is justified "because of the war that has been thrust upon us."

"As long as we do it in a way that we can be proud and hold our heads up and say, yes, we did this," he told MSNBC. "But we have to be smart and we have to have accountability."

The world's terrorists, he said, have "put us in a position where have to defend our civilians. And that's the highest calling of democracy, to defend its civilians against guilty murderers that are out there trying to kill our grandchildren and kill our children."



Historic document's text Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on the treatment by the Coalition Forces of prisoners of war ... in Iraq
[Updated:] The Classified Report of Maj. General Antonio M. Taguba: Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade [pdf, 85K] -- see the role of an Israeli-owned "civilian contractor" interrogation firm, and a Mr "John Israel"
Geneva Convention (1949): The Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War [pdf, 108K]

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