Beyond Kafka

Can you imagine a tyranny so insanely thorough that enemies of the state who have been tortured into confession are forbidden to complain on the grounds that the details of their interrogations are state secrets?

Can you imagine a government so absurdly tyrannical, so brutally insane, that it forbids “enemies of the state” to complain about being tortured on the grounds that interrogation techniques are state secrets?

Well, you don’t have to imagine it. There is such a government.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

6 thoughts on “Beyond Kafka”

  1. The government voluntarily revealed the classified information to the prisoners (i.e., by torturing them), and therefore aren't they free to talk about it with whomever they wish? We don't have an Official Secrets Act, after all.
    More seriously, I think that the law schools that these lawyers graduated from should (at least symbolically) revoke their degrees. Who the hell would want these guys/gals as alumni?

  2. It's like that legend that after the ChiComs executed someone they'd sent the family a bill for the bullet. (Actually, you could probably pass that by ballot referendum in some states in the US at this point.)

  3. Can't wait until they get on the witness stand and get accused of irrationally hating the government since they got tortured and all.

  4. If I had to make an educated guess, I'd say that pretty fair number of the techniques are found in the CIA document, MKULTRA or in some of the writings of the experiences of the POWs from Korea and Vietnam (especially Vietnam).
    With all the criticism that Cheney has come under for his support of Waterboarding, the adminstration is probably trying to stay "on message" and avoid further embarrassing revelations of the utter unconstitutional behavior it has engaged in. The so-called Military Commissions Act is perhaps one of the most shameful pieces of legislation ever produced by any Congress, and will stain this Nation for a hundred years, even if it were to be repealed quickly.
    Granted, no one wants terrorists to conceal the information that they might have that could be tactically or strategically useful, but too many Americans (including it seems CongressCritters) think that interrogation should be run by Jack Bauer and not professionals who understand that beating produces less information than patient probing and good law-enforcement techniques of gathering peripheral information and analyzing it along with questioning a suspect.
    The North Vietnamese who tortured Americans had no real frame of reference to understand the information that they were trying to obtain. For example there is a famous story of a POW who when asked what his job aboard the carrier was, he told them that he was in charge of the livestock. Since refrigeration and perishable foods were not really a part of their society, they assumed that he must be telling the truth, since they couldn't readily reference the refrigeration systems onboard a carrier that held the foodstuff to feed 5000 people daily. He kept that pretense up for so long that by the time they figured it out, I understand they were reluctant to punish him because he had made fools of them, and it would have been a huge 'loss of face' to admit it.
    The adminstration can stonewall this for as long as they want. I doubt that their classification nonsense will survive Congressional subpeonas, but that's not a done deal yet. When this all breaks, we will look far less like the shining city on the hill and more like the slums of Manila.
    How sad, thanks Preznit Cowardly Lion.

  5. If interrogation techniques can't be described in their (so-called) court proceedings because they're state secrets, this suggests also that the court proceedings themselves are a complete sham, because if they were to be exonerated, what's the first thing they would do once free? The only way the victims of our torture can be prevented from revealing all is to keep them locked up forever, unless we choose to kill them instead. Why bother with the court proceeding at all? What purpose does it serve? The outcome has already been determined.

  6. Robert the Red: "The government voluntarily revealed the classified information to the prisoners (i.e., by torturing them), and therefore aren't they free to talk about it with whomever they wish?"
    You're on to something there. How to we ban torture? By classifying the techniques as state secrets which cannot be divulged. Therefore, anyone who uses those techniques is guilty of divulging secrets.
    Of course, we could also end up in the Wonderland of "I could tell you, but then I'd have to kill you."

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