Institutions that value dissent and auatonomy foster productive equilibrium.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Truth Serum Idea. Narcoanalysis vs. Pain-Force

Torture. Aside from its illegality, how necessary and effective is torture in getting to truth. Two scenarios come to mind: 1) getting a confession, as in the Inquisition; or the police station going amok; or 2) getting information needed in a war situation, plans, names, locations. Does torture work, is it efficient, is the information or confession reliable.

Then, look at scenario 3) getting the victim to say what the interrogator wants for the interrogator's own reasons, apart from "truth." Just say it. Fill in the blank so we can close the file, or justify what we want to do anyway.

How to weigh the value. How many innocents must be tortured before there is a guilty one is found somewhere.

Getting to Truth
Pick One

What does the choice say about the chooser?
Does the truth we want come through force. Is "truth" the goal in torture; or is the process driven more by the mentality and needs of the torturer, or those who set the torturer in motion, the pleasure it gives to the inflictor, watching the inflicted. Some may engage in it because they are ordered, and deny the pleasure, but any occupation self-selects.

Current issues in the news; How to force people to give information against their will; and do we not do it just because it is illegal and unreliable and morally repugnant. How to get reliable information in bounds, and out of bounds urge some.

There is a sense that we need to broaden our reach in options.
  • Torture. This has a bad name and is indeed illegal, despite those who say effectiveness (if it is) trumps legality. To them, legal does not matter if it works. Ultimate pragmatism. So we steal somebody's car in the McDonald's lot to get to work. And, yes, we get there. It worked as a tactic, so it must be legal.
  • So-called truth serums - are they any more reliable than they used not to be?
The stage. Fiction's darlings have laid out this ticking time bomb scenario, despite its being debunked time and again by those with direct knowledge and in official records, and here, interrogator Matthew Alexander's testimony at :// :
  • the need for an answer;
  • dwindling time;
  • imminent disaster must be averted;
  • how to get the information;
  • a recalcitrant but knowledgeable suspect captive;
  • quick - inject the magic Truth Serum, the Laughing Gas, the Irresistible Chemical that breaks down all judgment and defenses and starts the tongue wagging there on the gurney.
What has been tried?

Amytal used to be one, we thought. But by 1994, they seemed to be on the way out as ineffective. See this article, see Is There a Truth Serum, by Dr. August Piper at ://

How to do it: Amytal is, says the site, all in the family with Seconal, Nembutal, Pentothal. Generic: amobarbital. Give enough, bring on sleep. Drip it slowly, and in a little time, say an hour, the sleepy one feels warm and fuzzy toward the interviewer, who sometimes adds Valium or Ativan - this from the site, not our field.

The theory was that the dozy one could not lie - useful in finding out memories, etc. especially in a heyday in the 1940's, 1950's. Defenses down. However, that was not so. People indeed can mislead an interviewer, give false information. Lots become untrustworthy. Like during intoxication. External verification still needed.

So much for that. As of 1994.

Yahoo's cops out. Says it is a resolved question because you can't use sodium pentothal because that is assault and battery, if done without the person's permission.

So? In today's mindset age? Drugs may be deemed coercive and not admissible in a court, but how about the coerciveness of torture? The efficacy of sodium pentothal is not addressed there, just its admissibility. See Whatever Happened to Truth Serum/ Sodium Pentothal at ://

Updated term: Narco-analysis.

The technique is dubbed "narcoanalysis" these days, and apparently is barred in most democracies, see Mumbai police to use truth serum on baby-faced terrorist Azam Amir Kazab, at ://

The article notes its use in the West during the cold war, but a downside is "inducing hallucinations, delusions, and psychotic manifestations."
Throwing away justice: illustration, Godey's Ladies Book May 1865

Doesn't torture induce psychological and physical effect both?

See issues raised at :// So what happened with Mr. Azam Amir Kazab? Update?

Occasionally, truth comes out, we suppose. Occasionally. Like the random hit. What are the odds and how do you know?

So the 1994 caveat remains - forced information is not necessarily reliable. And that is acknowledged as to Azam Amir Kazab. What you get may well still be unreliable. See ://

So: If both techniques are unreliable, then compare a) the unreliability of torture; with b) the unreliability of forcing "truth" through serums.

If torture and drugs are equally unreliable, with only occasionally the lucky strike, and both needing external verification; then this must be so:

The choice of torture is attractive because it gives pleasure to the torturer.

The beast in us asks this: Why should I let the one with the secrets just dream on the gurney and chat in the twilight; when I can inflict real time pain. And watch it. And watch it again. 138 times.

Now we're on to something. Like war. Imagine yourself winning. The pathetic and helpless Other about to feel your wrath.


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