Confessions of Guilt: From Torture to Miranda and Beyond

By George C. Thomas III; Richard A. Leo | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
Introduction

Consider two interrogations separated by the Atlantic Ocean and 170 years. As described by the London Times, an English magistrate in 1832 examined a prisoner suspected of a “horrid” murder.1 Though not yet required by law, the magistrate’s clerk warned the prisoner “that he was not bound to say anything to criminate himself.” He was also cautioned that anything he had to say “would be taken down in writing, and, if necessary, produced as evidence on his trial.” The clerk told the suspect that the magistrates were “ready to hear what he had to say” if “from any motive of unburdening his own conscience, or allaying the intense anxiety of the friends of the deceased, or from the desire of relieving those who might now be labouring under unjust accusation or suspicion.”

In 2004, the New York Times described, in general terms, the interrogation of the so-called twentieth hijacker in the Guantánamo Bay prison camp.2 Interrogators at the prison camp “received Pentagon approval to use special, harsher interrogation procedures” on Mohamed al-Kahtani. “A senior Pentagon civilian lawyer said there was ‘some urgency’ to increasing the pressure on this detainee because he likely ‘had information that the people at Guantanamo believed was important, not just about perhaps 9/11, but about future events.’”

The 2004 story did not contain details of the “harsher interrogation procedures” because “they remained classified.” A 2002 memo leaked to the press in 2006, however, said that the Justice Department had approved twenty interrogation practices that fell “just short of those that might cause pain comparable to ‘organ failure, impairment of bodily function or even death.’”3 Released by order of President Obama, the 2002 memo to the CIA approved interrogation methods such as cramped confinement, stress positions, sleep deprivation, water-boarding, and the use of insects to terrorize suspects.4

When using insects during interrogation, the interrogator tells the suspect that a stinging insect will be placed with him in a small closed box; instead, they put in the box a nonstinging insect, like a caterpillar.5 The box is so small he is not able to use his hands to resist the insect as it crawls on his skin. Water-boarding, which has received more attention, is described as follows:

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