Enhanced interrogation is a set of aggressive tactics used during the interrogation process in an attempt to get information out of a prisoner. The Bush Presidential Administration used the term to the American public in the early twenty-first century to describe interrogation techniques being used in American containment facilities overseas in locations like Iraq. Supporters of enhanced interrogation argue that it is an effective method for getting information, while detractors believe that it qualifies as torture, which would make it illegal for signatories of the United Nations Convention Against Torture.
Members of the German military used enhanced interrogation techniques during the Second World War, referring to them as verschärfte Vernehmung. These techniques included sensory deprivation, minimal rations, uncomfortable or hard beds, sensory overload through loud noises and bright lights, beatings, and emotional abuse. In war crimes trials conducted after the finish of the war, these techniques were deemed illegal in several criminal courts, and numerous nations signed resolutions against torture. Such resolutions are not purely altruistic, since most countries want to avoid torture of their own citizens and military personnel in military conflicts.
Enhanced interrogation manuals for American interrogators are difficult to obtain, although military whistleblowers have given out some information to the media. These tactics include the use of cultural or physical humiliation, emotional strain, exhaustion, and controlled drowning, asphysxia, and electrocution. Prisoners have also testified to beatings, prolonged “stress positions” which keep the body in a state of strain and stress, and the use of military weapons and dogs for intimidation. While the use of tactics like shouting at prisoners is generally not considered torture, practices such as controlled drowning definitely qualify in the eyes of many critics.
It is claimed that enhanced interrogation is an unpleasant, but necessary, tool for rooting out terrorists and other threats to American national security. However, psychological studies of torture techniques suggest that they are actually not reliable methods for getting information, since subjects often lie in an attempt to end the interrogation. Whistleblowers have also said that some prisoners subjected to these tactics were probably innocent, as was documented in the 2007 book Fear Up Harsh.
The debate over enhanced interrogation made major political news in 2007, with many American citizens and public officials expressing discomfort and distaste with such tactics. Many opinion editorials and columns also spoke out against enhanced interrogation, and demanded more accountability for the Bush administration. Torture and the precise definition of torture also became issues for candidates seeking election in the 2008 presidential election, as well as in Congress.