The British soldiers recently freed by Iran provide the case in point for why torture and strong-armed coercion techniques don’t work. But no one in the mainstream media seems to be talking about the example set by the soldiers “confessions” and how they serve as indictments on any “information” extracted from prisoners detained in places such as Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo Bay.

During the nearly two-week ordeal the soldiers were paraded in front of cameras, denounced British and U.S. policy in Iraq and confessed in written statements that they had indeed trespassed into Iranian waters. As the video and news reports of their confessions circulated they were almost simultaneously dismissed as the fruit of coercion. The general sense was that the soldiers were being tortured or manipulated in some way and under that kind of duress only a solider from the mold of John Rambo wouldn’t crack.

This standard doesn’t seem to apply when the media reports on the latest “confession” from a prisoner held in Gitmo, despite the well-documented trail of torture in that facility. When Khalid Sheikh Mohammed reportedly confessed to being involved in nearly every terrorist activity in the last ten years, no mainstream media outlet mentioned the word torture. The Bush administration has taken it one step further by actually calling Mohammed’s confessions life-saving information.

When Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri recently said he was tortured for five years before confessing to his involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole, he was either dismissed as being a liar about the torture or it was somehow rationalized that this information must be dependable.

The British soldiers claim they were subjected to blindfolding, mock executions, stripped and told they were in line for up to seven years in an Iranian jail. Leading Seaman, Faye Turney, said she felt like a traitor writing her “confession” letter. Turney also said the Iranians repeatedly dangled the idea of never seeing her daughter in her face as way to force her to write the “confessional”.

These claims make the British soldiers’ experience seem like summer camp pranks compared to water-boarding and many of the other things that have been documented in the photos at Abu Ghraib or the FBI e-mails about Gitmo. Yet the public and the mainstream media don’t seem to draw the connection.

Torture doesn’t yield reliable information. Studies have proven that building a relationship when interrogating harvests trustworthy intelligence far more often than subjecting the prisoner to torture. This isn’t difficult to to understand. Try to place yourself into a similar situation. Might you give in, by rationalizing that you could live with the consequences of a false confession so long as you live?

Shaun Moore blogs for the Seattle PI @ The Rail.

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