Paul LAURITZEN. The Ethics of Interrogation: Professional Responsibility in an Age of Terror. Washington: Georgetown University Press, 2013. Pp. 227. $26.95. ISBN: 978-1-58901-972-0. Reviewed by Moni MCINTYRE, Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, PA 15282
National security or human rights? In which direction, if any, should professionals, charged with interrogating prisoners and detainees in a democratic society, lean? What is possible, and what is at least minimally acceptable when interrogating prisoners or detainees? Can anyone have ‘clean hands and a pure heart’ in such situations? Paul Lauritzen distills the essence of this conundrum in his superbly written and carefully reasoned work.
Lauritzen chooses to focus on the traditional professions of psychology, law, medicine and the military. He argues that a moral component ought to underlie the work of those who enter these professions. This claim fits with the older model he introduces, i.e., the social trustee. Until the 1960s, this model functioned to provide professionals with a moral compass. Professional codes helped to ensure that individuals understood themselves in positions of public trust. For the past several decades, however, the expertise model has prevailed. Here, professionals derive their value from their expert knowledge. Consequently, the moral component fades into the background along with the obligation to maintain public trust. In a post 9/11 world, Lauritzen maintains that the interrogation of detainees in places like Guantanamo Bay demands a moral consciousness that goes unsupported in the second and newer model.
Beginning with psychology, followed by law, and ending with medicine, Lauritzen considers such basic questions as: should the professional be a part of detainee and prisoner interrogations? If so, then in what capacity? How does a professional society’s code of ethics impact the individual’s involvement in the process? Does involvement in any capacity violate the public trust? Is one first a military officer or a member of another profession? In his final chapters, Lauritzen pleads for transparency and accountability on the part of civilian senior officials who have in the past run roughshod over the military leadership in the professions. With great skill and clarity, the author demonstrates how secrecy and lack of consultation plagued the Bush administration, particularly in their dealings with the Judge Advocate Generals of each branch of service.
Laurizen believes that the United States’ record on the ethics of interrogation since 2001 is mixed. He states that all ten techniques that were considered in the classified August 2002 Bybee “torture memorandum” are coercive. Some are abusive, and the tenth technique, waterboarding, qualifies as torture. Torture is something we should not do, and, therefore, our use of waterboarding has hurt not only those detainees subjected to it, but it has also besmirched the reputation of this country. By abusing and torturing prisoners and detainees, members of the armed forces of the United States have consistently violated the Geneva Convention, the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and their own codes of conduct. As a result, each profession, including the military, needs to reevaluate its stance on the role of the professional in the interrogation process. Furthermore, the author urges the reader to consider what image we as Americans want to project to the world concerning the interrogations techniques that we use and approve. In addition, elected and appointed officials at the highest levels must thoughtfully reflect upon the interrogation techniques that they authorize.
Lauritzen enlists the aid of a great number of scholars to advance his arguments. His explanatory footnotes provide just enough explanation, and his extensive bibliography entices the reader to pursue this topic in several other directions.
With great enthusiasm, I very strongly recommend this book to serious readers of ethics, public policy, history, human rights, and religious studies. It is a call to reflect deeply on the responsibilities of professionals who engage in interrogation techniques and those who support them.