The ultimate goal of torture is to force a person to confess some meaningful information, but of course, there is an an obvious problem with that. What if the person is innocent? What if there is nothing to confess? These potentially innocent people have a much lower tolerance to the stresses of torture, compared to those who are guilty and have a strong sense of commitment to their cause. As a result, you sometimes get these crime-less prisoners who break under the pressure, and die-hard martyrs that refuse to fold.
As best put by Dr. Metin Basoglu, chief of Trauma Studies at the Institute of Psychiatry of King’s College London, "If you were developing a test for cancer, would you want a test which gave positive results for non-cancerous cells, missed cancerous ones, and also damaged patients [?] . . . "
Although it seems horrid to claim that this cancer metaphor represents torture's effectiveness, sadly, it is our reality. That is not to say that these tactics can't ever unveil important information on terrorist intel though. The question becomes a matter of: do you want to torture possibly innocent people for possibly useful knowledge? Is that a gamble worth taking? In the minds of some, especially after September 11, it is definately a yes. But, in those others, the response would be a no.
Here's a scenario exemplified by David Luban, law professor at Georgetown University, to leave you with:
"The authorities think that one out of group of fifty captives in Guantanamo might know where Osama bin Laden is hiding, but they do not know which captive. Torture them all? That is: Do you torture forty-nine captives with nothing to tell you on the uncertain chance of capturing bin Laden?"
Basoglu, Metin. "Torture Research." Psychology Today. 3 June 2009. Web. 2 Nov. 2009.
Luban, David. "Liberalism, Torture, and the Ticking Bomb." Virginia Law Review (2005): 12-49. Print.