In a post on the bizarre and, frankly, nonsensical statements of Antonin Scalia regarding detainment, Marty Lederman points out a pattern in Bush administration detainment policies that is connected to what I've been saying about torture. (And Scalia himself unwittingly hints at it). Lederman writes,
In this conflict, by contrast, the U.S. has detained thousands of persons without very reliable assurances that they are, in fact, dangerous. Its detention practices, in other words, have been much more indiscriminate and uncertain -- and motivated principally by a design to interrogate as many persons as possible who might conceivably be able to offer some actionable intelligence, rather than (primarily) for the traditional purposes of incapacitating and weakening the enemy. When you're looking for a needle in a haystack, you tend to collect a lot of hay. That is exactly why the military itself has released such a high percent of the GTMO detainees: because its criteria for detention in the first instance were so permissive.Recall that torture as information-gathering can work but entails a much broader institutionalization of torture and widespread torturing of innocents than that of the slippery-slope narrative frame the administration and its surrogates present to the public (that is, the one evil terrorist vs. the lives of hundreds or thousands). As I said in congressional testimony last year,
A principal incentive raised by the argument for torture as a means of gathering information... is ultimately to seek patterns of information rather than attempt to verify or falsify individual bits of data, especially under time and resource constraints. Comprehensive sets of data-points yield more complex patterns. The more extensive the practice and institution, the more successful torture will be. If torture is used indiscriminately and broadly, more complex patterns and a better understanding of what is meaningful in the information will be obtained. Patterns of information by themselves are meaningless, but they serve to corroborate and verify partial bits of information and infer other patterns. They also serve to eliminate or falsify outlying bits of information, the information gained from those innocent of any perceived wrongdoing. A descriptive narrative may be interpreted and assembled from the resulting patterns and regularities.Note the common pattern between detainment and torture.