The Science of Interrogation

Fascinating article about two psychologists who are studying interrogation techniques.

Now, two British researchers are quietly revolutionising the study and practice of interrogation. Earlier this year, in a meeting room at the University of Liverpool, I watched a video of the Diola interview alongside Laurence Alison, the university's chair of forensic psychology, and Emily Alison, a professional counsellor. My permission to view the tape was negotiated with the counter-terrorist police, who are understandably wary of allowing outsiders access to such material. Details of the interview have been changed to protect the identity of the officers involved, though the quotes are verbatim.

The Alisons, husband and wife, have done something no scholars of interrogation have been able to do before. Working in close cooperation with the police, who allowed them access to more than 1,000 hours of tapes, they have observed and analysed hundreds of real-world interviews with terrorists suspected of serious crimes. No researcher in the world has ever laid hands on such a haul of data before. Based on this research, they have constructed the world's first empirically grounded and comprehensive model of interrogation tactics.

The Alisons' findings are changing the way law enforcement and security agencies approach the delicate and vital task of gathering human intelligence. "I get very little, if any, pushback from practitioners when I present the Alisons' work," said Kleinman, who now teaches interrogation tactics to military and police officers. "Even those who don't have a clue about the scientific method, it just resonates with them." The Alisons have done more than strengthen the hand of advocates of non-coercive interviewing: they have provided an unprecedentedly authoritative account of what works and what does not, rooted in a profound understanding of human relations. That they have been able to do so is testament to a joint preoccupation with police interviews that stretches back more than 20 years.

Posted on October 26, 2017 at 5:09 AM • 76 Comments

Comments

rmdOctober 26, 2017 8:13 AM

Shockingly, being an abusive ass is a poor way to get people to want to do what you want.

nwildnerOctober 26, 2017 8:28 AM

>>> Shockingly, being an abusive ass is a poor way to get people to want to do what you want.

Shockingly? This is some of the basics of persuation: Make people you want to give you information be used with you(r) voice/presence/conversation_subjects...

AsftOctober 26, 2017 8:56 AM

Surely among their recommendations are exposing subjects to extreme temperatures, electrocution, various violating mutilations, and feeding subjects their own excrement? Couldn't imagine a more effective way to get accurate information. /s

In seriousness, this is a really good story that I hope to hear more about through other outlets.

stineOctober 26, 2017 9:24 AM

I thought all it took was a $5 hammer (xkcd) or money (BATFE) or more guns (BAFTE again).

milkshakenOctober 26, 2017 9:39 AM

Torture alone does not work, because the game is about building rapport between the detainee and the investigator. It is sad but true that the initial torture can actually help - not to extract information during the abuse, but to make the detainee to soften up. After days of humiliation, loneliness, suddenly you get a "reasonable, kind investigator" who seem "genuinely concerned" about your well being, reprimands the guards for your harsh treatment and assures you detainee he was unaware what was going on and he would make sure it will never happen again. He will approach you like a fellow human being, and just asks you about your insight, if you could "just help him to understand better". he will even flatter your vanity a little, fake being impressed by your insights and eloquence.

These are all techniques of course but they work, on people weakened by long mistreatment and isolation. It is a natural instinct to open up - if only to be understood. Israelis use them, they are not very gentle. They even stage fake torture next cell if needed. Also the Jordanians - they rarely torture, but they are very, very good at making converts from the terrorists, by playing to their pride and "heroism", using the personal traits and the family ties of islamist terrorist against them.

JoshOctober 26, 2017 10:24 AM

In 10 years or so you will have a very different opinion of this couple and their methods.
It won't be a good opinion.

Ross SniderOctober 26, 2017 10:54 AM

This pervades our culture: "terrorists suspected of serious crimes".

How are they terrorists if they are only suspects?

We can talk about 'innocent before proven guilty' all we want. But in actuality, the moral basis of our justice system is not being put into practice. Hold the person, bring them to court, but you may not torture them, they have rights, and there should not be secret courts without a jury of peers. Habeaus corpus should still exist for those being criticized of crimes against the state (terrorism).

The fact that the article starts this way sent chills down my spine. "The guilty accused of serious crimes."

Mass surveillance. Mass propaganda. Secret global torture programmes. This world is gilded. UK and US particularly.

Andrew GOctober 26, 2017 11:02 AM

@oliver When I read the article, I saw a theory of interview dynamics, I saw a hypothesis derived from that theory that predicts an outcome, I saw independent collection of observations, I saw systematic assessment of the observations, I saw independent statistical analysis of the assessment, and I saw confirmation of the prediction of the hypothesis. In other words, I saw at least a thousand words describing the process of this investigation and that process aligns very well with what I expect from the scientific method.

What I don't see is how the claim "psychology is NOT science" adds value to the discussion, or is even defensible.

Perhaps you'd like to share why you thought that remark would be helpful after you read the article, or why you thought it was worth making without having read it. Help me understand why someone would do that. ;-)

albertOctober 26, 2017 11:39 AM

@Ross,
"..."The guilty accused of serious crimes."..."
Where did you find that quote?

Sadly, the old police attitude of 'assumed guilty', 'no coincidences', and 'suspect everyone' has become SOP. These concepts are useful during investigations, and even interrogations, but when they become part of the belief system, abuses will occur.

@Andrew,
Using 'scientific methods' doesn't make something science. Using statistics to quantify and classify human behavior and personalities is a fools errand. There are strong -ethical- and -moral- reasons to avoid torture, we shouldn't need 'scientific studies'. The -torturers- are the criminals. This is just more academic BS.

@oliver, It's pseudoscience:)

@winter,
"...Don't talk to the police..."
Any good lawyer will tell you that. Even innocent witnesses to a crime have been tripped up and convicted. It used to be that folks who 'didn't see nuthin'' were considered bad citizens. Now they're just saving their ass.

. .. . .. --- ....

Sok PuppetteOctober 26, 2017 12:02 PM

So it takes genuine empathy to manipulate people into speaking against their own interests.

I wonder what that does to the interviewer's soul...

JonKnowsNothingOctober 26, 2017 12:02 PM

Just Noob Wannabes ... late to the party ...

  1. The Alisons: Laurence Alison forensic psychology and Emily Alison professional counsellor
  2. 1,000 hours of tapes
  3. quietly revolutionising the study and practice of interrogation
  4. No researcher in the world has ever laid hands on such a haul of data before

More of the same .... since the Code of Hammurabi

  1. James Elmer Mitchell psychologist and John Bruce Jessen psychologist
  2. Jose Rodriguez (intelligence officer) / Enhanced interrogation techniques
  3. Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) / Learned helplessness
  4. Mitchell Jessen and Associates / Jose Rodriguez (intelligence officer)


(urls factured to prevent autorun)

  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Elmer_Mitchell
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Jessen
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Senate_Intelligence_Committee_report_on_CIA_torture
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Survival,_Evasion,_Resistance_and_Escape
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mitchell_Jessen_and_Associates
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_interrogation_techniques
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jose_Rodriguez_(intelligence_officer)
  • ht tps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi

Clive RobinsonOctober 26, 2017 1:01 PM

I'm realy supprised the article did not mention how the British got information out of Axis service personnel including the worst of the SS types during WWII.

In effect the Alison's have only rediscovered what was already well known (which might be why it was not mentioned).

Put simply there are two types of interrogation of which "field" is the brutal shock variety. There was a KGB officer who defected who wrote a book on the subject. The point is it only works occasionaly and only within a very very short time of capture whilst they are still effectively disoriented and thus mentaly off balance. It's also why on "escape and evasion" training they tell you about the urgency of "positive action" and only "Name, Rank and Serial Number". Primarily the positive action is about immediately escaping, but importantly the process enables you to find your mental balance fast, at which point "shock and awe" type tactics fail to work. You see people after disasters wandering around apparently aimlessly, this is actually called "Disaster Shock" and it's exactly the same issue in the mental state that enables field interogation a chance to work.

All other types of interogation involving abuse don't realy work on people of average intelligence and a degree of self reliance once they have established their footing. Further "those with a story to tell" are those that have not prepared themselves for keeping their mouths closed and their brain thinking other thoughts (which as with lie detectors messes up the "facial tic/pattern" idea). One issue that should have raised a big red flag with the psycho-babble types is the "nexus of pain" issue. In effect you can focus on a source of pain so effectively that little else gets through. You can create such a pain with moderatly long thumb nails by pushing them under the nail of another finger on the same hand. The fact you can make the pain come and go under your control alows you to "rise above" what else is going on and in effect you become detached from it. Another effective technique that others have developed is prompting the interviewer into "ball bashing" basically you gode or bait them untill they lose control and start "bashing your balls" at which point they have lossed any kind of advantage as well as their own self control, which makes them compleatly ineffective.

Effective interogation always involves atleast two people a talker and a listener. The listener is the one in charge and gives basic direction to the talker. The listener does not have to be visable to the person being interviewed but if they can maintain pasivity and apparent disinterest infront of the person being interviewed they can in effect draw attention away from the talker which actually makes what they say more effective. If you are being interviewed by a duo like that actually direct questions at the passive person and wait for them to answer, it helps break up the rhythm of the talker and enables you to ignore their questions and if you feign indignity in the right way tells both the talker and the listener it's time to change tactics.

The sad thing is that although the British learnt all this during WWII they tended not to tell people at the sharp end of things. Which along with the prejudice of certain mind/manner types ment a disaster was sure to happen.

And it was not long before it did in Kenya with the Mau Mau uprising, where manual castration, blinding rape and beating to death were the trchniques that failed to work not just once but many many times. The problem was the wrong people in the wrong place who were persuaded by the white sons of empire that the indigenous people were in effect worthless and brutish and thus should be beaten into submission.

The thing most of those involved failed to realise was that they were projecting thus inflicting their fears onto the indigenous people, who were to a degree immune because in part they were used to such beatings and worse and more importantly their fears were quite different which actually gave them the strength to resist.

The article did mention Northern Ireland, which actually had almost exactly the same problem as those in the Mau Mau uprising. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were by and large prejudiced, bigoted and borish and insisted they knew better than others. Further they found others within the UK Intel Services that were almost kindred spirits. There are others who read this blog who I suspect went through the "troubles" and witnessed this issue as close up.

Oh one way to win at interogating is to lose to the person you are interogating. Acknowledging you've lost in small ways gives you the opportunity of big wins. You must decide in advance what it is you are going to lose and how you lose it. Think of it like playing cards, losing a worthless hand in the right way can alow you to maximise the benifits of a good hand. Importantly be gracious in loss as it is a form of kindness that most ordinary people actually respect (socio/psychopaths it has absolutly no effect on one way or the other, because they don't actually empathize even though they may well be able to fake empathy well).

Any way none of this should be new to older readers of this blog as it's mostly been said before.

Frank WilhoitOctober 26, 2017 1:31 PM

This work will find no audience in the US, where the purpose of "interrogation" is not to discover information, but purely to punish -- and, more importantly, punishing the innocent is deemed equally productive to punishing the guilty, if not somewhat more so.

handle_xOctober 26, 2017 1:59 PM

"What I don't see is how the claim "psychology is NOT science" adds value to the discussion, or is even defensible."

- Some people just want to shout down discussions they don't agree with unfortunately.

@ Albert

Just blurting out that something you don't like is pseudoscience doesn't quite define it.

It's definitely a science. Science = hypothesis analysis with repeatable methods/results that are peer reviewed for rigor. You could say that it's unsettled, and you can say there are many who deviate from rigorous scientific methods and repeatable methodologies. But it does exist whether or not you acknowledge its value.

Why wouldn't recognizing common patterns in general human responses be useful?
Of course it is. Even the terse denialists are predictable.

I don't see what people who fear psychology/psychiatry are afraid of. Maybe they bristle at the realization that people tend to think similarly to one another due the obvious factors of socialization and learning regimes?

If psychology wasn't repeatable user-interface design wouldn't be a thing and apple wouldn't be the #1 company in the world.


"So it takes genuine empathy to manipulate people into speaking against their own interests."

The best way to get someone to do something is to convince them that they want to.

People harboring secrets usually WANT to give them up. What stands in the way is a logical obstacle, fear of prison, fear of retribution, shame, something is stopping them. Figuring out what that is and walking them around the obstacle is a complex but linear task. I think you're right and it's evident that honest empathetic conversations with people are the most productive ways of getting to that outcome given time. It's in their "interests" psychologically to confess and put the situation behind them.

You're right that it's manipulative. The carrot and the stick, people like carrots.
If you distill us down to our base drivers most people are similar in a lot of ways.
If you want to look at it, living in society is a compromise of our own "interests" entirely.

handle_xOctober 26, 2017 2:12 PM

"This work will find no audience in the US, where the purpose of "interrogation" is not to discover information, but purely to punish"

Homicide investigators would argue that point.

Interrogation is not punishment or torture. Those are distinct concepts.
Interrogation is just a series of questions nominalized. That's it.

You're absolutely right that some in the US have conflated torture and valid interrogation.
They need to be held accountable.

You're absolutely right that the innocent are punished in our system also, that interrogators sometimes pursue artifacts rather than the truth. Sometimes intentionally.

Please don't pretend everyone in the US or US law enforcement / government is disinterested in the truth or protecting the innocent. That's just a wide smear.

DanielOctober 26, 2017 3:26 PM

@Oliver, Andrew G.

You are both wrong. Psychology is a pseudo-science. However, the article linked to is not in itself scientific. In order for something to merit scientific credibility one must be able to replicate it. Since their data is secret it fails that test.

I could go one but there is no reason to. Tests which are not able to be replicated are not science. Rather what the paper does is engage in moral preening: we are better than you because we can get the same results without beating people. Whether that i true or false result is debatable but it isn't a scientific conclusion.

DanielOctober 26, 2017 3:37 PM

"No researcher in the world has ever laid hands on such a haul of data before."

That's not a feature, that's a bug.

"Based on this research, they have constructed the world's first empirically grounded and comprehensive model of interrogation tactics."


A couple's subjective impressions of a trove of data does not make it empirically grounded. It makes it their subjective impressions of a trove of data.


"Even those who don't have a clue about the scientific method, it just resonates with them."

I suspect it does because those who do have a clue about the scientific method know BS when they see it.

"they have provided an unprecedentedly authoritative account of what works and what does not,"

What exactly makes it authoritative? They looked at lots of data and formed an opinion. Now they are the experts? By that metric I am an expert meteorologist because I have looked at the sky every day for decades.

PeaceHeadOctober 26, 2017 4:20 PM

I look forward to finishing reading the article. Thanks for sharing that; it has educational and intellectual and cultural and law-enforcement value.

I think part of the cultural allure of police tv shows is that many of us DO HAVE a sense of justice and care about BAD ACTIVITIES being SHUT DOWN. And I think many of us civilians also know in our hearts that what people say and what they do are two very different things. I believe there's and underlying yearning for those who will "tell it like it is" or at least depict it, and to be honest about "what actually happened".

For all of what secrecy and privacy are worth, THE TRUTH STILL MEANS QUITE A LOT!
Without truth/reality validated, there is literally nothing. Everything that's ever been built or invented or improved has relied upon reality, not lies and illusions. Truth, poetically, is when reality is mentioned without trying to disguise it or dress it up or sculpt it into something that it isn't.

As much as I certainly dislike accounts of prisoner abuses, and as someone who has experienced being accused of things I didn't do, and as a friend of another who was accused of things they didn't do either, I know this can be a touchy subject. I know how badly things can turn for those who are not adequately protected by true justice.

But fortunately, this article thus far doesn't seem to be disturbing.

I'd much rather have law-enforcement bolstered and buttressed by science and fact than victimized by it. Truth protects those who use it. Reality = Reality. You can't break that equation. Either something happened, or it didn't. People's subjective opinion bubbles of bias don't extend outwards into the rest of the universe.

Einsteinian metaphysical peculiarties aside, we are all in this Reality together. And to get the facts about this reality WILL ALWAYS BE IMPORTANT, in my opinion. Deception/camouflage might be a militant tactic of reality, but what something ACTUALLY IS OR ISN'T is ALWAYS more important than the veils. Because the physics of reality don't bend to accommodate allegiances.

So in conclusion, I look forward to reading the rest of the article. Thanks for this. It's the type of thing that really ought to give people more peace of mind than anything else. As long as the quack science is filtered out, this type of thing is decent. And quack science can be more easily filtered out when there is a little bit of information sharing and public scrutiny.

Peace be with you.

itsastickupOctober 26, 2017 4:21 PM

Still, there's no getting around the fact that the ticking time-bomb scenario does justify torture, on the condition that the terrorist has self-confessed planting the nuke, presumably to gloat, or some other kind of incontrovertible evidence.

And it would be completely just. The terrorist has put aside the horrific suffering of the innocent, and massive death, in pursuing their aims. Horrific suffering administered to them isn't in any way unfair.

For such a circumstance, not only do we need research in to maximum suffering (not mere pain) while avoiding death, but also encode in to law continuing suffering without the possibility of relief if the terrorist doesn't spill the beans in time.

PeaceHeadOctober 26, 2017 4:36 PM

One other quick related detail...

It's worth mentioning in this context, of course, that the other MAJOR reason for NOT torturing anybody is because information tends to flow eventually and nobody has a total monopoloy on information. This includes information about what the interrogators did or didn't do.

One of the absolute worsts of any struggle is when there is vengeance/revenge.
Whether for legitimate or illegitimate reasons, when there is vengeance and/or revenge any thorny issue that might have even been under real or perceived control spirals totally out of control and innocent people start getting severely harmed and those who aren't innocent start getting treated harshly in ways way beyond what is imaginable.

When vengeance and revenge become reality, HORRIBLE ATROCITIES occur. Those guilty of vengeance and revenge usually seem to feel quite entitled to their actions... that's what vengeance and revenge are!

But counterattack and retaliation are often just other words for revenge and vengeance.

Don't give people any excuse for revenge or vengeance, and instead the plethora of possibilites is MUCH more manageable. Don't have any enemies and life is much easier.

We're still living in the dark ages in many ways. A lot of people still aren't properly educated about the benefits of peaceful coexistence. But it still has MUCH very real meaning, even when dealing with those who have already offended us or our allies. But the closer we can get to preventing others from doing more harm, the better off we are and our allies. And any present-day potential enemy is a potential future ally when vengeance and revenge are removed from the mixture of caustic activities.

As said before, don't give people any excuse for revenge and their own bad behavior is clearly and exclusively owned by them without any doubt. And that way, the allies of those who are the most difficult are also less likely to be recruited into the bitter folds of antagonistic activities.

Don't smoke near the powder keg.

So yeah, DO NOT TORTURE PEOPLE. DO NOT GIVE ANYBODY ANY EXCUSE TO RETALIATE WITH TORTURE.
For those that comprehend this, it's simple enough to be effective.

It also helps in terms of the long-term bigger picture.
Don't be guilty of what you are fighting against.
And don't commit crimes in our name.

Clive RobinsonOctober 26, 2017 5:34 PM

@ itsastickup,

Still, there's no getting around the fact that the ticking time-bomb scenario does justify torture

Sorry but no, not even the ticking time bomb scenario justifies torture.

If they are going to gloat they are going to gloat. Remember the bomb ticks for them as well, and tourturing them is more than likely to make them consider playing you along, rather than talking. That is torture justifies their viewpoint and thus encorages them into holding out.

RatioOctober 26, 2017 5:55 PM

@albert,

Using statistics to quantify and classify human behavior and personalities is a fools errand.

Why?

There are strong -ethical- and -moral- reasons to avoid torture, we shouldn't need 'scientific studies'.

The ethical and moral reasons boil down to "torture is wrong". This is basically saying "torture doesn't work".

@JonKnowsNothing,

(urls factured to prevent autorun)

Autorun of what? There are tons of links on this page. Should I adjust my tinfoil?

@Daniel,

Tests which are not able to be replicated are not science.

Cosmologists, for example, would beg to differ.

carlOctober 26, 2017 6:29 PM

Something the article didn't touch on that I think critical is the people who are good at interviewing are mostly that way because they are born with the requisite personality characteristics. Their ability can be enhanced with proper training but training cannot confer upon them traits they don't already have. You can't make an overbearing, pugnacious jerk a good interviewer with a week of training. He will never be a good interviewer. He doesn't have the personality for it. With this in mind training should be as much or more about finding the right people for the job as it is about doing the job properly.

RatioOctober 26, 2017 7:02 PM

@JonKnowsNothing,

Let's see if triggering autorun by not fracturing your URLs (so they're clickable) is a survivable event. Here goes:

More of the same .... since the Code of Hammurabi

  1. James Elmer Mitchell psychologist and John Bruce Jessen psychologist
  2. Jose Rodriguez (intelligence officer) / Enhanced interrogation techniques
  3. Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) / Learned helplessness
  4. Mitchell Jessen and Associates / Jose Rodriguez (intelligence officer)

Also: Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture.

(Did we make it? Everybody okay? Hello?! Anyone…?!)

JonKnowsNothingOctober 26, 2017 7:32 PM

@Ratio

Let's see if triggering autorun by not fracturing your URLs (so they're clickable) is a survivable event.

It appears that you may be less informed about link hijacking. Links may look normal to you and you may even look closely at the destination address that is under the text line to check it.

You may not notice the redirect, the error in spelling, the shortened URL that passes your link through another layer of abstraction where you have no idea what that layer of abstraction is doing and you might not notice the click-trackers and tracers in the those long urls that have UXIDs and other identifiable indicators about you, where you are located and a host of junk freely passed along by your browser and ISP and you certainly put yourself directly into a MITM or MOTS possibility along with other possible hidden redirections.

And of course every linked item has a back tracker at the destination. Embedded links are exactly what folks like Google + Et Al scrape webpages for. I doubt that Google looks too hard for fractured URLs although they might hit on the word.

So... while you are very kind to provide the links united, I prefer to let others "see" the actual URLs and let them decide if they are safe enough to click or if they want to paste them into another browser or if they even want to bother.

So.. yes.. put on your tinfoil hat and adjust it appropriately.

Don't click on stuff you don't know where it's going


JonKnowsNothingOctober 26, 2017 7:42 PM

@ Clive Robinson

@ itsastickup, Still, there's no getting around the fact that the ticking time-bomb scenario does justify torture
Sorry but no, not even the ticking time bomb scenario justifies torture.

iirc reading a comment from one of the Experienced Torturers from some Middle East country, one that has a lot of experience in Torture for Truth.

The Experienced Torturer said (paraphrased)

There is no problem getting people to talk. None at all.
It's what they tell you that's the problem.

People who believe in torture believe the tortured will tell the truth to stop the torture.
Torturers rarely believe the truth.

Torture is not about truth or information. It just gets in the way of the fun.

JPAOctober 26, 2017 7:51 PM

@JonKnowsNothing +1; if people fractured the links they send in emails my guess is that a lot of phishing attempts would not work

@ all those who seem to think the researchers are advocating torture

The article points out the fact that torture does not work to give reliable data. After all, those who were tortured by the Inquisition confessed to acts that in come cases violated the laws of physics. Pain and fear do not make people truthful.

However this fact was routinely ignored by many interrogators for reasons that are beyond the purview of the article.

The article than goes on to describe how the Allisons have given empirical evidence (empiricism is a basis for science) that coercive methods of interrogation are not effective in yielding actionable information. So independent of your moral stance on torture, if your purpose is to get information then torture will not work.

The fact that there are others who demonstrate this prior to the Allisons, as mention by Clive, is also mentioned in the article. However, that information was apparently lost on to many current interrogators who had reverted to torture. The Allisons are having a beneficial effect.

handle_xOctober 26, 2017 8:01 PM

@Daniel

"You are both wrong. Psychology is a pseudo-science."

No Daniel, you're right. You define what science is with your assertions. It's quite significant.

(Reverse-psychology as art)

JonKnowsNothingOctober 26, 2017 8:09 PM

@JPA

While the research is yet another attempt to stop physical torture exactly what is it that they are really achieving?

A method to force, coerce, intimidate and manipulate humans into doing and saying things they do not want to say or do.

Mental torture is just as hideous as Physical torture.

And it's just as unreliable. In the USA our courts and prisons are chock-a-block with folks intimated and coerced into saying and signing "sworn affidavits" based on psychological pressures.

It's just the flip side of the coin.

iirc A while back I read a research article (don't have the link) about a new interrogation technique that involved brain mapping. To effectively lie, you must first think the truth and then decide to lie about it. It fires up different parts of the brain.

Of course, they cannot tell what it is you are lying about or why.

This won't stop it from being used though:

a lie is a lie is a lie .

The thought police ARE on the way.

RatioOctober 26, 2017 8:10 PM

@JonKnowsNothing,

[...] I prefer to let others "see" the actual URLs and let them decide if they are safe enough to click or if they want to paste them into another browser or if they even want to bother.

You can inspect links before clicking and you can copy and paste (and even edit) them.

Don't click on stuff you don't know where it's going

Any URL may turn out (after the fact!) to redirect anywhere. Just saying.

Those fractured URLs maybe prevent spiders from them being extracted. But that's all.

all things consideredOctober 26, 2017 9:15 PM

Who would ever even think about an accidental finger tap? Too absurd to consider :D

Clive RobinsonOctober 26, 2017 10:59 PM

@ Ratio,

You said,

Cosmologists, for example, would beg to differ.

In response to @Daniel saying,

Tests which are not able to be replicated are not science.

You have either not read the reasons @Daniel gave for that statement or you do not understand why your comment is wrong with regards to the argument.

I am guessing that you need to check your assumptions as your argument about "Cosmologists" is actually wrong. Even theoretical scientists "test" their hypotheses using published or open data.

By the way also look up what is ment by the terms "test" and "experiment" and what order they are applied in the scientific method.

Importantly do so before you reply, this would not be the first time people have asked you to do so, and you have not and carried on with your incorrect assumptions.

RatioOctober 26, 2017 11:01 PM

@all things considered,

Who would ever even think about an accidental finger tap?

Not me, I 'ave no fingers. :D

(Let's feed the rumors… Oh, hi there, @Wael!)

Clive RobinsonOctober 27, 2017 12:58 AM

@ Handle_X,

You're right that it's manipulative. The carrot and the stick, people like carrots. If you distill us down to our base drivers most people are similar in a lot of ways. If you want to look at it, living in society is a compromise of our own "interests" entirely.

Your scope with "most people" is too wide, unless you add "in similar groups with similar or shared experiences".

For instance many "experimenters" in the field exclude left handed people from their experimental subjects as I was once humorously[1] told by some one well practiced in the art that,

    The problem with you lefties is you are just not wired up right.

Non right handers represent between one fifth and a quater of the general population depending on where it has been measured, and in small groups it can be higher. Apple for instance were supprised by their findings that showed that in the "design side" of their business something like three quaters of their people were left handed but in the accounts and some administrative functions side it was less than a tenth to zero. Further they found that the general population figures do not reflect their observed customer figures, that security CCTV in their stores can spot the adroit (right) from the gauche (left) handers[2]. It has also been found that there are a disproportionate number of left handed first time offenders in the prison system and various reasons have been suggested. Of note is that often their literacy skills are lower than expected for their relative inteligence levels. Those who have their literacy skills addressed whilst in prison have the highest rate of non-reoffending. Which tends to suggest the education system is still prejudiced against left handed people.

I am both dominant left handed and ambidextrous when tool using. My teachers tried persistant persuasion to get me to be right handed when I was learning to write with now predictable results. My father was strongly left handed, and suffered far worse than I from the prejudice thus forced into being right handed. The forcing involved teachers repeatedly smashing his knuckles with ebony rods/rulers over a prolonged period such that fine motor skills were nolonger possible and arthritis in his left hand started in his twenties.

But there are others "who are markedly different"... Although it has recently been said "Every one is a little autistic" because it's now considered a "spectrum". It actually hides the fact that those with the likes of aspergers[3] are as disabled as those who are blind or deaf from birth. Only others do not see the problem thus make very incorrect judgments about them. But they are "all around" at a little over 1% of the general population and the numbers are rising with time faster than you would expect from just better clinical diagnosis.

It is a very bad idea for any autistic person to be interviewed at any time without a trained guardian or advocate. Because in the case of those with Aspergers although they sound rational and intelligent they have many communications issues. Often they can not understand even everyday sayings like "It's raining cats and dogs" or orders given as questions such as "Don't you think it's time you tidied up?" which would get an honest response of "no". Which can cause anger in the person who gave the order, or make them think that the "aspi" is rude / cheeky / taking liberties / making a fool of the questioner. Which often leads to a downward spiral that gets extreamly hostile very quickly. Thus unsurprisingly Asperger's Syndrome sufferers are highly prone to what are usually called mental disease such as depression, anxiety, hording and what appear as OCD type traits. Worse though is that they can and do "over compensate" and try to please people and that gets them into all sorts of trouble very fast especially with the likes of the Police.

There are likewise quite a few smaller groups that have compleatly different responses and this can work in their favour. One well known grouping is socio/psychopaths.

Then there are those with impaired risk taking and other responses. Some are due to brain structure some due to chemical imbalances in the brain. As science now realises finding chemical cures --drugs-- for treating mental disease is difficult as the root cause is difficult to determine. Those in the US might be familiar with permanent brain injury issues such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), from law suits against the likes of the NFL[4]. Some injuries can only be found after death at autopsy, though there are clear declining behaviour issues in the more severe cases, unfortunatly they tend to get "the blind eye treatment" or ascribed to not being able to handle sudden wealth / fame.

When you start totaling up the groups that fall on either tail of the normal curve you find it is a larger than expected fraction of the general population.

[1] It was said at a social function and as they knew me sufficiently well to know I like word play it was both correct and a pun on atleast three levels.

[2] The history of how left handed people were seen and treated is shocking involving both murder and mutilation and ranging down to what still happens today of casual prejudice and explotation. It has also left it's record in our spoken language, for instance "sinister" originally ment left handed as did "cack handed" the list is long and boils down to left=bad/unrighteous and right=good/righteous.

[3] http://www.autism.org.uk/about/what-is/asperger.aspx

[4] http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/22/us/nfl-concussion-lawsuit-settlement/index.html

Clive RobinsonOctober 27, 2017 1:55 AM

@ Ratio,

Your ad hominem bores me. Buh-bye.

Oh dear you are doing it yet again.

To save you the effort of looking up what "ad hominem" actualy means I will give you a standard definition,

    Ad hominem (Latin for "to the man" or "to the person"), short for argumentum ad hominem, is where an argument is rebutted by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument, or persons associated with the argument, rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

Your argument was false as I pointed out and others have noted. That is in no way an "argumentum ad hominem".

As this is by no means the first time you have done this I pointed out that you needed to improve your understanding of the subject at hand.

Rather than improve your understanding you went on to further compound your error by yet again falsely accusing me which is a form of "argumentum ad hominem".

I'm not the only one to have noticed your behaviour in this respect and no doubt it will be noted again.

Perhaps you realy should consider your position or stance.

But to address the earlier issue. In the scientific method there are events or "causes" that give rise to "effects". Science thus talks of "cause and effect" and how you reason from cause to effect, not the other way around (entropy or time's arrow). A cause can be either planed as in an experiment or unplaned as in a star exploding, either way if observed the effects can be measured and recorded to a certain extent as results. An idea or hypothesis can be compared to the results and it's validity assessed. That is it is "tested against the results" of the observation of the event or cause. Importantly in the scientific method is that the results against which the hypothesis is tested MUST be available for others to test and verify as "peer review". Otherwise the hypothesis is assumed unproven thus invalid at that time.

The Alison's hypothesis is based on results that are secret, thus can not be tested by the scientific community currently, thus they are considered from the scientific stand point as invalid at this time.

You made a claim of,

Cosmologists, for example, would beg to differ.

I very much doubt that, as they rely almost entirely on the Scientific method as their work is almost entirely theoretical not experimental. Hence I suggested that you did not understand the difference between "test" and "experiment" under the scientific method.

In everyday life quite a few people think that experiment and test are the same thing insted of two distinct processes. It is sufficiently common that any one who teaches science at the high school level usually takes pains to point out the difference early on.

As I've pointed out in the past "words have different meanings to different people". Further rather than invent new words many chose the same dictionary word and give it a new more rigorous definition forva new field of endevor. The prime example of which in Information Security, comes from the work of Claud Shannon, where he chose to add a new definition to the thermodynamics term "entropy".

What you chose to do with the information above is upto you, but I suspect others will not view it as an "argumentum ad hominem".

WinterOctober 27, 2017 2:23 AM

@Clive
"The Alison's hypothesis is based on results that are secret, thus can not be tested by the scientific community currently, thus they are considered from the scientific stand point as invalid at this time."

Indeed, science is a social activity. If your peers cannot check it, it is just an "observation". What the Alison's did was to analyze a huge stash of data and generate observations and hypotheses. That was the best they could do. Others should take their reports and repeat the procedure with different data. That is the scientific method.

This is not alien to science. Biology often was like that. Biologists would venture off into uncharted lands and report back observations about living things. Often the only reports were drawings and writings. The science part came in when others went back into these lands to make their own observations.

In the "hard" sciences we see this too. Someone does an experiment and writes down the results. Others can only check these results by repeating the experiment. Just looking at the raw data does not help much. There have been several fraud cases where experiments were completely faked and raw data was fake too.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 5:43 AM


A lot of stuff here about the unreliability of info from torture.

But that's the whole point of the ticking bomb scenario for a self-confessed terrorist waiting out his nuke: it's easily verified.

And not only because it is justified in terms of simple justice, due to the extreme, longterm suffering, as well as death, resulting from a bomb/nuke.

@Clive Robinson "Sorry but no, not even the ticking time bomb scenario justifies torture. If they are going to gloat they are going to gloat. Remember the bomb ticks for them as well, and tourturing them is more than likely to make them consider playing you along, rather than talking. That is torture justifies their viewpoint and thus encorages them into holding out."

Sorry, but yes. You're making suppositions that depend on armchair psychology. And that may apply to one or two (in the face of the threat of life-long torture? I doubt it), but the torture may still work for others. And in any case you seem to have missed the point that the info is easily verified, which is the problem for many other scenarios.

Further, isn't the main point that torture is justified in terms of justice? And not just the fact that the info is verifiable.

Clive RobinsonOctober 27, 2017 7:22 AM

@ itsastickup,

Sorry, but yes. You're making suppositions that depend on armchair psychology.

No I'm not, but I suspect that the implication of that will be lost on you.

Simplisticaly you do not cross certain lines for good reason. Because once you cross it for one thing crossing it for a slightly lesser reason each time the bar gets lower.

You say,

Further, isn't the main point that torture is justified in terms of justice?

No because of the "What price justice" question. The Romans used to sanction torture as part of their justice system, and it's known that false accusations were made and thus inocent people would suffer pain and often death. Likewise through nearly a thousand years of European history tourture was used to get confessions. It's not plesent to describe what was used but for a syarving peasant the poaching of game such as rabbit could result in "Gelding and Gouging" where your testicals were manually crushed and torn from your body, and if you survived that your eyes would be poked out with a finger and once free from it's socket it would be cut away. To interrogate individuals they would simply be denied fluid and die a sloe and painfull death as their blood thickend and formed blood clots in the blood vessels. The entire process was to obtain a confession, you were already assumed guilty.

A few hundred years ago people realised the problem with such a system hence the notion "innocent before proven guilty" with the bar on guilt finally set at "beyond reasonable doubt". But further it was recognised that for the good of society in general, it was better for ten guilty people to go unpunished than for one person to be unjustly convicted.

And before you say "but..." the point is there must be no exceptions ever for the sake of societies soul.

In the US you have seen what happens when you have exceptions "Abu Ghraib" was one and countless reditions and black sites where in human behaviour declined to the point that often innocent were people were physicaly or mentally tourtured.

Have a look at what happened in Chicago with the illegal detention center set up by their PD.

Do you want that depraved behaviour spreading across the continental USA to rival the worst of the Roman Empire? Because if you think so then ask yourself what you will do when you or those you love get snatched and eventually become one of the "Disappeared"?

Because human history shows that's what happens as a result of crossing that line.

JG4October 27, 2017 7:36 AM


@Clive and itsastickup - this thesis is on point for torture, although it is applied here in a different area

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/10/19/thresholds-of-violence

this really belongs in the squid, but I'm too lazy and dysfunctional. if it weren't for dysfunction, I'd have no function. I shouldn't be baiting the FBI, because fundamentally I just want to live out my days in peace. they make themselves look bad

further proof that the FBI are dirty and always have been

https://www.fff.org/explore-freedom/article/fbis-forgotten-criminal-record/

further proof that the FBI are dirty and always have been

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-fbis-political-meddling-1508883468
...
For anyone who cares to look, the real problem here is that the FBI itself is so thoroughly implicated in the Russia meddling story.

did someone post this to Schneier already?

further proof that the FBI are dirty and always have been

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20171023/18275838465/doj-subpoenas-twitter-about-popehat-dissent-doe-others-over-smiley-emoji-tweet.shtml

Andrew GOctober 27, 2017 7:41 AM

@Ross Snider
Yes, I heartily agree it's troubling, I would even say outrageous, that our society so easily and casually leaps from "suspect" to "guilty." I seem to remember reading about that phenomenon in history books more than once. What I learned is that while witch-hunts are extremely destructive to individuals, and destructive to society as a whole, there is always some small group who benefits greatly from the witch-hunt and wants to keep it going. That is, unfortunately, nothing new.

I think it would be helpful to contact the author of the article and politely point out his mistake. In the article, his byline is a link. The fact that he chose this particular topic, and that he writes for a publication that calls itself The Guardian, suggests there's hope he can be reminded how important it is for reporters to emphasize the presumption of innocence.

Part of security is citizen' security *from* the state.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 8:32 AM

@Clive Robinson

"No I'm not, but I suspect that the implication of that will be lost on you"

Thanks for that, and yes you are, and the rest of what you wrote doesn't back up your assertion.

I was not justifying torture under all conditions. Meanwhile you haven't addressed the fact that it is justified under under the conditions given

"A few hundred years ago people realised the problem with such a system hence the notion "innocent before proven guilty" with the bar on guilt finally set at "beyond reasonable doubt"."

Which is a lowered bar. It permits circumstantial evidence without objective proof. How much further can the bar be lowered when "beyond reasonable doubt" is failing to contain an explosion of criminality, torture, sex-enslavement, etc etc

Appealing to notions such as a 'nations soul' is absurd in the light of the activities that even the US has perpetrated ever the centuries and in recent times (nuking civilians in Japan, for instance). The emotional blackmail implied in your mention of ancient forms of punishment is simply not going to happen in a democratic and transparent system of legislation prescribing limits, as we have seen.

There are far better arguments against justified torture in any case. Such as, your enemies effectively being given moral justification and/or using torture where they might be otherwise be discouraged from doing so. But these arguments, as with yours, don't directly impugn the fact that the ticking time-bomb scenario is justified torture.

Indeed, I would argue that that scenario is exactly describing the limits of the use of torture to a circumstance that no one in their right mind would deny such action. It would happen, probably covertly, even if the law were to disallow it.

If one would reason along your forms of thinking, then it could be arguable that a law prescribing torture under such a circumstance and proscribing all other circumstances, would reduce the covert abuse of torture. But such an argument is equally tenuous armchair psychology.

"Because human history shows that's what happens as a result of crossing that line."

The line is already crossed by the ticking time-bomb terrorist. And there is no other reasonable action.

WinterOctober 27, 2017 9:16 AM

@itsastickup
"I was not justifying torture under all conditions. Meanwhile you haven't addressed the fact that it is justified under under the conditions given "

The rule is simple. If you are convinced torture is unavoidable, you should put your own neck in the noose. That is, you do your torture and face the consequences of a criminal trial. That way, the balance of society can be restored.

In other words, if you think the aim is worth the torture of a human being, it should also be worth your life. And if you are not willing to sacrifice your own life to this cause, then you should no sacrifice the life of the suspect.

Umberto Eco already wrote that he is opposed to capital punishment. He understood he could be driven to take out revenge on someone who had murdered his child. But then he thought he should face the consequences of a trial for murder.

echoOctober 27, 2017 9:43 AM

I am gathering material like these studies including the FBI interrigation handbook and books by Joe Navarro to help prove that NHS gender psychiatrists have abused transgender patients. It is an open secret that they bully and judge and sometimes verbally insult and pressure and invade the personal space of transgender patients many of whom are instituationally bullied into silence.

The factors involved in abuses of power, unlawful demands and breaches of policy, and fiddling diagnosis to confirm political beliefs, and institutionalising by rogue doctors hiding behind the badge and paying lip service to guidelines, as well as their influence in holding back public sector human rights and equality obligations, lack of coerent and accessible trainign material, and failure to positively engage with public discussion when transgender patients are denied their rights are the subject of parliamentary and government enquiries and reports, and numerous studies and position papers.

I welcome this study and hope in light of people speaking out against abuses and the example of this study of gathering the evidence and presenting it publicly that more transgender people are brave enough to speak out and expose systemic failures which create the conditions of injustice and effective false imprisonment and silencing of the basic rights of an individual to exist.

Clive RobinsonOctober 27, 2017 9:49 AM

@ itsastickup,

Thanks for that, and yes you are, and the rest of what you wrote doesn't back up your assertion.

As I suspected you did not pick up on the implication, which based on your argument of,

The line is already crossed by the ticking time-bomb terrorist. And there is no other reasonable action.

Does not supprise me in the slightest. Which is amplified by,

Meanwhile you haven't addressed the fact that it is justified under under the conditions given.

You should be aware by now that the actions of one party never excuses the excesses of another party. But then I'm sure you find you sofa just about big enough, when you are ruminating. But you should know I do not justify torture under any conditions, as I know, as others do, but apparently you do not, it realy does not work.

The world is not an episode of 24 and from what I've been told your hypothesis comes right out of it. Fantasy movie violance has never realy interested me because I've seen enough in real life one way or another.

Your argument of a ticking time bomb is something that realy is not one that comes up with terrorists in the reality of their actions and morals. As I said the bomb would be ticking for them as well, and with every tic and tock they are one step closer to their goal.

As for,

The emotional blackmail implied in your mention of ancient forms of punishment is simply not going to happen in a democratic and transparent system of legislation prescribing limits, as we have seen.

We already know that the US or those working for them or by proxie have already done so and will in all probability continue to do so. After all "plea bargaining" is the thin edge of the wedge of "extorting a confession under duress", it can only be down hill from there.

You've actually presented no rational argument for your viewpoint, you just repeat it as though it is a cherished notion almost a mantra, something you are proud to have remrmbered from TV action movies.

Perhads worse is you've tried to misrepresent me with,

If one would reason along your forms of thinking, then it could be arguable that a law prescribing torture under such a circumstance and proscribing all other circumstances, would reduce the covert abuse of torture.

Worse it actually lacks logical consistancy because of your faulty assumotions.

Thus I will leave you with your notion of morality and hope others are never unfortunate to find themselves on the receiving end of it.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 10:16 AM

@CLive

"You've actually presented no rational argument for your viewpoint"

Guffaw! Since that's precisely what I did in the first place, and which you refuse to address, I am going to have to withdraw from debating with you.

Unless you can show that in itself it isn't just under the given conditions (no one has ever done that), then the rest is mere practicality not a direct argument against it.

And appeals to what you think is civilized is disagreed on by others. Ironically, if you aren't willing to use it, then that could theoretically result in the end of civilization.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 10:25 AM

@winter

"Umberto Eco already wrote that he is opposed to capital punishment. He understood he could be driven to take out revenge on someone who had murdered his child. But then he thought he should face the consequences of a trial for murder."

Murder is unjust killing. The trial isn't justifiable for murder, as his killing of the perp isn't unjust. For breaking the law, perhaps also for reckless killing, sure, but not for murder.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 11:25 AM

The ticking time-bomb scenario reminds me of another much attacked issue: Arrow's theorem.

Arrow effectively proved that democracy can't work. It's highly criticised. And that criticism is that it undermines democracy. haha! :)

Good luck with that. I welcome our oligarch overlords, Bezos etc. After all, democracy appears to be letting them get away with their private monopolies.

Equally, the ticking time-bomb scenario is similarly attacked.....for supporting torture. Laughable.

As we can see above, there is no other argument against it.

But I suppose the real problem is that there is an assumption of generalising the scenario to say that torture is justified generally, which is simply not the case.

Richard HOctober 27, 2017 11:36 AM

@itsastickup:


"You've actually presented no rational argument for your viewpoint"
Guffaw! Since that's precisely what I did in the first place.

Where?

Hint: rational argument needs to start from explicit and mutually agreed predicates and argue (you know, rationally) towards a conclusion.
"An argument is a connected series of statements intended to establish a proposition ... 'tisn't just the automatic gainsaying of anything the other person says." Proof by blatant assertion doesn't count.

And BTW you can't assume that everyone else subscribes to your personal theory of justice.

ItsastickupOctober 27, 2017 12:01 PM

@richard

"Where?"

First post.

"Hint: rational argument needs to start from explicit and mutually agreed predicates and argue (you know, rationally) towards a conclusion. "

Ah, so what you really mean is that you saw it but you don't agree with the argument as given.

"And BTW you can't assume that everyone else subscribes to your personal theory of justice."

Then attack it.

There's nothing wrong with the ticking timebomb argument. It;s not even mine, and it's well established. It simply violates some people's ideological (and probably emotional) attitude towards torture.

And well, I agree, torture is awful but then so is an operation without painkillers/aesthetic; it's not inherently wrong. And the tortured is often more awful still.

GerryOctober 27, 2017 1:06 PM

There are a few elements missing from this discussion.

Clive has not responded to "torture AFTER the subject has confessed to planting nukes."

itsastickup has not responded to "torture NEVER results in reliable information."

WaelOctober 27, 2017 1:44 PM

@Ratio,

Not me, I 'ave no fingers. :D

Always a trouble maker :)

Re Interrogation methodology: There is no one size fits all. Scientific or not isn’t the issue. The issue is how to conduct an effective campaign to obtain the needed information.

WaelOctober 27, 2017 1:50 PM

By the way: a distinction needs to be made between “Science” and “Scientific methods”. “Science” has other meanings — lookup the definition.

ItsastickupOctober 27, 2017 2:07 PM

@Gerry

"itsastickup has not responded to "torture NEVER results in reliable information.""

Sure, but for the scenario given it's a moot point. And I did justify the use of torture, more importantly, for a particular circumstance. Delicate sensibilities apart.

handle_xOctober 27, 2017 2:09 PM

"Murder is unjust killing. The trial isn't justifiable for murder, as his killing of the perp isn't unjust. For breaking the law, perhaps also for reckless killing, sure, but not for murder."

You can't justify something by saying "it's justified" and just go from there - it's specifically justified under the law or not at all.

Murder is intentional killing, which is against the law. There are levels of special circumstances but basically if your actions intend to cause death for any reason where the law doesn't specifically allow it, it's murder. If you don't specifically intend to cause that but do, it's manslaughter.

In the case of someone's child being killed, after that event it's not legally justified to kill the killer and just exonerate yourself saying "it's justified" - that doesn't fly.
You will be rightly charged with murder. If you are in the moment defending a life and kill, that is a different thing. The law specifically protects that self defense and defense of life. That is not murder.

"I welcome our oligarch overlords, Bezos etc. After all, democracy appears to be letting them get away with their private monopolies."

That's a kind of an appeal to power.

What Arrow's impossibility "proved" is that democracy is never SETTLED, that people never reach some collective state of agreement, and that their values are forced to go in cycles rather than exist in absolute ends states. Not that Democracy doesn't "work" on any level, it does. But it never satisfies all parties and it will always approximate justice or virtue, never achieve it wholly.

Of course the first criticism is : What would you suggest in its place?

And there is no suggestion that satisfies anyone, really.

Pardon FawkesOctober 27, 2017 2:12 PM

@Clive Robinson
Lest you be accused of spotting the mote in the US's eye, here's a beam of our own. In a week or so, england celebrates the brutal state torture and execution of one Guy Fawkes (spellings vary ;) ). If not for torture, we would never have his signature on his confession and we would never be sure he was guilty, or if there were further house improvements planned.

"And BTW you can't assume that everyone else subscribes to your personal theory of justice."

Then attack it.

Indeed. The old Satire/sincerity Möbius strip.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 2:25 PM

@handle_x

"Murder is intentional killing, which is against the law."

No it isn't, and no it isn't.

"What Arrow's impossibility "proved" is that democracy is never SETTLED, that people never reach some collective state of agreement, and that their values are forced to go in cycles rather than exist in absolute ends states. Not that Democracy doesn't "work" on any level, it does. But it never satisfies all parties and it will always approximate justice or virtue, never achieve it wholly."

I think you're extrapolating rather too far.

It says that no voting system for more than 2 alternatives is able to give a meaningful result unless one gets more than 2/3rd of the vote. It's not that it's even a compromise or 'not settled', rather it's simply meaningless.

In practice there is no such thing as a vote between two alternatives, rather as Brexit has shown where no one can tell us what Brexit should mean.

And of course the selection of candidates also means no meaningful result.

Interestingly, the recent Pope Benedict the XVI reversed a change in papal voting in which Pope John-Paul II, RIP 2005, had decreed a 50%+1 vote after several failed votes to reach 66%+1. It's reverted to the ancient system which guarantees a meaningful vote and hugely increases the possibility of no pope for an extended period of time.

itsastickupOctober 27, 2017 2:33 PM

@handle_x

"Of course the first criticism is : What would you suggest in its place[democracy]?

And there is no suggestion that satisfies anyone, really."

I'm not so sure. I think humans are inherently hierarchical, anthrpologically speaking. In medieval times, particularly pre-Norman conquest in England, the hierarchical structure resulted in p retty idyllic lifestyles, excepting the occassional war. A peasant would work one day a week for his lord, the rest of his time for the strip of land he was apportioned, and there were a couple of feast days a week plus Sunday. Medieval historians used to have a reputation of becoming Catholics partly for this reason. And it hasn't gone away completely, as GK Chesterton and his '3 acres and a cow' movement demonstrate.

It's similar to the feminism crisis. Would feminism exist at all if the modern era hadn't nullified female fertility and men had all been chivalrous and kind? With equality of dignity already a Christian creed of 2,000 years, I'm doubting it.

The problem isn't a lack of democracy, the problem is bad lords and bad kings. And that is a problem democracy hasn't done much about despite appearances.

hurschOctober 27, 2017 2:44 PM

Dear Mr.Schneier,
I have questions.I have a chip that has been in for over 25 years that i just found do to know help from them.The pelvic has a small box and in the artery there is something given to me by shot.
I am looking for a doctor i might not find one
so. I was told that they could have put something on it that will kill me if i use a emp,but i will try
what size capacitor do i use that won't tear me up.and because it has been enbedded for so long that will kill it.
2nd where can i get a reader that is inexspensive that will read most any chip/i don't the freq
3. do you know anyone that can make these things
4. does this need to be tested outside in a rural area.
i was told to use a strong magnet but it may tear my insides.
thank you, will you try to post right away

handle_xOctober 27, 2017 3:48 PM

"the problem is bad lords and bad kings"

Exactly right - And those in Democracies who crave (to be) a king ARE the threat.

"And that is a problem democracy hasn't done much about despite appearances."

I would say it has attempted to do more toward that than any previous system of scale.
People are upset and feel powerless in our system, it's true. It's a valid failing.
But what alternative would you really suggest? Monarchy? Dictatorship? Theocracy?

And what recourse will you have when told to work more than 1 day a week for your Lord?
And what will you do when the feasts 2-3 times a week become 1 or fewer than?
Or the king comes to knock on your door on the night of your wedding, what then?

Hammurabi of course invented the codified rule of law which protected individual rights and set a system of dealing with egregious bad actors, and steadily on from there it has been refined and absorbed other aspects of law culminating in the Magna Carta - which immediately after being signed was directly under threat from the kings you mentioned!

In the US our system was designed around specific checks and balances to ensure that no single entity or group got more powerful than the rest of society - and you're right, that fundamental principle has been steadily eroded in our so-called "democracy" since its rather recent inception 240 years ago. Today we are not a democracy. Today we are barely able to call ourselves a republic, if we're honest about it. The representation has been gamed and stolen from us by greedy traitors to democracy.

But the ideals behind the checks and balance system of democratic governance stand, and if I'm not mistaken we will see a return to them after this recent swing of the pendulum back towards fascism and totalitarianism that we see today. (no political rant req'd)

No system of man is perfect. Nothing in nature is able to stand still forever unchanged. In allowing some ability to change these tightly-held dogmas we ensure the larger survival of the system despite overwhelming challenges of governance. The civil war is a case in that point. The system broke down and was forced to reconcile. It will happen again, we can be assured of that much. How and why are the keys to it.

It was always a compromise in motion. It will surely break and be rebuilt many times over the course of itself. But again, what alternative?

Surely one could be equally powerless or more in any other system. At least in ours, there's a CHANCE that by collective agreement we can all give up a sliver of that which we want for that which we all collectively need. When the wants of the individual become greater than the capacity or needs of the collective, we are no longer a society.
We are a state of anarchy destined for a desperate individual totalitarianism.

You know looking back on us as a dying culture, as if there is any impartial observer in the universe, surely all of this is governed by some latent social dynamics which are obvious and solvable on a logical level. "A perfect mind" touched on the game theory aspect of society, that only by giving up on our singular individualist focus can we achieve a collective success. I believe this is true and has been demonstrated over the eons. Our societal contract is based on that notion.

The usual suspects, those who would rather be Gods and Kings than society's laborers, minds and clerics, they are the threat ongoing. We should address that threat as a collective that wishes to survive and not be ruled by a single man's whimsy.

Now I will make it political. I focus that glare at the people intentionally supporting such a direct enemy of all republicanism, the would-be tyrant who has no time for our traditions and no interest in our historic struggles.

Those fools are selling us all into bondage but will never collect their reward.

GerryOctober 27, 2017 7:01 PM

@itsastickup:

Sure, but for the scenario given it's a moot point. And I did justify the use of torture, more importantly, for a particular circumstance. Delicate sensibilities apart.

Why is it a moot point? Are you saying that torture is NOT for getting information? If so, then what is it for? Punishment before conviction in court?

ItsastickupOctober 28, 2017 2:15 AM

@gerry

"Sure, but for the scenario given it's a moot point. And I did justify the use of torture, more importantly, for a particular circumstance. Delicate sensibilities apart.

Why is it a moot point? Are you saying that torture is NOT for getting information? If so, then what is it for? Punishment before conviction in court?"

I'm not sure what I'm missing here.

It's a moot point because the information is easily verified. Maybe not in good time, but that's not the point.

The point of many circumstances where torture might be used is that the info is not easily or cannot ever be verified for sure; which is the significant objection. Coupled to the objection that the person may well be innocent.

That's a very strong argument against torture.

But neither of these two serious issues are a problem in the ticking time-bomb scenario. And I did add that the scenario doesn't permit "Torture is therefore justified generally". If I did say that it generalises, then of course I must answer the reliability problem too.

(And that's quite apart from the elephant in the room that the terrorist is self-confessed. What need is there to get our knickers in a twist about reliability when the chump has voluntered his intention of infidelcide.)

Clive RobinsonOctober 28, 2017 2:46 AM

@ Gerry,

Clive has not responded to "torture AFTER the subject has confessed to planting nukes."

As the question does not say how the confession was obtained --by torture etc-- thus it's multidimensional.

But if I say as I have that torture is never justified for the sake of society in general then you have your answer already.

As for the "ticking bomb" theory where you have the potential bomber/armer of a nuke or otherwise in a country that the US considers a democracy, I've never heard of it happening. It was however a theory presented repeatedly along with "Dirty Bombs" to the US legislature to get certain domestic and foreign policy in place.

The "ticking bomb" question is one trying very hard to reach the same level of legitimacy as the old chestnut cherry picked question about abortion. Where the questioner goes on about drunken unfaithul and syphlitic parents with no income and if the baby should be terminated or not. If you say yes the questioner saus smugly "You've just killed XXX" or if you say no they say "You've let YYY live". Where XXX is some one "saintly" or famous like a 17th Century musician. And YYY is somebody "evil" like a murderous tyrant who had killed maimed and tourtured anyone they could get their hands on.

The whole point of such questions is to wrong foot the person who answers.

There is a film from 1983 where a teen hacks into a war computer created by a Dr Falken things go wrong with a game called "Global Thermo Nuclear War" where the computer realises what MAD realy means and says "Strange game" "the only option is not to play".

And that is the point realy, once you play the game you've entered a lose-lose game.

Torture is a lose-lose game, you get mostly garbage intel[1] as the person trys to avoid the pain. But it always gets out that you are using tortue and that becomes a rallying flag against not just the nation and it's leaders but it's citizens as well who often pay with their lives down the road. Because those who order torture are of a similar mind to those who order vengence and that leads to endless "tit for tat" violence. We've seen this play out countless times in history even in supposed democracies.

[1] The collected evidence such that is available is even under physical torture you only get such intel as the person would have given you anyway just a lot less of it. It's similar with the brow beating Police interviewers.

OK to torture self-confessed terrorist?October 28, 2017 4:31 AM

@itsastickup:
> And that's quite apart from the elephant in the room that the terrorist is self-confessed.

Ah, I see: it's OK to torture people who've confessed.

Because confessions are NEVER false for any of various possible reasons like police coercion, psychological/emotional problems of the confesser, confesser wanting to protect someone else, etc...

WinterOctober 28, 2017 5:17 AM

"It says that no voting system for more than 2 alternatives is able to give a meaningful result unless one gets more than 2/3rd of the vote. It's not that it's even a compromise or 'not settled', rather it's simply meaningless."

There is no functioning democracy that uses 1 voting system for every decision. Moreover, there is no functioning democracy that will rule by voting alone. Every democracy rules by negotiations. Voting only serves to remove deadlocks.

The idea that 50%+1 vote rules absolute is the territory of fascism and simpletons.

WinterOctober 28, 2017 5:23 AM

"Because confessions are NEVER false for any of various possible reasons like police coercion, psychological/emotional problems of the confesser, confesser wanting to protect someone else, etc..."

That is equivalent to saying torture is allowed as punishment.

Personally, I consider both the death penalty and torture as forms of human sacrifice to placate the "gods". Where the gods are either classical, Christian (for witches and heretics), or "abstract" (nation, victory, security).

ItsastickupOctober 28, 2017 6:04 AM

@OK to torture self-confessed terrorist?

"Ah, I see: it's OK to torture people who've confessed."

I said self-confessed. Ie, no coercion.

In the ticking time-bomb scenario, sure. Unless mental issues are suspected, there really isn't a choice. Even with mental issues, I don't think there's a choice.

But, no, as a general rule, confession and even self-confession isn't enough to justify torture.

I just want to be clear that it's only the ticking time-bomb scenario, to my knowledge, for which any of this stands.

JG4October 28, 2017 6:52 AM


@Clive and others - we might also invoke the veneer of civilization and the rule of law in taking a hard stand against torture. while there might be some very rare and narrow cases where torture could do some short-term good, that almost always is outweighed by the cascading negative consequences. tailoring the law on those rare and narrow exceptions would be a bad idea. the general prohibition is good for society and civilization. the narrow cases can be handled by the persons who choose under compelling circumstances to engage in torture facing a real risk of prosecution (unlike the complete protection they currently enjoy), where they have the right to be fully heard in their own defense using a competing harms argument. the substance of the ticking bomb argument is competing harms and it always has a place in front of a judge or jury, and even in statute, where the risk of punishment for misuse is real. we might note that the guard labor never use a competing harms argument to justify their torture training centers. they simply deny and close ranks as best they can. human rights, one viral video at a time. I probably mentioned the use of a competing harms defense when we went to prison. you haven't fully lived the human experience until you've argued your case to the jury facing 18 months for political misdeeds. we were lucky to not get a hardwood shampoo. did I mention my friend? the cop said to him, "I felt bad hitting you so many times [in the head, requiring stitches], but you just wouldn't fall down."

the cold dead hands discussion has a similar element in that there is a fundamental right to self defense, which contains a competing harms foundation. it is legally acceptable to use lethal force when required by a breach of law and etiquette. not sure if I further articulated that if it is legally acceptable to use lethal force in self-defense, it must be legally acceptable to maintain the means of using lethal force for purposes of self-defense and defense of others. we may note that the right to arms is explicitly written into the constitution as belonging to the people. the rub is that for people living at the edge of survival, being quick on the trigger is a tradespace. people in my demographic are not particularly likely to misuse guns (or to even need them), whereas the poor living in violent communities actually need them much more, but are far more likely to be harmed by misuse or to harm others by misuse. it is unfortunate that the celebrities and politicians who live in bubbles can't see the world through the eyes of the poor. it would give them perspective and wisdom. I give a lot of credit to the very few political and religious leaders who have spent time in homeless shelters to see how the other "half" live.

a partial solution that I see to violence is to deply and disseminate non-lethal means of self-defense that are even more effective than the crude practice of blowing holes in people. by the way, burnt powder smells a lot better than fermented urine. Fawkes was both right and wrong, in much the same way as Kaczynski. his premises generally were correct, but he diluted his moral authority with a resort to violence, the worse for apparently having been random. in a successful competing harms defense, the violence has to be a) appropriate and b) directed.

I have a few links to fascinating discussions of why encryption and various other information management tools are protected by the right to self-defense. not sure that I could find them at this point, but they are spot on the discussions here and I was remiss to not post them timely when I found them. I don't recall anyone posting them here, but pointers to relevant past discussion are welcome. I made some further progress in various aspects of offloading the endpoints from devices, which likely is a protected activity. at least until it isn't. the recent California fires led to some good thoughts on backup electric power. in the previous discussions of waiting out fires in swimming pools, it probably was pointed out that most of the houses with pools could have been saved by spraying water from the pool on the roof and sides. that requires robust backup power. I recall as if it were yesterday seeing pictures after California fires in the early 90's. the only color in the gray and black were the beautiful blue swimming pools that were tragically unused for protecting the structures. lead-acid deep-cycle batteries were cheap then, but inverters were relatively much more expensive then.

Clive RobinsonOctober 28, 2017 10:05 AM

@ JG4,

... where they have the right to be fully heard in their own defense using a competing harms argument. the substance of the ticking bomb argument is competing harms and it always has a place in front of a judge or jury, and even in statute, where the risk of punishment for misuse is real.

Whilst not applying to torture, there is legislation pertaining to genocide, whereby the right of self defence can be assumed to be across the population. Thus if you caught someone with the two components of a binary chemical weapon apparently about to or aranging for the initiation of their mixing, you can use what would be considered under other circumstances overwhelming force.

However get it wrong and it's murder plain and simple if not a war crime... A point the US Gov has tried to make not apply to them... Which appears odd to thosr who have studied the History of the Nuremberg Trials, that the US in effect made legislative changes and applied them retrospectively. Something that is usually considered a very dangerous thing to do...

albertOctober 28, 2017 2:00 PM

@handle_x,
"...Today we are not a democracy. Today we are barely able to call ourselves a republic...".

It may be OT of OT, but I'm glad you said it.

This may be the most important issue Americans need to face.

Someone said that society swings from 'liberal' to 'conservative' in cycles. I believe that our governments are reflections of those 'states', not necessarily initiators, but perhaps mirrors.

I do know that the corporatocracy cares little for party affiliation, as long as the financial system remains in control. The Framers did a darn good job with the Constitution, but it's becoming tattered by abuse. And these guy were the Elite of their day.

Food for thought.
. .. . .. --- ....

225October 31, 2017 5:03 AM

@Andrew G I'll take up this "what they are doing here is not science" torch.
Psychology is still best described as a soft science, this might make you feel emotions, depending on your personality, you might fill in some surveys about these feelings... none of that is really science.
Here is a list, please point out the important psychology discoveries that appear in the list https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_of_scientific_discoveries

This is not some breakthrough or revolution, it looks more like people providing some sciency looking work to backup the current status quo. Hanns Scharff is pretty famous for this approach, and I'm sure people were getting info through 'not torture' all the way back though history.

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