9/11 Families Speak Out Against Torture

By Adele Welty, with Marianne Stone, of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

On September 11th, my son, a Firefighter intent on saving lives, lost his life at the World Trade Center.

I am a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group born out of the grief of losing family members in the attacks of 9/11 that promotes nonviolent options in the pursuit of justice rather than revenge.

Consistent with our belief in universal human rights, we oppose torture because of its illegality, moral repugnance, and ineffectiveness as a method of interrogation. Similarly, torture compromises core American values such as liberty and many of the rights granted by the Bill of Rights.

In a post 9/11 world, the torture debate has shifted from whether torture is right to whether it is justifiable. It has become acceptable to say that extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures and that torturing one for the sake of the many is justified. However, in our opinion, taking a firm stand against torture, even in the most difficult of circumstances, is the right side of the debate and the one that most accurately reflects the values on which this country stands.

Americans often take the values that define this nation for granted, relying on others to make the hard decisions about issues like torture and thus exonerating themselves from   accountability. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows hopes that people begin to realize they have choices, and take responsibility for those choices and for the actions the US government takes in their name.

We recently launched the Say Your Peace video contest to highlight the deterioration of the rule of law since 9/11 as well as mark Torture Awareness Month this June.

Please join the Say Your Peace video contest to raise the volume on the voices that are speaking out against the countless injustices that have been the result of the US government’s policies and actions since 9/11. Say Your Peace!

We also support Amnesty International’s efforts this June to hold the government accountable for its role in the brutal interrogation and torture of Canadian citizen, Maher Arar.

This post is part of our 2011 Torture Awareness Month series

AIUSA welcomes a lively and courteous discussion that follow our Community Guidelines. Comments are not pre-screened before they post but AIUSA reserves the right to remove any comments violating our guidelines.

20 thoughts on “9/11 Families Speak Out Against Torture

  1. Thank you 9/11 familiy members for speaking out against human rights abuses. Your voices are so important in helping us shape a better world after 9/11. My condolences for your losses.

  2. Thank you 9/11 familiy members for speaking out against human rights abuses. Your voices are so important in helping us shape a better world after 9/11. My condolences for your losses.

  3. Allow me to pose an imaginary thought experiment.

    Supposing by some magic you could go backwards in time, back ten years to be exact, back to September 10th, 2001, and on that day you happened to capture Osama Bin Laden.

    According to my imaginary scenario you knew for a fact that your prisoner had some kind of horrible attack of an unknown nature planned for the next day, September 11th, in which your loved one and thousands more innocents in addition were sure to be brutally murdered and you knew for a certain fact only your prisoner, Osama Bin Laden, had the information necessary to stop it locked away in his head and he was not talking.

    How far would you go to force this psychopathic cold blooded mass murderer highly trained as he surely was in all manner of resistance to non-violent interrogation techniques, how far would you go make to him talk with time ticking down ?

    Would your absolute moral prohibition against all forms of torture in all cases still win the day or would you in this one case consider …. ?

  4. Allow me to pose an imaginary thought experiment.

    Supposing by some magic you could go backwards in time, back ten years to be exact, back to September 10th, 2001, and on that day you happened to capture Osama Bin Laden.

    According to my imaginary scenario you knew for a fact that your prisoner had some kind of horrible attack of an unknown nature planned for the next day, September 11th, in which your loved one and thousands more innocents in addition were sure to be brutally murdered and you knew for a certain fact only your prisoner, Osama Bin Laden, had the information necessary to stop it locked away in his head and he was not talking.

    How far would you go to force this psychopathic cold blooded mass murderer highly trained as he surely was in all manner of resistance to non-violent interrogation techniques, how far would you go make to him talk with time ticking down ?

    Would your absolute moral prohibition against all forms of torture in all cases still win the day or would you in this one case consider …. ?

  5. Israel's champion Judonimh champions torture again.

    ( The way he's going, child abuse before & torture now, Judonimh's giving Israel a fine name, one the Gestapo might have envied, but he can't help being himself, can he ).

    Anyway, in his fantasy, he has caught bin Laden the day before 911, he knows he has something terible cooking, & he knows only OBL has the info needed to stop it.

    How will he get the info , since OBL won't talk ?

    Check his computers, where he keeps all the data ?

    Nah, that would spoil the fun.

    But, hold the rack right there, Judonimh ! Stop your ludicrous masturtorture fantasy right there !

    That torture won't help you stop it.

    For youn won't get it if it was under your nose.

    For the FBI ACTUALLY DID have astonishing intelligence as to EXACTLY
    For Zacarias Moussaoui was sitting in his Minneapolis cell for weeks before 911

  6. & this is what happened.

    The FBI's Minneapolis field superviser asked the Washington FBI for a search warrant on Moussaoui, for, the superviser said, he was "trying to keep someone from taking a plane & crashing into the World Trade Center."

    Washington replied that there was no evidence Moussaoui was a terrorist.

    Which means, they didn't get the message when the got this astonishingly clear piece of intelligence.

    The moral here is given by Roberta Wohlstetter in her classic study of Pearl Harbor , where she says :

    "After the event, a signal is always crystal clear ; we can now see what disaster it was signalling since the disaster has occured. But before the event, it is obscure & pregnant with conflicting meanings."

    That's what's wrong with these Hollywood script scenarios.

    They just don't apply to real life.

  7. There you have it.

    With Mousaoui sitting in his cell for weeks, & the intelligence already on the table.

    All BEFORE 911.

    & if you think you can make torture work with a determined man, the Gestapo has news for you.

    For the Gestapo followed Judonimh's torture prescriptions to the full.

    After the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler, the Gestapo tortured Fabian von Schlabrendorff.

    With metal spikes.

    & vicious beatings.

    Vicious enough to give him a heart attack.

    When he thought he might give them vital info, he divulged only pieces of vague "information".

    That's all they got.

    After FOUR weeks.

    & Judonimh thinks he can get it all in ONE day.

    & THEN connect all the dots in between what he's got !

    No wonder events in the Middle East are finding Mossad without a clue in hand.

    They're so busy tightening the screws, every thing else is escaping their grasp.

  8. The ticking bomb scenario works only for Hollywood.

    Says Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole :

    "You can't know whether a person knows where the bomb is, or even if they're telling the truth."

    It's a false choice Judonimh leaves you with …… tortured intelligence ……… or no intelligence at all.

    So i'll leave you in the safer hands of Yale legal historian John Langbein :

    "HIstory's most important lesson is that it has not been possible to make coercion compatible with truth."

  9. Israel’s champion Judonimh champions torture again.

    ( The way he’s going, child abuse before & torture now, Judonimh’s giving Israel a fine name, one the Gestapo might have envied, but he can’t help being himself, can he ).

    Anyway, in his fantasy, he has caught bin Laden the day before 911, he knows he has something terible cooking, & he knows only OBL has the info needed to stop it.

    How will he get the info , since OBL won’t talk ?

    Check his computers, where he keeps all the data ?

    Nah, that would spoil the fun.

    But, hold the rack right there, Judonimh ! Stop your ludicrous masturtorture fantasy right there !

    That torture won’t help you stop it.

    For youn won’t get it if it was under your nose.

    For the FBI ACTUALLY DID have astonishing intelligence as to EXACTLY
    For Zacarias Moussaoui was sitting in his Minneapolis cell for weeks before 911

  10. & this is what happened.

    The FBI’s Minneapolis field superviser asked the Washington FBI for a search warrant on Moussaoui, for, the superviser said, he was “trying to keep someone from taking a plane & crashing into the World Trade Center.”

    Washington replied that there was no evidence Moussaoui was a terrorist.

    Which means, they didn’t get the message when the got this astonishingly clear piece of intelligence.

    The moral here is given by Roberta Wohlstetter in her classic study of Pearl Harbor , where she says :

    “After the event, a signal is always crystal clear ; we can now see what disaster it was signalling since the disaster has occured. But before the event, it is obscure & pregnant with conflicting meanings.”

    That’s what’s wrong with these Hollywood script scenarios.

    They just don’t apply to real life.

  11. There you have it.

    With Mousaoui sitting in his cell for weeks, & the intelligence already on the table.

    All BEFORE 911.

    & if you think you can make torture work with a determined man, the Gestapo has news for you.

    For the Gestapo followed Judonimh’s torture prescriptions to the full.

    After the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler, the Gestapo tortured Fabian von Schlabrendorff.

    With metal spikes.

    & vicious beatings.

    Vicious enough to give him a heart attack.

    When he thought he might give them vital info, he divulged only pieces of vague “information”.

    That’s all they got.

    After FOUR weeks.

    & Judonimh thinks he can get it all in ONE day.

    & THEN connect all the dots in between what he’s got !

    No wonder events in the Middle East are finding Mossad without a clue in hand.

    They’re so busy tightening the screws, every thing else is escaping their grasp.

  12. The ticking bomb scenario works only for Hollywood.

    Says Georgetown University Law Professor David Cole :

    “You can’t know whether a person knows where the bomb is, or even if they’re telling the truth.”

    It’s a false choice Judonimh leaves you with …… tortured intelligence ……… or no intelligence at all.

    So i’ll leave you in the safer hands of Yale legal historian John Langbein :

    “HIstory’s most important lesson is that it has not been possible to make coercion compatible with truth.”

  13. I was just posing a well known and not very original hypothetical.

    This hypothetical is carefully designed to point out a "torture corner case", i.e. the most extreme scenarios where the rights of the one clash against the rights of the many, where giving absolute respect to the human dignity of one single individual ( i.e. the awful evil psychopathic killer Bin Laden ) could come at a terrible cost to the human dignity of thousands of other completely innocent victims.

    Here is a similar but non-hypothetical scenario, one that really happened:

    "On September 27, 2002, German Magnus Gäfgen kidnapped Jakob von Metzler in order to blackmail his parents, but killed him in his apartment. Gäfgen then demanded one million euro in ransom from the Metzler family. He was observed by the police when he picked up the ransom and was arrested after he did not release the boy. After being threatened with torture, as ordered by Frankfurt Police Vice President Wolfgang Daschner, he confessed and told where the body was hidden.The following year, Gäfgen was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment."

    So my question is: remembering Daschner thought the little kidnap victim, the child Jacob could still be alive and possibly slowly starving to death, was Daschner morally right in threatening Gäfgen with torture?

    What would you have done?

  14. I was just posing a well known and not very original hypothetical.

    This hypothetical is carefully designed to point out a “torture corner case”, i.e. the most extreme scenarios where the rights of the one clash against the rights of the many, where giving absolute respect to the human dignity of one single individual ( i.e. the awful evil psychopathic killer Bin Laden ) could come at a terrible cost to the human dignity of thousands of other completely innocent victims.

    Here is a similar but non-hypothetical scenario, one that really happened:

    “On September 27, 2002, German Magnus Gäfgen kidnapped Jakob von Metzler in order to blackmail his parents, but killed him in his apartment. Gäfgen then demanded one million euro in ransom from the Metzler family. He was observed by the police when he picked up the ransom and was arrested after he did not release the boy. After being threatened with torture, as ordered by Frankfurt Police Vice President Wolfgang Daschner, he confessed and told where the body was hidden.The following year, Gäfgen was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.”

    So my question is: remembering Daschner thought the little kidnap victim, the child Jacob could still be alive and possibly slowly starving to death, was Daschner morally right in threatening Gäfgen with torture?

    What would you have done?

  15. Your argument and the "torture corner case" you reference both assume that torture is an effective way of eliciting intelligence, when the facts suggest the opposite: that under physical duress people will say whatever they think you want to hear, be it fact or fiction. As in the case of KSM.

    In your scenario would you be willing to serve as interrogator? And if so, how does that make you any different from someone committing the same act for a malicious purpose?

    Making exceptions for torture in certain cases sets a dangerous precedent with unforeseen consequences. Take the case of Maher Arar who was rendered to Syria and brutally interrogated and tortured for a year's time only to be deemed an innocent victim of false intelligence gone awry.

    It is easy to compartmentalize and rationalize the reasons for these so called methods of interrogation but in the end humanity slips away just the same. And what distinguishes you from the "psychopathic cold blooded mass murderer" you speak of, after all, is just that, humanity.

  16. Your argument and the “torture corner case” you reference both assume that torture is an effective way of eliciting intelligence, when the facts suggest the opposite: that under physical duress people will say whatever they think you want to hear, be it fact or fiction. As in the case of KSM.

    In your scenario would you be willing to serve as interrogator? And if so, how does that make you any different from someone committing the same act for a malicious purpose?

    Making exceptions for torture in certain cases sets a dangerous precedent with unforeseen consequences. Take the case of Maher Arar who was rendered to Syria and brutally interrogated and tortured for a year’s time only to be deemed an innocent victim of false intelligence gone awry.

    It is easy to compartmentalize and rationalize the reasons for these so called methods of interrogation but in the end humanity slips away just the same. And what distinguishes you from the “psychopathic cold blooded mass murderer” you speak of, after all, is just that, humanity.