At least officially, the CIA ended its behavioral science program in the mid-1960s, before scientists and operatives achieved total control over a subject. "All experiments beyond a certain point always failed," an operative veteran of the program said, "because the subject jerked himself back for some reason or the subject got amnesiac or catatonic." In other words, you could create a vegetable or a zombie, but not a robot who would obey you against his will. Still, the CIA had gained reliable information about how to derange and disorient a person who was reluctant to cooperate. An enemy could quickly be made into a confused and desperate human being.
Since 9/11, as government documents and news reports have made clear, the CIA's experimental approach to coercive interrogation has been revived. Last week, as the Washington Post revealed the existence of secret CIA-run prisons—"black sites"—in Eastern Europe, Vice President Dick Cheney continued to campaign to ensure that the agency will not be prevented from using "cruel, inhumane, and degrading" methods to elicit intelligence from detainees. The operatives of the 1940s would approve.
TODAY IN SLATE
More Than Scottish Pride
Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself.
What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture
Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You
Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows
Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?
The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.
Happy Constitution Day!
Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.