We’ve Known Since Ancient Rome that Torture Doesn’t Work
In 72 BC – 2,086 years ago – Cicero (the well-known Roman philosopher, politician, lawyer, orator, political theorist and consul) pointed out that torture creates conditions of fear and desperate hope in which “there is but little room left for truth”, i.e. that torture is an unreliable method of extracting truth.
Later Roman leaders agreed:
As early as the third century A.D., the great Roman Jurist Ulpian noted that information obtained through torture was not to be trusted because some people are “so susceptible to pain that they will tell any lie rather than suffer it” (Peters, 1996). This warning about the unreliability of information extracted through the use of torture has echoed across the centuries.
Justinian condemned torture as untrustworthy, perilous, and deceptive.
And it wasn’t just Romans …
Lawrence Davidson – history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania – points out:
In 1764 Cesare Beccaria [an Italian criminologist, jurist, philosopher, and politician who had a profound effect on America’s Founding Fathers] published his groundbreaking work, On Crimes and Punishments. Beccaria had examined all the evidence available at that time and concluded that individuals under torture will tell their interrogators anything they want to hear, true or not, just to get the pain to stop.
The successful and ruthless general Napolean Bonaparte wrote in 1798:
The barbarous custom of having men beaten who are suspected of having important secrets to reveal must be abolished. It has always been recognized that this way of interrogating men, by putting them to torture, produces nothing worthwhile. The poor wretches say anything that comes into their mind and what they think the interrogator wishes to know.
In 1836, British police magistrate and lawyer David Jardine documented that – for thousands of years – torture has led to false confessions.
This ancient wisdom has been verified by the top American interrogation experts over the last 100 years.