Should Coercive Interrogation Be Legal?

Privacy and Security

Article Snapshot


Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule


Michigan Law Review, Vol., 104, pg. 671, 2006


This paper looks at what methods police should use to interrogate suspects.

Policy Relevance

It makes sense to regulate coercive interrogation, but not to ban it.

Main Points

  • Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, scholars must consider whether coercive interrogation like sleep deprivation or disorientation should be allowed. Few scholars argue it is never moral under any circumstances.
    • Evidence from Israel suggests that it can save lives.
  • Torture, severe coercive interrogation, is illegal under international law.
  • Police are allowed to use deadly force to stop crime, and soldiers are allowed to kill people in wartime. Coercive interrogation is similar to these examples.
    • None of these practices have lead to society becoming more brutal overall.
  • It makes sense to regulate coercive interrogation, like police shootings, but not to ban it.
    • When danger is not imminent, it would help to require police to get a warrant.
    • Police should be immune from prosecution if they act in good faith.
    • Some methods should be off limits entirely.
  • The United States sets an example for others around the world, and using coercive interrogation might encourage other nations to go too far. But the United States also needs to be seen as strong.

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