Thursday, March 15, 2007

Confess

I had some problems when I was a kid, running away from home a couple of times. Once when I was 12, I wasn't even gone overnight. Then again when I was 13, I was gone a couple of weeks that time. When I was picked up by police I spent 3-4 days in a Texas juvenile facility in Travis County. I'm not sure but I think it was a County facility, not a state facility. In 1962 (when this was) in Texas the state juvenile facilities were very, very bad, closed down by the Feds a couple of years later.

But the county juvenile lockup wasn't all that bad. Except for the Austin burglary detectives. They spent 3 days interrogating me, trying to get me to confess to any or all of about 200 unsolved burglaries they had on a real long list. Over and over. They wouldn't let me go to the lunch room, they'd bring me a tray after the meal time and let me eat in a room with a big window looking out at the other inmates playing baseball. Then after lunch they'd explain that all I had to do was confess to some of those burglaries and I could play baseball for the rest of the afternoon and go home tomorrow. Three days of it. It wasn't really that hard to ignore them for three days.

I didn't confess to any of them. And they didn't actually torture me, just used some intense psychological manipulation.

I didn't commit any of them either, btw. I had some cash saved up from a paper route and a weekend job and had been living with various slightly older teenage biker types with parents who worked nights. I still had a couple hundred dollars left when I was arrested, and this was 1962, so it would have been a while before I might have started doing burglaries.

But, I think if I'd gone through a month or two of that interrogation treatment I'd have confessed to something eventually.

I think about that when I read about the CIA claims that this terrorist type they've been interrogating for years has confessed to 30 or so really bad things. His confessions have no meaning at all, they have zero meaning when you consider just a part of the conditions in which he was interrogated. Even if he wasn't tortured, the conditions of his confinement make the statements meaningless.

Update: Some seem think the confession is meaningful

Update: Freakonomics points out the disconnect between the idea that one man masterminded every bad act and the overall fear created by the idea that we're at war with a large Army of Islamic nutcases.


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