Southern Public Administration Education Foundation

Can Brain Imaging Replace Interrogation and Torture?

Author: ZEN FAULKES
Published in GVER, Vol. 6 No. 2

Many techniques have been used to extract reliable information from individuals who are unwilling to divulge it, including interrogation, torture, and “lie detectors,” all of which have shortcomings in their ability to get and / or evaluate information. Brain imaging technologies present the possibilities of determining if an individual is lying, concealing information, or has predispositions to particular behaviors. Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the best known brain imaging technique, and can already be used to determine hidden conscious states of an individual, and to determine true and false statements with accuracy greater than chance. Thus, the main empirical question is no longer if brain imaging can be used productively in security situations, but rather how practical it might be and how confident users may be in the information obtained. Ethical questions about appropriate uses of brain imaging technology in security situations are immediate and urgent, but ethical concerns about privacy and similar issues raised by brain imaging appear minor compared to the ethical issues raised by torture. Brain imaging may be able to render some arguments about the use of torture moot by providing a more reliable method of getting and evaluating information from individuals.

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