Modern Torture as a Civic Marker: Solving a Global Anxiety with a New Political Technology[1]

Darius Rejali
Associate Professor
Political Science
Reed College

Submitted to the International Sociological Association
Brisbane, Australia
July 7-13, 2002

Copyright (c) 2001 by Darius Rejali, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the author is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author at

The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are "still" possible in the twentieth century is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge -- unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which gives rise to it is untenable.

--Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History

Torture technology is changing. Modern technologies now include electric stun technology,[2] sensory deprivation,[3] drugs,[4] near asphyxiation,[5] ice pressure, [6] water pressure,[7] and restraint systems like the shabeh,[8] I shall call these techniques "stealth torture technologies," for they bear a resemblance to the military hardware of the same name: their use is difficult to perceive.

I should clarify my terms. By torture, I mean physical and often sanguinary systematic violence on individuals sanctioned by state authorities for state purposes. It is characterized by standard technology and procedures reproduced over time. Modern torture is distinguished from classical torture in three ways.[9] Classical tortures were performed in public whereas modern tortures are almost never seen in public. Classical torture produced effects by writing on the body, e.g. branding and scarring. Modern torture leaves scars to be sure, but it aims not at the body, but at something beyond the body, let us call these dispositions. Finally, modern tortures draw on clinical expertise, whereas tradition and religion guide classical torturers as they scar bodies. To modern torture, stealth technologies add one new characteristic: their use is hard to document because they are rarely sanguinary. "An officer stopped the beating, saying "it will leave scars and we will get complaints from Amnesty International."[10] Forrest sums up the point admirably: "Research and development in modern torture techniques and technologies has focused upon methods which cause suffering and intimidation without leaving much in the way of embarrassing long-term visible evidence of brutality."[11] The fact that such technologies play havoc with the standard legal definition of torture I just offered is extremely thought-provoking.

Ironically, the rise of stealth tortures marks the successful emergence of a global discourse on human rights. Today, this discourse is institutionalized in three ways: in conventions, treaties, and laws defining legitimate state violence and banning torture in all instances; in official auditors such as the UN as well as private non-governmental auditors who scrutinize state compliance to these conventions; and in distinct parts of state bureaucracies whose function it is to monitor compliance, such as the US State Department Human Rights Bureau. In addition, global media have adopted human rights discourse as a way of evaluating state behavior. Consider how often the media used the phrase "human rights" between 1982 and 1994:

Reuters World Service registered a 500 percent increase in its usage of the term, while the British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) Summary of World Broadcasts reported a 600 percent increase in BBC usage. The most dramatic growth, however, took place outside the industrialized West. China's Xinhua news agency increased its usage of the term by 1,000 percent in the 1982-94 period, while the Current Digest of the Soviet Press, a selection of key articles, ran 300 percent more stories in 1994 than in 1982.[12]

All this suggest a further anchor for the global discourse of human rights: "a thin stratum of cultural, economic, and political elites stretching across state borders...has increasingly been drawn into a shared symbolic world in which the baseline for evaluating social worth is largely set by Western-influenced norms articulated by global auditors."[13]

Yet, despite the end of the Cold War and the emergence of a global human rights discourse, torture is as prevalent today as when the UN Convention against Torture was adopted in 1984.[14] The question is why torture is still so prevalent? In fact, the very advances that created more dialogue across the globe, facilitated by ever more rapid communications technology, led coincidentally to the rise of stealth torture technologies. The new stealth technologies are an unanticipated and perverse result of this increased human rights scrutiny.

To be specific, over the last thirty years, human rights organizations pioneered two methods for combating torture. The first was to expose it publicly to censure and the second was to hold state officials responsible for torture conducted during their watch. The first policy served to encourage torturers to invest in less visible and hence harder to document forms of torture. The second policy encouraged torturers to find allies in politicians and the public concerned with crime. Politicians who set about eliminating torture encountered internal bureaucratic resistance and a public that would not tolerate someone who was soft on drugs, illegal immigration, and other kinds of crime. In this context, torture appears as a tool in public and private social control of crime. Torture thrives on an insecurity characteristic of modern democracies, a fear of threats to property and personal security by vagrants, aliens, guest workers, drug addicts, and the homeless. How central crime and security have become can be measured in American terms at least by the fact that neither Washington nor Lincoln ever mentioned crime in their message to Congress or in their inaugural addresses. The first such Presidential reference was that of Herbert Hoover in 1929, and today it is unimaginable that politicians should not speak of crime and insecurity at every turn.[15]

In fact, today stealth technologies mediate experiences of citizenship in the modern world, inducing civic discipline, shaping civic order, and so resolving anxieties about the fluid character of modern citizenship. In democratic states in particular, torture serves as a civic marker, separating different gradations of citizenship. Stealth torture technologies can perform this role in part because they leave few marks. However, not all stealth torture technologies are equally successful. In cases where stealth torture technologies become widely available - as in the case of electric stun technologies - this ubiquity is an incredible socio-technical achievement, the work of corporations, politicians and engineers who have woven this technology into the fabric of everyday life, creating instruments, markets, citizens, and consumers.[16]

I. Modern Torture and Citizenship

On May 4, 1963, the New York Times ran a front page headline of Bull Connor's police using 3 foot "electric poles" to control ten Freedom Walkers on the Alabama line. "Patrol officials brought up three foot long prod poles, usually used for forcing cattle into chutes, and jabbed the demonstrators, giving them repeated electrical shocks. As one of the Negroes flinched and twisted in the grip of the four troopers, an elderly toothless white man shouted from a roadside pasture: "Stick him again! Stick him again!"[17] An accompanying photograph shows a Freedom Walker being carried away with the cattle prod clearly visible in the hands of a police officer looming above him. The photograph is remarkable, so much so that it is described in detail in Branch's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Parting the Waters.[18] What is even more remarkable is that neither Branch nor other major scholarly texts on the civil rights movement mention the use of these electrical devices.[19] Other events of that day in Birmingham received much more coverage, particularly the police use of high pressure hoses.[20] Yet Bull Connor's use of electric cattleprods is the earliest explicit report of the use of shock batons in the United States, a scene that is now ubiquitous around the world.

If the scholars missed it, neither the crowds nor the police did. In 1992, Rex Applegate mourned in Soldier of Fortune:

Some effective new police weapons were unable to stand up to the test of public acceptance. A classic case was the 36-inch Shok Baton, a flashlight batter-powered baton that produced a painful but relatively harmless electric shock on the recipient's skin surface. It was an excellent, non-lethal weapon, useful in moving and separating crowds, breaking up unlawful demonstrations, and dislodging the passive "sit-down" type protesters without the necessity of police physically carrying them away.

Unfortunately, the Shok Baton's initial successful use brought about its downfall: It frustrated the purposes of the student anti-war and civil rights movement, and also the press that supported them. The Shok Baton was compared to the cattle prod, which had been developed as a humane means to move livestock. The hostile press and other media then made the obvious negative comparison between people fighting for their political and civil rights and the treatment of cattle.

Consequently neither civil law enforcement agencies under political control, nor the military where the Shok Baton was first developed could ever fully utilize this effective non-lethal weapon.[21]

Today, American police do not use shock batons to control crowds, preferring instead wooden batons which may be less effective but are not nearly as newsworthy.

The American protest experience is an electric-free experience, a unique civic experience. In other societies, student protesters and rioters could expect to be rounded up with cattleprods. "It is being used in quantity by paramilitary police units abroad," Applegate remarks with approval.[22] No doubt this particular American protest experience did not come about quickly nor was it the same for everyone. Applegate's account collapses a number of changes. In 1963, the New York Times was far more outraged by the fire hoses and dogs in Birmingham than the electric poles. By 1967 though, even government supported studies see the Shok Baton as a genuine failure: "The recent ill-feeling generated by the electrified baton and the use of dogs by some southern police forces for crowd control illustrates another unfortunate aspect of the use of new weapons."[23] By 1971, Applegate mourns, "The usefulness in sitdown, passive-resistance and campus riot situations is obvious but has yet to be fully explored."[24]

The matter is different when crowd control is not involved. Applegate observes that while the Shok Baton is not listed in US police catalogs, "in the last decade, electric TASER weapons and stun guns seem to have become publicly acceptable police weapons. Perhaps the coming need for more effect non-lethal weapons, and a changed public attitude, will enable the Shok Baton to be employed in police and military counter-riot and crowd control operations." [25] But that is unlikely for the two devices are quite different. "The effects on the human body from stun guns are different to those from cattle prods and electric shock batons since the two types of device produce different electrical outputs." In fact, stun guns temporarily incapacitate the whole body, whereas cattleprods produce a "painful aversive shock."[26] Prods produce a local electro-immobilizing effect while stun guns and tasers produce a general electro-immobilizing effect, what has been dubbed, "electric curarization" after the drug that induces paralysis.[27] Further, stun guns produce "high intensity, short duration impulses; the non-incapacitating devices produce a continuous alternating current." Finally, the peak voltages and currents in stun guns are two orders of magnitude higher than cattleprods.[28]

How is it that devices that totally demobilize a person and yield voltage two orders greater than cattleprods win such wide acceptance? The answer has to do with citizenship and crime. Much of the early debate about stun guns and tasers focused on whether they were truly lethal, but I am less concerned with the cause of death as I am with what these records tell us about who is being tasered. Unlike cattleprods, Tasers are the size of flashlights. They are handheld devices which fire darts that deliver an electrical charge to the target. As long as the taser trigger is depressed, current will continue to flow until the battery runs out or the barbs are dislodged. The latter prospect is unlikely as the principal effect of the taser is to immobilize its targets. Between 1983 and 1987, Los Angeles County recorded sixteen deaths were associated with Tasers: "The deceased in each instance was a young male between 20 and 40 years of age. Mexican Americans accounted for 5 deaths, blacks for 8 and whites for 3". All were known to use illicit drugs, and several had spent time in prison.[29] Another Los Angeles study examines injuries due to Tasers between 1980 and 1985. Of the 218 patients admitted to the King/Drew Medical Center, all were men and the average age was 28 (the range was 15 to 48 years). Most were delivered by police, 46% of them in restraints and 86% had been using PCP that day.[30]

Stun guns are small rectangular plastic boxes, a little larger than a cigarette pack, with two metal posts protruding from the top. When pressed against the body and the trigger is pulled, the high voltage causes loss of muscle control for a period of seconds. They are unlike cattleprods and "many other shock devices that do not incapacitate, but further agitate." Unlike Tasers, stun "do not have the dart-type devices, which may require surgical removal of the dart under certain conditions."[31] Stun guns appear to be used on populations quite similar to Tasers. Between 1985 and 1986, five New York police officers were indicted on charges of torturing African-American and Hispanic youths suspected of drug dealing; two LA police officers repeated shocked a Hispanic juvenile "in an attempt to force him to confess to stealing stereo parts; and a San Diego private security guard admitted using the "stun gun on transients."[32] In the 1990s, one Bronx clinic records that 11% of the subjects admitted report "electrical torture." [33] Stun technology is also used extensively on prisoners. Prisoners are also compelled to wear stunbelts when they are in courts or when they working on chain gangs outside prisons.[34]

In 1967, after the dismal failure of shock batons, Coates spelled out the conditions which might enable electric technology to find public acceptance. These include the fact that the device "should not unnecessarily endanger or antagonize bystanders," "should not appear cruel or beneath human dignity even if it is nondamaging," and "should be not be provocative if it is ineffectively used."[35] Stun guns and tasers apparently meet these criteria, and they do so for very particular reasons. They are not used in crowd control situations. They paralyze rather than move the target as cattleprods do. And they are applied disproportionately on subjects of public disapproval: drug abusers, usually young men, behaving in odd ways. The men are often minorities, usually African American or Hispanic. When electric torture occurs in the U.S., it is under these conditions. Similar conditions surround the use of electric shock in other democratic states. In South Africa, public police appear to use stun guns on suspects, street children and refugees, while private security police have used stun guns on railway commuters and university students.[36]

Torture used to be the lot of the political criminal, but now increasingly it is the lot of the ordinary criminal, the vagrant, illegal immigrant, or drug runner.[37] In retrospect, the Cold War actually was a golden age for ordinary criminals since even authoritarian states liked to operate the civilian prison system in exemplary ways to keep local and international observers from focusing on the fates of political prisoners. But with the end of the Cold War, there is no particular need for such pretenses, and torture has once again become a common place for ordinary, as well as political criminals.

II. Torture as a Civic Marker

What then are the effects of using these forms of torture as part of policing, public or private? First, they enable torturers to deny that any mistreatment happened to anyone in their care. In 1996, a jail inmate died while being restrained to a chair with a towel around his mouth. While his death was ruled as an accident, it is in fact impossible to say how many times he was stunned electrically.[38] By contrast, in documented cases of stunning where there can be no denial, police argue that stunning the individual not only subdued him safely, but yielded a temporary "lucid interval" in previously psychotic patients. In other words, the use was not only legally necessary but medically effective and so even more humane.[39]

The second effect of stealth torture is civic doubt. Because it is hard to ascertain clear, visible marks of torture, citizens can be uncertain whether pain was in fact experienced. Where citizens are already divided by race, class or status, this doubt is magnified. Is the person really a torture victim or are they simply exaggerating so they may sue? Where citizens are not divided in this way, torture itself may serve to create the distinction since one side complains loudly about something others cannot see.

Civic doubt is demobilizing and depoliticizing. However, it pales by comparison to the third effect of stealth torture technologies. Stealth tortures constitute an often insurmountable barrier between victims and those with whom they wish to communicate. Consider once again electric stunning. In the first instance, many don't remember what happened to them. "They report total amnesia for the event and didn't remember being 'tasered'."[40] Others report falling to the ground stunned, alert to their environment but paralyzed.[41] The physical evidence disappears quickly. Doctors must know what they are looking for or they will miss the few signs that exist. "Our examinations do not represent a final proof of the existence of torture in Spain...The two cases described here underline that torture can be life-threatening even though no physical marks can be found at the objective examination--even shortly after torture."[42] Lawyers have a difficult case to make to authorities when they petition for redress. Refugees plead for asylum from refugee boards without evidence of torture. Victims find no affirmation in publicity. This lack of affirmation extends to the victim's family and community, who to varying degrees suffer from precisely the same kinds of doubts experienced by other citizens. As Cusac says, "Although the physical evidence of electrical torture may eventually disappear, the real trauma is psychological-- the experience of being shocked into incapacitation and severe pain again and again."[43]

Contrast this condition with a statement by Bruce Shapiro, a survivor of violence, though not of torture. His statement is helpful for its remarkable self-understanding:

Anyone trying to deal with the reality of crime, as opposed to the fantasies peddled to win elections, needs to understand the complex suffering of survivors of traumatic crimes and the suffering and turmoil of their families. I have impressive physical scars...a broad purple line from my breastbone to the top of my public bone, an X-shaped cut into my side where the chest tube entered...But the disruption of my psyche is more noticeable. For weeks, I awake each night agitated, drenched in perspiration. For two months, I was unable to write...Thought to all appearances normal, I feel at a long arm's remove from all the familiar sources of pleasure, comfort and anger that shaped my daily life...What psychologists call post-traumatic stress disorder is, among other things, a profoundly political state in which the world has gone wrong, in which you feel isolated from the broader community by the inarticulable extremity of experience...As a crime victim and a citizen, I want the reality of a safe community-- not a politician's fantasy land of restitution and revenge.[44]

Shapiro has many valuable points to make here. He condemns psychologists and politicians who identify too easily with victims of violence. But in one particular way, Shapiro's case is distinctly different. He has a clear visible scar that runs across his chest, and this makes possible an entirely different experience in relation to his family, community, psychologists, and politicians. The scar authorizes his words to others.

In World War I, one could distinguish between two kinds of war wounded: those who had impressive physical scars from the war and those who suffered profoundly but had no scars. The former presented catastrophe as well-ordered existence, "the artificial limbs of war-cripples did not creak, empty sleeves were pinned up with safety pins. Men whose faces had been scorched by flame-throwers wore large black spectacles."[45] The latter were described as shell-shocked, what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder. They were even less able than other veterans to hold jobs; employers considered them a poor risk. They could not even support stable familial and sexual relations.[46] In the late twentieth century, democracies have found ways to reproduce this civic distinction without the happenchance of war.

Is it surprising that torture can serve to mark out different civic experiences? The notion that torture can serve as a civic marker is not a new one. In ancient Greek and Roman republics, torture was intimately tied to citizenship. Torture was the violence inflicted on non-citizens: on slaves, barbarians and foreigners. It is tempting to think of torture as something that followed pre-established categories of citizen and slave, but this is a mistake. For there was a deep anxiety of how one might distinguish people who were slaves but who for all intents and purposes acted like citizens. The Roman Senate even considered but did not pass a law "to have slaves dress uniformly in public so that they could immediately be distinguished from free citizens."[47] Using torture to resolve the anxiety was a different matter:

As an instrument of demarcation, it [torture] delineates the boundary between slave and free, between the untouchable bodies of free citizens and the torturable bodies of slaves. The ambiguity of slave status, the difficulty of sustaining an absolute sense of differences, is addressed through this practice of the state, which carves the line between slave and free on the bodies of the unfree.[48]

To the slave belonged brutal tortures and punishments, worst of all, the humiliation of crucifixion. To the citizen was reserved a special class of punishments, humane punishments, for only Greek and Roman citizens were capable of fully human lives. Such a view is not so far away from our contemporary experience. Only 150 years ago, advertisements like these told any citizen how to read a slave's body:

(1) Advertisement in the North Carolina Standard (28th July, 1838)

Twenty dollars reward. Runaway from the subscriber, a negro woman and two children; the woman is tall and black, and a few days before she went off burnt her on the left side of her face with the letter M.

(2) St. Louis Gazette (6th November, 1845)

A wealthy man here had a boy named Reuben, almost white, whom he caused to be branded in the face with the words; 'A slave for life.'

(3) Advert in Mississippi Gazette (23rd July, 1836)

A negro man who says his name is Josiah, that he belongs to Mr. John Martin, living in Louisiana, twenty miles below Nathchez. Josiah is five feet eight inches high, heavy built, copper colour; his back very much scarred with the whip, and branded on the thigh and hips in three or four places thus: 'J.M.' The rim of his right ear has been bitten or cut off. He is about 31 years of age. [49]

Today, citizenship is also in flux, and a certain anxiety runs through most discussions of citizenship. Who is working legally and who illegally? Who deserves the welfare of the state and who is a vagrant who abuses it? Who benefits from legal protection, and who deserves no legal protection? In modern democracies, the distinctions between citizen, guest, alien, terrorist, vagrant, and criminal are matters of great political controversy and public policy. Torture, in this context, does not resolve this anxiety by marking bodies as in ancient Greece. It works on the inside, leaving its traces on habits and dispositions. Different kinds of people know where to go and where not to go, where is venturing too far and where is home. "If you're not waiting for a bus, move out."[50]

To be sure, modern torture has many purposes, not just one. It may be used to gather information, produce false confessions to discredit the opposition, intimidate a general population, or gather to the state insular and dependent individuals. In this case, modern torture renders behavior of different classes of citizens predictable. It sets apart those who do and do not belong in a particular neighborhood or region. Whether one can protest here or there without fear of being shocked, whether one can travel in one's car without being pulled over or stunned, these are experiences of constitutive of citizenship. Rather than following pre-established understandings of who is and is not a citizen, torture helps to create differences, even insurmountable barriers, between different groups. But it is also in this way that torture sets out to resolve anxieties, by setting everyone in their place. "Sometimes, they deserve it," she said. "I think they need some of that lesson when they are 10 and 12 years old, when they're smoking and hanging out, because in 10 years you can't tell them anything."[51] Or as a policeman said, "Stop the auto theft, stop the drug dealing, and we can stabilize these communities....A cop has got to be pretty frustrated when he knows something's going on and he can't seem to do anything about it."[52]

Asad argues that "the use of torture by liberal-democratic states relates to their attempt to control populations of those who are not citizens. It cannot be attributed to...governmental techniques for disciplining citizens... It is to be understood as a practical logic integral to the maintenance of the nation-state's sovereignty, much like warfare."[53] This thesis is overly general. In recent history, torture has been connected with democracies in two ways: when the legal system excessively privileges public confession [54]. and when bureaucratic privilege overwhelms democratic supervision. One special case of the latter, the case to which Asad refers, is when militaries of democratic states use torture in the course of war against non-citizens.[55] There is however a third condition under which torture appears in democracies, in the absence of war or peculiar legal systems. It occurs most notably in old democracies with large ungovernable populations (United States, Venezuela, France, Greece),and in new democracies with limited institutional resources (Russia, Hungary, South Africa, Brazil).[56] This is one in which torture appears to induce civic discipline in liberal democratic states, returning torture to a role it had in Ancient Greece.

III. Why Stealth Succeeds

By creating a barrier in communicating one's experience to others, stealth torture technology induces civic doubt and civic order. It allows citizens to get along with their lives without probing too closely as to the differential quality of their experiences. It reinforces assumed barriers between groups. This problem of inexpressibility is a distinctive feature of stealth torture technologies, not a problem of torture altogether. Scarry has argued, for example, that all torture takes its departure from the notion that pain takes no object and is therefore inexpressible.[57] On the contrary, if pain is inexpressible, that is, you can't understand my pain, this failure to communicate is not a failure in knowledge, but rather a failure in spirit. As Das correctly states, "Following Wittgenstein, this manner of conceptualizing the puzzle of pain frees us from thinking that statements about pain are in the nature of questions about certainty or doubt over our own pain or that of others. Instead, we begin to think of pain as asking for acknowledgement and recognition; denial of the other's pain is not about the failings of intellect but the failings of spirit. In the register of the imaginary, the pain of the other not only asks for a home in language but also seeks a home in the body.[58]

The difficulty with stealth tortures is precisely the difficulty of finding a home in the body, a place that authorizes the process of asking for acknowledgement and recognition. Stealth tortures however do not remain forever without public confirmation. Such practices can be documented with time. For each new torture device, there is also further medical research. Trained physicians can distinguish between different kinds of specialized techniques, from the falanga to electroshock. Further, pain behavior is imbedded in a host of ways in which we interpret and appreciate another's pain. In fact, Scarry herself verges on conceding this: "sympathy lessens the power of sickness and pain."[59] Lives of suffering stand in need of acknowledgement, and political and social processes do exist that can incorporate such lives.

In addition to effacing marks, some stealth technologies are polyvalent, anchored in ordinary life pursuits. This makes it harder to identify and delegitimate their use. One may well yearn for the old days of racks and iron maidens. When someone complains "it is not the technology; it is how it is used", one knows one is in the presence of stealth torture technology. There is only one way to use an iron maiden. On the other hand, electric stun technology is housed in ordinary household objects like flashlights, umbrellas, and key chains. Electric stun technology is used for torture, personal safety, sexual games, and ordinary law enforcement. Police wring their hands over the possible unprofessional use of these devices, but they may also benefit from their widespread use especially in the context of other weapons. "Your three year old kid can't get hold of a stun gun and kill himself or playmate," remarked a marketer, "I'd rather have some attack me with a stun gun than .44 magnum."[60] While the prospect of delivering an electrical shock to anyone is not for the faint of heart, one potential customer looking at the devices remarked, "But then again, I could get mad at him [my boyfriend] one morning and shoot."[61] And after criminals used stun guns to immobilize a supermarket clerk, the clerk's father said he was "thankful" the criminals had favored the stun gun over the pistol they also had.[62] Others find even greater reassurance in the security stun technology affords them. The new Auto Taser delivers an "unforgettable, yet non-lethal 5, 900 milliwatt electron pulse. A thief can't steal what he can't touch."[63] At any rate, today citizens have even more reasons to wonder whether devices that they could carry around in their coatpockets could be called torture devices.

One might add to this a particularly modern attitude about electricity itself. When Edison endorsed the electric chair, electrical engineers denounced the idea for electricity was intrinsically innocent and progressive. Electricity was "too beautiful to be subjugated to such work as that," declared the French periodical Electricite.[64] Similarly, C.F. Brackett, a Princeton Professor, denounced the electric chair to the Electric Club: it was "degrading of an agent which has done so much and is accomplishing more for the advancement of civilization than almost any other discovery in the history of the world."[65] Later, B.F. Skinner had popularized the notion that one could educate animals through the manipulation of electric shocks. Milgram seized upon this naive belief to show that under certain situations, ordinary people could be encouraged to shock others to death in the course of educating them.[66] What is important here is that not one of Milgram's subject wondered whether it was illegitimate to use electric shock at all. Developers of stun technology seize on precisely this humanist reputation of electricity, arguing that these devices enhance civilization itself. Nonlethal weapons, writes Coates, "humane and revocable in the effects, would enhance the police capabilities in situations for which they are not adequately equipped, and also provide more moderate and effective means of dealing with some situations which they cannot now handle."[67]

V. When Stealth Fails: SD Techniques

The more polyvalent the torture technology, the more ambivalent the public will be regarding its use. In fact, in the new global order, not all stealth technologies fare equally. Some techniques do not become as polyvalent as others, and so despite their stealth characteristics, they fail to become ubiquitous. Today electricity is the "Esperanto" of torture[68] while sensory deprivation (SD/PD) techniques have a limited circulation. The contrasting stories of these stealth technologies tells us how technologies can become ubiquitous.

SD/PD had a promising start, driven as it was by military and intelligence concerns to catch up with the Russians and the Chinese. Electricity did not have such funding or support, and it could be fatal. Advocates of SD/PD however were unable to invent new goals that could be served by the technology. Electric torturers were more inventive. They found ways to make the technology small and inexpensive. Even amateurs at interrogation could use it without causing fatalities. Adopting SD/PD techniques, however, takes considerable high-tech maintenance and social co-ordination. What is more, electric stun technology was able to create new groups with new interests in the technology, not just meat producers but private security companies selling non-lethal security. SD/PD could offer no civilian uses of these techniques, which always appeared in highly specific and often violent conditions. Electric stun technology offered new interpretations of interests. It was, for example, integrated into classrooms women's self-defense classes.[69] Nothing comparable happened with SD/PD. Above all, electric stun technology became cheap and easily replaceable, so easy to use that one didn't have to think about the complex networks of markets, funding, politics, and social anxiety that made it possible.

Scientists can create sensory impairment artificially in human beings in two ways: through depriving them of stimuli (e.g. silence and darkness) or by creating homogeneous and unpatterned stimuli (e.g. white noise and diffused light). The first is called sensory deprivation (SD) and the second is perceptual deprivation (PD). Both kinds of deprivation are produced by specific kinds of boxes or rooms. For sensory deprivation, Lilly immersed his subjects in a watertank, while Hebb placed the subject in a room with goggles on his eyes, ears covered with muffs, padding to prevent touching and no smells. For perceptual deprivation, the original studies placed the subject in a dimly illuminated room, covering the subjects eyes with translucent film to prevent pattern vision. Amplifiers and other electric equipment generated a low hum in ear phones embedded in a foam rubber headrest. While both multi-modal SD and PD can produce disorientation and distress, PD seems to produce more extensive cognitive and perceptual impairment.[70] Experimental subjects exposed to SD also report "a 42% increase in pain sensitivity after 4 days of sensory depravation in contrast to an increase of only 5 percent in a group of controls."[71] Those subjected to PD report a significant decrease in sensitivity. This is attributed specifically to loss in one modality, auditory. White noise is reported to suppress acoustic stimulation in particular cells in the brain and appears to have analgesic properties. In addition, unusually long periods of SD produce decreases in respiration, blood pressure and heart rate not unlike techniques of monastic contemplation.[72]

As forms of torture technology, SD and PD have very different histories. The US military and intelligence communities became very interested in funding SD studies during the Korean War. Since it was believed that the Chinese and Russians had developed techniques of brainwashing, the US government encouraged the construction of experimental SD facilities in hopes of catching up. But this project foundered on a number of problems. The effects of SD cannot be produced outside of strict experimental conditions involving the absolute reduction of senses, and these are not easily translated into conditions of incarceration. There is an inherent methodological paradox because subjects in torture must be kept alive, however minimally, and these interfere with the SD effects. As Zubek says, "human subjects must be fed, toileted and exercised...satisfying these needs entails an interference with sensory deprivation."[73] All this underlines that the SD chambers are not easily portable and require constant maintenance to produce the conditions. They are not for amateurs. Further, aside from sheer intellectual curiosity, the military did not find civilian allies who found utility in SD research. SD research may be of use in helping those who perform monotonous work (e.g. truckers) but this claim has yet to be redeemed. Finally, SD did not produce the brainwashing effects the US military had hoped for. "The similarity between brainwashing and SD is a tenuous one," Zubek states flatly.[74]

Perceptual deprivation seemed more closely related to Communist practice. "The method of brainwashing most frequently used by the Communists in China depends upon over- rather than under-stimulation."[75] On closer examination, these resemblances foundered. The Wolf-Hinkle Report, commissioned by the US government, stated clearly that the Chinese techniques for re-education depended principally on group pressure, ideology and repetition. These are a far cry from chambers flooded with white noise and dim lighting. Soviet techniques bore a closer resemblance to PD. The Stalinist show trials required prisoners to re-enact their confessions without compulsion.[76] In the 1930s, the NKVD developed a technique called the Conveyor which included isolation, lack of sleep, lack of privacy, and above all an unceasing chain of guards who issued arbitrary and demeaning orders. These guards were followed by more humane interrogators, who engaged the prisoner with a cigarette and a chat. Within four to six weeks, the process yielded a confession, usually a false one. Similar techniques had been used for years in by American police until they had been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the 1940s.[77] The perception of PD as a "a product of Communism per se, of Pavlovian condition, etc. is fictional; both the Russian and the Chinese versions are direct, logical and congruent descendants of age- old police, penal and legal methods in those countries. Solitary confinement, of course is a standard technique in a tremendous number of police/penal systems, including the American."[78]

These mythical origins disguise the actual conditions under which PD conditions were finally pressed into police use. It is in the British colonial context that we finally find techniques that begin to resemble the PD experiments. The Parker Commission reported that PD techniques had been developed in counter-insurgency operations in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Africa between 1961 and 1966. McGuffin, however, argues that aside from the use of white noise in Aden (1964-67), none of the alleged techniques were PD techniques. [79] He locates the use of PD techniques in counterinsurgency practices in Northern Ireland. Here, suspects were hooded prior to interrogation, subjected to "a sound machine which produced "white noise", a high pitched hissing, mushy sound", immobilized by being "forced to lean against a wall, legs wide apart with only the fingertips touching the walk"; forced to wear loose overalls, "several sizes too big." Additionally, they were deprived of food and sleep, not normal PD experiment conditions. The subjected prisoners experienced visual and auditory hallucinations that made some of them suicidal.

We have then a context in which concerns about external scrutiny prompted the adoption of a technology that left no marks. Yet for a torture that so captures the human imagination, it is surprising how limited the circulation of this technology is. While noise is often reported as a way of disguising screams, the use of noise itself to torture has been reported only in Sao Paolo, Brazil in the 1970s and in Israel in the 1990s.[80] Further, there are two sketchy reports of a sound and light system in Serbia and a similar one in Dubai. In the latter case, a British firm is reported to have installed "prisoner disorientation equipment" in a Special Branch of the Dubai Police Headquarters.[81] The room, called the House of Fun, is "a high-tech room fitted with a generator for white noise and strobe lights such as might be seen in a disco, but turned up to a volume capable of reducing the victim to submission within half an hour."[82] If there is more, no one has heard of it.

V. Making Extraordinary Ordinary

Whereas people have no difficulty condemning SD/PD techniques as inhumane, these same people can be confused as to what is or is not a humane use of electric stun technology. Today, the public considers electric stun technology humane or inhumane, depending on the context and the person to whom it is applied. Applied to criminals, prisoners, psychotics, the sick, guest workers, drug addicts, and aliens, it is tolerable, but not when applied to ordinary citizens in the course of political protest or travel. At the same time that animals are achieving rights against mistreatment and inhumane punishment by electric stun technology, the same technology is being widely distributed as a method by which citizens can police other citizens. Why is this? If ordinary concepts have become muddled regarding what electric torture is, this is not due to a problem of our language of humanity, but rather the effect of marketing, science, and politics. In cases where electric stun technology is widely available and disseminated, the ubiquity is an incredible socio-technical achievement, the work of corporations, politicians and engineers who have created instruments, markets, citizens, and consumers.

To see this, requires telling the story of electric torture. The aim of torture is information, and if the victim dies, the torture will have failed. From the standpoint of practitioners, torture techniques cannot be fatal regularly. Alternating current, however, can be, which is why Edison endorsed the use of the electric chair in 1890. In order to develop electric stun technology, one must ask: what is the maximal amount of shock and pain that I can deliver to stun the victim and yet allow him to live? In addition, the torturer requires a device whose charge can be regulated as needed, that delivers electricity to the body at different points, and that, ideally, is portable. Finally, the device must be reasonably cheap so it can be distributed, replaced and maintained with ease.

There are two possible devices in the early twentieth century that fit this general description: the picana electrica and Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) devices[83]. The picana electrica was truly innovative. Arising out of the stockyard of Argentina, it enters into police service in Buenos Aires in the 1930s. And that is where it languishes until the 1970s when police in Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay adopt it. The ECT device owed its perfection to the pig slaughterhouses of Rome. After Cerletti and Bini advocated its therapeutic use, it was adopted widely in insane asylums but only rarely in police interrogations. In Nazi Germany, for example, the ECT device arrives in 1943 and is not used in interrogations. Rather, it is distributed to asylums because insulin becomes scarce and researchers needed an alternative means of inducing artificial shock in patients. Similarly, at Auschwitz, some schizophrenic prisoners were not immediately gassed but set aside for electroshock therapy experiments by prisoner-physicians. None were interrogated with ECT devices.[84]

In fact, among authoritarian states, there is little or no evidence of electric torture in early twentieth century. The Gestapo and the Cheka tortured of course, but they did not care whether there were marks left behind, or whether some newspaper reporter might sell the news to some outraged public.[85] Later authoritarian states were more cautious, especially as military and financial aid depended on a clean human rights record. This is why increasingly even the most brutal of authoritarian states turns towards electric stun technology toward the end of the twentieth century. But here, they were preceded by democratic politicians and policemen who did worry about publicity, particularly in the course of military conflict. They had already adapted electric stun technology to their needs, and the critical device for them was the magneto or dynamo.

The magneto or dynamo is a handcranked device that generated an electric charge. Dynamos were used widely in military contexts to start cars and trucks and field telephones, but there is no evidence they were ever used for torture.[86] It was only in the context of French colonialism, particularly the Franco-Vietnamese and the Franco-Algerian conflicts, that electric torture came into widespread use.[87] Roughly between 1932 and 1960, electric torture sprang from one police interrogation center to another, and across vastly spaces. In the 1960s, American soldiers arriving in Vietnam were adapting the French technique in electric torture.[88] By the late 1970s, the chief innovations in this technique were the use of highly flexible needles that allowed current to be applied in hard to reach places such as under the teeth. Virtually all police forces that used electric torture in interrogation were either former French colonies or had received extensive American training. The devices and methods used remain the same until the 1980s.

Indeed, democracies developed a special affinity for electric stun technology, particularly in the late twentieth century when torture becomes an explicit political concern. As democratic scrutiny of police activity increases, police favor non-lethal forms of political control.[89] This is why electric torture takes off in French colonialism, for here there was a press, left wing politicians, and intellectuals who were apt to denounce torture. But that is an incomplete story. In democratic societies, the development of stun technology was advanced by many other concerns including an effort to find non-lethal forms of crowd control, concern for terrorism, and a growing sense of urban insecurity. Here, the trail left behind in the U.S. Patent Office is especially revealing, as the micro-developers of electric stun technology appealed to various concerns to market their innovations. Beginning in the 1950s, electric stun technology is marketed successively as a military defense tool, an anti-canine device for postmen, a crowd control device, an airplane safety device, an anti-mugging device, an anti-theft device attached to cars and suitcases, a prison control device, as well as ever more useful ways of moving cattle and killing pigs. In the U.S. many of these devices are now marketed to the general public at relatively cheap prices. They deliver between 50,000-250,000 volts on contact and are mounted on all sorts of household accessories including jogging walkmans.

In authoritarian states, by contrast, electric torture found no market for here there were no courts, activists, or politicians to which the police had to answer for their violence. But as global human rights scrutiny increased, here too electric torture moved to the center of the torturer's toolkit. This is why the picana though it developed in Argentina, languishes there until the 1970s, when Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia all adopt the picana. Or consider the case of China. Palden Gyatso, a monk who was imprisoned for 33 years in Tibet, describes how electric stun technology replaced older Maoist indoctrination techniques. This technology comes into Tibet in the 1980s, at about the same time Xinhua Agency press increases coverage of human rights issues by 1000 percent. And this in turn coincides with the first East Asian patents on stun technology are filed in the U.S. This is not to say of course that early authoritarian states didn't develop sophisticated kinds of tortures; they did. It is only that the kind of sophistication in which they were interested was not one that included deniability. But deniability is precisely the reason why electric stun technology spreads so rapidly in the age of democratization. Although in the popular movies and novels in our democracies, electric torture is the stock trade of the authoritarian state, the electric torture trade in fact moves in the opposite direction. It flows not from authoritarian states to democratic states, but from the factories of democracies to authoritarian states.[90] When Gyatso left Tibet by foot in the 1990s, he took in his satchel a variety of stun guns, all of which were made in Taiwan or England.[91]

Today, corporations benefit from the multi-purpose character of a technology that is as important for meat production as it is for security. Security providers benefit because the commodity is sold on domestically and appears to be an ordinary consumer good attached to umbrellas and key chains. Politicians benefit from a resolution of civic anxiety about various qualities of citizenship. Citizens feel gratified that there is a ubiquitous form of non-lethal policing. Electric stun technology is indispensable for translating so many interests into multiple satisfactions. By the same token, sensory deprivation techniques failed to find allies and translate interests, and so occupy a limited place in the new world of torture.

VI. The Cunning Reason of States

Today, states remove themselves twice from torture. First, we live in a world in which policing is privatized and decentralized.[92] States encourage extralegal and private policing, which both enhances security while shielding them from the worst results of such policing. Whenever torture appears to the public, it appears in the form of rogue, untrained and undisciplined police forces: out of control ex-marines and poorly trained private security guards. Second even when the state is linked to the practice of torture, the kind of torture used allows for deniability. All this unhinges the legalistic definition of torture I gave at the outset of this paper. I defined torture as physical, sanguinary, and systematic violence performed by state officials for state purposes. But how much harder to call something torture when it happens in an extra-official context? And how much harder to call something torture when the act is barely physical, amounting to a prick or a restraint? Unlike many other modern techniques, these tortures can even be performed in public. Everyone remembers seeing the beatings of Rodney King, but how many people can say how many times King received shocks from the taser darts embedded in him? The beatings King received triggered the Los Angeles Riots of 1992, but the multiple high-voltage shocks barely impinged on public consciousness. A public cannot condemn what it sees but does not register.

This is a different kind of problem that the problem of our increasing insensitivity to violence. Asad argues, for example, that in modern societies, we are both increasingly sensitive to pain and simultaneously engage in particular forms of suffering: "warfare, sports, psychological experimentation -as well as in the domain of sexual pleasure - the inflicting of physical suffering is actively practiced and also legally condoned."[93] As a result, our concept of torture itself becomes unhinged and relative:

The category of torture is no longer limited to applications of physical pain: it now includes psychological coercion employing disorientation, isolation, and brainwashing. Indeed, the term "torture" in our day denotes not only behavior that is actually prohibited by law but also behavior that we desire to have so prohibited in accordance with changing concept of "inhumane" treatment (e.g. from child abuse and the public execution or flogging of criminals to animal experiments, factory farming, and fox hunting).[94]

The effect of this is desensitization, particularly when it comes to the practice of torture by the state. Not only are we no longer shocked by what was "once shocking," such as incarceration and new forms of warfare and torture, but we understand pain now as "a quantifiable essence."[95] In state torture, pain below a threshold necessary for the means is not torture; pain above a certain threshold is.[96]

There is something thought-provoking in Asad's account of torture, but not I think what he gestures towards. While psychological coercion is included in many definitions of torture, Asad's statement is not a correct characterization of psychological techniques of torture. The techniques of sensory deprivation rarely if ever occur outside of non-experimental conditions that are non-violent. Activists, experts and the public have no difficulty at all at identifying and condemning specific effects of SD when they are described; these are not culturally variable and depend on no cultural horizon of pain. These are sophisticated techniques that require specialized knowledge, identifiable machines, and produce specific effects. Asad is trading here on the ambiguous term "psychological" which moves in this passage from a highly specialized discipline to a subjective report on what individuals feel is inhumane. One not only slips unjustifiably from expert knowledge to amateur reports, but also one quietly switches perspectives on torture. One moves from an agent's perspective, in which torture is defined by its intent to do a specific kind of harm for specific purposes, to a victim's perspective, in which intent is irrelevant and only the victims suffering is worth of consideration. One moves from an intersubjective evaluation of intent of the experimenter/torturer, the matter of law courts and human subjects committees, to a subjective account of violence in which every account of violence and torture is true merely because it is reported. There are good reasons to keep these analytic distinctions quite clear. [97]

What is thought-provoking is that someone can slide, as Asad does, from legal to sentimental registers of torture without raising eyebrows, merging distinctly different kinds of violence into one broad cultural theme. That someone can do this is an effect of the technologies themselves. The reason sensory deprivation and electric stun technology seem debatable like foxhunting or chicken farming is because they leave no marks, and so the technique generates civic doubt. If these technologies left bloody scars on victims, perhaps democratic sensibilities would not condemn them. Public insensitivity no doubt exists; here it is simply not relevant to the question of torture. Similarly, people today do disagree regarding what kinds of practices are or are not humane. Indeed, our very concept of torture has been shaped by precisely these struggles, in which different groups have offered reasons for saying this is or is not torture. On this reasonable people may disagree. But that is not the kind of ambiguity that "psychological" torture produces. The critical point regarding torture today is not that ordinary people differ as to which different practices count as torture, but why they regard the same practice - electric stun technology - as torture or not depending on its civic use. The history of sensory deprivation is helpful because it does not suffer from the same kind of ambiguity. People can more easily condemn SD/PD techniques because it is not woven into the structure of their lives, because it has no civilian functions, because it does not serve multiple goals and interests. Its use is extraordinary. Electric stun technology, however, is woven into the fabric of civic order itself, mediating perceptions of citizenship, and that is an extraordinary socio-technical achievement that passes as ordinary.


[1]Gabriel Lenz, Jay Bodzin and Gwyneth Troyer were immensely valuable in pulling together this complex tapestry of information. I am deeply indebted to their assistance.

[2]Steve Wright, "The New Trade in Technologies of Restraint and Electroshock," in A Glimpse of Hell, ed. Duncan Forrest (London: Amnesty International, 1996), pp. 137-152; Darius Rejali, "Electricity: The Global History of a Torture Technology" Connect (forthcoming June 2001); Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers: Electro-shock Torture and the Spread of Stun Technology (March 1997) ACT 40/01/97,

[3]Douglas Colligan, "The New Science of Torture," Science Digest (July 1976): 47-48; Tim Shallice, "The Ulster Depth Interrogation Techniques and Their Relation to Sensory Deprivation Research" Cognition (1972):385-405; John Sweeney, "UK Equips Torture," The Observer (1/13/91); Michael Evans, "The White Noise Torture Room," The Times (London: 6/19/99); Peter Archer, "Britain Turns Torture into Business" Press Association Newsfile (January 15, 1992).

[4]Colligan, 44-47; Robert H. Kirschner, "The Use of Drugs in Torture and Human Rights Abuses," The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology (December 1984): 313-315; Kathleen Auerhahn and Elizabeth Dermody Leonard, "Docile Bodies: Chemical Restraints and the Female Inmate Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (2000): 599-635.

[5]Amnesty International, Venezuela: The Eclipse of Human Rights (1993) AMR 53/07/93, p. 3

[6]U.S. Department of State, "Turkey Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1997" (The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, January 30, 1998); Amnesty International, "Turkey. The Alleged Torture of Cevat Soysal at National Intelligence Agency Headquarters, Ankara-" EUR 44/36/00 (July 2000).

[7]Amnesty International, Venezuela, p. 3; Amnesty International, Turkey: Walls of Glass (November 1992); EUR 44/75/92, pp. 6

[8] See Wright; and Yuval Ginbar, Routine Torture: Interrogation methods of the General Security Service (Jerusalem: B'Tselem, Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, 1998).

[9]Darius Rejali, Torture and Modernity: Self, Society and State in Modern Iran (Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994).

[10]Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers, p. 1.

[11]Wright, p. 140

[12]James Ron, "Varying Methods of State Violence." International Organization 51:2 (1997): 280.

[13]Ibid. See also Jackie Smith, "Transnational Organizations," Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict (San Diego: Academic Press, 1999), 3:591-602.

[14]Doug Cassel, "Enforcing the International Prohibition against Torture," (Paper presented at the Conference on Investigating and Combating Torture, University of Chicago, March 4-6, 1999). See also Eric Prokosch, "Amnesty International's Anti-torture Campaigns," in Forrest, p. 33.

[15]Peter Andreas, "The Rise of the American Crimefare State" World Policy Journal.(1997): 39

[16]Here, I follow Bruno Latour, Science in Action: How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987), pp. 103-177; Bruno Latour, Aramis or Love of Technology (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996).

[17]New York Times (May 4, 1963): A:1.

[18]Taylor Branch, Parting the Waters: America in the King Years: 1954-63 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1988), p. 764.

[19]In addition to Branch, see William A. Nunnelley, Bull Connor (Tuscaloosa: The University of Alabama Press, 1991); Lerone Bennet , Jr. What Manner of Man: A Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing, 1976)

[20]Lee E. Bains, Jr. "Birmingham 1963: Confrontation over Civil Rights" in Birmingham, Alabama, 1956-1963: The Black Struggle for Civil Rights, ed. David J. Garrow (Brooklyn, Carlson Publishing, 1989), pp. 151-291.

[21]Rex Applegate, "Riot Control: Army and National Guard Unprepared to Rule the Mob" Soldier of Fortune (1992): 92-93. See also

[22]Rex Applegate, "Nonlethal Police Weapons" Ordnance (1971): 64.

[23]Joseph Coates, Nonlethal Weapons for Use by US Law Enforcement Officers (Arlington, VA: Institute for Defense Analyses, November 1967), p. 47.

[24]Applegate, "Nonlethal Police Weapons," p. 64.

[25]Applegate, "Riot Control", p. 93.

[26]M.N. Robinson, C.G. Brooks, G.D. Renshaw, "Electric Shock Devices and their Effects on the Human Body," Medicine, Science and the Law (1990):299.

[27]Phyllis Croft, "Problems of Electrical Stunning," The Veterinary Record (1952): 255.

[28]Robinson et al, p. 299.

[29]Ronald N. Kornblum and Sara K. Reddy, "Effects of the Taser in Fatalities Involving Police Confrontation" Journal of Forensic Sciences Z (1991): 434-448.

[30]Gary J. Ordog, Jonathan Wasserberger, Theodore Schlafer, Subramiam Balasubramanium, "Electronic Gun (Taser) Injuries," Annals of Emergency Medicine, (January 1987). See also Eric M. Koscove, "The Taser Weapon: A New Emergency Medicine Problem, " Annals of Emergency Medicine (December 1985):1205-1208.

[31]Grafton H. Hull, Jr. and Joseph C. Frisbie, "The Stun Gun Debate: More Help than Hazard?" The Police Chief (February 1987): 46.

[32]Raab Selwyn, "Two More Officers Charged in Inquiry into Torture at a Queens Precinct" New York Times (April 25, 198): A:1; Anne Marie Cusac, "Shock Value: US Stun Devices Pose Human -Rights Risk," The Progressive, (September 1997): 28; Mark Ragan, "Stun Gun Sales Shock Lawmen," San Diego Union-Tribune (May 9, 1985): A-1.

[33]Anne-Marie Cusac, "Life in Prison -Stunning Technology" The Progressive (July 18, 1996):22.

[34]Ibid. See also Cusac, "Shock Value" p. 28; "Stun Gun- Police Feel a Backlash" US News and World Report (May 13, 1985):10; Ruth Marcus, "Controversy Accompanies Popularity of Cheal Electric Stun Guns," Washington Post (May 6, 1985): C1.

[35]Coates, p. 40.

[36]Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers, p. 9.

[37]See for example, Geoffrey York, "Study Finds Russian Police Use Torture Routinely," Globe and Mail. (November 10, 1999); Human Rights Watch, Confession at Any Cost (1999): 20-42; 54-78, 103-111; Louise I. Shelley, "Transnational Organized Crime: The New Authoritarianism" in The Illicit Global Economy and State Power, ed. Peter Andreas and Richard Friman (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlfield, 1999), p. 45; Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers, p. 8-9.


[39]Ordog et al, 76.


[41]Koscove, 1206.

[42]Hans Draminsky Petersen and Peter Jacobsen, "Life-Threatening Torture without Visible Marks," Scandinavian Journal of Social Medicine (1985): 88. See also Duncan Forrest, Bernard Knight, and Morris Tidball-Binz, "The Documentation of Torture" in Forrest, pp. 174-175.

[43]Cusac, "Life in Prison", p. 22.

[44] Shapiro was seriously wounded in a stabbing in Connecticut in 1994. Vivian Stern A Sin Against the Future: Imprisonment in the World. (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1998), p. 307.

[45]Soviet diplomat Ilya Ehrenburg, cited in Modris Eksteins, The Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1989), p. 254

[46]Eksteins, p. 213, 228, 254. For comparable symptoms in survivors of torture, see Anne Goldfeld, Richard F. Mollica, Barbar Pesavento, Stephen V. Faraone, "The Physical and Psychological Sequelae of Torture: Symptomatology and Diagonsis", Journal of the American Medical Association (May 13, 1988):2727.

[47]Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 218, n.53

[48]Page duBois, Torture and Truth (New York: Routledge, 1991), p. 63. See also Virginia Hunter, Policing Athens: Social Control in Attic Lawsuits, 420-320 B.C. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), pp. 70-96.

[49]John Simkin, Slave Branding. 1997. Available at : (1 December 2000).

[50]William Greer, "Turmoil in Troubled Precinct Centers on 'The Strip'" New York Times (April 26, 1985): B:1.


[52]"Brutality Charges Strain Bond of Trust; A Queens Neighborhood Divided," Associated Press (April 28, 1985): A66.

[53]Talal Asad, "On Torture, or Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment," in Social Suffering, ed. Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, and Margaret Lock (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), pp. 297.

[54]Notably in Renaissance republics and East Asian Democracies. For the first, see Kenneth Pennington, The Prince and the Law, 1200-1600: Sovereignty and Rights in the Western Legal Tradition (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 42-44, 157-160; Philip Jones, The Italian City-State: From Commune to Signoria (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), pp. 377-380. For an example of the latter see, Igarishi Futaba, "Forced to Confess" in Democracy in Contemporary Japan, ed. G. McCormack and Y. Sugimoto (Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe), pp. 201-211.

[55]Notably France in Algeria, United States in Vietnam, United Kingdom in Northern Ireland, Spain in the Basque region, Israel on the West-Bank and Lebanon, India in the Punjab and Kashmir, and Turkey in the Kurdish regions. See, Pierre Vidal Naquet, Torture (Baltimore: Penguin, 1963); Malcolm D. Evans and Rod Morgan, Preventing Torture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), pp. 26-61; Alistair Horne, A Savage War of Peace (New York: Viking Press, 1977); Mark Lane, Conversations with Americans (New York: Simon & Shuster, 1970); Hylah M. Jacques, "Spain: Systematic Torture in a Democratic State," Monthly Review (November 1985): 57-62; Amnesty International, India: Human Rights Violations in the Punjab, (May 1991), ASA 20/11/91; Amnesty International, Turkey: Torture, Extrajudicial Executions, "Disappearances" (May 1992) EUR 44/39/92

[56]See York; Paul Chevigny, "Changing Control of Police Violence in Rio De Janiero and Sao Paulo, Brazil," in Policing Change, Changing Police: International Perspectives, ed. Otwin Marenin (New York: Garland Publishing, 1996); Human Rights Watch, Confession at Any Cost (1999); Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers, pp. 7-11; Amnesty International, Greece: Torture and Ill Treatment (1992) EUR 25/06/92; Amnesty International, Concerns in Europe (June 1993) EUR 01/01/93, pp. 4, 12, 15-16; Amnesty International, Venezuela.

[57]Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985).

[58]Veena Das, "Language and Body: Transactions in the Construction of Pain," in Kleinman, Das and Lock, p. 88.

[59]Scarry, p. 50.

[60]Ruth Marcus, "Controversy Accompanies Popularity of Cheap Electric Stun Guns," Washington Post (May 6, 1985), C1. See also Mark Ragan, "Stun Gun Sales Shock Lawmen" The San Diego Union-Tribune (May 9, 1985): A-1.

[61]Richard Green, "Non-Lethal Gun Marketed for Citizen Self-Protection," The News-Times (June 3, 1996).

[62]Scott Armstrong, "Stun Guns Getting More Popular and Controversial," Christian Science Monitory (May 16, 1985):23.

[63]Cusac, "Shock Value," p. 2

[64]Carolyn Marvin, When Old Technologies Were New (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 149.

[65]Ibid., p. 150.

[66]Stanley Milgram, "Behavioral Study of Obedience" Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology (1963): 371-8.

[67]Coates, p. 15; See also Hull and Frisbie, p. 46.

[68]Ibid., p. 139.

[69]"Self-Defense is Topic" San Diego Union-Tribune (May 15, 1985):B-3.

[70]Marvin Zuckerman, "Variables Affecting Deprivation Results" in Sensory Deprivation: Fifteen Years of Research, ed. John P. Zubek (New York: Meredith Corporation, 1969), p. 51.

[71]John P. Zubek, "Sensory and Perceptual Motor Process," in Zubek, p. 232; also John P. Zubek, "Physiological and Biochemical Effects," in Zubek, p. 287.

[72]See John Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate (New York: Times Books, 1979), pp. 143-144. In fact, the effects of SD and PD are muddied by the fact that they always occur under conditions of confinement and social isolation, which brings in additional variables. See Peter Suedfeld, "Introduction and Historical Background," in Zubek, pp. 6-8

[73]A. Michael Rossi, "General Methodological Considerations," in Zubek, p. 41.

[74]Peter Suedfeld, "Changes in Intellectual Performance and in Susceptibility to Influence," in Zubek, p. 156.


[76]For many authoritarian states, public confession of this sort was the main context for using stealth tortures. See Ervand Abrahamian, Tortured Confessions: Prisons and Public Recantations in Modern Iran (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1999).

[77]See Ashcraft v. Tennessee (1943); Chambers v. Florida 1939; Brown v. Mississipi (1935).

[78]Ibid. p. 157

[79]John McGuffin, The Guineapigs (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin Books, 1974), 13-16.

[80]Colligan, p. 48. Lee Hockstader, "Israel's Court Bars Abuse of Detainees," Washington Post (September 7, 1999): A1

[81]See Evans and Sweeney n. 3 supra.

[82]Forrest, 112.

[83]The history of both of these devices is covered in Darius Rejali, "Electricity: The Global History of a Torture Technology". On the picana electrica see, Roberto Estrella, Tortura (Tucuman, Ediciones "Dos-Ve", 1956); Raul Lamas Los Toturadores (Buenos Aires: Editorial Lamas, 1956); Ricardo Molas, Historia de la Tortura (Buenos Aires: Editorial Universitaria de Bueonas Aires, 1984). On the ECT, see Ugo Cerletti, "Old and New Information About ElectroShock," The American Journal of Psychiatry 107 (1955): 87-94. The CIA's limited use of the ECT device is documented in Marks, The Search for the Manchurian Candidate and Gordon Thomas, Journey into Madness (New York: Bantam, 1989).

[84] Gotz Aly, "Pure and Tainted Progress," in Cleansing the Fatherland: Nazi Medicine and Racial Hygiene, ed. Gotz Aly, Peter Chroust and Christian Pross; trans. Belinda Cooper (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, 1994), p. 204-205; Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (New York: Basic Books: 1986), pp. 298-299.

[85]On Soviet practice, see Harvey Fireside, Soviet Psychoprisons (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 149. On the Gestapo, see Ingo Muller, Hitler's Justice: The Courts in the Third Reich (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991) pp. 178-181, Jan Valtin, Out of the Night (New York: Alliance Book Corporation, 1941; 496-571; Fabion von Schlabrendorf, The Secret War Against Hitler (New York: Pitman Publishers, 1965), p. 312; Terrence Prittie, ed., Germans against Hitler (Boston: Little Brown, 1964), pp. 170-5, 188-93; Peter Hoffman, The History of the German Resistance, 1933-1945 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977), pp. 520-523; David Lampe, The Danish Resistance (New York: Ballantine Books, 1957); Harold Flender, Rescue in Denmark (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1963), p.228-9; Tore Gjelsvik, Norweigian Resistance 1940-1945 (Montreal, McGill-Queens, 1979), pp. 144-5; Government of Norway, The Gestapo at Work in Norway (Montreal: Royal Nowegian Government's Information Office, 1942), pp. 15-28; Jean Amery, At the Minds Limit's: Contemplation's by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (Bloomington, IN: University of Indiana Press, 1980), pp. 21-40. Only French collaborateurs of the Gestapo, the so called "French Gestapo" were inventive enough to think of electric torture, and their particular techniques are not reproduced by others after the war. See Jacques Delarue, History of the Gestapo (London: McDonald 1964), pp. 230, 254-5; Phillippe Aziz, Au Service de L'Ennemi: La gestapo francaise en Pronvince (1972), pp. 14-15; 51, 53, 58, 160; Marcel Hasquenoph, La Gestapo en France (Paris: De Vecchi Pochre, 1987), pp. 138; 156; 225; 232; 337, 515-7.

[86]Helge Kragh, "Telephone Technology and Its Interaction with Science and the Military, CA. 1900-1930" in National Military Establishments and the Advancement of Science and Technology, ed. P. Forman and J. M. Sanchez-Ron (Netherlands: Kluewer Academic Publishers, 1996), pp. 37-67; US War Department, Handbook on German Military Forces (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1990), pp. 435-461.

[87]See Vidal Naquet; and Andree Viollis, Indochine S.O.S. (Paris: Gallimard, 1935)

[88]See Lane, pp. 27-30; 85, 115-116, 121, 146-161, 197, 216-217.

[89]Ron; Rejali, "Electricity"; and Robert H. Kirschner, "Forensic Documentation of Human Rights Abuses: New Challenges, New Methodologies, " (Paper presented at the Conference on Investigating and Combating Torture, University of Chicago, March 4-6, 1999)

[90]Steve Wright, "The New Trade in Technologies"; SIPRI, Anti-Personnel Weapons (London: Taylor and Francis, 1978); Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers (March 1997); Michael Klare and Cynthia Arnson, Supplying Repression: U.S> Support for Authoritarian Regimes Abroad, with Delia Miller and Daniel Volman (Washington, D.C.: Institute for Policy Studies, 1981); "An Appraisal of Technologies of Political Control." A Working document of European Parliament ( January 1998), online: internet (29 Nov. 2000); available:

[91]Palden Gyatso with Tsering Shkya, The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk (New York: Grove Press, 1997), pp. 195-196, 215, 227. His photo with the instruments appears on the cover of Amnesty International, Arming the Torturers.

[92]See Clifford Shearing, "The Relation Between Public and Private Policing" in Modern Policing, ed. Michael Tonry and Norval Morris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Clifford Shearing, "Reinventing Policing: Policing as Governance," in Policing Change, Changing Police: International Perspectives, ed. Otwin Marenin (New York: Garland Publishing 1996); Martha K. Huggins, Political Policing: The United States and Latin America. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), pp. 161-187; Martha Huggins, ed. Vigilantism and the State in Modern Latin America: Essays on Extralegal Violence (New York: Praeger, 1991); Mike Davis, City of Quartz: Excavating the Future in Los Angeles (New York: Vintage Books, 1992), p. 250; Louise I. Shelley, "Transnational Organized Crime: The New Authoritarianism" in Andreas and Friman, p. 45.

[93]Asad, p. 297.


[95]Ibid, 297, 299.

[96]Ibid., 299

[97]For the distinction between legal and sentimental torture, see Edward Peters, Torture, 2nd ed. (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 1996), p. 4