An Associated Press wire report getting widespread publication today says that the Mumbai police have determined that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, planned the July train bombings and had them executed by members of Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). The police were forthright about their methods:
Mumbai police Commissioner A.N. Roy said an intensive investigation that included using truth serum on suspects revealed that Pakistan’s top spy agency had “masterminded” the bombings.
Roy said Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, began planning the attacks in March and later provided training to those who carried out the bombings in Bahawalpur, Pakistan.
“The terror plot was ISI sponsored and executed by Lashkar-e-Tayyaba operatives with help from the Students Islamic Movement of India,” Roy said at a news conference to announce the completion of the investigation. (…)
Police cracked the case after tracking down a suspicious call from Mumbai to the Nepal border region, Roy said. There they picked up one of the suspects, who led them to others.
However, Roy said that many of the suspects had been trained to resist interrogation and only the use of truth serum helped tie loose ends together.
I sure hope that none of the suspects were picked up by mistake, because it must have gotten very ugly indeed in that interrogation room. As for this “truth serum,” it may ring a bell — it was one of the “methods” discussed in the first wave of pro-torture proposals immediately after September 11. Here’s what Slate’s “Explainer” feature clarified at the time:
(…) Does truth serum work?
Not in the sense that it makes people tell the truth. So-called truth serums lower your inhibitions, and as a result you may become chattier but not necessarily more truthful. Losing your inhibitions isn’t the same as losing your self-control. Subjects who have been administered a “truth serum” can lie, they can fantasize, and they can be manipulated into telling falsehoods by an interviewer’s suggestions and cues.
Barbiturates such as scopolamine, sodium amytal, and sodium pentothal were first touted as truth serums in the early 20th century. Because they inhibit control of the central nervous system, truth serums were supposed to induce a hypnotic “twilight” state that elicited a mechanical recitation of truth. In reality, though, the only good truth serums are found in bad science fiction.
Researchers could have found a much older (and equally unreliable) claim of truth-telling for a similar drug in the old phrase in vino veritas. As Lindsey vs. United States, a 1956 federal appeals court decision, found, “The intravenous injection of a drug by a physician in a hospital may appear more scientific than the drinking of large amounts of bourbon in a tavern, but the end result displayed in the subject’s speech may be no more reliable.” (…)
The Supreme Court decided in 1963 that a truth serum-induced confession was unconstitutionally coerced. More recently, state courts have found truth serum-induced testimony to be scientifically unreliable and inadmissible.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the ISI did have a role in the bombings; it certainly wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case. But unless some other, more credible seam of evidence comes to light, the police have made it easy for Pakistan to deny the accusation.
[Also in the news today, Russia is increasingly reverting to the old Soviet-era method of repressing dissentors by incarcerating them in psychiatric facilities, where they are subjected to daily regimens of drugs and injections. Lovely.]