Truth by Injection

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.]

70 thoughts on “Truth by Injection

  1. I think India should increase the cost for Pakistan. If Pakistan can exploit the Hindu-Muslim faultlines to explode bombs in commuter trains.., India could as well use the Shia – Sunni and other similar faultlines.. Heck they are exploding suicide bombers even without any nudge… Maybe a few pushes could help..

    If you could do it, would you do it? How would you go to sleep knowing that you were the reason for an attack on some innocent shia/sunni poor worshippers in a mosque etc.

    I have heard from Pakistanis that India is responsible for the bombings/attacks on Shias in Pakistan. I am yet to see any concrete evidence though. I have stopped following the India-Pakinstan issues primarily because of the fact that both nations have made a habit of blaming each other at the drop of a hat .

  2. I have stopped following the India-Pakinstan issues primarily because of the fact that both nations have made a habit of blaming each other at the drop of a hat

    I don’t think you can compare India and Pakistan when it comes to support for terrorism. If India blames Pakistan, it is for good reason. Pakistan’s support for terrorism in Afghanistan as well as India is probably the worst-kept secret ever.

  3. If you could do it, would you do it? How would you go to sleep knowing that you were the reason for an attack on some innocent shia/sunni poor worshippers in a mosque etc. I have heard from Pakistanis that India is responsible for the bombings/attacks on Shias in Pakistan. I am yet to see any concrete evidence though. I have stopped following the India-Pakinstan issues primarily because of the fact that both nations have made a habit of blaming each other at the drop of a hat

    You are asking an hypothetical question as if I have any power. Personally, I think I’d not kill an ant in the name of nationality / religion / anything.. But If I put myself in the shoes of an Indian official trying to prevent ‘terrorist’ attacks and knows that it is being planned in an enemy country, I’d like to increase the costs for the enemy and I’d definitely do it..

  4. Ponniyin wrote:

    think India should increase the cost for Pakistan … India could as well use the Shia – Sunni and other similar faultlines

    India doesn’t do this? What does Altaf Hussain do when he visits Delhi?

    Actually, this would be an ineffective strategy. Most Pakistanis believe India (RAW) is already responsible for the random bomb blasts that occur in Pakistan after a terrorist attack in India. If they actually don’t do this, and started tomorrow, it would only confirm what everyone already thinks.

    This is the popular perception

    Pakistan has accused RAW of sponsoring sabotage in Punjab, where RAW is alleged to have supported the Seraiki movement, providing financial support to promote its activities in Pakistan and organizing an International Seraiki Conference in Delhi in November-December 1993. RAW has an extensive network of agents and anti-government elements within Pakistan, including dissident elements from various sectarian and ethnic groups of Sindh and Punjab.

    There’s more — google RAW and Pakistan. Lots of conspiracy stuff, but not all. Happy researching.

  5. Actually, this would be an ineffective strategy. Most Pakistanis believe India (RAW) is already responsible for the random bomb blasts that occur in Pakistan after a terrorist attack in India.

    If RAW is doing this already, then that’s good. But I doubt if they have the power to send suicide bombers though.. Why do you think it’s ineffective. What is an effective strategy in your view??

  6. India produced a tape with Musharraf’s voice planning Kargil with a Pakistani general. Nothing came out of it. That is what will happen in this case.

    Not only is the police wasting its time, it is also spoiling its name by using less-than-straightforward methods to produce this evidence.

  7. Amfd – “What do you think India should do ?”

    If it were up to me and I knew only what I know now, which is, information gleaned from reading books and articles on Pakistan.

    I would try my best to solve the Kashmir imboglio, without Pakistan. Yes, it can be done.

    I would give increased autonomy to (Jammu and ) Kashmir and all other states.

    I would dedicate a great amount of effort to better the lot of India’s Muslims, who sadly, figure on the bottom of all developmental stats in India, which is shameful for a nation, that dares call itself secular.

    I would try my best to bring Indian Muslims under the purview of a uniform civil code.

    I would increase support for the Baloch nationalists, overt [diplomatic & increased media coverage) and covert( arms and training, via land and sea).

    I would increase support to Muhajir Quami Movement and begin to groom secessionist groups in Gilgit and Baltistan.

    I would mess with Pakistan’s water supply, by creatively interpreting the water treaty at first. In case of more bombs, India could back out of the treaty completely. And, withdraw the overflight and landing rights from Pakistani airlines.

    I would send a couple of battalions of highly trained troops to Afghanistan, ostensibly to “safeguard” Indian interests. Of course these “interests” would be close to the Pakistani border.

    All the above would be used with great caution. The aim, as Poonyin argued, is to increase the costs for Pakistan. Not to destabilize it.

  8. Gorbag

    The reason that Mumbaikars went back on the trains the next day is because they had no other option, they had to work to feed their families and themselves and the trains are the cheapest way of reaching their livelihoods.As far as Afzal he confessed on national television as to how he was involved int he Parliament attack. As much as i might despise Indian politicians, but i trust that they didnt just pick up a muslim off the street and label him a terrorist and condemned him to death. His case went all the way to the Supreme Court and i don’t doubt their verdict, a case in the Supreme Court of India goes through a fair process.

  9. “Here is something you can envy: Your traffic rank:303,140 Sepia Mutiny traffic rank: 34,543″

    Magazines like the National Enquirer routinely sell much more copies, than the Economist, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker combined. You guess the inference.

  10. What do you think India should do ?

    Very simple. Increase the stakes. Pak society has many more faultlines than India’s. The paramillitary resources of the state also cannot be stretched beyond a point. A blasphemous SMS and a holy book in dilapidated condition is all it wud take RAW to start a riot. Its a question just of politicl will

  11. As a Pakistani American, I’m horrified by the possibility that any Pakistanis were involved in the Mumbai bombings – I hope its not to true. Regardless, I hope the sponsors of the terrorists who did this are caught and punished (but that’s probably wishful thinking on our parts, no?)

    But something that scared me:

    I would increase support to Muhajir Quami Movement and begin to groom secessionist groups in Gilgit and Baltistan.

    Unless your aim is to incite more violence in Pakistan rather than foster any sort of movement that would urge the people of Pakistan to dig up the terrorists who commit these acts, by all means support MQM. I lived in Karachi for almost 10 years, starting in the ’90s when MQM rapidly turned into an out-of-control terrorist group. They tortured, maimed, and killed 1000s of people, including some ‘muhajirs’ (i.e. children of those who migrated to Pakistan at Partition). Its really scary to me that Altaf Hussain may have a following in India! And that people on this blog could/would support him. I can’t think of alot of Pakistani leaders I’d admire and stand behind BUT I do know that Altaf Hussain is probably one of the last I’d EVER consider supporting. Talk about a terrorist leader!

  12. I think it is unfortunate that this article focusses on the so called ‘truth serum”. Of course, the comments soon degenerated into a India/Pak war of words, so all’s well in the world!

    In context of your and some of your commenter’s condencesion about the Indian police etc, please know that statements made under the influence of drugs is not valid as evidence in a court of law in India. They are therefore used essentially as starting points by the police to gather information. Further, the process of such interrogation is also subject to judicial review .. the police usually needs to provide reasons to a judge about why they wish to do this… which is more than you can say about the US these days. The accused can object, and in some instances judges have refused to allow this kind of interogation, though usually it tends to be allowed.

    The process is also a little more evolved than injecting a syringe of sodium pentothal. It is a combination of drugs and brain signal mapping.

    Finally, to all the self-important critics of indian police actions out there, the next time someone talks in the western media about ‘recent instances of terrorism in our world’ listen closely. You will hear new york, london, madrid, even bali (many white tourists were killed). You will hardly hear mumbai or delhi or varanasi…

    Note that there is enuf evidence of the sorry state of the indian police today. However, that is no reason to for insinuations without clear evidence, or even a smoking gun, in this case, specially when, as a previous commenter pointed out, 188 people have died.

  13. “Here is something you can envy: Your traffic rank:303,140 Sepia Mutiny traffic rank: 34,543″ Magazines like the National Enquirer routinely sell much more copies, than the Economist, Foreign Affairs, Atlantic Monthly and the New Yorker combined. You guess the inference.

    So why do you waste your time reading us?

  14. I was once talking to a mid-level intelligence officer, I met at a marriage after a routine terror attack. The conversation went on predictable lines and I asked him why doesn’t RAW retaliate in Pak. He didn’t say a single word, but the smile/smirk on his face told the entire story. From what I gathered, Indian operations do not not deliberately aim for high casualties or use suicide bombers, not out of some goodness of heart, but because our strategy is different.
    B.Raman has repeatedly pointed towards successful covert operations in Pak during PVN regime, which helped India retain control over Kashmir when our position was very weak. They were scaled back after PVN and BJP supposed national security hawks refused to resume them.

  15. A. Syed -

    I have seen, no, suffered the likes of Altaf Hussain, too often in Kashmir. And, these murderers – Yasin Malik, Bitta Karate, Javed Mir, Syed Salahuddin, etc, have a very large following in Pakistan. Indeed, unlike Altaf, the above coterie enjoy VIP and Hero status in Pakistan. I would urge you to not take my word on this, instead research these names in your national press and then do the same in the Indian press for Altaf Hussain.

  16. Kritic -

    I’ve never heard of any of the men you’re mentioning – which isn’t necessarily saying a WHOLE lot, even though I consider myself a pretty well-informed Pakistani.

    Do we have to support any of them? I’m just so tired of our so-called heros/leaders. I don’t support Yasin Malik, Bitta Karate, Javed Mir, Syed Salahuddin, etc (and, if they are as you claim murders I’ll condemn them not hero-worship them – forgive me if I don’t take your word for it, I’ll need to do some research on who they are) and I guess I’m just hoping that educated and well-informed individuals will know better than to support Altaf Hussain and his ilk. I just wanted to make what he’s done known.

    And as for Kashmir – I’m all for Kashmiris to determine their own destiny (don’t want anyone to think I’m a Kashmir-for-Pakistan supporter)

    Peace

  17. Dear Sir,

    Assalam o alaikum

    I am Ghayas uddin Shanu living in Karachi A journalist and a Researcher.Since a long time i have been Searching Future Techniques to do something for our world and get latest knowledge and techniques to provide all needful assistance to our world according to the Modern Aspects of Today’s World.I have Proud Research On Natural Brain Response called P300/Mermer (Memory Encoding Related Multifaceted Electroencephalographic Response) It is Well Known in All Scientific Community .America and India is using it in Forensic Investigation and in Hi profile Cases.This Natural Brain Response is Discovered before 20 years.First Time One American Scientist Dr,Lawrence Far well has used this Natural Brain Response in Criminal Investigation As Brain Finger Printing USA FBI,CIA and American Navy Military is using Far well’s technique to detect how deep knowledge is stored in their Recruits about War operations.In Criminal Investigations this technique has given 100% accurate results for conviction of a Serial Killer James B Grinder and also this technique has help to get freedom of one Innocent person Terry Harrington who have been Sentenced to Death.This technique has won Global Security Challenge Award 2008 in London.Now India Has become World’s 2nd Country to use this technique in Hi profile Cases and in White Coller Crimes.

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    With Best Regards

    Ghays Uddin Shanu

    Sense World Research Laboratories

    Cell # 03122522106