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. There was an addendum from the link.

    Explainer addendum: Just because the Supreme Court rejected the use of truth serum in the past doesn’t mean it will in the future. As Explainer pointed out recently, the Supreme Court wrote in June that terrorism may require “heightened deference to the judgments of the political branches with respect to matters of national security.” So the former FBI official quoted by the Post could be right that “you could reach a point where they allow us to apply drugs to a guy.” But that doesn’t mean that applying drugs to a guy would necessarily do any good.
  2. Now even if they have the most credible of evidences, then what? Will Pakistan disarm the ISI? Will the International community get Pakistan to cease and desist. Will India use this to attack Pakistan? None of this will happen, as has been shown in the past !

  3. O’YBBB -

    India should seriously consider curbing Pakistan’s water supply, most of which emanates from rivers originating in India.

  4. Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories has been working on a more accurate technology for interrogation:

    Brain Fingerprinting technology is based on the principle that the brain is central to all human acts. In a terrorist act, there may or may not be peripheral evidence such as fingerprints or DNA, but the brain of the perpetrator is always there, planning, executing, and recording the crime. The terrorist has knowledge of organizations, training and plans that an innocent person does not have. Until the invention of Brain Fingerprinting testing, there was no scientific way to detect this fundamental difference. Brain Fingerprinting testing provides an accurate, economical and timely solution to the central problem in the fight against terrorism. It is now possible to determine scientifically whether or not a person has terrorist training and knowledge of terrorist activities. link
  5. This is outrageous, talks of disarming, curbing water supply and such. I think not enough scrutiny has been given to the possibility that a team of swedish gymnasts had infiltrated mumbai’s underground, studied the signatures and MO of our peace lovers to the northwest, and cleanly executed the train bombings. Let’s be reasonable and exhaust all plausible cases before jumping to delusions of grandeur, how bout that, hmm?

  6. India should seriously consider curbing Pakistan’s water supply, most of which emanates from rivers originating in India.

    So I guess you actually want a nuclear holocaust, eh?

  7. India should seriously consider curbing Pakistan’s water supply, most of which emanates from rivers originating in India.

    Why don’t people get banned for writing comments like this?

  8. ‘India should seriously consider curbing Pakistan’s water supply, most of which emanates from rivers originating in India.

    Why don’t people get banned for writing comments like this?’

    I knew Kritic’s comments would provoke many here. It was predictable. However before rushing to condemn him you should have known that this tactic has been used throughout history to wring concessions from the other party. It took an internecine twist when when Tamil Nadu had curbed Karnataka’s water supply in India. Noone has ever died of thirst leave alone a nuclear holocaust.

  9. I think not enough scrutiny has been given to the possibility that a team of swedish gymnasts

    LOL.. you think they’d be members of the “Hare krishna movement”, part of the evil Hindutva brigade..

  10. O’YBBB - India should seriously consider curbing Pakistan’s water supply, most of which emanates from rivers originating in India.

    this will generate intl opposition – instead, just give them water from the polluted rivers ???!!!!

    http://www.sepiamutiny.com/sepia/archives/003826.html

    But unless some other, more credible seam of evidence comes to light, the police have made it easy for Pakistan to deny the accusation

    more credible seam of evidence?!

    are the indian police going to come out and say that the information they gathered was from torturing the suspects? doesnt info garnered from such means give all the more reason for pakis to deny the accusation?

    any one who beleieves that just truth serum was the only means used to gather info is absurdly naive

    simple fact is that no matter what you use – torture or truth serum, the info you gain is never 100% sure – the suspect might just be caving in

    so yeah, the truth serum thing is not a bad justification at all

  11. About a month back we saw on TV screens in India Abdul Karim Telgi being administered the Truth Serum in which he implicated Sharad Pawar the Maharashtra cheiftan amongst a host of other politicos. What ever I saw on TV does not make for a good viewing at all. Telgi was totally drugged out, groggy and slurring very badly while answering the questions. While i do not know how effective it is in getting a person to spill the beans, it was not pretty to watch for sure.

    It was ironic that all the politicos implicated during the administration of that particular test were very sceptical about it and also were questioning its effectiveness. It will be interesting to go back to those same politicos for their opiniions in this case. I just hope the cops have done their spadework in a proper fashion and have not just relied on these tests to make their case.

  12. So-called truth serums lower your inhibitions, and as a result you may become chattier but not necessarily more truthful

    oh btw, if thats the case just give them some alcohol… cause for many people alcohol produces the same effect

  13. jilted_manhood on September 30, 2006 01:15 PM ·

    It took an internecine twist when when Tamil Nadu had curbed Karnataka’s water supply in India.


    With my limited knowledge of geography i doubt Tamil Nadu can curb water supply to Karnataka, with Karnataka being upper riparian state. The only way it can curb water supply to karnataka is by somehow getting it to open the gates to their own dams.

  14. Ghazali – “Why don’t people get banned for writing comments like this?”

    Why stop at banning? Why not demand a beheading?

    Jokes aside, the water curbing has been considered by some very senior foreign policy analysts types in the past…..as an alternative to a full fledged invasion of Pakistan.

    Sriram – “So I guess you actually want a nuclear holocaust, eh?”

    Paksitani elites are not quite as fond of martyrdom, as they would have you believe. So, all this talk of a nuke exchange is a bunch of hooey.

  15. …………LOL.. you think they’d be members of the “Hare krishna movement”, part of the evil Hindutva brigade..

    …………………..

    I think most Hare Krishnas would not like to be lumped in with the “hindutva brigade”.

    However, there are still some people in India who think they are spies for the CIA.

  16. Now that Congress has suspended habeas corpus for all foreign nations in the US (including green card holders) there is no need to administer truth serum in the US as you can just lock them up and throw away the key till the war on terror is over.

  17. I am totally supporting the “Get Wasted for Truth” movement. Screw injections and nasty back-room interrogations; let’s have India and Pakistan ask each other embarassing questions in a bar. It’ll be like a speed-dating thing, only I guess this would be more like a divorced couple actually running into each other at a speed-dating thing, and maybe one of them throws a fork at the other one and…crap, this metaphor isn’t really working so well.

  18. 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.

    Unfortunately I’d not be very surprised if a few of them were actually innocent. Also truth serum was probably the least objectionable of all the techniques applied. The Indian police is certainly not known for its gentle touch :( .

  19. It took an internecine twist when when Tamil Nadu had curbed Karnataka’s water supply in India

    Not to threadjack or anything, but a small correction to jilted_manhood’s post… Kool’s right. Tamil Nadu had a problem with Karnataka not releasing enough water from the Cauvery river, which flows through Karnataka into TN

  20. Great job guys! Continue bitching about the cops who put their lives on the wire for their work and investigation. Could they do anything to win your respect?

  21. Could they do anything to win your respect?

    I will only reveal what they could do to win my respect if they inject me with truth serum.

  22. Even if it is proved beyond doubt, will it change anything? We keep having talks with Pakistan and they keep doing this all the time. When we are not ready to take any action, how does it matter anyway. Even in my latest post on Munabhai, I have said that Gandhigiri has notand will not work with Pakistan.

  23. Hiren – I agree. For some reason, Marie (Guillotine) Antoinette comes to mind, when I imagine the reaction “Gandhigiri” would have evinced, If it were, circa 21st century, Islamic Fundamentalists instead of the British, who Mohandas was confronting.

    Btw, it is quite ironic to see sanjay dutt, who was involved in the 93 bomb blasts and is in bed with with some very unsavory mafia characters, do a film with gandhian overtones.

    p.s. yes, i remember that he was killed by godse, a hindu fundamentalist

  24. One thing India needs to do is get its act together in police and intelligence matters and work towards acquiring the sort of credibility that would give their claims credence. One case that comes to mind is the cricket match fixing scandal involving high profile Indian as well as South African cricketers. A lot of people started to pooh pooh Delhi police’s claims before they produced tapes of phone conversations in public. Terrorism is an altogether different kettle and the operators are much more sophisticated than naive cricketers, but evidence would shut up all those who doubt the role some people from Pakistan play in our affairs.

    I do understand why some people would never be convinced. Their ‘strategic’ concerns are of course more paramount than Indian lives.

  25. Its not a new thing to see quite a few condescending comments on either the Indian legal system or the police, but 187 indians were murdered 2 months ago as they returned home from work, the govt showed immense restraint in its reaction and did not jump the gun in blaming Pakistan officially. Infact the PM met with Musharraf despite the opposition back home. And now when they have finally taken their time and found a direct link to Pakistan, people will still find problems with that. Give them a break, everyone uses strong arm methods these days, no ones a saint.

    Also, Lets be honest, even if Pakistan wasn’t directly involved, it is always indirectly involved in terror attacks in India and anyone who would dispute that really needs a reality check. I honestly dread the day when another such attack might take place, and the public opinion in India will not let the govt show restraint anymore.

  26. The use of Sodium Pentathol is something that is barbaric and is akin to torture. This is something that is becoming more and more fashionable to be used. The evidence gathered from sodium pentathol cannot be used in court. Then what is the reason to carry out these kind of barbaric practices.

  27. Siddhartha,

    Your point is using the truth serum makes it easy for Pakistan to deny it’s hand.

    Let’s set aside “truth serum”, arguably an imperfect investigation tool. Let’s ask this question — what is the sort of evidence that would cause Pakistan not to deny its hand?

    Hmm. That’s a tough one.

    The point is simply this: don’t waste time convincing Pakistan, or for that matter the United States, or Britain or BBC or CNN etc. Talk about evidence is meaningless in such contexts.

  28. Typical intelligent response from Sidharth.

    Thanks Manu. I’ll take that as a compliment. Loved your Laws, by the way.

    Read this to learn more about the investigation. It wasn’t merely truth by injection, as you insinuate: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1809909,001302390000.htm

    “Insinuate,” whatever. You completely missed my point. I specifically said that I would not be surprised if the ISI were in fact behind this. My point was about methods and their ethics and credibility.

  29. I really don’t know what to feel now. If pakistan is involved, seemed to me as a foregone conclusion even immediately after the blast, what can be done to prevent further such attacks. It is such a pointless argument to sit here and talk about the right and wrong way to interrogate terrorists. These ppl are infact suspected terrorists. The sad part is that there would be some diplomatic manuvering for a while and then everyone(except the families of the victims) will forget about it. Then two/three years from now there will be some more bombs will go off with more ppl killed. Indian government for its part is probably the most spineless group even if they maintain that they have one of the strongest army in the world. The strength of a conventional army is useless against an enemy using covert inconventional operations on a regular basis. So what can we do about it? talk about it.. discuss about it… forget about it. Something thats been done quite well.. to the tune of 70000 ppl killed? or so thats what i heard.

  30. methods and their ethics and credibility.

    Very true.. but what can be the right method. How do you ethically get about getting a confession from some one who feels they have a higher purpose? It is easy to say that using truth serum is wrong(which it is in most cases) or ineffecient(which again.. no arguing that). But what are some alternate methods? I can’t comeup with a short term answer to it.

  31. Jatin -

    “but 187 indians were murdered 2 months ago as they returned home”

    Exactly. Indians, were murdered. Now, If, Americans or Europeans were killed…then it would be a different story. Or, even, if it were Lebanese, Palestinians..then maybe. But, Indians and that too Gujaratis….get real!

  32. But, Indians and that too Gujaratis….get real!

    Are you implying that Indians value Gujarati lives less than the lives of other Indians?

  33. Are you implying that Indians value Gujarati lives less than the lives of other Indians

    The implication is that indian life is somewhat less valued by the world? well if indians don’t value their own life, the world can care less. the palestinian, lebanese and the rest trumpet their cause and protest and let their voice be heard everywhere in the world. the bombs went off and not a peep from the indian community in America or the rest of the world. Thats the fundamental difference.

  34. Unfortunately I’d not be very surprised if a few of them were actually innocent. Also truth serum was probably the least objectionable of all the techniques applied. The Indian police is certainly not known for its gentle touch :( .

    I think Afzal is innocent too, but the hanud POTA court sentenced him to martyrdom :( All of tht just for attackng the Indian parliament. Lets light a candle near wagah and shed a tear on Gandhi jayanti, or better watch a Mahesh Bhatt movie together. Its time to jhappi-pappi with the victims of hanud state terrorism across the border and not lay blame on them for reacting to it. How sadistic. And to the poster who suggested use of alcohol on holy warriors, fatwa be upon you, sodium pentathol with rooh afza would be secular. Next time please have sensitivities of minorities in mind while pub hopping or atleast don’t utter its name on eve of Bapu’s birthday. Vande Mataram

  35. Umm…

    This is rapidly moving away from the point and back to one of those tired-but-ubiquitous “India is great, India never reacts poorly, Pakistan is to blame, the terrorist and the whole world hate Indians” kind of threads that makes me want to hang myself / go postal / read a different thread. But I won’t, out of sheer spite and orneriness. So there. Well, I won’t on options 1 and 3. Option 2 is still open.

    And WHAT is the weird fascination with somehow punishing Pakistan by repealing the Indus Waters Treaty? Thanks, SenaX, for beating me to linking to the other thread.

    I do think the original discussion regarding sodium pentothal and other “truth serums” was interesting. I will attempt to steer back in that direction.

    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.

    Equally telling, the American and Israeli intelligence services, who are frequently far more concerned with pragmatism than lofty ideas of constitutionality and the like, officially dispensed with using sodium pentothal a while back (no thanks to Bill Webster). And delving into the history of these drugs illustrates pretty quickly how ugly and…immoral…the processes were that led to the development of some of the drug-related techniques. For instance, the CIA apparently used to give suspects large doses of LSD, got them tripping out of their skulls, and then threatened to keep them in that state until they divulged information. And sometimes they apparently kept their word, too.

    I can only imagine the horror of being kept on LSD for three days straight in an interrogation-style setting. Offical Army documents frequently described individuals as “wishing they could die,” and subjecting themselves to self-mutilation even when restrained, by banging their heads against tables, walls, the floor, etc.

    The thing is, the CIA actually has a good grip on how to coerce information now, thanks to a huge project undertaken in the 1950′s and early 1960′s. The most effective, dependable, and reliable methods they found were somewhat elaborate and took special care to institute correctly, but worked pretty well overall. They involved sensory deprivation and what they eupehmistally call “self-inflicted pain.” The first involves total removal of sensory stimulus, which sounds benign, but results in breakdown (and sometimes even psychosis!) after 24-48 hours in most people. The second involves what you see in the pictures from Abu Ghraib: people forced to assume difficult positions for long periods of time (arms out, standing on a box, etc) while telling them “you can make this end at any time by cooperating.”

    Back to the drugs, there were rumors of a cannabis-derived truth serum developed back during Vietnam whose descendants may still be in use today in limited fashion in American intelligence agencies. But sodium pentothal and LSD and the like are still not used offically.

    Some of the stranger uses of truth serums

    And oh man, Siddartha:

    Thanks Manu. I’ll take that as a compliment. Loved your Laws, by the way.

    hahahahaha! That wins my Snark Sniper Award for the day. Pure gold.

  36. Whoops, I had a whole paragraph in there about “some of the stranger uses of serums,” but not sure what happened to it. Eh, I sound pedantic enough. Some other time.

  37. Jatin - “but 187 indians were murdered 2 months ago as they returned home” Exactly. Indians, were murdered. Now, If, Americans or Europeans were killed…then it would be a different story.

    Please don’t try and demoralise us. We Mumbaians triumphed over terrorism by dying in numbers and showng up in the same trains the next day, didn’t the bearded head Bong of New Delhi Television speak so for us? Sure you didnt miss the skullcap plus tilak jai hind buddies singing patriotic choir melody like those Karan Johar movies? Midday thinks it could have been Narendra Modi, who came visiting, after all hes known to have burnt trains with Gujaratis before to lay blame on, you know, Ishrat Jehans and they-who-shall-not-be-indicted. We brave Mumbaians dont need correctives, after all wev been bombed before and the Dons are trippin’ on life or getting election tickets for Mulayam’s party. When one cheek is lashed we must present the other, such is our philosophy of sado-masochistic love and mercantile unpredictability of our lives, we are after living in a city thats too busy and cudnt care less for terrorism, politics or our lives

    Extremists are all the same and if Balasahib can contest elections why block Abu Salem’s election ticket for Mulayam’s party. Stop being

  38. Gorbag – “Please don’t try and demoralise us. We Mumbaians triumphed over terrorism by dying in numbers and showng up in the same trains the next day.…”

    Maybe therein lies the problem.

  39. ‘Simple, logical steps helped crack 7/11′

    http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2062317.cms

    MUMBAI: “We had absolutely no clues after the 7/11 blasts but small, simple, logical steps helped us unravel the case,” Mumbai police commissioner A N Roy said on Sunday.

    The investigators got their first clue when telephone call analysis revealed that someone from Navi Mumbai was making four to five mobile-to-mobile calls a day to a place on the Bihar-Nepal border before and after the blasts on July 11.

    The man, Mumtaz Chaudhuri (32), an Arabic teacher in Ghansoli, Navi Mumbai, had no police record. He said he was speaking to his brother-in-law, Kamaal Ansari, a resident of Madhubani district in Bihar.

    It was only when the antecedents of Ansari were checked with the Intelligence Bureau (IB) that the police realised they had a proper lead. Ansari (36) was a known operative of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who had been to Pakistan for arms training. He had been arrested by the New Delhi police in 2002 for possessing an AK-47 rifle.

    Digging further into his past, the IB realised that Ansari’s real job was to escort Pakistani militants across the India-Nepal and India-Pakistan borders. …

  40. Guys

    Nitin’s riposte says it better than I could ever said…as always… http://acorn.nationalinterest.in/?p=2116\

    Not really much to write home about (literally)about SM and the direction it’s taken recently, or the quality of posts, except that my SM-envy continues to ebb by the day….slowly becoming less and less compelling by the day. Mr Vij’s absence is sorely felt….

  41. Not really much to write home about (literally)about SM and the direction it’s taken recently, or the quality of posts, except that my SM-envy continues to ebb by the day….slowly becoming less and less compelling by the day. Mr Vij’s absence is sorely felt….

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

    I am sure you have lovely things to say at your blog, but apparently very few people read it.

  42. my SM-envy continues to ebb by the day….slowly becoming less and less compelling by the day.

    You’re breaking my heart.

    Mr Vij’s absence is sorely felt….

    Allow me to direct you to his website, then. There. Don’t say we never did anything for you.

    Love and kisses, Rajni

  43. I don’t think Pakistanis much care about the Mumbai’s police’s Truth serum! The Indian gvt has about as much credibility in PK as North korea has in Alabama. (If Mumbai’s police has a truth serum, they should administer it to aspiring politicians!). The Pk gvt — won’t really care either. The main story these days is the General’s self-aggrandizing book.

    As for Manish — he was easily the most Indian nationalist of the SM bloggers. That may be your cup of chai, but its not mine.

  44. I don’t think Pakistanis much care about the Mumbai’s police’s Truth serum!

    Right, the same like they don’t care about Hamid Karzai’s report or the British MI6′s report or the NATO commanders in Afghanistan’s report.. It is no use trying to convince anyone.. Nothing works better than retaliation..

  45. What do you think India should do ?

    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..