And that is why you should never collaborate with (or trust) the system. They aren't interested in what's good for you, they are interested in what's good for themselves: finding someone to convict and thereby pushing their yearly evaluation into the positives.
Very true, but then that's why the aversarial justice system is so important. It's ok for prosecutors and police to use every means legally at their disposal to try and prove someone guilty, as long as that person has an independent advocate with sufficient authority to protect the accused and challenge the prosecution case.
The problem here is that the way these people were treated was perfectly legal and even morally acceptable at the time. Clearly lengthy unecessary periods of solitary confinement, drugs and agressive interrogation without an advocate present should be completely unacceptable. They even used simulated drowning. The paraelells to Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the treatment of Bradley Manning and CIA waterboarding are stark. It's pretty clear that these kind of abuses simply do not work.
People subjected to these treatments will say, and even come to believe absolutely anything, so any information that comes out of such processes is worthless. That's completely aside from the deep immorality of using such techniques in the first place. ALl it does is provides moral cover and justification for oppressive regimes to use such techniques completely indiscriminately.
I don't necessarily agree with that. The defense should be using every means available, the prosecution should restrict themselves to things that get at the truth. As extreme examples, presenting fabricated evidence or withholding exculpatory evidence would clearly be unacceptable even if laws were changed to allow it. I am not remotely confident that laws proscribe everything they should proscribe.
LOL, that is the standard in much of Europe today. That is of course not incongruent with what you said - it just nuances your 'at the time'.
For example, it doesn't matter if a person keeps on outputting contradictory claims of reality. What matters is if this person can produce evidence of novel knowledge. And of course even if someone delivered information in a non-tortuous interrogation, any government would fact-check.
I also don't believe it's very easy to confuse someone's existing memories. I don't think I can simply torture somebody, with professionals and equipment at my disposal, and cause discrete changes in beliefs ("My real name is Reek!").
These world governments no doubt have data on varying techniques of torture, and I have no doubt there has been a very long race, begun awhile ago, to map out the theory of torture, and I think it is a bit preliminary to say that torture doesn't work until we get a hold of some systematically collected data.
Except that in most cases you can't distinguish novel knowledge from made-up bullshit with real certainty. If you could, you wouldn't have to torture them. And don't bother dredging up contrived ticking-bomb scenarios where it's different - yes, they exist, but they are anything but common and even then often not clear cut.
And that's not even touching on the fact that you almost never have 100% certainty that the suspect actually knows what you want them to tell you at all.
> And of course even if someone delivered information in a non-tortuous interrogation, any government would fact-check.
No. Most of them wouldn't, when they've just been told what they wanted to hear. Or (worst but common case) they'll fact-check by arresting the people the victim just named and torturing them as well.
> I also don't believe it's very easy to confuse someone's existing memories.
Your belief is utterly wrong. Read the goddamn article. And that wasn't even using physical torture. Heck, people's memory often enough get confused all of their own. People suck at remembering events clearly.
> These world governments no doubt have data on varying techniques of torture, and I have no doubt there has been a very long race, begun awhile ago, to map out the theory of torture, and I think it is a bit preliminary to say that torture doesn't work until we get a hold of some systematically collected data.
Hopefully that will never happen (it pretty definitely hasn't happend so far; some of the Nazi medical experiments may have come close but had a different focus), the consensus among people with actual experience seems to be clear: intel gained through torture is of worse quality than that gained through other interrogation techniques, and employing torture has many negative effects on your own side.
Confirmation of novel data that nobody else could've known authenticates the value of your knowledge. Government may have been reckless before by acting before confirming, but if they just include a confirmation step, then they could have a means of differentiating actionable data from junk.
After looking over the site, and doing some Wikipedia searching, it does appear that there are ways to reliably damage or confuse memory, even in innocuous settings. Such as ads meant to manipulate memory.
The last point is the one I wanted to make, because I felt that arguments about the efficacy of torture is similar to arguments about the financial costs of the death penalty -- it's a highly ephemeral and gambling argument that hinges on the state of science or technology.
So I was wondering what happens to the discussion on ethics once we begin to accept the efficacy of torture?
Convictions are far easier to measure (and achieve, of course). How would you go about constructing an efficient, corruption-resistant system that is measured by its accuracy? It seems like a hard problem, but not necessarily an unsolvable one.
Debugging support issues sometimes feels like this. If you go into a complex system looking for bugs then you'll find plenty - but not necessarily the one that's causing the current issue. What you're really looking for is to fully understand the reason the system does what it does. And then you can change it.
Also: further evidence that information produced under torture cannot be relied upon, yet our states still do this. Perhaps sometimes it works? Or is it just very successful in producing "information" that the system wants and expects to receive, which is then interpreted as an objective success that validates the method?
Kind of difficult to study that.
Perhaps an "ends cannot be used to justify means" principle is simply a necessary precondition for benevolent civilization.
Both, really. There is certainly a small class of scenarios where it does work, but you cannot know in advance where your case is in that class. And is great at making it look like you're "getting results" if you don't look to closely.
Another factor: torture is definitely good for maintaining a "reign of terror" style of regime. Until it isn't. I think there's even a passage in Macchiavelli's "The Prince" (i.e. the opus that basically coined the "end justify means" meme) that says ruling people by making them love you is most effective but impossible to do all the time, so ruling through fear is the next best thing - yet one should carefully avoid being hated.
> Perhaps an "ends cannot be used to justify means" principle is simply a necessary precondition for benevolent civilization.
As a basic principle, definitely. Though no simple rule can solve all moral dilemmas.
Very minor nitpick. "Einarsson" is a patronymic derived from a parent's given name, not a surname or family name as is common in many western cultures. In the case of the article, Einar is a common Icelandic given name  that both victims fathers shared.
The Icelandic naming system  is interesting. Basically, children get a given name plus a patronymic (father's give name with son or dóttir suffix) or matronymic (mother's given name with son or dóttir suffix). So people two generations apart in the same family have completely different names, and non-siblings having the same patronymic isn't an indicator of kinship.
There are also many stories of couples who were not allowed to get a hotel room together because they didn't share a last name.
He was able to find an encyclopedia on a bookshelf in the lobby that said something to the effect of "In Iceland women do not take their husband's name when they marry". That resolved that situation.
Most surnames end in son (sen in Denmark) or dotter (daughter), although people started using their parent's surname some time last century.
Its fun to see the tradition survives in Iceland.
In Sweden its becoming slightly trendy to give your children surnames ending in YOUR-FIRST-NAME+possessive+son/dotter again.
I am from Africa where this weird inconsistency meant that many of my personal records have my given name as my dad's name and my name as my surname. Made the paper trail confusing as fuck when I came to America and had to prove that I was who I was.
And obligatory, Jame's Duane's "Don't talk to the cops" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkZf6_jK3Zs
While I'm not defending the investigators, a lot has changed in 40 years and even though this might be unacceptable today it was probably different then (as stated in the article). It's very sad to listen to these people talk about how they were treated though.
When I was in Iceland I was told that tarred/paved roads are a relatively recent thing, given the volcanic landscape and the large number of fissures and caves, it's easy to see how you could wonder away from the "road", stumble, fall or just try to find shelter somewhere and succumb to the cold.
But yes, in the area the article is talking about, the ground is a patchwork of these fissures, which could easily conceal a body. On the other hand, there would be almost no way to wander all that far from the road without knowing it.
It's not impossible that he would have died of exposure and never been found, but I don't think it's all that likely.
It seems pretty silly to assume a murder with no body or evidence, when another explanation is possible.
I hope Shorthand gets picked by more long-form producers.
But when you read things like this you inevitably question if what we call 'civilization' really is all that civilized. Iceland is a small nation, relatively few people and tightly knit. It's one of the last places on earth where I would expect a thing like this to happen.
If this could happen there it could happen just about anywhere.
And they are still at it (from TFA):
"For the past year, the 486-page report of the investigation into the original police inquiry has been sitting on a desk somewhere inside the state prosecutor’s office. She has to decide whether the case should be referred to Iceland’s supreme court so the convictions can be quashed."
"Could"? This does happen everywhere, routinely, every day. Most of it happens to people nobody cares about (foreigners, displaced, lone wolfs, drug addicts, mentally ill, smalltime crooks etc etc). Some of it is corrected with time (which is why you have appeals and counter-appeals in most systems). There is just no incentive for a police force not to incriminate, and little for a judicial system not to convict.
>For the past year, the 486-page report [...] has been sitting on a desk
... and it will likely sit there until all the implicated people have retired and/or they are 100% sure the Icelandic equivalent to the statute of limitations will cover all of them. Because people with related responsibilities know that, in a few years, the same could happen to them for whatever reason, and then who would look after them? At the time, "persuading" a little crook to confess a crime he didn't commit was a perfectly acceptable standard; who knows what standards will be in 20 years time? So invariably these institutions will "let bygones be bygones".
The whole concept of institutional policing is extremely flawed.
This is not an issue. The statute of limitations in Iceland depends on the possible length of the prison sentence for the crime. The maximum is 15 years, so that's long since passed in all cases.
> Geirfinnur Einarsson may have shared the same surname as Gudmundur but the two were not related.
Einarsson is not a surname, but a patronymic. It's weird that later in the article it reads:
> Erla is longing for peace, so that future generations, the sons and dottirs of her grandchildren will know she was innocent and didn’t take part in a murder.
Here the author seems to grasp and even make a clever pun on Icelandic patronymics. Weird.
You are right in that they are actually a surname, and that they are also a function of who you were born to, but the propagation rule means that they are a much poorer metric for blood relations.
For more stories in this format:
Without institutional incentives to produce good results, the incentives to produce more results, faster results, and more lurid results will continue to produce bad results.
When I was younger, I never really believed that sort of thing actually happens for real, just thought it was an over-used fictional "cleverness" trope. I mean it's so obvious this is going to lead to abuse and false confessions if actually used for real-life confessions, I figured it had to, because in a TV-series you can assume that the police are the smart/good guys so they could safely use this clever (if somewhat unfair) trick to get the (obvious) bad guys.
As I got older, and perhaps as the themes in TV series got a little more complex, I started wondering sometimes, how are these even the good guys? For all they know they are now convicting an innocent man or woman, by pressuring them into confessing to a crime with the only leverage being "an offer they can't refuse" (a much larger sentence).
Personally, I'm very often impressed by work of theverge.com/polygon.com in this regard. Here's just one example: http://www.polygon.com/a/xbox-one-review
They perfectly handle the toughest thing, which is the balance between flashiness and readability.
As for the BBC article: I don't like the font choices they've made. A serif (Georgia or Cambria) for body content and sans-serif for distinctions would work better, IMHO.
The German newspaper 'Die Zeit' has been experimenting with this style as well, to the point of (as I understand it) starting Zeit Online as a completely separate department in Berlin.
For example (in German):
Generally they're a little more subdued and their work, so far, is not as technologically impressive. But I might actually prefer that.
If it disturbs you, think of it this way: it's a successfully executed exercise in data mining minds.