A Wisconsin native who is one of the world's top experts in terrorism and post- traumatic stress is warning against the use of torture in interrogating suspects. Her comments were made in response to the newly released movie "Zero Dark Thirty."
Anne Speckhard grew up in Wausau but found herself involved in issues far removed from her central Wisconsin upbringing. At Georgetown University, Speckhard researched a special kind of post-traumatic stress, the kind inflicted on hostages by terrorists. She interviewed more than 400 terrorists and their victims in hot spot locations in the Mideast, Russia and Europe. She says she understands the arguments implied in the movie "Zero Dark Thirty," that torture is sometimes justified.
"Sometimes you can break a person with torture, and the justification that's usually used for torture is the ticking bomb theory," she says.
The theory that the suspect knows where the ticking bomb is, and that savings lives justifies the prisoner's pain. But Speckhard says torture often backfires, and creates more terrorism than it prevents.
"Do you have the right person?" she asks. "Does he indeed know? Is there a ticking bomb? And if you're wrong, you create more terrorists. I can tell you many, many examples where people became involved in terrorism as a result of torture."
Speckhard says when an innocent person is tortured or has family or friends tortured, the trauma can lead to suicidal thoughts, and in some cases, thoughts of suicide bombing.
"When we study suicide in general, even in Wausau, Wisconsin, we know the biggest predictor of suicide is if someone is in terrible, terrible emotional pain," she says. "And if the pain is so overwhelming, you can't see any other options, you just want to exit life."
Speckhard stresses that there is never any justification for terrorist acts. Her new book is called Talking To Terrorists.