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Torture in counterterrorism: Agency incentives and slippery slopes

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  • Mialon, Hugo M.
  • Mialon, Sue H.
  • Stinchcombe, Maxwell B.

Abstract

We develop a counterterrorism model to analyze the effects of allowing a government agency to torture suspects when evidence of terrorist involvement is strong. We find that legalizing torture in strong-evidence cases has offsetting effects on agency incentives to counter terrorism by means other than torture. It lowers these incentives because the agency may come to rely on torture to avert attacks. However, it also increases these incentives because other efforts may increase the probability of having strong enough evidence to warrant the use of torture. Legalizing torture in strong-evidence cases is more likely to reduce non-torture efforts if these efforts are more effective at stopping attacks and less effective at turning up strong evidence when the suspect is guilty. If it reduces non-torture efforts, it can reduce security and is more likely to do so if the attack threat is higher. Moreover, if torture is used in strong-evidence cases even if torture is banned, legalizing torture in strong-evidence cases necessarily reduces security if it reduces non-torture efforts. Lastly, it can increase incentives to torture even in weak-evidence cases—a slippery slope.

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 96 (2012)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 33-41

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:96:y:2012:i:1:p:33-41

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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/505578

Related research

Keywords: Torture policy; National security; Agency incentives; Slippery slope;

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  1. Abraham L. Wickelgren, 2010. "A Right to Silence for Civil Defendants?," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 26(1), pages 92-114, April.
  2. Eli Berman & David D. Laitin, 2008. "Religion, Terrorism and Public Goods: Testing the Club Model," NBER Working Papers 13725, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Steven Shavell, 2007. "Optimal Discretion in the Application of Rules," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(1), pages 175-194.
  4. Hugo M. Mialon & Paul H. Rubin, 2008. "The Economics of the Bill of Rights," American Law and Economics Review, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 1-60.
  5. Nuno Garoupa & Jonathan Klick & Francesco Parisi, 2006. "A law and economics perspective on terrorism," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 128(1), pages 147-168, July.
  6. Shmuel Leshem, 2010. "The benefits of a right to silence for the innocent," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(2), pages 398-416.
  7. Walter Enders & Todd Sandler, 2005. "Transnational Terrorism 1968–2000: Thresholds, Persistence, and Forecasts," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 71(3), pages 467-482, January.
  8. Sobel, Joel, 2000. "A Model of Declining Standards," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 41(2), pages 295-303, May.
  9. Siqueira, Kevin & Sandler, Todd, 2007. "Terrorist backlash, terrorism mitigation, and policy delegation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 91(9), pages 1800-1815, September.
  10. Axel Dreher & Martin Gassebner & Lars-H. Siemers, 2010. "Does Terrorism Threaten Human Rights? Evidence from Panel Data," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 53(1), pages 65-93, 02.
  11. Sandler, Todd & Enders, Walter, 2004. "An economic perspective on transnational terrorism," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 20(2), pages 301-316, June.
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