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Is torture an effective anti-terror tactic?

As subject becomes hot topic, analyst Jacobs discusses his experiences
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According to Monday's Washington Post, Vice President Dick Cheney is leading a furious effort to stop rules that ban torture and inhumane treatment.

In the article, reporters Dana Priest and Robin Wright write: "Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects."

Monday in Panama, President Bush, on the last stop of his tour of South America, disputed the notion that the U.S. uses unlawful means to get information.

"There's an enemy that lurks and plots and plans and wants to hurt America again," Bush said. "So you bet we will aggressively pursue them but we will do so under the law."

Sen. John McCain, (R-Ariz.) said on NBC's 'Today' show Monday that torture should not be a part of any U.S. policy.

"Look at the other side of it, if the United States of America is torturing people, or treating them in a cruel or inhumane fashion, then it hurts our image dramatically throughout the world. ... It doesn't work and it harms our image very badly," he said.

Retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC analyst, joined MSNBC's Chris Jansing on Monday to discuss torture, its effectiveness and what tactics he believes are most useful.

"At the end of the day, it's very easy to distinguish between the right thing and the wrong thing to do. If you do the wrong thing, you're not going to get any positive payoff from it and it's going to be of at some great cost," Jacobs said. "We get much more information if we treat people properly."

That means that there is a fine line of how aggressive an interrogator can be, said Jacobs, who recently visited the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay and served in Vietnam.

"You need to be aggressive to get the information you want, but if you treat people inhumanely, they're just going to tell you what they think you want to hear," he said. "They'll do anything just to get the mistreatment to stop, so you get nothing from mistreatment."

Speaking of his experiences, Jacobs said he has had the best success by being decent to people.

"Down in Guantanamo Bay, there are instances in which lots of al-Qaida people will tell you anything that you want to know and tell them as much truth as you want them to tell you if you give them the candy bar that they want or the magazine that they require," he said. 

"When I was in Vietnam, we were given the most intelligence, the best intelligence and had the most success with captors if we gave them cigarettes, medical care, food  (and) water. Almost always, you get the best success from treating people properly," Jacobs said. 

Jacobs added that that being viewed as a country that opposes torture can have other benefits.

"I'm not a big fan of being concerned about what other people thing, but I have to say, that if we don't have a good name in the international community, getting our own objectives accomplished in the wider variety of different venues, is going to be very difficult," he said.

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