We sent the following message to Professor Darius Rejali on May 25, 2016.
Dear Professor Darius Rejali,
I’m a fact-checking journalist working on the issue of torture. Specifically, whether torture works.
I’m writing to you because PolitiFact has cited statements from you saying that torturers do not know when tortured prisoners are telling the truth (PolitiFact uses that as an evidence that torture does not work, and as evidence that empirical evidence allows us to know torture doesn’t work). PolitiFact has also cited statements from you saying that we know waterboarding is not the “golden fleece” of torture, or else its use would have supplanted in nations such as China the use of electric shock and beatings. Your statement appears to imply that electric shock and beatings are relatively effective torture methods compared to waterboarding.
How should we reconcile these statements? How do torturers who use electric shock and beatings more effectively tell when their victims are telling the truth? Or is some other dynamic in play that makes those torture methods more effective?
I do not intend to paint you into a corner with these specific questions. They are examples of the types of questions that come to mind when I try to reconcile your statements. I’m trying ot [sic] get from you the best way to reconcile your statements and so enable us to rationally apply them to the fact-checking issues PolitiFact (and others) have tried to address.
Thanks in advance for reading, and for any help you can offer in clarifying your position.
Please note that Zebra Fact Check, as a matter of policy, publishes the full relevant context of interviews. Readers will be able to access the questions I asked along with the full answer you provided. Readers may judge for themselves whether interview material was taken out of context.
We soon received confirmation from Professor Rejali’s research assistant that our message was received, and it would be forwarded to Rejali.
Early on June 2, 2016, we received the following from Professor Rejali:
In response to your query, I read the Politifact story a few days after I got to Europe, I noticed the paradox as well, and sent Politifact a request for clarification of the final lines from Europe over Memorial day weekend, and these clarifications I just confirmed today were added to the story.