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An Ethics of Interrogation


The act of interrogation, and the debate over its use, pervades our culture, whether through fictionalized depictions in movies and television or discussions of real-life interrogations on the news. But despite daily mentions of the practice in the media, there is a lack of informed commentary on its moral implications. Moving beyond the narrow focus on torture that has characterized most work on the subject, An Ethics of Interrogation is the first book to fully address this complex issue.
In this important new examination of a controversial subject, Michael Skerker confronts a host of philosophical and legal issues, from the right to privacy and the privilege against compelled self-incrimination to prisoner rights and the legal consequences of different modes of interrogation for both domestic criminal and foreign terror suspects. These topics raise serious questions about the morality of keeping secrets as well as the rights of suspected terrorists and insurgents. Thoughtful consideration of these subjects leads Skerker to specific policy recommendations for law enforcement, military, and intelligence professionals.

272 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2010

Law and Legal Studies: Law and Society

Philosophy: Ethics

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


“This book offers an interdisciplinary study of the role of interrogation and its use by the state. Michael Skerker’s approach allows the reader to view the conduct of domestic and foreign affairs through the prism of moral and political philosophy, jurisprudence, and just war theory. The result is an excellent approach to this multifaceted issue that provides insight without polemic.”

Jan Goldman, founding editor, International Journal of Intelligence Ethics

“No other book can be said to do what this one does, that is, provide a philosophy of interrogation that relies on a right to silence limited by the right to a relatively just legal order. An Ethics of Interrogation is sure to start an interesting discussion among philosophers, lawyers, and scholars of criminal justice.”

Michael Davis, Illinois Institute of Technology

“In this study of the moral issues surrounding interrogation practices, Skerker debates under what circumstances the state is entitled to know a person’s thoughts and how information can be obtained in a morally correct manner.”


“This book explores ideas of autonomy, rights (e.g., to privacy), coercion, the liberal state, and police powers. Of special interest is Skerker’s discussion of both "just-war" theory and the requirements of constitutional/international legal rights concerning prisoners of war and other martial detainees, such as "unlawful combatants," i.e., terrorists or non-state actors or guerillas and insurgents. Additionally, Skerker makes certain policy recommendations useful for interrogators. His target audiences are law enforcement professionals, the military, and intelligence agencies; however, other intelligent readers would benefit greatly.”


Table of Contents



Part I: Interrogation in Domestic Law Enforcement

One / Autonomy, Rights, and Coercion

Two / The Liberal State and Police Powers

Three / Plotting, Suspicion, and the Rights to Privacy and Silence

Four / The Privilege against Compelled Self-Incrimination

Five / Police Interrogation

Part II: Interrogation in International Contexts

Six / Prisoners of War and Other Martial Detainees

Seven / Noncoercive Interrogation

Eight / Coercive Interrogation




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