Truth Serum Planned for Mumbai Terrorist?

This is a rush transcript from "America's News HQ," December 4, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BILL HEMMER, HOST: It was used during the Cold War, and now interrogators out of India are getting ready to use it on a captured gunman. Police there are planning to administer a truth serum on the sole terrorist captured last week in Mumbai.

They say he's talking but they're quite not sure if he's given them the truth. They want to find out once and for all where the suspect is from, whether it's Pakistan or not, and ultimately, should we be using truth serums if they work? And do they really work?

Well, Scott Weber is a former senior counsel of the Homeland Security Department live here in New York. How are you doing, Scott?


Video: Watch Bill Hemmer's interview

HEMMER: Pertaining to the process, how do you administer —

WEBER: Well, that's pretty simple. It's an IV drip usually with some sort of barbiturate like Sodium Pentothal. The CIA in the past during the Cold War actually experimented with the use of LSD. The problem with it is though it makes folks chatty, it doesn't necessarily make them tell the truth.

HEMMER: So you're not still quite sure if they're telling you what is true and what is not?

WEBER: Exactly.

HEMMER: Back up a little bit. You said it was a drip. It's like an IV?

WEBER: Correct.

HEMMER: What happens to the suspect? They fall into some sort of trance or what?

WEBER: The suspect gets a little woozy, feels a little bit more relaxed, a little bit more willing to talk. But the problem is that you can't ensure that they are actually telling you the truth. They may be tight-lipped before and once they get that drip, they ease up.

HEMMER: So if that's the case then, and there is still this margin of doubt. Why do it?

WEBER: Well, it's a good question. And that's why most western countries and most democratic countries don't do it anymore because there wasn't any assurance that the information that was received as a result of the truth serum was actually reliable.

HEMMER: So you're saying we did it?

WEBER: We did it.


WEBER: Well, we did it back during the Cold War era. We did it. Russia did it. The U.K. did it. The good thing about it is it may give you additional information to help you when in your investigation to try to root out other terrorists or other plots.

The problem though is at least in the United States, you can't use that information against the individual to prosecute them. It violates the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

HEMMER: Well, what you said is very interesting. So you're thinking this guy in India, if you give him the truth serum, that he may not be telling the truth about himself, but he may give up a couple of his buddies?

WEBER: Well, you know, we had this very issue right after 9/11. Remember Judge Webster who headed the CIA and the FBI actually a few months after 9/11 said the U.S. government should try and use truth serums because it may aid in the investigation as well as break down the jihadists that were in Guantanamo Bay, make them more willing to talk and thwart future plots.

HEMMER: And you said we did away with it. You mentioned the Cold War.

WEBER: Correct. My research said we stopped doing the Second World War. Now, there was —

HEMMER: I got you. OK.

WEBER: There was the Cold War. It would be a little — it's a violation of the Fifth Amendment.

HEMMER: Correct. Right.

WEBER: It doesn't fly today. It doesn't fly today.

HEMMER: They do it in India.

WEBER: Right.

HEMMER: Apparently, they do it quite often for crime investigations.

WEBER: Yes. For major serious crimes, they do it quite frequently in India.

HEMMER: OK, now.

WEBER: But India's laws are different than ours, obviously.

HEMMER: Would you support this technique? You sound dubious.

WEBER: I have to tell you, there is really sort of a moral imperative here, right? I mean, if you get information that could help you thwart a future attack, then maybe there is some legitimacy in it. However, you need to be careful that you don't use that information to prosecute that individual, so you have to balance the wording of the tap versus, you know, potentially putting in harm's way the prosecution of that individual.

HEMMER: You made an interesting observation with one of our producers about what is happening in India today. We had this scare at a train station and airport several hours ago. It turned out to be a minor incident, but it is first reported as if a number of gunmen were shot there.

It wasn't true. You have the scare at airports throughout the entire country today. They're really locking down on security. Do you see something happening in that country that we went through seven years ago?

WEBER: Well, you know, there is the psychology of it. You have this horrible attack in Mumbai, a major metropolitan area, in some respects, India's version of New York, the financial capital for India. You know, it is their Hollywood. All of these soft targets, 10 of them were hit, and then there's the knee-jerk reactions because you don't know when the next attack is going to happen.

So you have — everyone is sort of, you know, putting the wagons together in a circle, maybe not necessarily cooperating as much as they should. If you take a look at what happened during the response, the first responders in India weren't as organized as they should have been, similar to 9/11 where you had some tension between the FDNY and the police department. You know, the United States has worked hard at trying to rectify those situations.

HEMMER: Well, let's see where they go to in India because the investigation is often run. And Condoleezza Rice, two days — visits there now — New Delhi yesterday and today Islamabad.


HEMMER: Scott Weber, thank you for you time.

WEBER: Bill, thanks.

HEMMER: Nice to see you in person.

WEBER: Good to see you, too.

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