Right now, across Los Angeles, timers on dozens of toxic nerve-gas canisters are set to detonate in just hours and send some two million Americans to their deaths in writhing agony.
But take hope. We have one chance, just one, to avert this atrocity and save the lives of millions. Agent Jack Bauer of the Counter Terrorist Unit has his hunting knife poised over the eye of a trembling traitor who may know the identity of those who set these bombs. As a clock ticks menacingly and the camera focuses on knife point poised to plunge into eyeball, the traitor breaks and identifies the Muslim terrorists, giving Agent Bauer the lead he needs to crack this case wide open.TPJ: First of all this assumes that the suspect in custody would even know where the bomb is located. These terrorists groups (al-Qaeda in particular) are highly intelligent and methodical planners. They are known for plots where the individual actors who carry out those attacks don't know any more information than what is needed for their particular part of the plot.
Second, even if they do know where the bomb is set to go off and we torture them doesn't mean they are going to tell us accurate information. These guys are often trained to resist torture (after all they are willing to blow themselves up) and all they have to do is tell their torturers that it is located in New York City when in reality it is in Los Angeles. So we go to lock down NYC because of that information and in the mean time the bomb goes off in L.A. KABOOM!!
Third, this scenario assumes that we can't get information from other methods, which many former CIA officials have now said are effective. Ex-CIA official, "This was torture." One in particular, Ali Soufan testified recently to Congress:
It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.TPJ: Fourth, Let’s say you’ve caught a suspect and you’re sure he’s a terrorist, and you’re sure there’s a nuclear bomb somewhere in Manhattan, and you’re sure he knows where it is, and you’re sure this particular terrorist has been trained to resist torture just long enough that you could never get the true location of the bomb out of him in time. But you’re also sure this particular terrorist is a pervert! And he tells you that if you’ll rape your own child in front of him, he’ll tell you exactly where the bomb is and how to disarm it. And you’re sure that he will, because your intelligence is that good in exactly that way.
Wow! Fascinating hypothetical, huh? And it’s only slightly more far-fetched than the more familiar ticking time bomb scenario, in which you must torture the suspect to save all those innocent people. Both versions have to be laid out awfully precisely. In my scenario, I even assume the nuclear terrorist has been trained to resist torture for a time. Improbably, Alan Dershowitz—the torture enthusiast and original time bomb booster—does not.
So how come we hear so much about the torture quandary and nothing about mine? Why, according to Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay in a November 2005 Knight-Ridder report, has Dick Cheney adverted to the Alan Dershowitz version “several times” and mine never? Why does Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) tell the New York Daily News editorial board that various torture techniques “are very rare, but if they occur there has to be some lawful authority for pursuing that,” at least in “those instances where we have sufficient basis to believe that there is something imminent,” but never says anything about creating “some lawful authority” for emergency incest?
TPJ: A spin-off of the "ticking time bomb" scenario is raising the stakes to include your child to say, "What if a terrorist kidnapped your loved one and the terrorist was going to kill them in an hour if their demands weren't met? And the authorities capture someone who knows where the terrorist location is and they ask you if they should torture him for the critical information? Would you give the go ahead?
First of all it is highly unlikely that I would be the one asked on what to do in this scenario. Second, If we are going to allow people to torture someone who knows where a loved one is being held hostage then isn't that saying we are now for vigilante justice? Are we back to the Wild, Wild, West days? When have any professional law enforcement officials, CIA agents, FBI, agents and White House officials ever asked a private citizen if they should torture someone? Second, our security officials are the best at hostage negotiations and have done it for decades and they have never had to resort to torture. I realize this impossibly improbable hypothetical scenario seeks to pull at your heart strings to get you to say you'd sacrifice your values and liberties to save a loved one.
The torture advocates say that we can't be so stringent with our moral absolutes but then what about negotiating with terrorists? We hear this all the time from Conservatives that it's not worth the price to negotiate with terrorists because it makes us look weak and emboldens the enemy. Well, so does torture.
Of course we all want to protect our family and loved ones but consider this:
The notion that U.S. policy should be determined by the fact that “we’d all be for it” if our own kid were kidnapped is just too egregiously stupid to have to refute. That’s precisely why we have institutions such as the police and courts and prisons; indeed, the very purpose of a criminal justice system – of civilization itself – is the imposition of a consistent standard of justice in place of arbitrary acts of private vengeance.
TPJ: Only narrow-minded Neo-Cons would want to base our government on vigilante justice. Once you let citizens torture people who threaten the lives of their loved ones, where do you draw the line? Can citizens form a posse and torture those who might be possible suspects of being a serial killer terrorizing a city? Police often have many suspects that they are investigating but time is ticking folks!! Remember, the ticking clock is against us!! We better go out and torture every person who we think might be the serial killer because the life of my loved ones is in danger!!! (rolls eyes). While we're at it why don't we just change our official style of government to an Anarchy.
Yes, people do commit violence in a cloud of emotion including, "...murdering someone who harmed their child, that's why we have the rule of law. To prevent the ones who've lost a loved one, however that happened, from being the ones to mete out punishment. We all have our rage. We all could potentially "lose it" - and we need to have laws to restrain ourselves when that happens."
TPJ: What if the terrorist said he'd give up the information if you denied your faith in your "God?" Or what if they said they'd give up the information where you loved one is located if you rape a different loved one in front of him like mentioned in the ticking time bomb scenario above? Or what if the captured terrorist who knows where the bomb is that will wipe out millions but would give up that information if you allow your own loved one to be tortured in front of him because this terrorist is a sick, sadomasochist? Would you let your loved one be tortured to save the lives of millions of people? This next one especially applies pro-life, right-wingers, "Would you torture the unborn child of a terrorist if you knew it would save your loved one? See, I can come up with any number of equally absurd scenarios and questions of values/liberties versus the illusion of security.
And what if we torture this person and they die before they give up the information because the water boarding was pushed too far but we know that his 12 year old son knows the information of the bombs location because he is being groomed for a leadership position--Do we torture him too? Are we prepared to torture children? What if the information was in a micro-chip that a terrorist had his 9 week old son swallow it to ensure a backup copy. Would you dissect the infant to get the information? See what happens when you start using ridiculous, hypothetical thought experiment scenarios? The future is full of "What if..." questions.
Intelligence officials have repeatedly rejected the idea of a ticking time bomb scenario. Jack Cloonan, who spent 25 years as an FBI special agent and interrogated members of al Qaeda, said that he has “been hard pressed to find a situation where anybody” can say “that they’ve ever encountered the ticking bomb scenario” when interrogating terrorists. He said it is a “red herring” and “[i]n the real world it doesn’t happen.”
TPJ: Oh and one more thing, if water boarding "isn't that bad" and "not torture" then why won't Sean Hannity submit to it? The loud mouth, Conservative, torture advocate, talk show host recently said, he'd submit to water boarding for charity: