The clock was ticking. "Sir, it's the Vice President's office," a White House secretary informs the president as the matte black phone on the President's desk rang, its cord exposed on the desk as if the entire phone were lifted off the desk in a moment of great haste. The President took a deep breath and reached for the phone. It had not even been four hours since the intelligence report first hit the President's desk - a detainee in custody reportedly had knowledge of an impending attack on the United States but would not speak and harsh interrogation procedures may be the only way. Thousands were possibly at risk. There was no time to ponder legal questions.
This is a hypothetical situation almost certainly we have all have heard. It is peculiar that such space in the public discourse has been spent pondering scenarios relying heavily on pundit imagination. It is more peculiar that said scenarios seem counted as highly likely or even as factual accounts, despite no known evidence existing that anything like this has occurred in any recent history.
However, if we are to treat these situations as valid for debate, facts leading to the intelligence reports must be understood as well. For instance, where did the intelligence get the information of the impending attack or the intelligence that a specific detainee may be knowledgeable on the subjects - and what makes that intelligence credible? If the possible attack is impending, what will make the detainee likely to speak on the event before its occurrence (especially if the detainee masterminded the supposedly impending event)?
What is worse, if such a road were taken would the risks be worth it? President Obama stated pubicly that those who committed the acts of enhanced interrogation would no be prosecuted. However, in a court the implications of Nuremburg preceed such statements. Were a president to encounter the aforementioned hypothetical situation and were that president to accept what essentially amounts to torture, even for the sake of thousands of lives, the entire chain of command lay at risk, as well as the moral high ground our country seems to so often claim.
I suppose the question I am attempting to ask is if it is worth the risk of thousands of lives to discount discourse and reason for the submission of a historically unproven and historically illegal solution?