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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?

Originally posted to manley on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:06 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yes! I mean, NO! Wait, Yes! No, definitely Maybe! (0+ / 0-)

    Can you rephrase that question?

    Ignorance isn't exactly bliss but some things are better known when they are unknown to start with and pieced together on the way. - WineRev

    by Clem Yeobright on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:16:56 PM PDT

  •  No. (0+ / 0-)

    Next question?

    Freedom of speech does not mean the freedom to lie without consequence; unless, apparently if you're a right wing talk-radio host.

    by Whimsical on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 10:19:15 PM PDT

  •  The ticking time-bomb scenario... (3+ / 0-)

    ...is often invoked as reason to use torture.

    But from what I understand, correct me if I'm wrong, in the real world you often don't know whether or not the person in your custody has anything useful to tell you.

    And some people will "crack" easily while some won't, but I'm going to guess that the people who will crack easily under torture (never mind how you find that point, and then stop) will also crack easily under normal interrogation procedures.

    Sure, normal interrogation might take longer, but any intel would need to be cross-checked against other sources in any case, and that's probably the real time-sink. And normal interrogation doesn't carry the moral stain that torturing does.

    So to sum up, if you have a ticking time-bomb and you have no intel on how to stop it, you're screwed.

    Revenge is a dish best served with mayonnaise, and those little cheesy things on sticks. -- Osric the Loopy

    by Shaviv on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 11:10:42 PM PDT

    •  other problem are serial confessors (0+ / 0-)

      After any major crime, confessors and copycat wannabes come out of the woodwork. In the cases of terrorism thwarted by DHS, one involved cutting the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge with a torch. Other plots were just as fanciful.  In trials, jailhouse "snitch" testimony is frequently looked at askance because there is an incentive for an inmate to prevaricate something even if he has heard nothing of real value.

      I have to wonder how many dead ends and false trails were followed after the information was forcibly elicited from the detainee?  After all, there are still allegations that the US in several cases picked up the wrong guy or misidentified whom they had in custody.  

  •  And even if you thought it could ever be (0+ / 0-)

    justified (AND I DON'T DON'T DON'T), what kind of dick would drag the President into it? If I had charge of a prisoner and my moral sense were so badly damaged that I thought it was absolutely necessary in some extreme circumstances to torture, I'd do it quickly and then I'd accept the consequences. After all, we're talking a city/country full of people above my own life and freedom, right? I wouldn't make the American people complicit in my crime. But then, I guess people who like torture are allergic to personal responsibility because their moral sense is badly damaged. Or dead.

    Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. -- H. L. Mencken

    by leftist vegetarian patriot on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 12:11:10 AM PDT

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