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The approval of torture by the Bush administration seemed to come from the highest levels, and it seems that this use of torture was largely futile. There is tremendous precedent for use of torture and the body of information suggests strongly that the information gained is largely useless.

There is, however, one frustrating argument in favor of the use of torture to extract information from non-cooperative individuals and it goes like this:

There is a bomb that will go off in 24 hours and it is in the middle of a huge metropolitan area. If you can 'extract' this information, you can save millions of people.

While torture if repugnant and goes against everything that we have come to believe in, how does one deal with a situation like this?

Fortunately the US Constitution provides a mechanism for the Executive branch to use methods that are illegal by US law (There is no real way to protect people from trial in international courts). This mechanism is the Presidential pardon.

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;.... and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
From the US Constitution, Article 2 Section 2.

In the scenario described above, the President could authorize the use of otherwise illegal means to obtain the information necessary to save millions of lives IN AN IMMEDIATE EMERGENCY, then the people who carried out these actions are tried and convicted of breaking US law. Then the President issues the pardon. If he or she personally breaks US law then he or she may be impeached for these offenses. Surely this would be acceptable if millions of lives were saved.

But the current situation did not meet the criteria in a number of ways. There was no immediate emergency. There was no clearly identified threat against millions of Americans. There was no bomb ticking down in the middle of a US city.

The people who carried out this torture should be held accountable, including the people who participated in the acts of torture and the people who authorized it. If it is found that these people were operating in the best interests of the US population (and, indeed, the world population) then they should receive pardons. Pardons can only be issued after conviction. They are not used to preclude prosecution.

Originally posted to trikmc on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 09:18 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The ticking bomb scenario (6+ / 0-)

    People offer that reasoning because they have this belief that real life is portrayed on the show 24.  

  •  I truly hate the (7+ / 0-)

    ticking bomb argument.  

    If you think about it rationally, torturing in a situation like this would would seem to be the LEAST effective way of gaining info.  Why?  Because all the prisoner has to do is be smart enough to make up enough crap send the interrogators on a wild goose chase for a relatively short period of time.  Seems like that would be pretty easy to do.

    •  Bingo! (4+ / 0-)

      If the torture victim has a well-defined goal of hanging on 'til 3pm tomorrow afternoon, it will be more or less impossible to torture accurate information out of him before that time passes.

      Also, the President ordering the commission of torture itself would be a crime - an impeachable offense. There can be no pardons in cases of impeachment.

      And obviously, anyone involved in this scenario had better never leave the country.

      I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong. - Bertrand Russell
      -5.38, -6.41

      by sullivanst on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 09:40:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Beat me to it (0+ / 0-)

      I was thinking myself as I read this: Surviving torture for a known short duration without giving any truthful information would be relatively easy.

      Bring the WAR home

      Starve the corporate beast, buy local!

      by EthrDemon on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 11:06:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  That title is so fucking weird (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sullivanst

    As if crime was a policy.

  •  Diary is correct, face the consequences (0+ / 0-)

    This is an important aspect to the debate. We as a country should not institutionalize torture. Any argument supporting the need for torture can not pass the test of, "if it's needed, do it and face the consequences."

    If such a fantasy as the ticking time bomb scenario ever existed, those involved would be compelled to do whatever it takes. If they chose to break the law, they do so knowing they will answer for that. And we have remedies in our legal system for extenuating circumstances, the presidential pardon being the ultimate relief.

    None of the justifications for torture really work as excuses. The ridiculous scenarios never exist, and if they ever did then choosing to break the law would make sense.

    Are you shaking or biting the invisible hand?

    by puppethead on Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 09:41:51 AM PDT

  •  Rachel Maddow (0+ / 0-)

    Fascinating interview on Rachel Maddow last night- surprised no one has posted it.
    She interviewed a military intelligence guy who explained that the SERE techniques used by CIA were designed to elicit false confessions for propaganda purposes, not truth.

  •  Personally, (0+ / 0-)

    what was done was not torture.

    Sawing off a truck drivers head while he's fully conscience, then sitting his head on his stomach, and video taping it for effect, thats torture.

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