When talking about bigwigs like KSM that have, as we've apparently been told, crucial info about an impending 9/11-like attack (or worse), it would be negligent to NOT take the measures that were utilized to gain that information.
Would it be "honorable" to not take this action -- and allow thousands of innocent American civilians to perish? So that we can "hold our heads high" and say, "We didn't treat KSM harshly!"
This is the utilitarian/ticking bomb theory: at what point does the importance of the information we're seeking justify whatever it is we have to do to get that information.
Jacob Hornberger answers:
My question is: Why limit torture to suspected terrorists? Why not expand it to suspected murderers, drug dealers, robbers, and kidnappers? After all, can’t those types of people commit just as heinous an act as terrorists?
Consider, for example, the drug dealers along the U.S.-Mexico border. They’re killing law-enforcement officers, judges, and other public officials. Suppose the U.S. military or Border Patrol takes a suspected drug dealer into custody. What would be wrong with torturing him into providing information about plans to kill government officials? Wouldn’t this information be just as valuable as information extracted from a suspected terrorist?
Couldn’t the same be true of suspected kidnappers? Wouldn’t the forcible extraction of information help save the life of a kidnap victim? What would be wrong with torturing the person into telling where the victim is being held?
There are, of course, solid and important reasons why it would be wrong, both legally and morally, for U.S. law-enforcement officers to torture criminal suspects in their custody.
For one thing, the U.S. Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land that controls the conduct of government officials, bars government agents from inflicting cruel and unusual punishments on people. It also protects a person from being forced to give information that might tend to incriminate him.
Secondly, in the United States the American people, through their elected representatives, have, by statute, made it a criminal offense, for law-enforcement officers to torture or abuse criminal suspects.
Third, as a moral matter, ever since the founding of our nation the American people have stood squarely in opposition to the power of government officials to torture people, no matter how heinous the crime and no matter how valuable the information that they might be able to disclose.
Finally, there is always the distinct possibility that a criminal suspect might be innocent or might not posses the information that the torturer is seeking.
This is, honestly, a conversation I never thought we'd be having in the United States. We didn't need torture to win World War Two, yet both the Germans and the Japanese employed torture on our prisoners-and the Third Reich and Imperial Japan represented a far greater threat than Islamo-terrorism.