Monday, January 01, 2007

Ticking time bombs.

Jim Henley at Reason is on the ball:
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?

The answer is simple: State agents don’t have any ambition to rape their own children.

This is a clue to the real misdirection of the ticking bomb scenario. It’s always presented as a “What would you do?” dilemma, but in truth it has nothing to do with you. The proper question is: “What should we allow officials embedded in the security bureaucracy to do with impunity? What shall we let their bosses order without legal repercussion?”

Iraq will be the deciding factor among the Democratic candidates in 2008, and Hillary and Edwards were both flat wrong on the subject. More and more it looks like it will be Al Gore's election to lose, please see
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