Friday, September 08, 2006

Torture & Rule of Law

It's too easy for liberals to dismiss torture as ineffective as well as despicable. There are strong arguments for believing that torture can force people to reveal knowledge they might not otherwise disclose. Let us suppose, then, for the sake of argument, that torture can be an effective tool in dealing with terrorists. Given that premise, what is the morality of using torture?

In my view, torture can only be justified when (1) there is an immediate danger, (2) there is reason to doubt the effectiveness of nonviolent interrogation methods, (3) the decision to proceed is made through a procedure that provides for the unanimous agreement of a dispassionate fact-finder and those who would inflict the torture, and (4) the torture would be carefully monitored to prevent sadism or excess. In such a procedure, the people making the decisions would suffer no liability for deciding against torture, but could suffer liability for deciding in favor of it or proceeding with it if they knowingly used false information or personal malice.

In both the first and second conditions, there must be independent evidence. That is, the premises must be established by some evidentiary indication, not simply the captor's fear or speculation. Torture, then, should be available in extreme situations as a last resort.

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