Thursday, November 10, 2005


Responding to the Ticking Time Bomb Scenario

Q: Well, what would you do if you knew through hard information that captured "very bad guy" Joe Terrorist knew where the ticking time bomb full of nuclear-bomb-carrying mutated bird flu virus-infected anthrax was hidden?

A: I'd also know that, if tortured, Joe Terrorist would tell lies until after the bomb went off.
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Q: What if you took Joe Terrorist to the city where the bomb was going to go off - wouldn't that force him to talk?

A: That's like saying that making attempted suicide a death penalty offense would deter people from attempting suicide.
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Q: But what if you knew that Joe Terrorist would tell the truth under torture?

A: I'd also know that the world was flat, and that space aliens had already disarmed the bomb. The whole problem with your scenarios is that they assume people don't tell lies under torture - and we know this is not true. For example, the US Army reported a 50% increase in "actionable intelligence" from prisoners in Abu Ghraib after they stopped the abuse. (Source: New York Times General Says Less Coercion of Captives Yields Better Data, September 7, 2004.) Why do you keep pushing the need for torture when we know it is not only morally reprehensible but less reliable than standard interrogation methods?


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