Reports from Pakistan suggest that much of the intelligence that led to the raids came from that country and that some of it may have been obtained in ways entirely unacceptable here. In particular Rashid Rauf, a British citizen said to be a prime source of information leading to last week’s arrests, has been held without access to full consular or legal assistance. Disturbing reports in Pakistani papers that he had “broken” under interrogation have been echoed by local human rights bodies. The Guardian has quoted one, Asma Jehangir, of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, who has no doubt about the meaning of broken. “I don’t deduce, I know – torture,” she said. “There is simply no doubt about that, no doubt at all.”
Gobsmackingly vile. What does it profit a man if he should gain the whole world but lose his soul?
Besides 2500-3000 innocent human lives, I mean.
Look. Aside from Sullivan, Greenwald, Rick Ellensburg, and Thomas Ellers — aside from those four — virtually no one has a problem with torture in a true ticking-bomb scenario. Only the most preening, sanctimonious moralist would pass up a chance to go back in time and waterboard Khaled Sheikh Mohammed if they thought it could get him to spill the beans about 9/11. As Goldstein puts it:
[T]hose who generally claim to embrace pragmatism (in the absense of any transcendental truths) are those most likely, it seems to me, to hold unyielding views on matters less theoretical than real and requiring an immediate and difficult decision by those charged with protecting our countries and their people.
In the end, I suspect most Britons will be quite secretly content with what was done in order to foil the plot—though soon conversation and discussion will drift back to the realm of the theoretical where those who are in immediate danger are simply forensic cutouts in a debate about principles and moral highgrounds.
Alan Dershowitz, who’s no fan of torture despite what you might have heard, put it this way during a prescient guest shot on CNN in early 2003:
I want to ask you a question. Don’t you think if we ever had a ticking-bomb case, regardless of your views or mine, that the CIA would actually either torture themselves or subcontract the job to Jordan, the Philippines or Egypt, who are our favorite countries, to do the torturing for us?
Of course they would. A fact which Dershowitz recognizes and attempts to assimilate into the legal framework with a novel idea: torture warrants. In extremely unusual cases, he’d let the government petition for court approval to work a guy over. Not because he doesn’t think torture’s a big deal but because he recognizes that the moral calculus is sufficiently compelling in such cases that regardless of what the law says, the feds aren’t going to stand around with their hands in the pockets hoping that the suspect has a crisis of conscience. And if it’s going to happen anyway, why not bring it inside the judicial system so that at least there’s some oversight? If anything, it’d probably lead to less torture, not more.
Anyway. Here’s where our brilliant and beloved webmaster, Mark Jaquith, leaves a horrified comment threatening to flagellate himself at the very suggestion of such an idea.