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Should The Ticking Bomb Terrorist be Tortured?

Moral arguments concerning the justification of torture

L Miller

on 4 May 2010

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Transcript of Should The Ticking Bomb Terrorist be Tortured?

Should the Ticking Bomb Terrorist be Tortured? From an act utilitarian moral perspective, the answer is YES. "A democratic society governed by the rule of law should never declare some action to be absolutely wrong, yet knowingly allow the military or other government officials to engage in that activity 'off the books' " Rough interrogation methods/ asserting physical pressure leads to the disclsure of information- which somtimes proves false- but has also proven true in the past. "There is little doubt that some acts of terrorism- which would have killed many civilians- were prevented". "The ticking bomb case" has been discussed by philosophers such as Michael Walzer, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Jeremy Bentham "Political Action: The Problem of Dirty Hands" = article by Walzer in which this hypothetical case is proposed
describes a hypothetical case in which a decent leader of a nation is plagued with terrorism is asked to authorize the torture of a captured rebel who probably knows the location of a number of bombs hidden throughout the city which will go off in the next 24 hours Author: Alan Dershowitz Important factors, conditions and criteria which Dershowitz considers: The discomfort of torture inflicted on an individual who has been found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of terrorism and withholding life-saving information IS LESS morally significant than those lives which can be saved. Dershowitz basic reasoning: Torture cannot be lethal and cannot leave any permanent physical damage on the individual
Due process must be taken to ensure that the individual being tortured does posess information that can save innocent lives from an attack. One must get a torture warrant before torturing.
Every situation and case must be evaluated separately; a precedent for torture CANNOT be set. Rule Utilitarianism cannot be used with regards to torture.
The number of lives saved must be greater than those taken- since Dershowitz clearly states that torture must not be lethal, the lives taken should be 0.
In what situations would it be morally permissible to torture and how would it be regulated? What is the moral question here?? This is a description of pure act utilitarianism in which performing the torture would maximize pleasure for the most parties affected. "Torture warrants" on a case-by-case basis only If a detainee is guilty (so much so that a court has issued a warrant) beyond a reasonable doubt to have information which would save countless innocent lives, should that person be tortured (in such a way that disallows lethal force or permanent physical damage) in order to save a city full of innocent men, women and children? Torture is morally wrong because it goes against the 'rules of war' He assumes that it is morally acceptable to kill those who are trying to kill you Only a fight between willing combatants can be a 'fair fight' *However, war itself is not a 'fair fight' * * How can one argue that torture is wrong because it goes against the rules of war, which itself is inherently unfair? * Shue goes on to say that torture is LESS MORALLY APPREHENSIBLE if a condition is set which will end the torture * Dershowitz would say the condition is: Disclose life-saving information and torture ends * "Even if terroristic and interrogational torture, each in its own way, is bound to involve attacks upon people unable to defend themselves or escape, it is still not utterly inconceivable that one or the other types of TORTURE MIGHT SOMETIMES, all things considered, BE JUSTIFIED?" - Shue, p. 429, "It must reluctantly be admitted that the avoidance of assaults upon the defenseless is not the only, or even in all cases an overriding, moral consideration" -Shue p. 429 Dershowitz proposes a few reasonable examples using actual facts from past events: "Several weeks before Septemeber 11, 2001 the Immigration and Naturalization service detained Zacarias Moussaoui after flight instructors reported suspicious statements he had made while taking flying lessons and paying for them with large amounts of cash. The government decided not to seek a warrant to search his computer" What if they did get a warrant to search his computer and discovered that he was involved in a plan to attack large occupied buildings but without specific details?? What if they interrogatd him, offered him immunity, offered large cash rewards & a new identity, and employed every lawful technique but he still would not disclose the life saving information?? Given that the FBI had clear reason to believe that the attack was imminent, had no details on the means of the attack, and no details on which large occupied buildings faced attack, should they not be able to use non-lethal torture to obtain this information and potentially save all the lives which would be lost in the pending attack??? Is it morally permissible to use this method to prevent this tragedy? Hence "torture warrants", Dershowitz proposal of regulation to ensure that this could never be a general practice or happen behind closed government doors So, if we can prevent the loss of many innocent lives through a non-lethal, physically impermanent method of torture on a specific individual shouldn't we?? OPPOSITION: HENRY SHUE
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