Question Of The Day: Is It Ever Ethical To Torture A Terrorist To Save American Lives?
Given that “torture” is in the news, it might be interesting to see what you thought about an intriguing, “torture related” ethical dilemma…and we’re not talking silly stuff like putting an Israeli flag over someone’s head or sleep deprivation, we’re talking real torture.
The situation is based on something that happened in last night’s episode of “24” (incidentally, I just started watching “24” last night and wow, it’s fantastic).
You are a government agent and your agency has just captured a fairly well known, non-American, terrorist and the timing couldn’t be better. About 30 minutes ago, terrorists blew up a train in the United States.
You believe, but you don’t know for certain, that there’s a bigger attack coming in exactly 30 minutes and you think it’s highly likely that the terrorist who has been captured has all the details. Other people from your agency have been interrogating him, but they’ve been getting absolutely nowhere.
You walk into the room where he’s being held, take off his shoes, and pull out a hammer. You ask him to tell you about the terrorist attack occurring in 30 minutes. He says nothing.
You believe that if you start smashing toes with that hammer, he’ll talk and you may be able to prevent a terrorist attack on American soil. Forget about the legal consequences, what the enemy may do in retaliation, the media, etc.
Just answer one question: In that situation and in that situation alone, would it be ethical to torture that terrorist for information?
Given that scenario, I say yeah, it’s ethical to torture him.