Discuss whether the "ticking time bomb" hypothetical justifies the use of torture, in general.

Expert Answers
Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The original question had to be edited.  I invite you to resubmit it.  As with so many hypotheticals, the situation might be flawed.  I think that most intelligent experts agree that it is highly unlikely that a field operative would possess absolute certainty that someone captured has such totalizing information.  The "ticking time bomb" situation also makes any situation a "ticking time bomb" situation.  This means if such certainty could be ascertained, then any and every situation becomes this.  Another point to be made here is that there is an assumption that torture, itself, works.  If we accept the premise, already questioned, that an intelligence officer has information that someone in custody can reveal where "the ticking time bomb" is located, then the assumption that follows is that torture reveals accurate information.  There is little to indicate that this is the case. Torture might actually reveal inaccurate information.  The victim might simply wish to stop the pain and thus would surrender any information, regardless of its validity.  Even if one suggested that torture should be used, the fact that fraudulent information could be given and would be acted upon threatens innocent civilians that much more.  In the end, acting on information derived from torture might cause more death and destruction because of pursuing false leads.

If time were of the essence, a more credible and plausible alternative would be to use information on the ground and strengthen intelligence gathering operations.  In the mission to target and eliminate Osama Bin Laden, one sees American intelligence gathering missions at their best.  The use of torture was not critical to finding and killing the world's most dangerous threat to the United States:  "They said the key breakthroughs in the hunt were down to old-fashioned surveillance and intelligence techniques, cyber-snooping or via standard interrogations."  This would be quite compelling in the idea that if time was of the essence and credible information was coveted, the answer does not lie in torture as much as it is "old fashioned surveillance and intelligence techniques."  Ensuring that connections with people from all over the globe are present and working to keeping as many channels of communication open is a part of this, doors that close when we, as a nation, sanction torture as a part of our military prodcedure.

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question