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12/03/2014 | Is Torture an Option in War on Terror?

Martin Edwin Andersen

The French experience exemplified by retired French general Paul Aussaresses runs counter to that of neighboring Italy. In the 1970s Italy faced its own ticking-bomb scenario when ultra-left Red Brigade commandos kidnapped former prime minister Aldo Moro, then head of the ruling Christian Democratic party, after killing his bodyguard. An Italian police official suggested to Gen. Carlos Alberto Della Chiesa, the man in charge of the investigation, that a detainee who appeared to have vital information be tortured. "Italy," replied Della Chiesa, who himself later

 

The scenario, seemingly impossible before Sept. 11, now is the stuff of dark and lurid conjecture. Credibleintelligence sources say a recently detained immigrant has specific knowledge about a terrorist cell that hasobtained a suitcase nuclear bomb and plans to use it within hours. Yet the sullen man in captivity will saynothing, demanding instead to see his lawyer. The clock ticks, but time appears to stand still. How can hiscaptors - the good guys - make him talk before it is too late?

The terror and mass destruction wreaked on U.S. soil have, for many Americans, changed the moralequation that is used to plumb the deepest feelings about war and how it should be conducted. Intelligence breakthroughs of the kind that would let us sleep well at night, if they exist, doubtlessly are closely held.

Instead, the worried faces of Washington's war counselors suggest that the hundreds of detainees capturedhere and abroad during the last nine months have offered up very little information through traditional legalinterrogations. The terrorists, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told a Senate subcommittee on May21, are sure to acquire nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, "and they will not hesitate to use them."Recently, former CIA and FBI director William Webster appeared to add fuel to a simmering debate taking place in Washington and elsewhere about how to treat terrorist suspects in a world that has become a muchmore dangerous place. Uncooperative al-Qaeda and Taliban captives, Webster said, might be given "truthdrugs," such as sodium pentothal or other short-term anesthetics, or face other tactics he said fell short of torture to penetrate Osama bin Laden's shadowy network.

"We ought to look at what options are out there,"Webster declared. Interrogation techniques, he added, should "go beyond name, rank and serial number."Other experts question both the morality and the effectiveness of using "truth serum," which they say lowersa subject's inhibitions but may not necessarily make him more truthful.

However, Webster's comments were not made in a vacuum. Just after the Sept. 11 attacks, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, fond of presenting himself as a civil libertarian, published an op-ed piece in theLos Angeles Times in which he argued that "if we are to have torture, it should be authorized by the law,"with authorities required to apply to judges for "torture warrants" on a case-by-case basis. "We can't justclose our eyes and pretend we live in a pure world," he said, citing a "ticking-bomb" scenario similar to theone described at the beginning of this article.

In January the television program 60 Minutes reported that "while FBI official policy strongly prohibits the practice, some FBI agents are getting so frustrated [with interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects] they have begun to think about what until now had been unthinkable: torture." More recently, a guest editorialist for the generally liberal National Public Radio averred that, while torture may be necessary, it is an uglynecessity and thus should be kept out of sight. The comment echoed an injunction offered up by William F.Buckley in the generally conservative National Review earlier this year. Dershowitz is wrong, Buckleywrote, because "to attempt to describe legitimate reasons for torture breaks the spiritual back of the law."

"We should not torture an al-Qaeda prisoner as a general rule. But to torture the one who knows where thehijacked, airborne Boeing 737 is headed is an exemption to the rule," Buckley observed, though it is "notone we would wish to codify. Some acts of warfare, like some intelligence, are works of art, not articles of war."Meanwhile, questions are being raised about whether the United States can share information with securityand intelligence agencies of allied nations and still not be seen as condoning the types of mental and physicalanguish frequently visited upon their terror suspects.

Egypt, for example, is well-known for inflicting brutaltreatment not only on suspected terrorists, but against political dissidents as well. For his part, in recentweeks Rumsfeld has reiterated his opposition to employing brutal interrogation techniques as a means of gathering intelligence.Yet the debate persists, with the fault line frequently running along the lines of the example of someone incustody suspected of having information about an imminent chemical, biological or nuclear attack.

Scribd (Estados Unidos)

 



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