Back to News & Commentary

Insight From a Reader

Gabe Rottman,
Legislative Counsel,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
Share This Page
May 29, 2007

A reader responds to the post on how fictional dramatic portrayals of torture have insinuated themselves into the current presidential race. Not just eloquent but spot on:

In real life the problem is that you typically don’t know what you don’t know, so there is no such tension. [Indeed, if the Bush administration were a Wagnerian opera, “how can we do meaningful review when you don’t know what you don’t know?” would probably be the leitmotiv.] If torture is permitted in the hypothetical “ticking time bomb” scenario, then one starts to perceive every terrorism investigation as a ticking time bomb. Indeed, the entire “war on terrorism” can be framed as a giant ticking time bomb scenario … and in a sense that’s the only scale at which one can be readily know that there is a ticking time bomb. Thus, the more relevant question isn’t whether torture should be used in the “ticking time bomb” scenario that is usually hypothesized as a thought experiment, but whether it should be used as a routine matter in terrorism investigation.I think this question must consider whether using torture as a routine matter is consistent with American ethical norms and whether torture has a proven record of effectiveness in interrogation. On both grounds, the answer seems to be ‘no.’