Most people in US, Britain, France, and S. Korea think torturing terrorists is OK.
Everyone knows the scenario from TV. There’s a ticking bomb, thousands will die, and our hero has to decide whether to torture the terrorist prisoner in order to find out where the bomb is. This is the scenario that advocates of state-sanctioned torture invariably bring up.
Hopefully most people also realize that the chances of that scenario actually playing out are vanishingly small. The idea that we’ll catch a guy who actually knows where the bomb is mere hours before it goes off makes for great TV, but it’s pretty farfetched.
The scholarship that I’ve read says that under real-life conditions, torture generally doesn’t work. You don’t get reliable intelligence from it.
I’m willing to believe, however, that maybe, just maybe, in that rare ticking-bomb situation, torture might be the only thing left to try. Fine. But that doesn’t mean it should be legal.
The best take on this subject I’ve seen goes like this: torture may conceivably be justified on rare occasions. But in order to ensure that is is only ever used as a tool of desperate last resort, it should remain illegal. Anyone who chooses to use it must know that they stand to lose their job and their freedom. They have to believe that the information they hope to get is worth ending their own career and going to jail over. That’s the only way to keep it from becoming widespread.
Hat tip: humandays