Terrorism and Torture BY dvt0724 In the threat of national security, the debate on torture is confronted with legal and moral dilemmas of permissibility. In the hypothetical case of the ticking-bomb terrorist, torture is perceived as either an advantageous means of national security, or a violation of human rights. Although it is a “slippery slope,” in order to preserve the balance between national security and civil liberties in a democratic society, torture should be prohibited. Considering terrorist attacks that harm or potentially kill at least thousand(s) of eople, torture may seem Justifiable.
Torture, defined in these instances as physically non-lethal, has been generally used to extract information from terrorists that may lead to the prevention of massive terrorist attack. Although “torture” is not necessarily prohibited by law in the Constitution, it can be argued to be a violation of the 5th and 14th Amendments. Under these amendments, torture would be prohibited because the due process clause prohibits the unlawful deprivation of life, liberty, and property; and the state’s obligation to apply the laws equally to any erson within the Jurisdiction of the state, including terrorists who may not be a citizen (Arthur, pg. 39). But, in an effort to deter terrorism or at least prevent imminent terrorist attacks, torture has been Justified with the utilitarian argument. Alan Dershowitz details Jeremy Bentham’s utilitarian Justification as a means to protect the greater good, maximizing societal benefits (Dershowitz, Blackboard pg. 1-2). In the ticking-bomb scenario, torturing the terrorist to gain information for the location and/or disposal of the bomb would be permissible because it is all in the fforts to protect the thousands of people in danger.
But under this theory, the justification for torture comes at the cost of violating the terrorist’s rights and possibly providing precedence for torture to be carried out in instances that are not necessarily considered acts of terror, or even on individuals who are not terrorists themselves but related to one. Also, this scenario is prescribed with the assumption that torture is effective in ascertaining valuable information from terrorists. However, there is not a law that permits torture under any circumstances, which leads to the onsideration that torture is ineffective, more or less.
Nonetheless, ensuring national security is of the utmost importance as well. In an attempt to satisfy both sides of the argument, Dershowitz argues for judicially sanctioned torture on the basis of necessity; concluding that if torture is to be considered necessary and proper, then it must be governed through law (Dershowitz, Blackboard pg. 6). It would seem to be a reasonable solution to a more complex problem, but he does not detail any specific guidelines that warrant when to torture or who to torture.
Though it may prove to be an effective deterrent against terrorism, Judicially sanctioned torture still compromises civil liberties, and there is still the possibility of coerced confessions being false. But inasmuch, society does not have to choose between compromising civil liberties or compromising national security in the case of terrorism and torture. To preserve the moral and legal integrity of society, I think torture should be prohibited by law under any circumstance.
In regards to terrorism, the government or local police should invest in lternative security and surveillance measures that allow government officials investigating terrorism to gather more credible evidence needed to prevent terrorist attacks, and ultimately eradicate the utilitarian idea of disregarding the terrorist’s life and liberty for the sake of many others’. With the increased security and surveillance and the less likelihood of relying on information from the terrorist, there would be a lesser need to resort to torture, assuming the increased security and surveillance is effective.
Considering that the ncreased security may spark a debate on privacy, I think it is imperative to consider that when choosing to preserve the balance between human rights and national security, in the efforts of preventing terrorism and torture, it may be more beneficial to sacrifice the liberty that causes the least risks than to distort and contradict fundamental principles of human rights. References Arthur, J. , and William Shaw. Readings in the Philosophy of Law. Pearson Education, Inc. 2010. Dershowitz, Alan. Should the Ticking Bomb Terrorist be Torturted?