Torture is a despicable practice. As a general rule I don’t believe that torture interrogation techniques work as well as one might think. Yes, torture victims will often sing like canaries. They’ll tell their torturers anything they want to hear. But too often it’s unreliable. It won’t necessarily lead to the truth.
So I’m gratified that our newly confirmed Secretary of Defense, General Mad Dog Mattis, and Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, agree with me – torture doesn’t work and it’s against the law. Americans don’t resort to torture. If the President ordered them to do it, they wouldn’t do it. That’s good.
But sadly, President Trump is still convinced that torture works. He has said repeatedly on the campaign trail, and recently since his inauguration, that he would employ waterboarding and worse on suspected terrorists if it were solely up to him. Fortunately, however, he also says that he’ll defer to General Mattis, CIA Director Pompeo, and the law.
Last Wednesday Trump said it again. He declared that torture works. And his administration intends to conduct a sweeping review of how America conducts the war on terror. He’s considering a resumption of previously banned interrogation methods and reopening CIA-run "black site" prisons outside the United States. "We have to fight fire with fire," he said. But at the same time, he added that we want to do: "everything within the bounds of what you're allowed to do legally."
Well then, perhaps President Trump ought to read the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution which plainly provides that “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Perhaps he should consider the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination?
Note that our Constitution does not provide any exceptions for suspected terrorists. As far as our founding fathers were concerned, torture is cruel and unusual punishment and the government may not force an accused to incriminate himself.
But let’s suppose for the purpose of argument that the Bill of Rights is not applicable to torture interrogation techniques; that American law allows torture, and that torture works…
If torture works… then why should we limit the sickening and disgusting practice to interrogating terrorist suspects? Why not torture all criminal suspects to find out what they know? Let’s say the cops arrest a suspected bank robber and they want to know the identity of his accomplices. Why not just torture the suspect – water board him perhaps – to coerce the information out of him? Why not simply whisk all criminal suspects off to Gitmo or some other “black site” prison where they can be tortured at leisure?
If torture works… and torture is legal… why not allow parents to employ enhanced interrogation techniques – torture – on their children in order to find out what mischief they’ve been up to? Suppose, for example, that a parent suspects her kid is doing illegal drugs. Why not let her water board the lad in order to get to the truth of the matter? Why not bring back the rack? After all, we have to fight fire with fire, right?
If torture works… where does it end?