The Spine

Dershowitz On Torture


I don't mean to upset Andrew Sullivan again.  But I think that most Democrats are showboating on "waterboarding."  And they will pay with the election if they don't stop.  Frankly, it's my opinion that thepresidential candidates have clamped onto this example of admittedly verydubious behavior to signal to the party's left (which is the constituency thatdetermines who's the nominee) that they think this defense against terrorismis a supposedly grave, grave issue. Hillary, of course, has hemmed and hawed the most, but not for the most cynical of reasons, but because she realizes that the issue is complicated, not simple. What do they really believe?  Who knows?Alan Dershowitz has made the case in this morning's Wall Street Journal.And in his article he cites none other than Bill Clinton on the specifics:

for example, the contentious and emotionally laden issue of the use of
torture in securing preventive intelligence information about imminent
acts of terrorism--the so-called "ticking bomb" scenario. I am not now
talking about the routine use of torture in interrogation of suspects
or the humiliating misuse of sexual taunting that infamously occurred
at Abu Ghraib. I am talking about that rare situation described by
former President Clinton in an interview with National Public Radio:

picked up someone you know is the No. 2 aide to Osama bin Laden. And
you know they have an operation planned for the United States or some
European capital in the next three days. And you know this guy knows
it. Right, that's the clearest example. And you think you can only get
it out of this guy by shooting him full of some drugs or waterboarding
him or otherwise working him over."

said Congress should draw a narrow statute "which would permit the
president to make a finding in a case like I just outlined, and then
that finding could be submitted even if after the fact to the Foreign
Intelligence Surveillance Court." The president would have to "take
personal responsibility" for authorizing torture in such an extreme
situation. Sen. John McCain has also said that as president he would
take responsibility for authorizing torture in that "one in a million"

I am personally opposed to the use of torture, I have no doubt that any
president--indeed any leader of a democratic nation--would in fact
authorize some forms of torture against a captured terrorist if he
believed that this was the only way of securing information necessary
to prevent an imminent mass casualty attack. The only dispute is
whether he would do so openly with accountability or secretly with
deniability. The former seems more consistent with democratic theory,
the latter with typical political hypocrisy.

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