On Torture (Ethics 4)

Ali Soufan was an FBI agent and a terrorism interrogator during the investigations of the Cole bombing and the 9-11 attack. He was the agent who used interrogation to find out the link between the hijackers and Al Qaeda. He discovered Kalid Sheikh Mohammad was the central figure in the planning of the plot. He uncovered the fact that Jose Padilla was seeking to detonate a dirty bomb.
And he did it all without any form of torture. He simply outsmarted them.
Sadly, the CIA was not impressed and assumed these terrorists knew more than Soufan was able to get out of them. So, they began to use forms of torture in an attempt to extract more information from them.
In a New York Times Op-Ed, dated 2009, Soufan said, “There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions – all of which are still classified.”
In chapter 4 of Ethics, Bonhoeffer said, “Torture is generally an ineffectual means for discovering the truth.” But that, in and of itself, is not the main reason we reject torture as a means of finding truth. Bonhoeffer explains that in torture “the body is misused and therefore dishonored.” The result of this dishonoring is not the discovery of truth but a hostility on the part of those who are tortured. Ultimately “bodily dishonor seeks to avenge itself on the body of the infamous tormentor.”
Brutality breeds more brutality. Dishonor breeds revenge.
In our efforts to remain safe, we must always beware that we do not become a monster in order to defeat the monster. Because others have dishonored us does not mean that we can dishonor them through torture.


Leave a Reply