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What Mark Said


It is indeed absurd to maintain that a given act (in this case, torture) might be essential to our national security then turn around and make it illegal. Among other things, it puts the people who will have to do it in an awful position. And as a practical matter, we are unlikely to encounter cartoonishly crystal-clear ticking-bomb scenarios. They will always be murky, and we will make mistakes. Then, we will have people who will have broken the law when it’s clear after the fact that there was no ticking bomb, and their careers and their freedom will be in danger. Also, you can make a good case that any time you catch an al Qaeda big it is potentially a ticking bomb scenario (if not for saving an entire city, at least for averting a major attack somewhere)–there’s no way to know, until you know everything he knows. So, spinning the argument out a bit, is torture OK everytime we capture a major al Qaeda figure?

But this debate is a little otherworldly because … torture is already illegal. I think it should be and in all circumstances. The question is what constitutes torture, and what practices are short of torture, but are tough interrogation techniques consistent with our values? This is the debate that has some bearing on reality and what we do now. Incredibly, the anti-torture people, who pretend all of this is so morally easy, won’t say. Congress is having a huge interrogation debate, and it won’t say. McCain, so celebrated for his moral clarity and taking on tough issues, won’t say…