We have two examples, from the real world, of tactics that have been necessary in this war to keep terrorists from killing us. They are as close as we’re likely to get to the ballyhooed ticking timebomb scenario. The academicians currently going back and forth over the McCain amendment won’t touch these cases, but they’re as relevant as they can possibly be. They happened. And they’re likely to happen again.
The first involves Abu Zubaydah, a high level al Qaeda terror master who was captured in April 2002 and taken to Gitmo. He was subjected to enhanced interrogation and divulged the name of Jose Padilla. He also divulged that he, Zubaydah, had sent Padilla on a mission to the United States to conduct a series of apartment bombings in the Chicago area and to scout for a dirty bomb attack. As an American citizen, Padilla could move into the US at will and authorities would never have spotted him. The enhanced interrogation of Abu Zubaydah stopped Padilla’s attacks cold, saving lives. McCain should be asked directly about this case, and should be made to answer straight out whether or not the techniques used on Zubaydah constituted torture, whether his amendment would ban those techniques, and what he thinks about that.
The second example involves Col Allen West, US Army. Stationed in Iraq and interrogating a captured terrorist, West tired of the terrorist’s intransigence and fired his gun near the terrorist’s head. Not at him, or even in his direction, but beside him. The terrorist quickly divulged his knowledge of the positions fellow terrorists had staked out to ambush American troops. West’s actions saved lives. Is what West did torture? Should it have been done? How should West have been treated after the fact?