Alan Dershowitz has written a book called Why Terrorism Works. In it, he proposes that we devise a new legal instrument, the torture warrant, in order to legalize the torture of certain prisoners in order to obtain information to track down and prevent terrorism.
Dershowitz reports on a 1995 incident in the Philippines, where a terrorist was tortured for 67 days until he provided information that may have prevented the crash of 11 commercial airliners. How many Americans would regret that the man wasn't read his Miranda rights? Dershowitz answers this question. When he asks audiences if they would support the use of nonlethal torture in a ticking-bomb case, ''virtually every hand is raised.'' He concludes that the real issue ''is not whether some torture would or would not be used in the ticking-bomb case -- it would. The question is whether it would be done openly, pursuant to a previously established legal procedure, or whether it would be done secretly, in violation of existing law.'' Dershowitz argues for torture warrants issued by courts to limit the practice and make it part of the public record.
What's next, public flogging for adulterers and medical hand amputation for thieves? And once you've decided "non-lethal" torture is okay, what's to keep you from claiming that potentially lethal torture may be necessary due to exigency? Sure, the "consitution is not a suicide pact." But when do the differences between us and our enemies become meaningless?
Right about the time we decide torture should be legalized, in my opinion. I'd rather die civilized than become the barbarian who kills me.