Veteran Interrogator: You Don’t Need to Torture Even in ‘Ticking Bomb’ Case

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During today’s hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), fresh off an intellectually stimulating comparison of torture to abortion (he questioned why the committee isn’t concerned about abortion, even though some abortion techniques torture the woman), asked about the so-called “ticking” bomb case — that is, an uncooperative detainee has surefire knowledge of an imminent attack. Should you torture him then? Franks himself said several times this morning that he’s against torture, by the way.

Now, the ticking-bomb case — depending on where you sit on the torture question — is either the hardest test of someone’s sense of balance between human rights and national security or a rhetorical trap designed to box opponents of torture into saying that it’s better for Sheboygan to be nuked than someone be waterboarded. But the question was handled by U.S. Air Force Reserve Colonel Steve Kleinman, a longtime military interrogator and intelligence officer. He said that even in the ticking bomb case, torture would be the wrong call. “‘I’d say it’d be unneccesary to conduct our affairs outside the boundaries,” Kleinman replied. His experience “proves the legal and moral concerns to be almost immaterial, because what we’d need to do to be operationally effective” wouldn’t involve torture.

Which makes sense, considering that U.S.’s SERE instructors teach their students that torture just “Produces Unreliable Information.”So while Franks should get an A for effort, Kleinman’s testimony suggests that anyone who’d waterboard in a ticking-bomb case is wasting time that could be used to stop Sheboygan’s imminent destruction. When’s that going to be considered a threat to national security?