Phil Carter has yet another piece in Slate. “Tainted by Torture: How evidence obtained through coercion is undermining the legal war on terrorism” combines Phil’s experience as a former military officer and his recent training at UCLA law school and looks at both the practical and legal aspects of torturing suspected terrorists to get information. He concludes,
As a nation, we still haven’t clearly decided whether it’s better to prosecute terrorists or pound them with artillery. But by torturing some of al-Qaida’s leaders, we have completely undermined any efforts to do the former and irreversibly committed ourselves to a martial plan of justice. In the long run, this may be counterproductive, and it will show that we have compromised such liberal, democratic ideals like adherence to the rule of law to counter terrorism. Torture and tribunals do not help America show that it believes in the rule of law. But if CIA officials continue to use tactics that will get evidence thrown out of federal court, there will increasingly be no other option.
I think that’s right. Frankly, I’d be willing to accept the moral implications of torturing the likes of Khalid Sheik Mohammed if it would help us catch other terrorist leaders and save lives. There’s little evidence that this benefit occurs, however.
In a related piece, Brendan Koerner looks at the specific statutes in U.S. and international law that govern the use of terrorism. While they’re all rather vague–probably by necessity–it’s pretty clear that much of what is officially sanctioned in our interrogation of terrorists is at best in the gray area.