In(terror)gation: Is torture ever justified?

All throughout history, torture has been used as an acceptable form of punishment. Even though international law prohibits torture many countries still actively engage in it. Torture is defined by Wikipedia as, “the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological pain and possible injury to an organism, usually to one who is physically restrained or otherwise under the torturer’s control or custody and unable to defend against what is being done to him or her.” When America was founded, the fourth amendment was drafted in the Bill of Rights to protect the people from cruel and unusual punishment. However, the fourth amendment was not enforced by the government of the United States until much later down the road (Harper, 2014). Eventually, the United States started enforcing the fourth amendment along with creating codes on torture. Despite these new implications, after the terrorist attacks on September 11th “enhanced interrogation techniques”, such as waterboarding, were put into practice by the Central Intelligence Agency (Harper, 2014). Since the attack on the United States the debate on torture techniques have only intensified.

We can’t change the fact that torture has been a part of the history of the world. But should we change the fact that it can be a part of the future? Is torture ever justified, even in times of war and cases of terrorism? I believe that torture of the innocent is wrong and unethical. However, I think the military should be allowed to use specific advanced interrogation techniques in extreme cases dealing with terrorism. I would agree that waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and solitary confinement are techniques that should be acceptable interrogation techniques in these special cases. Now the argument seems to be: What is “torture” and what is a “special interrogation technique” and should either be used? The use of torture techniques by the military has been a huge controversy over the past few years. The United States has many people argue that torture should be illegal—no if’s, and’s, or but’s. These people against the use of torture have many points on why it should not be u sed. Note: the following arguments will be based off waterboarding and sleep deprivation as the form of torture.



The first point from the opposition is that torture is a crime against humanity and violates human rights. To many this debate comes down to whether people have morals or not. Many people believe that it is immoral to take away a human’s rights and dignity. However, others would say it is immoral to not do everything to protect the people. So, the hypothetical question being proposed: is torturing one suspected terrorists to save many American lives justifiable? According to Michael Sandel (2009), utilitarian moral reasoning is a key factor in how people come to conclusions on difficult decisions, such as torture. Sandel says that, “numbers do seem to make a moral difference.” And in a ticking time-bomb scenario it “purports to prove that numbers count, so that if enough lives are at stake, we should be willing to override our scruples about dignity and rights.” (Sandel, 2009, p. 39). This would seem to prove that morality is based on weighing the costs and benefits of a situation. The thought process of the opposition is that torture is immoral and if it is used by America we all become hypocrites. The use of torture may make the United States military hypocrites, but they are no murderers of the innocent, like the terrorists they interrogate. To me, torture can be ethically justified in this case.  In my opinion, protecting American citizens should be top priority over protecting a terrorist’s rights and if using enhanced interrogation techniques helps accomplish protecting American citizens and soldiers, then I’m all for it. The use of torture may make the United States government and military hypocrites, but they are no murderers of the innocent, like the terrorists they deal with.


Sandel discussing human rights and dignity:

Those Americans opposed of torture argue that during an interrogation torture does not produce reliable information and that there is no evidence that torture techniques are effective. I will give those in opposition that technically there is no written proof that the public knows of. However, how is effectiveness and reliability measured in this case? There is no grading scale for either. Also, the public does not know if information is reliable or effective because it would be confidential. Any information gained from terrorists using torture techniques would have been very private and not revealed to American’s anyways. If the knowledge obtained during interrogation was revealed it could be detrimental to the government and no longer be useful. Therefore, arguing that waterboarding and other torture techniques is unreliable isn’t a valid argument if the American people don’t have access to know the information obtained during interrogations. js

When we take a look at the recent events today, this debate applies more than ever. France was just attacked by ISIS. America has been dealing with ISIS and the Syrian refugees. Along with the new attack threats from ISIS on the United States and other countries. Being in a location at home and at school where the threat is very high I would hope the U.S. government does everything they can to keep my family, friends, along with myself safe. If using these torture techniques on ISIS terrorists happens to save many citizens from being murdered I’m okay with the repercussions and so should the rest of Americans. During the Bush administration the CIA used waterboarding as an enhanced interrogation technique. (Serrano, 2007). When this information was revealed to America Vice President Cheney and President Bush got a lot of hate for their decisions. I find this interesting because Bush’s administration totally changed national security and there has not been an attack like 9-11 since. Cheney’s decision to use the interrogation techniques provided them with vital information to capture and lead to Osama bin Laden’s capture later during Obama’s presidency. Cheney justifies his decision, “Well, torture to me … is an American citizen on a cell phone making a last call to his four young daughters shortly before he burns to death in the upper levels of the trade center on 9/11,” Cheney continues to say that, “this notion that somehow there is moral equivalence between what the terrorists did and what we do, and that is absolutely not true. We were very careful to stop short of torture. The Senate has seen fit to label their report ‘torture,’ but we worked hard to stay short of that definition.” (Harper, 2014). I use this quote to conclude my thoughts and argument that “torture” or these “advanced interrogation techniques” should be allowed to be used by the government against terrorists. isis

In conclusion, certain interrogation techniques should be allowed in cases dealing with terrorism. It comes down to American safety, and the safety of the citizens of the world in general. It is the obligation of the government to do everything in their power to keep the country safe. In the end the use of this “torture” can possibly help protect the country, since it is saving numbers it should be justifiable. Overall, torture techniques such as waterboarding, should be allowed when dealing with terrorism. Protecting the American people is the primary goal of the government, the duty of the people, and aspiration of the nation.




Drake, Bruce. “Americans’ Views on Use of Torture in Fighting Terrorism Have Been Mixed.” Pew Research Center RSS. 9 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Harper, Jon. “Torture: Why the Military Balked at ‘Enhanced Interrogation” 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.

Sandel, Michael J. “Utilitarianism.” Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2009. Print.

Serrano, Alfonso. “Waterboarding: Interrogation or Torture?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 1 Nov. 2007. Web. 1 Dec. 2015.


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