Is torture ever justified?

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Comments (29)

(29) Alistair, February 20, 2009 1:37 PM

Torture for evidential purposes pointless - but sometimes justified

The problem with torture is that the subject will say anything to make it stop. The answers are not therefore reliable for evidential purposes, nor for identification of accomplices. That said it can have its place. Its something of a cliche however in the situation of 'the ticking bomb' all that may be required - immediately - is where, when and how to stop it. If I was going to loose my life in the ticking bomb scenario I would be seriously upset if ANY means necessary were not used to extract the information to save my life. Later, after the plot is foiled it would not be acceptable to torture for further information as it is unnecessary and unreliable. I know this is a little simplistic, but not necessarily unrepresentative.

(28) Alexandra, February 1, 2009 9:03 PM

Hands up for Mr Bauer. Torture is by no mean acceptable, but terrorist are not humans to be considered by law.

(27) Dan, January 24, 2009 11:43 AM

Apples and Oranges

(Apple) Torture for prosecution purposes is wrong, as this is SELF incrimination. (Orange) Torture to gain information to protect the innocent is righteous IF the one being tortured is a known terrorist on among them.

(26) Anita, January 23, 2009 8:01 PM


We have to remember that sometimes "torture" is a way to get information. Yes I agree it is wrong, however, if you look at the terrorists that held Daniel Pearl, for example, they tortured him and THEN decapitated him. When it comes to war, torture is the only way to get information. It is never right, but sometimes it's the only way to do things. Yes I agree with some of you that we shouldn't derive right and wrong from a television show, but look at the real life situations. If there are several nuclear bombs set to go off at the same time in a city and you capture one person who is responsible, wouldn't you want to get the information to disarm those bombs in a hurry? I would, and I would use any means necessary to do so. That's my opinion... a.

(25) Sam, January 23, 2009 2:24 PM

good for him

GO MR. BAUER!!!!!!!!

(24) Bill Merrill, January 22, 2009 1:14 PM

Torture is not reliable, for one thing

Answers received from someone under torture are not reliable answers. Torture is morally wrong. Therefore, rationally there is no justification for torture, EVER. People torture because they emotionally want to get an answer to the question, whether it's actually correct or not. This is not rational (or moral) behavior. Neither is it rational to expect to get all sides of the story from a television show.

(23) Eliav, January 22, 2009 1:10 AM

I don't understand the question

I don't really understand the question. Of course sometimes it's justified to torture. When innocent lives are at stake extraordinary measures are sometimes called for. Anyone who says otherwise is likely fooling himself. Say what you like, but there are few people who wouldn't take extreme measures if they were sure that their loved ones' lives were at stake. There are people out there who in the name of G-d are willing to perpetrate the most heinous acts of evil. It is the responsibility of some to see to it that they cannot succeed. If that means torturing some of them, I can't see how anyone can object.

(22) dovid, January 21, 2009 9:10 PM

Law is supposed to serve people. Not the other way around.

It's perverse to expect an agent to save lives when accomplishing his mission can be done only by breaking the law. Such a law needs to be re-examined and changed before it's too late.

(21) Yosef, January 21, 2009 12:15 PM


this whole torture debate is so arbitrary. Here's an example of what i mean: I consider jailing a person for life is a form of torture, would you like to spend the rest of your life in jail? some people would rather die. Also, one should put themselves in the place of the victim's relatives. If a person knows that the ones dearest to him are about to be blown up, and this plot can be stopped in time by administering "special treatment" to the detainee to obtain relavent information, i bet we'll see many people in such a situation who were formerly opposed to torture suddenly change their minds.

(20) David Cohen, January 21, 2009 9:44 AM

Answer to 15

Was the US government right or wrong after WWII to convict Japanese soldiers of a crime for waterboarding US and other Allied prisoners of war? David C., Houston

(19) Anonymous, January 21, 2009 9:32 AM

Answering No. 9

American citizens have been detained as "enemy combatants." Are they not protected by the Constitution? Furthermore, the fifth amendment says "no person," not "no citizen." Since testimony extracted under torture is being brought in criminal trials (under military commission) against detainees, the fifth amendment should certainly prevent this. If your objection is that such information (assuming it were useful) should be usable by the military/intelligence services to prevent attacks, certainly that doesn't mean that it should be admissible at a criminal trial, as is being done now. David C., Houston

(18) Tammy Johnson, January 21, 2009 7:29 AM

There are other means besides torture

The game of terror attacks as one move and torture as the response is a game that allows no winner. Change the game. There are other means for acquiring more reliable information. Information gotten through torture has a higher rate of falsehood and is usually given long after that same information would save lives. When that prisoner is eventually released or traded he will be a spokes person and broadcast the kind of people we are. The real question is one of identity. Our actions define who we are.

(17) Rabbi K, January 21, 2009 6:49 AM

To save lives we Torture!

The Sages teach us that when someone is a "Rodeif" -- a pursuer -- chasing to kill we may stop him in any way possible. Yes, those who didn''t bomb the railroad tracks to Aushwitz, think that it is unHuman to torture. It is only when it is the interest of oil producing countries when there is mercy. Yes that the sages also teach us not to have mercy on cruel. This is the torah way to save lives. Especially from those ruthless killers who don''t value life

(16) Barbara Harper, January 21, 2009 12:20 AM

One life out weighs the life of many

The summary came from a Star Trek eposide that if my belief also. If a country or persons are in danger of an attack, or are under attack, they should have the right to take any means nessacery to stop it. Especially if they have not provoked the incident. Every nation has the right to safety and protection from terrorists or attack by another country. I love my country and would die to protect it for future generations. I would do this at any cost if needed. Some may say I am cold and un-feeling, and maybe barbaric, but I stand by my convictions. So yes I do believe torture is justified to save lifes.

(15) WINEMAKER, January 20, 2009 10:07 PM

Depends on the PURPOSE

Torture for the pleasure of the torturer is unacceptable. [We call it Sadism.] Torture to obtain a confession, or a conviction, in court is unacceptable. Torture to end a peaceful demonstration [regardless of the issue or the public position of the demonstrator] is unacceptable. Torture to induce prisoners to make statements they do not in fact believe for diplomatic and/or propaganda purposes is unacceptable. But torture to break up a barroom brawl or to separate parties to a violent domestic encounter? The police use it all the time: They call it "pain-compliance" -- and it entails pressure points, arm-twisting, etc., but it's fundamentally torture -- and it's perfectly proper when judiciously applied. And when lives are imminently threatened by the lack of vital information that a combatant is believed to have, and won't otherwise provide -- then OF COURSE, torture is justified. Furthermore, the politically correct claim that torture doesn't elicit vital info is a steaming pile of malodorous horse manure. How do you think that rash of bus bombings in Israel some years ago was ended? appeals to the terrorists' sense of human decency? free tennis lessons? fifty-dollar gift certificates to Macy's? Get real. Every army, one every side, in every conflict since Day One has used torture when necessary, though few will acknowledge it. It's important, however, to be working with a real definition of the word, instead of the shifting, floating definition that has been allowed to arise in recent years. Various parties with politically correct axes to grind have seized upon the emotional valence attaching to the word "torture" throughout history and used it for their own ideological purposes. And, yes, even the upper echelon of the U.S. Army is hardly immune to the insidious demands of political correctness -- but just because they call water-boarding 'torture' doesn't make it torture -- any more than CALLING a horse's tail a "leg" will MAKE it a leg. True torture entails the application of physical pain, whether for its own sake [Sadism], or or as a MEANS to an end [deterrence from robbery, murder, rape, etc., getting you to loosen that headlock on the wife you're beating, inducing you giving up vital intel, etc, etc]. As I said, torture as an end in itself is always wrong, but as a means to an end, it depends --some purposes are legitimate, and others aren't. What's more, as a matter of practice, it shouldn't be necessary to cause physical damage or injury to the body in order to apply that pain, if the operative knows what he's doing. If he doesn't, he needs to be trained and properly supervised by somebody who does. However, the mere fact that a procedure or practice is coercive, that it is used to pressure somebody to do or say something unwillingly, does not necessarily make it torture. If there's no pain involved, then whatever ELSE it is, it isn't torture -- unless, of course, you have no problem with the Orwellian proposition that words can be legitimately used and twisted for any purpose.

(14) Lashann Chipkin, January 20, 2009 9:08 PM

All is fair in love and war........

For years Israel has been merciful, trying at all cost to be peaceful and not full of war and hate.But when is enough enough? We don't start wars, but all throughout the Bible we find G-d calling Jews to defend themselves. We have to preserve our people,G-d's people from total annihilation.

(13) steve, January 20, 2009 7:16 PM

One cant state definitively that torture is always inappropriate

the balance of humanitarian gain by breaking the law is complex. In this case, the saving of 45 civilians including children is worth "extreme measures" to extract information to save innocents including children. they were torturing a known terrorist. He already had a track record of atrocities, so what is to be lost in extreme measures to save innocents? Why protect a terrorist and lose 45 innocent civilians?

(12) dovid benjamin, January 20, 2009 6:15 PM

I fully subscribe to Stuart, 18/1/2009 comment.

Stuart is correct. His comment is short and to the point.

(11) howard yagerman, January 20, 2009 4:56 PM

Pop Quiz

A sleeper cell brings a dirty bomb in a suit case into the Port of New York.Intelligence tells the F.B.I. about the plot but the cell can't be identified.Information tells the F.B.I. the bomb is set to detonates in 12 hours.A member of the cell is identified by a reliable souce.She knows where the bomb can be found.Who do you want to interrogate the cell member,Jimmy Carter or Jack Bauer?

(10) ROBERT PEREZ, January 20, 2009 4:17 PM


(9) Joel, January 20, 2009 3:39 PM

Get Your Head Out of the Sand

It is kind of sad that there are those who feel that people who are not American citizens deserve the same rights guaranteed under the United States Constitution. Our parents, and their parents and so on emigrated to the United States from lands that did not give a damn about their alienable rights as their dictators, Fuhers, Generals, Emperors, etc, took care of themselves and themselves only. When there is war, then rules of engagement change the rules of humankind. I don't give a damn that some Taliban fighters were pictured in their underwear or guarded by a female soldier. Remember, these are the same animals that paraded Daniel Pearls head on the internet. These animals don't care about our laws as they live a lawless existence. KILL THE JEWS and AMERICANS are their mottos. I don't expect nor do I want any brave American soldiers, my brotheren, to have to decide in the heat of battle if there decision abides by the Geneva Convention. If it's my life or those animals, there is no question who will survive.

(8) Shlomo, January 20, 2009 3:03 PM

The people of China don't speak German...

Terrorists we catch all have knowledge that we can utilize to defend our people. They will never offer that information voluntarily. People who use violence understand and respect violence, not polite, civilized discussions.

(7) fred, January 20, 2009 1:06 PM


Any number of times, in reading stories of foiled terrorist attacks on the Israel National News website, the article states that the captured terrorist led authorities to a cache of explosives and/or fellow terrorists about to perpetrate an imminent attack on civilian men, women and children. I doubt very much if any of these cooperative terrorists had a sudden change of heart on their own.

(6) Shalom, January 20, 2009 12:24 PM

We need to do everything to save the lives of innocent people

(5) David Cohen, January 20, 2009 9:14 AM

Never happened

Yes, if this were the situation that actually occurred in Abu Ghraib or Gitmo---torture of a detainee provided useful information that stopped a terrorist attack---then of course we would laud the torturer. And if the torturer were Jack Bauer, he would gladly go to prison knowing that what he did had to be done, and the laws of a free and honorable people required that it be forbidden and punished. He wouldn't try to change the law, as those who ordered the tortures at Gitmo and Abu Ghraib have done---to make his illegal, but in his eyes necessary, act a standard operating procedure. However, there is absolutely no evidence that torture at US detention sites has produced any useful intelligence, in line with decades of scientific study concluding that torture does not yield useful information, and that the tortured are often likely to give false info4rmation that they believe the torturer wants to hear. Much as John McCain did when he was tortured by the North Vietnamese---he publicly declared the US war in Veitnam a criminal act and himself a war criminal---positions we know he holds to be false. David C. Houston

(4) Avi Orlan, January 20, 2009 9:06 AM

Torture is justified

The torah says to kill those who are out to kill you. Torture is a justified means to an end.

(3) Michael, January 20, 2009 8:49 AM

Pay attention...

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke Please read this weeks Shabat Shalom weekly by Rabbi Kalman Packouz, Va'era 5769 on Aish.com. Pay attention...

(2) Steve Goldstein, January 20, 2009 2:23 AM

lesson for Gaza

He says, "The people we're dealing with don't care about your laws." That's exactly what Israel faces in Gaza -- being condemned for trying to stop attacks by people who have broken all the laws of combat.

(1) Stuart, January 18, 2009 1:38 PM

If by torture, you mean extraordinary measures to gain information from uniformed armed forces of an opposing state, then torture is not justified. If, however, you mean spies or irregular combatants, who do not follow the rules of warfare, extraordinary means are justified to prevent loss of life or property. It is morally reprehensible for me to sit in my nice, comfortable house and excoriate our armed forces/police etc. for providing me the freedom which I have, even if it includes torturing a spy or irregular combatant. If someone comes to kill me, I will get up early to kill him, is how the Talmud explains it. Have mercy and compassion for the victims, not the perpetrators.


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