Torture, Truth Serum, and Ticking Bombs: Toward a Pragmatic Perspective on Coercive Interrogation
33 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2008 Last revised: 3 Apr 2009
Date Written: July 1, 2008
The 'War on Terror' has prompted a great deal of discussion about the use of torture as a means of extracting information from those suspected of having perpetrated past acts of violence or planning future ones. Despite the years that have passed since the attacks of September 11, 2001, for both citizens and government officials there is still a strong tension between the competing emotions of anger, revenge, and desperation; it seems increasingly difficult to adhere to international norms governing a nation's moral and legal obligations to protect its citizens from grave danger while continuing to support individual freedoms. Among the more difficult questions to emerge from those that were far-fetched (if not unthinkable) just a few decades ago is how to handle the so-called ticking-bomb scenario. As terror organizations grow in size and complexity, uncovering terrorist plans by interrogating a group member has become critical, and the need to gather intelligence in order to save lives increasingly urgent.
Keywords: torture, interrogation, 'ticking-bomb', truth serum, national security, prisoners
JEL Classification: N40, K39, K49
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation