There’s been a renewed debate lately over the necessity or efficacy of coercive interrogation. Dick Cheney says these techniques were necessary to obtain information from some high-value terrorists, and–what is more–the information we obtained saved innocent lives. Critics deny his claims.
From what I’ve read, the evidence favors Cheney. However, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Cheney overstated his case.
It’s striking, but not surprising, to see where his critics draw the line. Where they place the burden of proof. According to them, unless you know for sure that these techniques are necessary to obtain such information, and unless you know for sure that this information will save innocent lives, then it is wrong to coercively interrogate a terrorist.
That’s a very revealing position. My question is: when in doubt, why should we be giving the terrorist the benefit of the doubt? Why should we err on the side of the terrorist rather than erring on the side of the American public? Why should the (alleged) right of the terrorist not to be coercively interrogated take precedence over the right of 300 million Americans to be safe and secure?
Counterterrorism will always involves probabilities rather than certainties. A threat assessment based on the best available information at the time.
And in the case of counterintelligence, you start with what you know or think you know, and use that as a platform to try and obtain additional information.
If it’s a choice between putting a terrorist at risk, and putting a nation at risk, the choice is pretty obvious.