Hadi's captives looked resolute, but he was sure he could break them, as long as he followed through on his threat. The father, Brad, was the real villain. It was he who had planted the huge bomb that he promised would kill hundreds, perhaps thousands, of innocent civilians. Only he knew where the bomb was, and he wasn't telling.
His son, Wesley, had nothing to do with it. But Hadi's intelligence told him that, though Brad would not break under torture, he almost certainly would if he were to see his son tortured in front of him. Not immediately, but soon enough.
Hadi was torn. He had always opposed torture and would probably have to leave the room while it was carried out. Wesley's innocence was not the only reason for his qualms, but it certainly exacerbated them. But he also knew this was the only way to save hundreds of people from death and mutilation. If he didn't order the torture, would he be condemning people to death, just because of his own squeamishness and lack of moral courage?
Baggini, J., The Pig That Wants to Be Eaten, 2005, p. 49.
Sometime's these thought experiments seem remote and theoretical, totally detached from our daily lives. Unfortunately, that is not the case with this one. Just this week, on July 10th, the New York Times reported how Outside Psychologists Supported the U.S. Torture Program. The article stated how:
"The Central Intelligence Agency’s health professionals repeatedly criticized the agency’s post-Sept. 11 interrogation program, but their protests were rebuffed by prominent outside psychologists who lent credibility to the program, according to a new report. The 542-page report, which examines the involvement of the nation’s psychologists and their largest professional organization, the American Psychological Association, with the harsh interrogation programs of the Bush era, raises repeated questions about the collaboration between psychologists and officials at both the C.I.A. and the Pentagon. The report, completed this month, concludes that some of the association’s top officials, including its ethics director, sought to curry favor with Pentagon officials by seeking to keep the association’s ethics policies in line with the Defense Department’s interrogation policies, while several prominent outside psychologists took actions that aided the C.I.A.’s interrogation program and helped protect it from growing dissent inside the agency."
It's a sordid affair that has led to three senior officials losing their jobs at the APA, and perhaps more shakeups to come. The involvement of psychologists in the interrogation programs was "a source of contention within the profession for years," and something which clearly contradicted with the APA's stated Position on Ethics and Interrogations:
The American Psychological Association's (APA) position on torture is clear and unequivocal: Any direct or indirect participation in any act of torture or other forms of cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment by psychologists is strictly prohibited. There are no exceptions. Clear violations of APA's no torture/no abuse policy include acts such as: Waterboarding. Sexual humiliation. Stress positions. Exploitation of phobias.
These interrogation programs from the CIA and Pentagon also clearly contravened the third article of the Geneva Convention:
"Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat [outside of combat] by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end, the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons: violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; taking of hostages; outrages upon dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment; and the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples." (underlined emphasis added)
These international agreements, signed on to by 196 countries, were developed largely in response to the horrors of the second World War, but 50 years later, some people seem to be forgetting the reasons these limits to intraspecies competition were put in place. When cheaters don't play by our rules and they plot to bomb innocent civilians, it can certainly be tempting to strike back at them using tit-for-tat rationales. Utilitarian ethics promoting actions that provide "the greatest good for the greatest number" even seems to offer mathematical justification for hurting one guilty person in an effort to save hundreds or thousands of innocent lives. I'll have much more to say about this utilitarian mathematics when we get to the inevitable trolley problems that are coming down the track, but let's stay focused on this particular version of this thought experiment where the punishment of one guilty person is traded for the punishment of his innocent son. Evolutionary philosophy agrees with the prohibitions of torture on the grounds that it destroys possibilities for long term cooperation. Pragmatically, torture doesn't work either. (Psst. That's a great article I just linked to that really settles this question. Go read it.) Two of the reasons we've become as successful a species as we have, is 1) our ability to create our own internal motivations which override any circumstances, and 2) our ability to deceive other competitors about our intentions. Take these two characteristics together and there's no way Hadi could know that Brad "almost certainly would [confess] if he were to see his son tortured in front of him." Nor could Hadi know that torture "was the only way to save hundreds of people from death and mutilation." Realistically, Hadi was already too late, and torture would only add to the likelihood that he would be too late another time in the future as well. Better to stop and simply detain Brad until you can stop him or rehabilitate him from ever doing this again.