The orthodox conservative position at this point, it seems to me, is that waterboarding is not torture. Nor is having someone dangle from his shackled arms in a manner so painful as to prevent sleep for a period of days. What’s more, these non-torturous “harsh techniques” are highly effective at gathering intelligence. But if that’s true, and these are legal and effective means of securing reliable information, why are we doing so little of it?
After all, people doing organized crime investigations face a lot of challenges in terms of getting information from people. Maybe cops should do routine undercover drug buys, build a case against low level dealers, and then waterboard the guys they’ve arrested and move further up the food chain. Maybe waterboarding and “stress positions” should become routine treatment for battlefield detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Why not?
Well I would say because it’s wrong. And also because it’s very unlikely to work. And also because this is the mentality that gave us Abu Ghraib and abuses at Bagram and all kinds of other horrible problems throughout the system. But if you take the view that these “enhanced techniques” aren’t illegal torture, and that “enhanced techniques” are highly effective, and that systematized approval of torture doesn’t inevitably lead to abuse, then why not?