If the Boston Bomber doesn’t talk, what then?

Some news reports are putting forth that the two brothers responsible for the Boston Marathon may have ties to a larger Muslim extremist organization. This isn’t yet confirmed. Right now the younger brother is in police custody and is being questioned about last Monday’s events.

What should we do if he refuses to cooperate?  Should we use enhanced interrogation techniques such as waterboarding? For full disclosure, I support the use of waterboarding, but many have been convinced it’s torture. But in this case, one that isn’t hypothetical, if this terrorist doesn’t cooperate, and there is a real possibility there could be more attacks, would you change your view on waterboarding? If not, why not, considering the amount and degree of mayhem that may result?


  1. TerranceRAH says:

    Like it or not, the kid is an American citizen. I do not support the use of ANY unorthodox interrogation techniques. If the guy who robbed the Krispy Kreme isn’t waterboarded to uncover his accomplice, then the Boston Bomber shouldn’t be waterboarded either.

    Yeah, I know the argument. This is more serious. But so what? What exactly are we supposed to learn? It’s not news that Muslim extremists hate us. It’s not news that we’re a target for terrorists. It’s not news that segments of a particular terrorist group are, at this very moment, contemplating ways to attack us. The only thing we could hope to learn is the specifics of another planned attack, but there are other ways of uncovering this information that does not include violating the Constitutional rights of American citizens.

    • Right, he’s a citizen. But this isn’t a general hypothetical. Its more than we already know Muslims hate us, are planning more etc. This kid would have specific knowledge about specific future plans.

      I agree that this is a bit different because he is now a citizen, however, once this is classified as a terrorist event, legally he loses some or all of the constitutional protections. So this is still a valid scenario.

  2. John,

    I’m sure the petty dope-dealer would have specific knowledge regarding the underworld of illegal narcotics. This world, as you know, brims with all sorts of crime, including the importation of illegal firearms that end up on the streets. One of these guns, statistics tell us, will eventually be used to murder eight-year-old Timmy Tulip, who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Why shouldn’t this dope-dealer be waterboarded?

    I oppose the Patriot Act. I don’t believe any American citizen, terrorist or not, should lose their rights.

    • I think there’s a fine line. I also think we should err on the side of caution and preservation of rights.

      Maybe it’s the kind of thing this was and it’s just a knee jerk reaction on my part, I’m willing to grant that, but right now as it stands, I think this kid voluntarily relinquished the rights his citizen granted him.

  3. John,

    I’m not sure what that fine line is, to be honest. Both scenarios represent a threat to the security of our nation. What’s good for the goose, pappy used to say…

    I understand your anger and frustration, though. The fact this kid was “Americanized” and still wound up being a terrorist goes to show you the stranglehold radical Islam has on its adherents. This kid ruined his bright future – and for what? Allah!

  4. One vast difference that I don’t think Terrance is taking into consideration: This dude has been engaged in perpetrating as much murder and mayhem as possible. Drug dealers aren’t out to kill, but to make money selling illegal narcotics. So while it would be nice to extract info from the arrested dealer, there is no imminent threat of loss of life as there potentially is in the case of any terrorist captured by our cops. That captured terrorist might be merely one of many about to blow up other groups of civilians. That arrested drug dealer is not doing anything close to that.

    While I agree that as these dudes were citizens, their actions dictate a different response considering the crimes they were committing as well as the potential that they might be part of a larger conspiracy.

  5. paynehollow says:

    From Dan Trabue (posting for the second time because the first time never works):

    If waterboarding doesn’t work, how about cutting off fingers? IF it saved lives, would that be worth it? Or, if cutting off his fingers, one at a time, didn’t work, how about skinning him, one body section at a time? If a little torture is justified in the name of saving lives, then is a LOT of torture justified?

    Or, if torturing him doesn’t work, what about torturing his mother or sister? In the name of saving lives, would it be worth it?

    I, for one, don’t think dehumanizing ourselves in the name of perhaps saving lives is worth the cost, but I DO wonder where torture advocates draw a line and on what basis?

    • Dan

      You presume waterboarding is akin to cutting off fingers or skinning a person. Waterboarding does not disfigure and it isn’t torture. Just because Obama says it is doesn’t make it so.

  6. No, Dan. You have no problem with innocent people being slaughtered by radicals regardless of our ability to prevent it. And in your usual manner, you dishonestly lump waterboarding, a technique that results in no physical harm, to cutting off body parts. Can you imagine where someone like me would draw a line?

    But what if Dan’s family was in imminent danger? Well, Dan, like the islamist “leaders”, is willing to let others die for his cause.

  7. torture:
    the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something:

    Waterboarding is torture.

    • Waterboarding doesnt inflict pain, it simulates drowning without any physical harm done in the presence of medical professionals. Nor is it done as punishment. Try again.

  8. An American citizen who commits an act of war against the U.S.A. is guilty of at least treason. The punishment for treason has usually been execution.

  9. Sorry, John, but getting chocked is painful. Try to pour down water to your lungs.

  10. You have said that “it simulates drowning” so the pain is the same as a real drowing. What a simulation would it be if the feelings are not the same!

    Complicating your breathing is choking and waterboarding complicates your breathing.

  11. Marshall,

    One vast difference that I don’t think Terrance is taking into consideration: This dude has been engaged in perpetrating as much murder and mayhem as possible.

    That depends on your definition of “mayhem.” Additionally, the motive of the drug-dealer is entirely irrelevant to the result of his actions. Fact is, the illegal narcotic underworld brims with all sorts of crime. You’re talking about illegal firearm trafficking, human trafficking, and the list goes on. It’s all made possible by the petty street thugs who do everyone else’s bidding.

    Their actions represent a threat to the security of this nation. Many people are shot with illegal firearms trafficked by these thugs; many people overdose on drugs; many people get hooked on drugs and ruin their lives and families. There is no doubt that these punks create a form of mayhem.

    While I agree that as these dudes were citizens, their actions dictate a different response considering the crimes they were committing as well as the potential that they might be part of a larger conspiracy.

    But this is not how the law works. Punishment varies only after conviction. The worst criminal is entitled to the same rights as every other criminal. Unless this bomber has ties to a foreign group, then he should be treated no differently than any other criminal.

    If this bomber indeed has ties to foreign groups, then I support listing him as an Enemy Combatant so he can be questioned without a lawyer. But that is a very different thing than what John is talking about in this post. I do not support waterboarding.

  12. John

    “the sensation of drowning is not the same as drowning.”

    Torture is not the same as execution.

    the action or practice of inflicting severe pain on someone as a punishment or in order to force them to do or say something:

    The action of inflicting severe pain on someone in order to force them to say something is torture, so the waterboarding is torture.

    You are confusing pain and damage.

  13. John,

    The fact that a certain interrogation technique may cause irreparable harm should be enough to discontinue its use.

    • transporting inmates can cause it too. Dont think I don’t agree with you in principle, I do. I just think there is a line that can be crossed, even if I can’t put my finger on it just yet.

  14. John,

    The act of transporting is not, in and of itself, a dangerous venture. Waterboarding, by definition, is the depravation of oxygen through simulated drowning. The depravation of oxygen, in and of it self, is dangerous.

    Personally, I would put someone through the worst kind of torture imaginable if I truly thought they had information I needed to save life .But that’s me. It’s me that would like to tote a baseball bat in a room with a pedophile. These are my own imperfections and angry knee-jerk reactions. Government cannot afford to behave the same way. Government must be better than the individual.

  15. Terrance,

    “Additionally, the motive of the drug-dealer is entirely irrelevant to the result of his actions.”

    Actually, motive is a very important factor in determining how to proceed. The drug-dealer’s motive is purely financial. The death of cops, competitors or customers is not the point of dealing drugs. Most criminals aren’t in their respective businesses in order to create a reason to murder.

    The terrorist, on the other hand, foreign or domestic, is entirely motivated by the desire to murder. His purpose is killing and terrorizing. It is his goal to kill as many as possible with every act of terrorism. (Recall bin Laden’s joy at realizing the 9/11 plan worked “better” than he imagined it would.) And since murder is the point, I don’t see how anyone can’t see a clear difference in the perpetrator and the means by which we must deal with him. While the common criminal cares little for laws, the terrorist counts on us abiding our laws, counts on us having empathy and compassion. Note the routine use of civilian populations, including schools and hospitals, as shields and sites for weapons storage.

    One other distinction in the use of waterboarding, or any other “enhance interrogation” technique: To use it in order to “fish” for info is not the order of the day, from what I’ve ever seen. It has only been used when there is reasonable suspicion that actionable intel can be had. That would be intel that reveals an imminent danger to more civilians.

    In the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, though he may have been acting alone (and waterboarding could confirm this), his actions were no different than any other terrorist acting as an agent for a larger group. Also, solitary, self-motivated terrorists are really a part of the ideology that guides the groups. Thus, they are no different than those who are full fledged members of terrorist groups. I don’t wish to gamble with the lives of potential victims in order to prove I am different or better than scum. Unless of course there is a proven alternative that works every time in every situation.

  16. Marshall,

    If we know that the actions of drugdealers cause mayhem, death, and destruction, does motive really matter all that much? The drugdealer is willfully breaking the law and hurting people for his own financial gain. He knows that because of his actions, innocent people and police officers are killed – but he’s indifferent to that pain and suffering because it’s all necessary for him to achieve his goal.

    Truthfully, I don’t see much of a moral difference. In fact, most of the time the terrorist is motivated by something higher than himself. The drugdealer, as you said, is motivated by money and self-interest. I’m not defending the actions of terrorists by any means; I’m merely pointing out that, assuming both create an equal amount of mayhem, the drugdealer is killing people out of greed and self-interest, not religious conviction. The drugdealer would never sacrifice himself.

    And it does seem as though your argument could be used to strip the rights away from any murderer whose goal was to murder. If not every murderer, then at least serial murderers. This all seems very unconstitutional to me. With respect to American citizens committing crime, since when is the Fourteenth Amendment situationally based? All people are to be treated equally before the law.

    It is another matter if the Boston Bomber is an enemy combatant. If Tsarev is part of a regime or group that is at war with the United States, then, and this my interpretation, he is no more entitled to Fourteenth Amendment protections than any enemy captured on the field of battle. It wouldn’t be a crime at that point, but a war act.

  17. Terrance,

    “If we know that the actions of drugdealers cause mayhem, death, and destruction, does motive really matter all that much?”

    Absolutely it does. The fact remains that the drug dealer is not out to kill anyone. That is to say, his desire is simply to make money by selling drugs to people who want them. All the misery that surrounds the trade is a result of the illegality as well as competition. But if the law didn’t interfere, if competitors didn’t infringe on his territory, and if the buyers didn’t abuse the recreational drugs supplied by the dealer, I doubt the dealer would ever fire a weapon.

    The terrorist, on the other hand, despite whatever his motivation, intends to kill as many people for his goofy cause as possible. If he never gets caught, he will kill more. As most of them think martyrdom is cool, there is no threat that can provoke his cooperation. Typically, it is a safe assumption that the captured terrorist has info related to other plans for mayhem. More accurately, it is wise to assume such given the history of these terrorists.

    I don’t believe there is any incentive to use waterboarding if there is no legitimate fear or belief that a suspect has such information. I do believe they are more often right than wrong in making such determinations. If a few terrorists lacking such info happen to have been boarded anyway, tough shit. They’re terrorists and part of the ideology if not a specific group of assholes motivated by that same ideology.

    I do not disagree that this attitude tip-toes the line between what we would prefer in terms of how our law-enforcement works and that which is necessary to preserve life. But the home grown terrorists, or those who took the time to become citizens in order to use our laws against us, are a different breed that requires a method of strategy and tactics unique to this new and singular threat. It’s a sad state of affairs, but I’m not willing to risk the lives of any fellow citizens just to prevent a legitimate suspect from spitting up some water.

  18. Marshall,

    I understand your point, but my concern is not with intent but result. The petty actions of drugdealers always result in mayhem. You have police and innocent civilians being killed in the crossfire, drug users dying from complications of drug use, millions of taxpayer dollars wasted, and, perhaps worst of all, the real possibility that you have gun-running and human trafficking all originating from the same source the petty drugdealer props up through distribution. Mayhem, intended or not, wil always be the result, and since we know this, we have a moral obligation to do something about it. And it seems to me that if homegrown terrorism is grounds to strip rights, then so is this.

    I very much respect your opinion and don’t often disagree with you, but in this case we’ll have to agree to disagree. I do not believe the constitutional rights of American citizens should be situational. We live in a different world, but our principles should not change. If we subvert our values because of these people, then – and this may sound cliche – they’ve beaten us.

  19. I don’t believe it constitutes a change of values, but only of tactics. This is a relatively new thing. There have always been muslim terrorists since the time of islam’s founding terrorist. But they used to be more overt in their desire to force their ideologies on the world. Now, they are punk cowards who do things covertly with the intention of inflicting the most death as possible. That intention is significant that isn’t reflected in the worst case your example might offer. That is to say, even amongst the drug dealers, killing to further their agenda isn’t the agenda itself. They just want to sell drugs. Indeed, they are enabled by the portion of the population that wants to buy them. Most of the death is collateral, not targeted. They can go a long time without having another death on their hands. The terrorist is always thinking about the next mass murder.

    And again, even within that context, waterboarding isn’t always appropriate. But even though we can reasonably suspect that our drug dealer is part of a larger organization that likely has plans to sell more drugs, I wouldn’t tie him down and pull out his fingernails just to find out the next sale. But the terrorist who just blew up a dance hall? By virtue of the fact that the terrorist is muslim, it is reasonable to suppose another plot is in the works and more lives are at risk. I want to know for sure one way or the other. The veteran anti-terrorist cop is likely to have reliable methods of determining if a given suspect possesses info of that sort or not. We are not compromising our values to allow such professionals to extract info from people their experience tells them is worthy of such treatment.

    Think of it this way: Suppose the next joker arrested for blowing people up proudly claims that three other incidents will follow. He gives no details except that the first of them will occur in 30 minutes in a very crowded place. Thirty minutes later, a bomb goes off in a school killing many kids and school personnel. Now there’s no doubt the scumbag has info. Are his “constitutional rights” more valuable than the lives of the next victims?

    Somewhere along the line, our values must include a government protecting the people it serves.

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