Friday, June 12, 2009

We Can Torture Criminal Suspects But Not Terrorists

A New York Supreme Court justice has just ruled that it's legal to torture a suspect into giving up a DNA sample. No, I'm not joking. Murder and robbery suspect Ryan Smith previously provided DNA samples to police, but the lab mishandled them. When police showed up to get another sample, Smith refused. Here's what happened next.
A video shows Smith handcuffed, seated on the floor with his shirt pulled up over his bare shoulders. Police can be heard telling him that the Taser would be "painful and unpleasant," but he persisted in his refusal, according to the judge.
  The officer applied the Taser to Smith's shoulder area, which caused him to cry out and pull away. The data record for the device showed it was activated for 4 seconds.
  "The video recording indicates that the defendant did yell out as if in pain and then agreed to comply with the order," Sperrazza wrote. 
  Smith allegedly was unconscious when the swab was taken
There you have it. Police can torture a U.S. citizen with electricity -- a mere suspect at that -- to the point that he passes out, in order to force him to give a DNA sample. But torturing a known terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to extract information to protect the country is somehow immoral, un-American, criminal, or whatever other hysterical characterization terrorist rights supporters like to use.


  1. (a) two wrongs don't make a right

    (b) they tazed him for 4 seconds- as opposed to the 182 times in one month one terror suspect was tortured.

  2. "(a) two wrongs don't make a right"

    That's one way to look at it. But I disagree that torturing KSM was a wrong.

    "(b) they tazed him for 4 seconds- as opposed to the 182 times in one month one terror suspect was tortured."

    Torture is torture. The point is that we permit the use of torture against U.S. citizens, even suspects who have been convicted of no crime. The severity of the torture is less important than who is being tortured and why. If we are going to permit it in domestic situations, against people who should be protected by Constitutional rights, then it isn't unreasonable to suggest that we might employ it in extreme national security situations against known terrorists.

  3. He refused to comply with a court order; he's guilty. That makes it ok, according to what you've said.

  4. You apparently haven't read anything I said. He's a U.S. citizen and a auspect. He isn't known to be guilty of anything.

  5. "suspect"

    Just to reiterate/clarify. I disagree strongly with the judge's ruling. I'm not in favor of torturing mere suspects, even foreign terror suspects. And when I say "suspect" or "guilty," I'm not referring to narrow legal definitions. By guilty, I mean guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt, either from the person's own free admission, or through overwhelming indisputable evidence. For example, in the way that we know that Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri are Al Qaeda terrorists.

    I'm not in favor of torturing anyone who isn't clearly & unmistakeably guilty.

  6. You apparently haven't read the article. He refused to comply with a court order. That's a crime for which he is clearly and unmistakably guilty, and why he was arrested, taken to the station, repeatedly warned, and finally forced to obey the court order.

  7. Obviously I was referring to the crimes that he was accused of, and for which the DNA sample was needed. But ok, if you want to say he's guilty of the crime of refusing a court order, fine. I've never argued that just because someone is guilty of any crime that they should be subject to torture. And I'm certainly not in favor of torturing people who refuse a court order. As I pointed out above -- and many times before -- the only people I'm talking about as "guilty" are positively identified hostile foreign terrorists.

    Being unmistakeably guilty is only one part of the criteria that should be met before torture is even be considered. I'm in favor of torture as a possible option only in some very specific cases.