the bombing suspect?
The Seattle Times received a phone call at 9:30 this morning
from a person with a male's voice claiming that he had planted
a bomb set to explode in an unspecified location in downtown
Seattle at 2pm today. The bomb, he said, was a small scale nuclear
device that would probably level about ten square blocks in downtown
Seattle, and would be only somewhat less destructive for several
miles further out. He had no demands. He hung up after about
His announcement was credible for
the following reasons: Over the past six weeks there had been
a series of unsolved small bombings around northwest Washington,
and before each incident this same person (or at least a person
with voice patterns that were similar to, or the same as, this
one) had called and announced approximately where it would explode.
The bombings had always proceeded just as the caller had predicted,
and the more recent explosions been getting progressively larger.
Today's bomb, however, was the first one of anywhere near this
magnitude. The Seattle Times had notified the city police,
the King County Sheriff's office, the FBI, the CIA, and FEMA
(the Federal Emergency Management Agency) of the threat. These
agencies had spent most of the morning searching for the bomb
and the bomber.
By some great good fortune their
concerted efforts had actually found a person they are convinced is the bomber
- but not the bomb - and the police had brought him to a secure interrogation
facility. However, it was now noon and the man had still not
disclosed the location of the bomb. Local and federal law enforcement
personnel had been aggressively questioning him for over 90 minutes
and had gotten nowhere. They had tried every method in their
arsenal of interrogation techniques and so far they had had no
luck at all.
FEMA has indicated all morning
that attempting to evacuate downtown Seattle in a few hours would
be absolutely impossible and would cause more harm than benefit.
Someone has suggested using torture
to persuade the captured man to disclose the location of the bomb.
The bomb is set to explode (if the phone caller was being truthful) in 90 more
Should torture be used to interrogate
the man or not?
Imagine that in that moment -
12:30pm somewhere in the outskirts of Seattle - the decision-makers turn
to you and ask: "What do you think? Should we employ torture
in this situation or not?"
What do you think your answer
in that situation ought to be? Please explain your reasons for answering
This discussion will take place in the Case Studies forum in our classroom.