Torture should never be an option. Torture is always repugnant, requiring an absolute ban on the practice with no exceptions. Consider the quintessential example used for allowing torture: a 24-like hypothetical referred to as the ticking bomb scenario. Federal agents have in custody a man who claims to be a member of Al Qaeda and says that he placed a nuclear device set to detonate within 48 hours. Information obtained by the agents seemingly validates these claims. Should the agents use any means necessary, including torture, to locate the bomb? That is, should they engage in activities like water boarding, electrical prods to sodomize or needles under the fingertips, all measures that cause excruciating pain but, supposedly, cause no long-lasting harm? The answer is no, torture is ineffective, illegal, and unprincipled.
Torture is universally and absolutely forbidden under international law. Michael Levin states “There are situations in which torture is not merely permissible but morally mandatory.” ("Patterns College Writing a Rhetorical Reader and Guide" 681-683) I believe that there is nothing morally sound about torture in any situation. Torture should not be used to justify national security because it lessens a nature's moral stature. When a nation presumes to stand against lawlessness, disorder, and barbaric cruelty, it loses credibility when it tortures for it does the same thing it criticizes in others. Whether one calls it "enhanced interrogation" or not, actions such as water boarding, sleep deprivation or humiliating a suspect in a demonstrative manner reduces the moral stature of the nation engaging in such actions. In this light and from a moral standpoint, there is little difference in behavior between statesmen and barbarians. This actually increases resentment, as it creates a rallying point for other individuals who see their brethren degraded on a large scale at the hands of a specific nation.
The ban on torture...