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Hornberger's Blog is a daily libertarian blog written by Jacob G. Hornberger, founder and president of FFF.
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Why Not Expand Torture to the Drug War?


The pro-torture advocates claim that torture is an important tool in the arsenal of the U.S. military that is necessary to keep us safe from terrorist attacks. The idea is that if the military captures a terrorist who has information about a pending terrorist attack, the torturers will be able to torture the information out of him in order to interdict and prevent the pending attack.

Never mind that the suspect is unlikely to acknowledge — in the absence of torture — that he has information about a pending attack. Never mind that there is no way to know for certain whether the suspect is even guilty of participating in terrorism — that’s what a later trial is all about. Never mind that some torture victims are innocent and have no information to divulge. And never mind that information acquired by torture is notoriously unreliable given that many people will do anything, including falsely confessing to crimes and providing false information, to order to avoid being tortured.

An interesting aspect to all this is why the pro-torture crowd has, so far, limited their arguments to cases involving terrorism. I wonder why they haven’t extended their torture arguments to the entire U.S. criminal-justice system.

Consider murder, for example. Suppose cops in New York or Chicago or some other U.S. city believe that a suspect is involved in a conspiracy to kill someone. Why shouldn’t the cops have the same power to torture the suspect as the military does? Wouldn’t the cops be just as good at torturing information how of murder suspects as the military and the CIA do with suspected terrorists, well at least after some good torture training?

An even better example might be a drug suspect, given that the federal government has declared war on drugs just as it has declared war on terrorism. As Mexican government officials have learned, drug dealers can be just as violent as terrorists. If it’s okay to employ torture against terrorist suspects in the war on terrorism, then why not suspected drug violators in the war on drugs?

Suppose the cops take a suspected drug dealer into custody who refuses to snitch on his suppliers. Or suppose the cops are certain that a drug suspect is involved in a conspiracy to deliver a large amount of heroin or cocaine. Why shouldn’t the cops be able to torture the information out of such suspects? Don’t drugs kill people, just as terrorism does?

By declaring war on terrorism, U.S. officials have been able to revolutionize America’s criminal-justice system with respect to the crime of terrorism. That revolution, which has occurred without a constitutional amendment, has included denial of due process, denial of right to counsel, illegal searches, denial of trial by jury, indefinite detention, and torture and sex abuse of terrorist suspects.

Why shouldn’t the feds expand their criminal-justice revolution to suspected drug dealers, suspected murderers, suspected robbers, and the like? Aren’t those crimes oftentimes just as deadly and destructive as terrorism?

Heck, for that matter, why not simply ditch the entire U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights so that the military, the CIA, and the cops can do anything and everything to keep us safe from not just the terrorists but from all the bad guys?

Sorry, I don’t mean to give them any ideas. I simply wish to show how ridiculous and fallacious their war-on-terrorism revolution has been.

This post was written by:

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.