Torture and the “ticking time bomb”

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

This doesn’t seem to go away; pundits, ie, political idiots, that ultimately run to the “ticking time bomb” scenario to justify torture.

I have written about this before, but, will reiterate why this argument is pure idiocy again.  As a military-trained bomb disposal specialist (Explosive Ordnance Disposal or EOD) with 19 years experience in the field, having been to Iraq twice during wartime, and having worked as a bomb technician on, and after, 9/11 — you can be sure I know of what I speak.

So, let me explain why this is pure idiocy…

Bombs, or more accurately, Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), have always been the preferred weapon of terrorists.  Think of the abortion clinic bombings.  The Beirut bombing of the Marine barracks.  The Khobar Tower bombing.  The USS Cole bombing.  The first bombing of the WTC building in 1993.  The Oklahoma Federal Building.  The Unabomber.  The Olympic’s bombing in Atlanta.  The car bombs and the roadside bombs in Iraq/Afghanistan.  The IRA bombings in England/Ireland.  Need I go on?

The IED in its most basic, rudest form, is an explosive and wick (or fuse).  You light it and run.  But, that type of IED technology became obsolete by the 1960’s.  With the advent of technology, the IED became more advanced.  A burning time fuse was replaced with electronics and timers.  But, that technology became obsolete in the 1980’s.  By the 1990’s, technology was already advancing to the point where elaborate electronic boobytrap detonation in conjunction with a timer and/or command detonation was commonplace.  This is now 2009 and command detonation is the only method commonly used anymore by terrorists.  

Simply put, nobody uses a timer anymore and that is the exact premise of the “ticking time bomb.”  The scenario says that there is a bomb going to go off and you are running out of time to stop it!  With today’s technology, that “time” that you believe you have is no longer an exact amount of time.  While a terrorist may have a set time to detonate a bomb, that terrorist still has the means to detonate at any time they wish.  This fact alone should be enough to make this argument a moot one.  But, we are dealing with the mental equivalent of 3 year-olds.  So, let me run through the exact response and probable timeline on an explosive incident of this nature.

The very first thing you must have is knowledge of the plot.  This can come by a phone call from the terrorist, a device being found, or, an investigation that uncovered the plot.  In the first two instances, the terrorist calls it in or a device is found, it is a plot that has already been “hatched” and implemented.  The bomb is already in place and there is little that can be done to stop it from exploding.  The best case scenario here is that you get civilians evacuated.  In the last instance, the device may not be planted yet, and, we hope there is enough information to foil the plot before it can be placed.  But, we’ll treat this last scenario to its logical course as it is the one these idiots want to tout.

Through wiretaps, lets assume that a bomb plot is uncovered.  Of course, we’ve been treated to three “plots” that were discovered and foiled in the planning stages already.  The idiots, however, want to assume that law enforcement only captures one terrorist and the rest get away with the bomb to place it at an unknown site and the clock starts ticking.  

Now, consider the technology of command destruct and then the time frame to which we are talking about; think of the UK subway/bus bombings and the Spain subway bombing.  We are talking about the amount of time it takes to get to the site, set down the bombs, and detonate.  That is a matter of minutes to maybe, maybe, an hour.  So, you now have to make the call; do you torture the information out of the terrorist?

The terrorist knows he must simply resist giving the correct answer for a short time period.  He/she will lie and give out as much false information as it takes to placate the interrogator before the devices are detonated.  But, again, let’s say for the sake of argument that the terrorist breaks within a few minutes of torture (ala “24”) and law enforcement actually gets the information on the targets.

The other terrorists are already in route if not already there, whereas, law enforcement must respond to the scene.  Cops can be there in minutes, but, who do they look for?  Do you shoot everyone with a backpack as they falsely did in Britain?  And what about the terrorists who hear sirens wailing and approaching?  Do you think they are going to stand there and wait for them, or, go a block away and pick a new target?  As for the bomb squad, it will take them, at a minimum, 30 minutes to an hour to respond.

These idiots cite EOD finding and disarming IED’s in Iraq as some roadmap to how an incident will proceed in the United States.  What is not brought out is that many EOD units in Iraq that walked up to a device had it detonate in their faces, or, hopefully, it detonated in the robot’s “face”.  Remember?  Command detonation?  When they found a device that required them to render it safe, it was normally an IED that had a faulty detonation device that kept it from functioning as designed.  They also employed “signal jammers” that civilian teams in the United States do not have at their disposal.

In conclusion, the “ticking time bomb” scenario makes for a good “24” episode, but, not for a real incident scenario.  


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