In addition to the many other ways in which it’s abominable, Reuel Marc Gerecht’s op-ed supporting Stalinist interrogation methods and opposing the rule of law contains one of the most farcical invocations of the “ticking time bomb” scenario ever:
But this third way, which is essentially where America was before the Clinton administration embraced rendition, is plausible only if Mr. Obama is lucky. He might be. If there is no “ticking time bomb” situation — say, where waterboarding a future Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (the 9/11 mastermind) could save thousands of civilians — then there is neither need for the C.I.A.’s exceptional methods, nor the harsh services of Jordan’s General Intelligence Department.”
The “ticking time bomb” is always useless because it requires certainly about a number of things that are inherently uncertain. But any “ticking time bomb” scenario that allows for a time-consuming rendition of terrorists to other countries is pretty much by definition not a “ticking time bomb” scenario at all, since we seem to be conceding that there’s nothing imminent and that taking more time isn’t an issue. And, of course, if we have a genuine “ticking time bomb” scenario it’s not clear why we would need extraordinary rendition at all; does anyone think that a Jack Bauer who really did prevent a nuclear bomb from going off in Manhattan would be convicted? Rather, Grecht is giving away the show: invocations of the “ticking time bomb” pretty quickly turn into “well, if we arbitrarily torture enough people somebody may have some information of uncertain reliability that may lessen the probability of a future terrorist attack” arguments. Why the New York Times thinks that we need people to be making these types of arguments on its editorial pages is unclear.
…I agree with lp in comments that Henley’s take is classic.