Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Torture, Law, Terrorism, United States, Information, Treatment, World, War

Pages: 2

Words: 550

Published: 2020/11/29

Does the US have a right to torture suspected Terrorists?

A couple months ago in December, Senator Diane Feinstein released a report that documented the extensive use of torture by the US on a number of terrorists at certain black sites across the nation. Feinstein reported that the United States used, “enhanced interrogation techniques” which included waterboarding and other various de-humanizing methods. These were used by the CIA and describe how these methods were not all that effective in gathering information. Feinstein believed the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” were both inhumane and ineffective in the pursuit of combating terrorism or any other potential threat to the United States (Rhodan, 2014).
However, Feinstein’s report has been under attack by many in Congress who believe she over exaggerated its ineffectiveness and had a personal vendetta against the CIA. This sparked another nationwide debate about torture and whether or not America has a right to do so. Upon examining the evidence and international law, as well as what torture does to America’s reputation, it is my assertion that America does not have the right to torture suspected terrorists.

Counter Argument

The argument for torture hinges on the potential benefits of subjecting someone to pain in order to get information to protect the greater good. If valuable information that will save many lives can be obtained through temporary pain to an individual, what would be so wrong about pursuing that course of action? The object of defending the nation against terrorism should be that of avoiding collateral damage, which is the killing of innocent civilians. Would torture be justified if is saved the lives of those who died in the September 11 attacks? Many supporting torture cite America’s capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is credited with supplying information relevant to capturing many other terrorist leaders and Osama bin Laden himself. This information was supposedly acquired through torture. The world became a slightly safer place because of this information. While torture temporarily harms a person, it does not actually kill a person. The lack of acquiring this information could potentially lead to deaths of innocent people, which is why many argue torture should be justified to capture terrorists (Harris, 2011).
There are also a few technical reasons to arguing for the use of torture. The Geneva Convention specifically cites the use of torture to apply to prisoners of war. It is more ambiguous concerning the classifications of spies of terrorists. Those who defend the use of torture often do not equate prisoners of war as terrorists. Furthermore, they claim the ban on torture only applies to a countries own actual soil, not on other territories or black sites around the world. Many in favor of torture also argue that waterboarding is not torture, so when America has done this, they are not using torture. Torture could also serve as a deterrent, which is why the use on terrorists should be allowed (Harris, 2011).

My Argument

The reasons why torture should not be used against terrorists, or anyone for that matter, are due to international laws, morality, and effectiveness. Torture is effectively condemned by virtually every country in the world. International law has banned its use everywhere, and the law supersedes all others. In fact, virtually every country will vehemently deny using any forms of torture, as to not hurt their international reputation, even if they actually do torture some prisoners. This was true of President Bush, who said on March 6, 2003 that the United States did not use torture on al-Qaeda, even though numerous reports from Congressmen and Bush officials have never denied its usage.
The reasons why countries are so quick to deny using torture is because it is directly against international law. In the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article five states, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (“The Legal Prohibition Against Torture”).” Furthermore, article three of the Geneva Convention bans, “violence of life and person, in particular murder of kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and tortureoutrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment (“Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of war”).
These are direct laws, agreed to by the international community, and this should really put an end to the debate regarding the legality of torture. The argument that torture can be used against terrorists because they are not considered prisoners of war is flawed logic because these two laws apply to every human. There is nothing referring to prisoners of war, just individual persons. Even if someone is a convicted terrorist, these international laws apply because they are governing the enforcement of human rights granted to every single individual throughout the world.
However, international law is not the only reason to be against the use of torture. While the US constitution has no direct clause against terrorism, it does appear to violate the basic principles of the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment bans unreasonable search or seizure, and the Fifth Amendment allows for the right against self-incrimination and for due process (“The Legal Prohibition Against Torture”). The use of torture on terrorists violates these principles in the US Constitution, which is why it should be discouraged. While some may argue that terrorists are not US citizens, and therefore the constitutional protections do not apply, this is still a hypocritical act of the US government to do this. What message does the United States send to the world when they claim to be the leaders of the free world, and yet violate their own principles of freedom in the treatment of prisoners? All these domestic and international laws should govern the actions by the United States in the treatment of prisoners. Therefore, torture is wrong.
The argument that waterboarding can still be used because it is not torture is also false, because the convention against torture defines these acts as, “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person (“The Legal Prohibition Against Torture”).” Waterboarding is then listed as one of the acts that defines torture, so international law again outlaws the use of waterboarding. This should make a compelling case that torture is not supported anywhere, by any law. As the United States plays a leading role in the international community, it should abide by these laws, and support a moral and ethical way of treating human beings. There is even evidence presented recently that shows torture is not all that effective at obtaining truthful information because people under duress will say anything to get the pain to stop (Rhodan, 2014). Torture violates laws, and ethics, which is why the United States should participate in such actions.


Based on international law, effectiveness, and morality, the United States should not torture terrorists. Doing so violates virtually every law concerning treatment of human beings, and goes against the basic principles of the US constitution. Furthermore, its effectiveness is limited. Therefore, there is no real benefit to torture and the action should be stopped by the US government.


Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. (1949, August 12). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from https://www.icrc.org/ihl/WebART/375-590006
Harris, S. (2011, May 25). In Defense of Torture. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sam-harris/in-defense-of-torture_b_8993.html
Rhodan, M. (2014, December 9). Torture Report: Here's What Dianne Feinstein Said in Senate Speech. Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://time.com/3625560/torture-report-heres-what-dianne-feinstein-said/
The Legal Prohibition Against Torture. (2003, March 11). Retrieved February 27, 2015, from http://www.hrw.org/news/2003/03/11/legal-prohibition-against-torture#laws

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WePapers. (2020, November, 29) Sample Essay On The US And Torture. Retrieved March 07, 2021, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/sample-essay-on-the-us-and-torture/
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