Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 29, 2005

Prohibiting torture upholds our values

Why is it that conservative commentators (i.e. Thomas Sowell "Torture legislation could do more harm than good," Opinion

Commentary, Nov. 24)) and conservative politicians (such as Vice President Dick Cheney) are so adamant that the United States should reserve the right to torture prisoners?

They seem to be unhappy that the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions make it really inconvenient for us to get the information we need.

They wonder, how dare those "runaway, leftist, liberal, grandstanding" federal judges interfere with this administration's right to do whatever it feels is necessary to defend our liberties and punish the hateful, evil rabble that threatens our well-being.

The reason is that the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Conventions define who we are and the values we hold dear - due process, humane treatment, individual rights and limited government.

You either believe in this stuff or you don't.

If you don't, you're defending the wrong country.

And intelligence professionals claim information gleaned from torture is dubious at best.

Who among us would not say what the torturer wants us to say just to end the agony?

Howard Albert

Joppa

I was chilled, shocked and frightened to read Thomas Sowell's column "Torture legislation could do more harm than good."

Here is an apparently intelligent and influential fellow American who calmly tries to justify torture and suggests that those who oppose torture are "moral exhibitionists."

In fact, those who oppose torture are loyal Americans like me whose parents and grandparents fought in world wars to protect us all from those who torture, those who reject individual rights and freedom.

What chills me is that once we as a country find ways to justify the torturing of fellow human beings, how will we know when to stop?

Beth Greenland

Towson

Make interrogators show responsibility

Thomas Sowell must be a fan of the TV show 24: On that show a little serious arm-twisting can always make the bad guys spill the beans about a ticking nuclear bomb or other catastrophe ("Torture legislation could do more harm than good," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 24).

Problem is, most experts in interrogation say that this rarely happens.

But let's look at the real potential impact of a federal ban on torture. No one should think for a minute that if federal officials had solid evidence that there was a ticking nuclear bomb and a bad guy in custody knew the secret to stopping it, torture would not be used as a last (or first) resort regardless of a federal ban.

However, what such a ban would do is put a lot of pressure on the interrogators to think twice before acting and to be correct in their assessment and decision.

If a real bomb was defused, who would ask or worry about the interrogation techniques? The interrogators would get the Medal of Freedom.

However, if there was no bomb, the interrogators would have to pay the price for violating the law, as well they should.

The Iraq conflict provides ample evidence of what happens when decisions are made using bad and distorted intelligence.

We need regulations that place more of a burden on decision makers for the bad consequences resulting from such bad decisions, whether the decision to go to war or one to torture a supposedly bad guy.

Fred Lobbin

Columbia

Torture is a power we must use wisely

As reprehensible as torture is, it needs to have a place in our legal system ("Torture legislation could do more harm than good," Opinion * Commentary, Nov. 24).

Terrorists do not play fair. If someone has knowledge of a nuclear device that is to be set off in Baltimore, I want my government to extract that information and take preventive action.

The problem is, how do we regulate the power to torture so that it is not abused.

We have a system in place for searches and wiretaps in which a law-enforcement agency that wants to use these powers needs to get a warrant from the judicial branch. Why not use the same procedure for torture?

Torture would then require the collusion of two branches of government and be a matter of public record.

It would not be used lightly but would be available in the rare circumstance that it is needed.

Stephen H. Knox

Baltimore

Joe Hairston's raise sends wrong signal

A salary of a quarter-million dollars? Perhaps that's what it takes to get a good superintendent of schools. But what about values ("Board moved quickly to retain Hairston," Nov. 24)?

Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said that he's recommitted to Baltimore County schools and that it isn't about the money. I hope he's sincere. But he became recommitted to Baltimore County's schools after receiving a major salary increase.

We decry "greedy" athletes who play one team against the other for a larger contract.

But isn't that just the sort of thing that Mr. Hairston has just done?

What does this say to students when teachers are trying to help them learn of loyalty and commitment?

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