LONDON (AP) -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, weighing whether to prosecute Bush administration officials for harsh interrogations of terror suspects, got a history lesson in torture techniques on his first stop on a European tour.
Holder arrived Sunday in London, the first of three European cities he will visit seeking allies' help to close Guantanamo Bay, fight terrorism, and catch cyber-criminals.
The attorney general and his staff took a tour of the Tower of London, home of The Bloody Tower, and also the site where Guy Fawkes was put on the rack in 1605 to name those plotting with him to blow up Parliament.
The tower visit is standard fare for tourists, but one loaded with extra meaning for Holder, who listened quietly to tales of torture, execution, and palace intrigue.
So, is torture permissable under certain circumstances? Do we risk being "lynched by our own liberties" if we allow the worst atrocities to take place by rigorously applying our human rights laws?
I dug out a piece by Clive Stafford Smith on the modern dilemma. He posits the following scenario:
The bomb is ticking somewhere in central London. The evacuation cannot be completed in time, and hundreds or thousands may die. Scotland Yard has a man in custody. His name is Yusuf. His interrogators think he knows where the bomb is and how to defuse it, but they have read him his rights and he’s not talking. He wants his lawyer.
“Surely it’s time to ask the prime minister for permission to use a little torture to save a lot of lives”, someone exclaims.
Well, what would you do?
Guido Fawkes was a fanatic. He was quite happy to have blown himself up if circumstances prevailed in 1605. We face a modern day enemy who would do likewise.
I am not advocating the torture of prisoners for what you might call speculative purposes. In other words, Guantanamo was right out. But we are in a grey area. But if the danger was real and present, as in the example above, would anybody be concerned about reading the subject his rights?