More likely than the time bomb case of torturing one person in order to save many is the case of torturing many innocent people in order to find the one [guilty] person. It is to torture in search of what might justify the act of torture, an act made even worse through the torture of innocents.
When we rearticulate the more realistic scenario, torture as an instrument of information-gathering collapses under the gravity of what it entails.
Torturing for information requires the institutionalization of torture. Several other commentators have noted as such. There must be trained interrogators/torturers and thus also trainers, a legal and administrative apparatus, a cadre of doctors and lawyers and data analysts, and others, all of whom would be required to suspend their moral decency.
Further – and this is crucial – given that information from an individual torture victim is notoriously unreliable, and given the dispersed organizational structure of terrorists, morally significant information is unlikely to be gained from the individual victim. Torture must be used broadly.
That last point has been completely overlooked in the whole torture discussion: torture as a strategy can never be an isolated or extremely rare case. For it to be effective, it must be used routinely.
Go read this smart guy’s whole testimony.