Sample Paper on Ethical Implications of Preventive Detention and Interrogation Tactics

The Ethical Implications of Preventive Detention and Interrogation Tactics

Following the September 2001 terrorist attacks on United States soil, much support for inhuman treatment terrorists has emerged in the public forum, largely based on the “ticking bomb” scenario. Under the George W Bush administration and beyond terror suspects have not only Preventive detained but also been subjected to questionable interrogation tactics to extract information or confession. Both these phenomena have been viewed as necessary evils by its supporters who clearly over look how unethical they are. This paper is set to discuss the ethical implications of preventive detention and interrogation tactics on suspects of various crimes.

By definition, the term preventive detainment is the forceful but legal incarceration of a crime suspect in jail minus trial. This legal action has been a mechanism used by the court in the 1970s used to keep dangerous criminal suspects from the public. On the other hand, ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ or Torture is defined by the United Nations Convention as “any action by which unbearable pain or suffering, either physical or mental, is deliberately imposed on an individual for the purposes of obtaining from him specific information or a confession. The above explanations are derived from the U.S constitution and in a way can be explained through different scenarios as legal actions for attaining positive effects for the greater good.  Nonetheless, it seems that to most utilitarian thinkers on the subject matter do not understand the ethical implications of depriving any human being of their basic right. Ethicist John Rawls suggested that any utilitarian ethical argument for various purposes should have a clear assessment of guidelines as most of their ideal cut close to unprincipled practices.This by extension meant that when the two aspects are not monitored they stand as unethical and unjust.

The scenario of ‘the ticking time bomb’ has always stood as a positive notion to practice both preventive detention and torture.  This has been widely accepted as a “necessary evil” however in April 2004 at Ghraib in Afghanistan, detainees forcefully held by the U.S Armyunder the protection of the law underwent serious mistreatment, torture, threatened with dogs and other degrading situations. This action by no means was ethical in any way as the individual being preventively detained and tortured clearly identified himself as a non-extremist and provided proof. Furthermore the U.S soldiers conducting this operation seemed emotionless as they never attended to the clearly injured man with blood all over his shirt, instead they kick him and later unleash dogs on him. There is no law on earth that sees or allows such action to be viewed as ethical and reasonable. Furthermore it goes contrary to the foundations set by American further founders such as General George Washington vowed that, unlike the British, who tortured enemy captives, this new country in the New World would distinguish itself by its humanity.” (Mayer, J.M., (2008). The atrocities committedat AbuGhraib in Afghanistanillustrated an unethical, illegal as well as inhuman engagement of preventive detainment and torture.

On January 22nd 2009 President Barack Obama under significant public criticism and pressure signed executive orders that advocated to the closure of the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, by 2010. Prior to this it was known to the general public that The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was operating in this facility top secret “Black Sites” centre where they would obtain information from detained terrorist suspects. However what was not clear was the means by which the CIA was using to obtain this information. An article titled “The Dark Side.” Retrieved from electronic Kindle version, (page 178) portrayed how inhuman the CIA was acting on this suspected terrorist. What the CIA was calling “enhanced interrogation techniques”, was actually a clear violation of human right for instance, one of the interrogation tactics being used was placed or structured in the form of “waterboarding” which by known standards is simulated drowning. Additionally, with the transfer of “high value detainees” held in CIA sites at Guantanamo Bay in 2006, more human abuses were brought to light from the scars showing from their bodies a tale tell sign of inhuman practices.

From the two above explained events done by the U.S government in terms of re-establishing preventive detention and enhanced interrogation techniques it is clear that the lack of ethics has tainted the U.S international view. Several international activist Organizations including the U.N human right council have advocated on action to be taken against former President Bush, former Vice President Cheney and White House and CIA attorneys in relation to war crimes for the acts of torture during the Global War on Terror in Abu Ghraib and within the CIA’s “Black Sites” where rendition and “waterboarding” were performed. (Human Rights Watch (2011). “United States Getting Away With Torture” ISBN 1-564432-789-2).

In conclusion, it is clear that after the September 11 attacks that the G.W Bush administration was pushed to the wall and had to do what was necessary to keep the America people safe. The re-engagement of forced preventive detainment at ‘Black sites, and the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques, by the CIA though the ‘ticking time bomb scenario’, was a necessary evil. However, both practices were supposed to be monitored and adhering to human rights regulations. This was not the case however, both cases at AbuGhraib in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay in Cuba showed how out of control and inhuman the U.S government was in its fact finding missions. It is then greatly understood that current president Obama’s move to lock down black sites in America and overseas as an significant act of giving face to a country accused of getting away with war crime injustices.



Human Rights Watch (2011). “United States Getting Away With Torture – The Bush Administration and Mistreatment of Detainees”; Report ISBN 1-56432-789-2. Retrieved from

Mayer, J.M. (2008). “The Dark Side – The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into A War on American Ideals”; published by Doubleday Books. Retrieved from electronic version for Kindle. (Original work published 2008)