Peter Levine on Luban's recent essay on torture.
My spiel again (also posted at Peter's blog):
One central reason why the "ticking time bomb" scenario is specious is because one must torture in order to gain information about the hypothetical bomb in the first place. And then, one hopes, just maybe the information about where it is can be gained from further torture. But consider Abu Ghraib -- even an American general suggested that perhaps 80-90% of the inmates are not "terrorists." In order to discover that they are not terrorists and do not have knowledge of a "ticking time bomb," they must be tortured. Apparently, simply saying that they have no knowledge is inadequate in the manner in which this heinous war is conducted. In other words, most of the people tortured in the Iraq War (and I suspect in most cases of torture) are innocent, while the only justification one can muster is to torture in order to protect the innocent.
The actual hypothetical of this common way of justifying torture runs more like this (assuming information from torture has any reliability at all in the first place): "if there were a ticking time bomb -- of which we have no idea of its existence -- then we could only discover its existence by torturing everyone -- innocent or guilty (since this isn't established in advance) -- in order to find that person who has knowledge of its existence. Torture of innocents is justified in the name of potentially saving innocent lives from a ticking time bomb which may or may not exist." Charles Krauthammer and others who use the common "ticking time bomb" argument are also heinous.
The real strategy is to terrorize a population into political submission since there is no moral or crassly pragmatic justification for torture.