Monday, October 26, 2009

Defusing the ‘ticking time bomb’ scenario
The ticking time bomb scenario is a hypothetical situation, but a real-world possibility. Over the years the meaning and nature of counter insurgency, elimination of political and armed opponents and use of torture to defuse the ‘ticking time bomb (scenario)’ has acquired a new shape. It has raised questions on two fronts. Front one: advocates torture- in interest of the society i.e. national security and front two: questions legal and moral sanctions behind the use of torture for neutralizing the possible attack.

The national security interest requires the state authorities to arrest the terrorist (suspect and/or proved guilty) and interrogate in order to avert the possible attack that is likely to kill hundreds and injured thousands. Here comes the first argument in favour of the use of torture. Torture to avoid disaster. But how far this would be justified? The shining example of this would be the physical and mental torture of suspected and proved terrorists held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu Gharib, Iraq by American security authorities. Many arrests were carried out in the name of averting the possible future terror attacks. Defusing the time bomb. But it raised more questions then answer desired.

The procedure of detention, treatment and trial of suspects adopted after 9/11 at Gitmo prison and at Abu Gharib brought the inhumane aspect of torture to the fore. Indian police and security agencies after the Mumbai serial blasts, 1993 used physical and mental torture in order to discover and establish the concrete link between the well crafted blasts and involvement of Dawood Ibrahim. Also, after the Mumbai terror attack of 26/11, 2008 the Pakistani terrorist Ajmal Amir Kasav was dealt psychologically by showing him the pictures and videos of his parents in Pakistan by the Indian intelligence authorities. No use of physical torture has been reported. Not even by the defence lawyer.

What would the state authorities do when they have the terror suspect in the torture chamber with all important information about the type of the bomb, where is it places and the scale of disaster and amount of havoc it can create and just 1 hour to find and neutralize the explosive? Torture him physically? (Remember they are trained for physical torture). Physical torture raises legal, moral and humanitarian questions. Or apply psychological torture? (Terrorists are brain washed to die but not to speak out). They are hard nuts to crack. Above all, who would decide that person arrested is a terrorist or has links with the terror group? What if he is just a relative of the terrorist the security agencies looking for? What if he is innocent: a common man held on the grounds of suspicion? And, what he is a child possessing vital information brainwashed not to divulge anything?

Going back to the ‘Operation Condor’, 1975, Latin America, the concept of counter insurgency and torture has under gone a major transformation. From the concept of ‘opposition is equal to revolution’ then, to fighting heavily armed militants on the streets today. The communists (political opponents during Condor era) have been replaced bythe armed militias from different nations operating in various countries with different parent organization at different time but with one motto.

Operation Condor is often termed as the genesis of ‘war on terror’, but was directed to eliminate the rising communist forces in America’s backyard. Today, the international community is fighting terrorism and facing the ticking time bomb scenario at the global level. On one hand we have increasing counter insurgency operations being carried out from dense jungles of Kashmir to Columbia to high mountain ranges of Torabora and Hindukush valley in Afghanistan to the plains of Iraq. Whereas on the other hand we have clandestine terror organizations, operating with the help of sleeper cells (local support) with great degree of precision in terms of information and attack making it extremely difficult for the security agencies to trace and neutralize the attack.