February 2006 Vol. 104 No. 4 THE REVIEW

Should Coercive Interrogation Be Legal?

Eric A. Posner & Adrian Vermeule

Coercive interrogation is now a live subject, thanks to 9/11. At one time, coercive interrogation played a role only in philosophical disputes about consequentialism, in which scholars asserted or denied that the police could interrogate an individual in order to extract the location of a ticking nuclear bomb. None of the participants in those debates seriously considered the possibility that coercive interrogation could be justified except in extreme circumstances never likely to be met. Today, U.S. officials appear to engage in coercive interrogation or something very similar to it; so do other western governments; and the possibility that coercive interrogation may be justified in nonremote circumstances has entered mainstream debate. The task for legal scholars at this point is to understand how this practice fits into legal norms and traditions, and how it ought to be regulated.

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