I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about an issue that keeps popping up in my head. This is basically a philosophical question: Is it ever appropriate to use torture to solicit information from a captive terrorist, information which could save hundreds of lives, or turn out to be false? First of all I would like to give a basic definition of torture. According to the Online Dictionary [Wikipedia], torture is defined as; " The practice or act of deliberately inflicting severe physical pain and possibly injury on a person". However, notice that the ambiguity of the phrase "severe physical pain" leaves much to interpretation and provides some wiggle-room. First of all, what can be objectively classified as "severe physical pain"? Almost anyone would disagree with causing unnecessary pain, but what qualifies as excessive and sadistic can be subject to personal opinion, and if causing pain to a captive is acceptable in principle, at what point does it become excessive? Where are such lines drawn? To illustrate this point, I will bring to memory the recent water-boarding debacle. The Bush administration has on numerous occasions defended water-boarding as a legitimate practice and distinct from torture because it did not meet a somewhat arbitrary definition of "excessive and prolonged" use. So the Bush administration's main contention is that water-boarding is a form of coercive interrogation, not torture. On one level, I am inclined to agree. While coercive interrogation is often regarded as a euphemism for torture or barbaric treatment, I will point out that this is a common logical error in which a simple term is automatically assumed to be synonymous with a compound term. A good analogy is sex and adultery. Sex can sometimes be adultery, if performed extra-maritally, but the mere act of sexual intercourse does not necessarily constitute to adultery. Given this distinction, one may legitimately assume that under certain restrictions, the use of physical pain to obtain information is appropriate. On another level, however, the claim that water-boarding does not cause excessive discomfort is shallow. I know a military veteran who considered it worse than having your fingers pounded with a hammer till they went mush. While this is an anecdote, it does show the difficulty in objectively defining torture. Leaving the efficacy of torture aside, since it can be argued that not all physical discomfort is necessarily excessive (Imprisonment, Minimal Sleep Deprivation, etc) is the accepting the difference between moderate pain and discomfort versus sadistic and inhumane treatment a risk for a slippery slope, is the distinction merely a question of semantics? Is it okay to tread on a guy's foot with steel-toed boots when you need first hand information in minutes, but wrong to dislocate a man's shoulder for the same purpose or is it relevant to whatever force is necessary to break the subject's resolve with any extra force being severe? My belief is that coercive interrogation is acceptable under certain constraints. I would liken it to the 'Use of Force Continuum' scale most Military and Police units use to evaluate threat levels: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_force_continuum Perhaps, the same system may be used to differentiate between legitimate and excessive coercion. Thoughts?