This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume" from Dec. 1, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX ANCHOR: Let’s just take the example of one prisoner who is now in U.S. custody, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, would you want him to know all the things that the U.S. wouldn’t do to him as a prisoner to in effect eliminate the fear factor?

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Well, first of all, he doesn’t know all the things that you wouldn’t do. Second of all, if you decide to torture him, you probably don’t get the right information because torture doesn’t work.


BRIT HUME, HOST: Torture is long forbidden — has long been forbidden by U.S. law. But Senator McCain has gotten the Senate to pass overwhelmingly a further ban on "cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of any enemy captive." Is this a good idea and is torture, as Senator McCain argues, always a bad idea? For answers, we turn to the syndicated columnist and FOX News contributor Charles Krauthammer who has an essay on the subject in the current edition of our sister publication, The Weekly Standard.

Charles, welcome.


HUME: Your thoughts on this? Now, it’s against the law right now to torture.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. But it’s a very narrow definition. Organ failure and death. What we are talking about here.

HUME: I think we have it. Let’s just take a look at it. I think we may have that definition. Torture is defined as — there it is: "An act committed by a person acting under color of law specifically intending to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering."

KRAUTHAMMER: Right, well, look, the definitions are less important than the question of what can you do to whom under which conditions? And under the McCain amendment, which is what people are talking about, which got 90 senators in support of it a few weeks ago, nothing that would be called cruel, unusual or degrading would be allowed.

On the face of it, I think that’s something that is not supportable, and I give in the essay two exceptions. The first is the "ticking time bomb" exception where, for instance, you have got a bomb in Manhattan, you have got a guy who knows where it is. He planted it, he’s not talking. It’s hard to imagine anybody who would say that you don’t do what you have to do in order to find out where the bomb is and to save hundreds or thousands of people. That’s number one.

And under this law that McCain is proposing, there is no exception. What’s interesting is that in Newsweek he was asked about this particular example and his answer was, well, in that case a president ought to do what he has to do and take the responsibility. But how can you argue on the one hand that torturing this person who knows where the bomb is what you have to do and on the other hand argue it’s something that ought never be done.

HUME: And doesn’t work.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, that’s also problematic. I mean, I respect Senator McCain. He suffered torture and he knows how horrible it is. But that’s simply not so that it doesn’t work. There is a classic example 11 years ago, the Israelis had a soldier kidnapped. The Israelis located the driver of the car who kidnapped the soldier. Yitzhak Rabin, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize was the prime minister, and he admitted that they tortured the driver, he talked and they located this soldier. So here’s a classic.

HUME: They saved him?

KRAUTHAMMER: No. Unfortunately, in the assault on the house where he was being held, the Palestinians killed him in the middle of the assault. But that doesn’t change the moral calculus. If you are a prime minister and you are deciding you don’t know where the guy is and you have got to launch a rescue mission and you can’t unless you know where he is, you have got to make a decision. And Rabin decided in that way. I can’t imagine a leader of any country would decide otherwise.

HUME: So where does that leave this debate in your judgment and what — I mean, is this — what about the idea, for example, Charles, that we as a nation have held ourselves out as being the most civilized nation, the most advanced in terms of the great powers, that we are the good guys? And torture has, for whatever — you know, rightly or wrongly as you suggested in some cases perhaps wrongly, a bad reputation in the world and we need friends and allies and if we do not have at least firm-stated policies against it, where does that leave us?

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, I think if you state a policy which you cannot sustain, again, in this example I gave and the example I would give of — there is a second example exception, which I think is extremely important, it’s less hypothetical, the Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the high level Al Qaeda who knows all kinds of logistics, all kinds of information. And we know that he was subjected to rough treatment. And one in particular in which is a terrible interrogation technique in which you douse water and the person senses he is drowning. He talked.

HUME: It’s called water boarding.

KRAUTHAMMER: He talked after two minutes of that, two minutes. Now if we got information out of him and other high level Al Qaeda.

HUME: Does that qualify, by the way, under this definition, in your view, as torture? Cruel, degrading, inhumane?

KRAUTHAMMER: It would under the — I mean, how can you define anything like that which is quite horrible as not...

HUME: You feel like you are drowning.

KRAUTHAMMER: Of course. It’s cruel, it’s inhumane, it’s degrading.

HUME: But you are not drowning.

KRAUTHAMMER: You’re not. But it’s horrible. It’s like a mock execution over and over and over again. If it gave us information — and that kind of treatment with other high level Al Qaeda, gave us information, which would explain why we have not suffered an attack in four years, I would say it was not the wrong thing to do.

And because of these two exceptions, I think you cannot have a law which says this can never ever be done, even though you would like the world to think that it would be hypocritical and dishonest to say otherwise.

HUME: And from what Senator McCain says, it appears that his view is, well, you might have to do it sometime but then you take the consequences.

KRAUTHAMMER: Right. And I’m saying it’s not an honest way to argue the case.

HUME: Charles Krauthammer, see you later on the panel.


HUME: Glad to have you here.

Watch "Special Report With Brit Hume" weeknights at 6 p.m. EDT.

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