Abu Zubaydah is in U.S. custody. He is either the number two or the number three Al Qaeda guy on the planet.

He knows most, if not all, of the following:

• Where Usama bin Laden is hiding
• The names and locations of sleeper agents in the U.S.
• The capabilities and plans of terror sleeper cells throughout the world

Zubaydah knows if the Al Qaeda network has nukes, and where they may be. He knows about dirty bombs, chemical weapons and bioweapons.

The things that are tied up in Zubaydah 's noggin are very important to America's security.

So Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got quite exercised when reporters started inquiring about whether we would torture Zubaydah to get this all-important information out of him.

Rumsfeld said no, very forcefully. Just as emphatically, he underscored the value of Zubaydah 's capture. So I began wondering... what is so wrong with torture?

Assuming it would work — and I don't know if that is a safe assumption — I'd like to know why it's so awful to inflict some pain on a guy who has information on the death plans for thousands, if not millions, of Americans?

Frankly, I don't get it. We already shot the guy three times. Evidently, we were fine with killing him.

But now we're keeping him alive for the information he could give us. So if we tried to kill him because he was an enemy, but fate intervened and he was only wounded... and we're now keeping him alive for personal gain, what's the great leap involved in twisting his arm for some crucial, life-saving information?

I know, I know. There's a line we just don't cross. But we do. We did in the first World Trade Center bombing trial. We handed over a witness to Egypt, where he was roasted over a fire while our agent sat there taking notes about what he said. This is way more important.

If drugs work, fine. If reasoning works, fine. If the threat of execution after the threat of a military tribunal works, fine...

But if Zubaydah resists all of that... I hate to say it, but I think the secretary of defense has a duty to get that information by whatever means possible. Whatever. If that involves torture, fine.

That's My Word.

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