I take issue with one piece of Mark’s reflection on torture, which is his in-passing endorsement of the exclusionary rule. I think it’s bad policy and bad law, mainly because maybe the guy is guilty, and putting him on the street is the wrong way to get the cops and DA’s to act properly. Indeed, the “fruit of the poisonous tree” is even bad botany, because some poisonous plants, like the tomato, bear perfectly OK fruit.
Wagner mistreated almost everyone around him, but we haven’t exiled his music. When a scientist fails to credit his students or colleagues, we don’t commit ourselves to act as though the result is wrong; we punish him and look at the findings independently. If it turned out that Vermeer had stolen his paints we wouldn’t take his stuff off the wall. Protestants smashed glorious mediaeval sculpture all through England’s cathedrals: that was wrong no matter where you stand on their theological views of the artists.
The way to deal with illegal searches and beating suspects is to prosecute the people who did them. Setting guilty people free because a cop did bad builds public disrespect for law. I had an engineering professor who taught me as a general principle that the right way to scratch your left ear is with your left hand, not by reaching over your head with your right hand. Judges can’t write statutes, so they have had to use the tools they have to get the cops to behave, but it’s a kludge.
I also wish to say one more time what Mark knows but didn’t mention in his post: morality and efficacy are aligned in the case of torture, as experts in investigation and spying have told us. It gets the victim to say what he thinks you want him to say, which is only randomly related to what you most want to find out, namely what you don’t know and therefore can’t even subconsciously suggest he tell you, more likely he picks up your prompts and reinforces assumptions that are leading you in the wrong direction. It may increase short-term organizational comfort if it clears cases, but to make them stay cleared entails a complicated and uncertain process of suppressing appeals, independent investigations, and the like. Torture is quite likely to lead the whole investigative process in an unproductive direction: it’s unprofessional and inept in addition to all its other vile qualities.