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By Jim Killebrew

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[December 18, 2014]  It seems to be a truism that people's opinion about an issue becomes stronger in direct relationship to the closeness the issue personally affects the person. In the 1960s when people were asked about their opinion about the Vietnam war, those who did not know anyone fighting in that war had the most neutral opinion while the people who had family or close friends actually over there had the strongest opinion about the war.

It is generally accepted that if a situation personally affects the physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental status of a person, that person will have a stronger opinion about that situation than will the person who is only remotely interested in the situation. This phenomenon occurs fairly consistently for any given issue or situation. That is the reason we have such a wide range of opinions along a continuum that stretches from the most extremism positions of both for and against, positive to negative, good to bad, right to wrong. For sure, in our pluralistic society pollsters have very little trouble finding diverse opinions from stratified demographics they choose to survey.

Take the current national discussion regarding the CIA report released last week from the democrats regarding the use of enhanced interrogations, or as some people refer to it, "torture." Many from both sides of the issue have spoken their opinions and offered a lot of evidence for support of each perspective. Again, however, there is a division of opinions with disbelief on both (or all) sides of the argument. This is to be expected when the discussion continues to revolve around generalities and casual, non personal context. When the argument is placed within the context of a reality that conversation changes.

Suppose a person was known to be part of a terrorist cell that has operated within the United States for a number of years. There is chatter on the internet that indicates a nuclear device is going to be detonated in a large American city. The CIA, Homeland Security, FBI and other Federal Agencies have zeroed in on the cell group and have identified at least three members and have identified them as part of a network of terrorists who have previously been involved in terrorist acts around the world in the past. Now, on a certain day a nuclear device is detonated by one of the terrorists in that cell group in a large city that has killed 1.2 million people. The Federal agencies quickly round up that person, and hitting a break, capture two more members of that cell group.

When each of those members of the terrorist cell group are in the interrogation rooms the authorities discover that two of the members have already placed nuclear devices in two other American cities. The estimated loss of human life will likely reach another 3 million people. Now the question: "What do those authorities do in that situation with the two alleged terrorists who are known to have already planted nuclear devices set to explode within the next 48 hours, but the authorities do not know which two cities are targeted?" Do they use any means possible to discover the location of those devices, or not?

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Suddenly, the question is not just some survey group doing some kind of stratified poll of a bunch of statistically significant sampled ratios of people asking them for their opinion regarding what should be done. Although this may sound like a plot for a television show like "24", in today's world this scenario may not be out of the question. As terrorists around the world are becoming more vocal in their desire to carry out attacks on civilized citizens, it seems prudent that governments of free-world countries should have contingency plans in place to address such questions and situations.

Now, rather than the large-scale scenario describe above, what if it was simply a family rather than a city? A child is abducted and murdered ISIS style "lone wolf" by a person on a personal jihad in response to the ISIS leaders in Syria and Iraq who have put out the call for individual jihadists to implement their reign of terror. The authorities apprehend two other terrorists who have carried out their jihad by kidnapping children in two other families. The death of those children are imminent unless the authorities can obtain information from the terrorists about the location of the children.

The situations are different, but the questions remain the same. Post 9/11 we have been told these "enhanced interrogation tactics" were submitted to numerous political oversight groups, the highest political leaders, and the legal authorities from the Department of Justice, CIA and FBI. We have been told that post 9/11 there was a consensus that the enhanced interrogation tactics and their accompanying procedural implementation guidelines were approved for use with enemy combatants who had information about subsequent terror acts. The American people and the politicians need to get their act together; we are living in a hostile world where we are only as safe as the most recent interruption of a terrorist attack.

The greatest danger we face in our country regarding this issue is the continual in-fighting among the politicians who seem to be trying to score points for their own political fortunes rather than seriously doing their jobs in trying to work toward establishing ways to protect the American people from these terrorist actions. They need to have that settled prior to being placed in a situation where the terror has already been carried out. Once settled, we do not need another set of oppositional politicians bringing it up for debate ten years after the issue has been settled.


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