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Last Updated: Friday, 14 January, 2005, 19:40 GMT
Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge
Tom Ridge, US Secretary of Homeland Security.

In a HARDtalk interview on 14th January Zeinab Badawi talks to the US Secretary of Homeland Security.

As President Bush prepares for his inauguration for a second term in the next few days his priority will remain the so called war on terror.

But the way the US has conducted the war on terror and the methods employed have been heavily criticised both domestically and internationally.

Zeinab Babwadi talks to Tom Ridge, the outgoing US Secretary of Homeland Security, and asks him whether the war on terror has been worth the price of America's reputation at home and abroad.

Here are some key quotes from the interview.

ZEINAB BADAWI: It is your job to ensure that the United States stay safe from another terrorist attack. What would you do?

Let me put to you what Alan Dershowitz, Harvard Law Professor, says about the ticking bomb case. In some instances, if there is a ticking-bomb and you need to get information about a possible attack which could kill 100s of people. Would it be all right to use torture in such an instance? He says it is possible.

TOM RIDGE: Well, I think it is certainly possible. I think the ticking-bomb case has to do potentially with a nuclear event, a nuclear holocaust, and I think if you've got to a time certain you would try to exhaust potentially every means you could to extract the information to save hundreds and thousands of people.

Now, there is a real question as to whether or not - given the nature of the terrorists that we are confronting - whether that would gain you the information you needed, but I think you deny the notion of human nature.

If I am interrogating someone who I believe has the answer that would help me avoid, as someone responsible for my community's safety, a tremendous holocaust."

ZEINAB BADAWI: So there is an exception?

TOM RIDGE: The exceptions, perhaps, are depending on the circumstances, but it's also indicative of human behaviour if you were down to the last resort, but also based on the experience of more experienced interrogators than I am.

I would tell you that a lot of people generally don't think - given the nature of the enemy, the techniques they have adopted to protect themselves, and the hard-heartedness of these individuals, it may not do any good anyhow.

So, it's difficult to say that there would be an exemption, but you have to admit there might be.

ZEINAB BADAWI: But how do you suppose that would go down with people abroad if they say well on the whole the United States we don't condone the use torture, but it is possible in some exceptional instances, certain cases, if you are dealing with a terrorist, that's what you might do.

How do you suppose that would go down with people abroad?

TOM RIDGE: Well, I think we have said before quite clearly that we do not condone it. You used a very extreme example, and I gave you a very extreme response.

But I don't think it's appropriate to project that as a matter of course, as a matter of policy that the United States condones torture.

We do not condone torture as a means of extracting information, but under an extreme set of circumstances depending on the individuals involved you better not deny the human emotion involved in that kind of situation to say it could happen.

But by and large, as a matter of policy, we need to state over and over again: we do not condone the use of torture to extract information from terrorists.

On future terrorist attacks

ZEINAB BADAWI: The head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, says it's only a matter of time before there is an attack on a major Western city of a chemical or biological nature.

Do you agree with that?

TOM RIDGE: Yes, I don't think it is 'if'. I think it's a matter of 'when'. We operate that way. We don't have the luxury, I don't think, of saying it will probably be this kind of attack or that kind of attack.

So, on a day-to-day-basis not just the United States, but many allies around the world do whatever we can to share information about terrorists, share information about the kind of attacks, share information, so that we and the coalition can do a better job at protecting our citizens and way of life."

HARDtalk can be seen on BBC World at 04:30 GMT,1130 GMT, 1530 GMT, 1930 GMT, 0030 GMT

It can also be seen on BBC News 24 at 04:30 and 23:30

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