Does the ends truly justify the means?



Original poster
Topic says it all.

This is a debate that has been long waged. Can you, as a moral free agent, be justified in the actions you take, however deplorable or morally lacking, so long as in the end, the greater justice or the greater good is accomplished?

I like to call this the Jack Bauer Conundrum. Jack Bauer, the primary protagonist of the 24 television series, regularly makes decisions to carry out heinous actions in order to save dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of lives. Typically, this is in the form of extreme torture and the stripping of an individual's human rights, and sometimes even murder.

Could you be Jack Bauer? Would you gamble away a man's life, without knowing his innocence or guilt, on the chance he could be responsible for others deaths, or have knowledge that could save lives?

I'm going to play the Idealist for this debate and say No, they do not. Torture isn't reliable because the victim will eventually just say what his captor's want to hear just to make the pain stop. On an individual level the reprecussions of his actions are minimal, but can you imagine if even a small country acted as he did?
If I had any doubt that the person was guilty I wouldn't want to torture them. c__c I have to know FOR SURE before I go damning someone with my moral righteousness. I agree with Karsi that if you do that sort of stuff to an innocent person, they're gonna just tell you what you want to hear regardless of guilt. x__x So it's not an effective way of finding out someone's involvement in something.

But once I know the truth, hell yes I would. I would definitely abuse the fuck out of an evil person to save some lives, punish evil deeds, etc. And kill the bastards too.

...well, Maybe not personally do it. I couldn't -personally- hurt someone, I'd still feel guilty deep down inside. But I wouldn't have any regret in letting someone else do it for me. .__.;
Let's amp up the scenario then.

Let's say someone you cared for, your family even, let's say their lives depended on your next decision. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that they were trapped in a box filling slowly with water. They will die a terrible death, drown, if you don't free them. You have in captivity a man that may, or may not, have the key to freeing them. They are quiet about it, not telling you one way or the other.

What do you do?