Picture this hypothetical situation: A member of Al Qaeda boards a transatlantic flight bearing 269 passengers and crew headed for a major American city – let’s just say Detroit – with powdered explosives stitched into his undergarments. As the plane makes its final descent, the terrorist at this point in our narrative, that’s what he is, both legally and morally, fails to detonate his illegal carry-on baggage, but he does draw attention to himself by setting his crotch on fire. Thanks to the heroic actions of some passengers, the man is subdued and, when the plane lands, taken into custody by the FBI.There, he readily admits to his membership in the League of Extraordinarily Evil Men and taunts his captors with the news that, while he might have failed in murdering some 300 civilians, more such attacks are on the way. Told, however, that he has the right to remain silent and is under no compunction to divulge any information that might incriminate him in a court of law, this wanna-be mass murder quickly secures the services of a top-notch lawyer from a white shoe firm and, under the advice of his attorney, clams up.This scenario, of course, is far from hypothetical, the stuff of college philosophy classrooms and speculative magazine articles. It is, rather, a fairly accurate description of the events that have transpired since last week, when the Nigerian-born Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab was subdued in his attempt to bring down a Delta flight headed for the Motor City. While the Al Qaeda-linked 23-year-old gave his interrogators a grim preview of what may soon come from the hive of Islamist terrorism that is the state of Yemen, he has, according to federal officials who spoke with the Washington Post, “restricted his cooperation since securing a defense attorney.”We are thus presented with a version of the proverbial “ticking time bomb” scenario. Sure, the threat may not be as immediate as those regularly defused by Jack Bauer on “24.” The impending attacks may still be in the early planning stages, weeks or even months from execution. But now we have a real, live Al Qaeda operative – fresh from a foiled terrorist plot hatched in a country fast becoming the center point in the war on terror – in our hands.Surely we ought to be using the tools at our disposal to find out the who, what, where, when and how of the next potential mass casualty attack.Would it be inappropriate or immoral to pour water over the face and into the nose and mouth of Abdulmutallab, thus generating a drowning sensation but not actually drowning him to obtain this information? What about putting him in a small box with a caterpillar, a technique approved in a 2002 Justice Department memo for use against Al Qaeda mastermind Abu Zubaydah, who harbored a known fear of insects? Do you think slapping him across the face a few times – hard – is acceptable, if it might mean saving the lives of hundreds?