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C.I.A. Nominee Gina Haspel Solves the Trolley Problem

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A runaway trolley is speeding along a track to which five people are tied, up ahead. I am standing next to a lever that, if pulled, would divert the trolley to a track where only one person is tied. So your question is: What should I do?

Let me start by saying that I support the higher moral standard that we have decided to hold ourselves to. I really do. The original moral standard was torture, so I really support something somewhat above that. Something just a hair above a war crime is, technically speaking, a higher moral standard. Does that answer the question?

Oh, right, the runaway trolley. Well, as I am not a train operator, it would not be my legal responsibility to alter the path of the trolley. So, to be clear, it would be technically legal to do nothing and let the trolley collide with the five people laid out before it. Any resulting casualties would not be a product of my actions.

But I believe very strongly in American values. And, as an American, if the corporation that owns the trolley gave me the order to operate the lever that could alter the trolley’s path, I would do what I was commanded to do.

What if I were in charge of the trolley and had to personally weigh the lives of five people against the life of one? I believe, sitting here today, that my answer is unknowable. Without the ability to question the people tied to the tracks, how could I learn who was the least deserving of life? If I told the single person tied to one track about the five tied to the other, would the psychological agony of the single person lead him or her to willingly sacrifice him- or herself? I think that person would be honor-bound to do so because of American values.

What if the innocent people on the trolley tracks are not American? Let me ask two follow-up questions: Is anyone recording this particular juncture of the trolley route, and, if so, do I have access to that footage?

The solution is simple then: first, question the prisoners who are tied to the tracks. How did these people come to be tied to the tracks? Are there plots to tie more people to trolley tracks? Are the so-called innocent people on the tracks actually part of a


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