"The White House line: Yes, we did it, but only to three chief terrorists, and only when we thought the nation was in imminent danger. We got life-saving information in return. And so we'd do it again in similar circumstances.
"Putting aside for a moment the question of whether the ends did in fact justify the means - and there is considerable evidence that the waterboarding of those three men miserably failed that test as well - the White House argument is deeply perverse and goes against core American values.
"Waterboarding is undeniably cruel. It is undeniably an assault on human dignity. The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution - the one banning cruel and unusual punishment - doesn't come with an asterisk indicating: Except when you think it's really, really important.
"It's true that on TV, the ticking time bomb scenarios are crystal clear, being tough means using torture, and torture always works. But none of those things are remotely true in the real world. Which is why we have rules that we're supposed to follow, even in emergencies.
"And even on the twisted terms the White House is advocating, the evidence suggests that the ends in this case did not justify the means. The White House asks us to believe that in this case it was worth it. But despite all the generalized assertions that countless lives have been saved by the CIA's interrogation program, Bush and his aides - as I wrote in my Dec. 11 column - have yet to offer a concrete case where intelligence produced by torture saved a single life. To the contrary, as I wrote in October, Bush has repeatedly cited examples of thwarted attacks that turned out to be wildly exaggerated.
"Finally, the White House argues that waterboarding is legal because the Justice Department said so. But waterboarding is flatly, objectively illegal -- according to both U.S. and international law. Try to find one independent expert to tell you otherwise. And, despite their heated assertions, no one in the White House or at the Justice Department has yet to provide a single vaguely reasonable argument to support their position. All those legal briefs are conveniently considered top secret."
(Read the rest here.)