David Harsanyi weighs in on this tortuous debate in the Denver Post:
If your contention is that the outcome of torture is immaterial--whether it's one life saved or a thousand lives--you've taken a principled stand. I've yet to hear a policymaker who opposes "torture" be honest and take accountability for the potential consequences of abandoning harsh interrogation techniques.
I put the word torture in quotation marks only to acknowledge that I--and many of you, I'm sure--do not know exactly how to define it. Most laws offer a thoroughly ambiguous definition, which can cover nearly any unpleasant interrogation.
Any parent can tell you that sleep deprivation is mental torture. Does it rise to the level of a crime? Waterboarding? OK, how about pushing someone against a wall? Scaring a grizzled terrorist with a caterpillar? Such techniques inflict "stress and duress," for sure, but do they "shock the conscience" (one definition offered for torture)?
When President Obama decided to release the "torture memos," the door was open for a mere debate. When he opened the door for prosecution of lawyers who opined on what constitutes torture--despite encouraging everyone not to spend "time and energy laying blame for the past"--we face something far more important.