It's all very simple:
Before actually having any suspects in custody from the War on Terror, officials in the Bush Administration took a program created to help captured American soldiers resist torture techniques crafted by the Red Chinese in the Korean War to illicit false confessions and reverse-engineered it so that they could APPLY those techniques in a way that would illicit false confessions about a link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda to justify an invasion of Iraq.
Anyone who says the techniques helped prevent terrorist attacks on Los Angeles are wrong. That presumed attack was thwarted months before the torture even started.
And, consider this - after being waterboarded 180 times, KSM never gave up Osama Bin Laden.
Anyone who says it's not torture is wrong. The United States has prosecuted people as war criminals for using these very same techniques going back as far as the Spanish American War.
Anyone who says that 9/11 was so extraordinary that we had to violate the law is wrong. Is Al Qaeda really more dangerous that the Nazis or Mutual Assured Destruction? Get real.
Or, actually, let me put it to you this way: Let's assume that there is a ticking time bomb. Let's assume you have absolute proof that an attack is imminent and you have a suspect in custody that you are absolutely sure knows how to prevent it but he'll only talk if you break the law and violate him physically in some way. And let's assume, by torturing him, you prevent an attack and save millions of lives.
We are STILL a nation of laws, with a court system where you're judged by a jury of your peers. When the dust has settled, you should still have to stand trial and answer for your crimes. Because if a jury of your peers agrees that you made the right decision, they'll acquit you. The law is upheld with the people kept safe. Problem solved.
And if the jury DOES convict you, but the President knows that you did a great service for this nation, he can pardon you.
But the law is still the law. We don't just pretend that torture is OK. It's not OK. And if you think the circumstances are so dire that you're required to do some awful things, you should be man enough to stand up, say it proudly, and take your lumps because you believe in America and our system of laws.
To do otherwise, to say the law shouldn't apply to you, I'm sorry, that's just fundamentally un-American.
You want to know how you're REALLY supposed to interrogate prisoners? Read "The Interrogators", about the first guys on the ground in Afghanistan and how they got real actionable intelligence without resorting to torture.
But I think my man Shepard Smith said it best: