Sounds about right to me, but these sorts of arguments don't speak to the passionate need to hurt someone, most anyone, that gripped too many in the United States after 9/11. And 9/11 taught far too many of us to fear for the first time that the United States could be vulnerable to determined enemies. At the behest of lying leaders all too eager to legalize torture, the United States waltzed off down the "slippery slope."
Scott Shane, David Johnston and James Risen tell the story very clearly in the October 4 New York Times. In 2001, C.I.A. teams were under tremendous pressure to find any terrorists and terror plots that might exist. Their boss declared "9/11 changed everything." And it did.
They thought they were on the trail of the ticking time bomb -- but concurrently they feared too that they were stepping over a precipice.
To reassure the anxious torturers, John Yoo wrote "the torture memo" -- a facile legal opinion asserting to C.I.A. operatives that they were acting within the law. When word of this leaked out, the Department of Justice in the person of James Comey questioned the legal arguments. He wanted to make a stand.
Comey knew he was up against "a concerted effort to create a legal exception to the prohibition against torture" through a "ticking time bomb" scenario.
Shane, Johnston and Risen give a former naval lawyer the last word in their article:
By the way, despite Comey and Congress, the Bush Administration still keeps its "exception" open by executive order.