It is true that the administration has now stated clearly that torture, at least by the administration's definition, was not used in Mohammed's interrogation. ("We don't do torture" is how the White House press secretary cavalierly put it.) But even if we were to give the administration the benefit of the doubt, which hardly anyone will, the circumstances of Mohammed's detention have been unacceptable by American standards. Even if he was not tortured, he was held in secret, extralegal and completely unregulated conditions, possibly in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, certainly under nothing resembling what we in the United States normally consider the rule of law, either international or domestic. The mystery surrounding his interrogation -- when it was carried out, how and by whom -- renders any confession he makes completely null, either in a court of law or in the court of international public opinion.
This is concrete proof, as if more were needed, that it is not merely immoral to operate outside the rule of law; it is also ineffective and in fact profoundly counterproductive: There is no proof that it produces better information but plenty of evidence that it has discredited the United States. Indeed, there could be no more eloquent condemnation of the Bush administration's torture and detention policies than the deafening silence that followed Mohammed's confession: Who could have imagined, in September of 2001, that one of the deadliest terrorists in history would admit to the destruction of the World Trade Center -- and that the world would shrug its shoulders?
I routinely disagree with Applebaum about damn near everything, but she is right about this. The fact that the Bush Administration avidly went where only the Michael Ledeen's of the world happily go throw's every confession they obtain from suspected terrorists.
But the Bush Administration lying about everything from Iraq to whether they drink their coffee black or with half-and-half is their true legacy.
Remember, those federal prosecutors not fired, there's no "W" in "indictment"