Jonathan Zasloff compares Bush's torture program to Lincoln's suspension of habeas corpus in the spring of 1861:
Had Bush and Cheney really believed that there was an emergency requiring torture, they would have 1) said so publicly; 2) taken responsibility for the decision and defended it; 3) gotten Congressional approval; and 4) limited it as much as possible.
But they couldn't have done that, because torture was never about a national security emergency.
It was about proving an Iraq-Al Qaeda link for political purposes. Or establishing precedent for unilateral executive rule. Or about military dropouts and draft dodgers like Bush, Cheney, and Addington showing how tough they were. Or something.
Following Lincoln's 1861 precedent would thus have defeated the entire purpose of the torture program.