Hilzoy is must reading, as always:
...not knowing that the SERE program was designed to help soldiers withstand interrogations that had produced false confessions is inexcusable, especially since this was our program. Not knowing that the psychologist who persuaded the CIA to go for this had never conducted an actual interrogation is similarly mind-boggling. The fact that no one knew what the actual interrogators thought of all this is standard for the Bush administration, but it should not have been.There are all sorts of experts in our government, including experts on interrogation. There's also more than enough institutional memory to inform the administration about the origins of the SERE program. But the Bush administration, typically, did not bother with them. They preferred to make things up as they went along, because, after all, they always knew better.
What you saw after 9/11 was the danger of the very executive Cheney believes in: it's too small a circle to allow for checks and balances, too driven by one individual's will to avoid catastrophic error, and too blinkered to listen to alternative views. It's the antithesis of classical conservatism - imprudent, dead certain, and addicted to the use of force. And when you see this mindset - and it is an authoritarian mindset - reach for the ultimate tool of torture, enormous danger follows. And so it did.