When President Obama declared last week that "we tortured some folks," the headlines focused on the fact that he spoke relatively plainly about Bush-era interrogations. Yet in the same comments he put forth inaccurate information on torture. "In the immediate aftermath of 9/11 we did some things that were wrong," he said. "I understand why it happened. I think it’s important when we look back to recall how afraid people were after the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon had been hit and the plane in Pennsylvania had fallen, and people did not know whether more attacks were imminent, and there was enormous pressure on our law enforcement and our national-security teams to try to deal with this."
This statement would be perfect if the Bush administration had tortured a few al-Qaeda members on September 12, 2001, to see if any more attacks were imminent. Perhaps it could even help to explain torture perpetrated in late 2001 and 2002. But torture didn't stop in "the immediate aftermath of 9/11." Torture did not stop once it was abundantly clear that 9/11 would not be followed by imminent attacks (if only because years had passed and another attack had not, in fact, occurred).
On May 10, 2005, "Steven Bradbury of the OLC authored a detailed, 46-page memo to John Rizzo, the CIA counsel, authorizing a variety of coercive interrogation techniques and arguing that even the harshest techniques are not torture," Annie Lowrey noted in her helpful timeline on Bush administration torture.