The rescue crews weren't even through sifting the rubble of the Sept. 11 attack when the debate over torture broke out: Is it necessary in the pursuit of the war on terror, and does it work, and is it right? Oddly, the argument seemed to fasten on the utilitarian side–does it work?–rather than the moral side–is it right?–despite the fact that we had practically no empirical data with which to measure success or failure. We knew practically nothing of who the government was questioning, how, what information was being produced, or what action it was leading to.
Fourteen years later, we've learned a lot about what was happening inside the interrogation rooms of the war on terror, but it often seems we know even less than we started. The latest cryptic artifact of this debate is "Secrets, Politics and Torture," an episode of PBS' Frontline documentary series, which tries to puzzle out the truth in the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's hotly contested report on CIA and torture. Glenn Garvin analyzes the episode.