The New York Times pubished an article that argued that the CIA choose to torture because of their haste to respond to the attrocities of 9/11. Aside from the realities that the torturing did not start in earnest till almost a year had passed since 9/11, there is evidence to suggest that torture was not just a hasty decision but rather a critical feature of the Bush administration.
The reason why the U.S. engaged in torture go beyond the CIA, contractors Mitchell and Jensen, President Bush, Vice President Cheney, the Congress, a petrified American people, and an uncritical media. The answer lies in the overarching political strategy and theory of “preemption” that occupied a large contingent of White House officials and that dominated White House decisions and actions after 9/11. That was what I and my co-authors argued in our 2010 book, The Iraq Papers, published by Oxford University Press. Preemption was a strategy advocated by a contingent of neoconservatives that included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, and Donald Rumsfeld. They had argued for over a decade before 9/11 that the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989 gave the U.S. a singular, supreme Super-power status that could be put to use to fix the world’s problems without opposition from any other power. Preemption meant attacking and defeating opponents even though they may only pose a hypothetical threat. They had approached President Clinton with the idea of toppling Saddam Hussein during his administration without success. They finally succeeded with President Bush because of the 9/11 tragedy.
As we argued in the Iraq Papers, preemption was not only a Bush policy for international affairs. It also permeated domestic policies. Thus, the casual dismissal of our constitutional and ethical safeguards regarding personal privacy, human rights, judicial processes, and democracy. Our moral standards and international law regarding torture were preempted.