Arguments in favor of torture must assume, as a necessary condition, that the American justice system for whatever reason doesn’t work on Islamic terrorists. ProPublica flags another instance of the assumption breaking down: confessed terrorist David Coleman Headley not only supplied information on new terrorist plots, but went undercover to help the United States catch others.
With every such victory for law, we make it harder to opt out of our values where we think they won’t serve us, and President Obama deserves credit for giving the law the chance it needed to do its job. We should trust ourselves. To know that our values work even under the most extreme conditions, and to stake our lives on it: that is American exceptionalism. Not some quasi-divine conviction in our infallibility.