One of the weirder parts of the Torture Memo, which I didn’t write about earlier, was the attempt to suggest that a torturer might be able to benefit from what we lawyers call a ‘pure heart, empty head’ defense: ‘Honest, judge, I didn’t think it was torture.’ The memo tries this on in two implausible ways: (1) The guy doing the damage honestly believes it’s legal; (2) the guy doing the damage isn’t sure it’s really going to be that damaging. Both arguments seem completely inapplicable to the circumstances, neither is convincing, and the legal analysis is muddled. But don’t take my word for it, it’s not my field. Instead, have a look at these three posts by experts.
Update (6/11/04): Also don't miss Eric Muller's excellent comment, Manipulating Doctrine.