IN THE NEWS
Dahlia Lithwick at Slate makes an obvious point: perhaps it's not a good idea to have too specific a definition of torture.
Or perhaps we shouldn't be having this discussion at all. When Americans are chewing over the proper definitions of torture, we're in a bad, bad place.
And no, the 9/11 terrorists did not put us there. We did it to ourselves. There are no ticking bombs that can be found and dismantled. There are people who mean us harm, and there are people in indefinite American custody. Most of the people in the latter category do not belong to the former. The minority of prisoners who may be involved with Al Qaeda or its allies don't have knowledge of imminent attacks.
Al Qaeda is like any terrorist organization: it hopes for an overreaction. Al Qaeda's leaders want Americans are more afraid than they should be. They want the US government to take reckless, violent measures that are as offensive as they are unjustified. They're probably very happy to see Americans having a debate that should never have happened in the first place.
ADDENDUM: The fellows at Lawyers, Guns, and Money make an excellent point: the Constitution is written deliberately to be far less than specific on most points, as are many laws that extend from these constitutional axioms. There are plenty of reasons to be unspecific, when you're trying to deter the worst forms of behavior.