In his 2006 book, Never Again, former Attorney General John Ashcroft wrote that “Al-Marri rejected numerous offers to improve his lot by cooperating with the F.B.I. investigators and providing information. He insisted on becoming a ‘hard case.’” Mark Berman, an early member of Marri’s defense team, told Mayer that the Bush administration “really just wanted to interrogate him” in a rough manner. “No doubt about it.”

Mayer then quotes Justice John Paul Stevens dissent in the 2004 case of Rumsfeld v. Padilla. What Stevens said succinctly summarizes the central issue at the heart of all of the debates over torture, preventive detention, and “extreme rendition”:

Executive detention of subversive citizens, like detention of enemy soldiers to keep them off the battlefield, may sometimes be justified to prevent persons from launching or becoming missiles of destruction. It may not, however, be justified by the naked interest in using unlawful procedures to extract information. Incommunicado detention for months on end is such a procedure.… For if this Nation is to remain true to the ideals symbolized by its flag, it must not wield the tools of tyrants even to resist an assault by the forces of tyranny.

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Charles Kaiser is the author of The Gay Metropolis and 1968 in America. He has been media editor for Newsweek, a member of the metro staff of The New York Times, and a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where he covered the press and book publishing. To learn more, visit charleskaiser.com.