Jane Mayer discussed her new book The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How The War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, with Steven Clemons today at The New America Foundation. The discussion touched on a number of topics in Mayer's book but the most engaging and disturbing part of the discussion was when Mayer was asked if anyone within the Bush White House are war criminals:

"As a political reporter, I've covered the White House since the Reagan era, off and on, so I really see this much more as a political question than a legal question. ... You have to ask yourself 'do you see the appetite in this country for putting people on trial who could say that they were trying to protect America in a difficult time?' I think it's a real stretch to think that the public is the public is going to demand that these people go on trial."

But perhaps that would change if some of the still "unsolved mysteries" Mayer mentioned were uncovered:

"There are a number of legal memos nobody's seen, we've never seen the list of interrogation techniques that have been approved by this country. There are cases where people have disappeared, there are some where people seem to have been killed  -- we really don't know everything yet and I would like to see at some point the books open and maybe hearings of some sort so that we can at least learn what the country's been doing and think about which part is worth it and which part is not."

But for these mysteries to have consequences for administration torture-backers the American public first must deal with the reality that, as Mayer says, torture has made us less safe. Sadly that's probably not going to happen.

Update: Also see Ryan Grim's just-posted review of Mayer's book on the site today.

--Daniel Strauss