He bought into the ticking bomb.
1: We have Osama bin Laden's right hand man (would this be the "Number Two Man of Al Qaeda, number "x"?) in custody.
2: We know a bomb is going off, in a major city, within 24-72 hours.
3: We know he knows where it is.
4: Only "coercive" means can extract the info.
Sigh. First, if we know all that, we can find the bomb by other means (because if we know, really know all that) then we got it from other means (because evidence obtained from torture has to be confirmed by other means before we can call it intel).
Second, there's no way to know the answers he gives are true (even if we use, as Clinton included in coercive methods, "lots of drugs,"), so it will take a fair bit of work to check the stories out.
Third, if the evidence we have is off, the answers we get will be wrong (say the bomb is in "Washington" and the interrogator thinks it to be D.C., the torture will be geared to extracting where in D.C. the bomb is. When the guy says it's in the Capitol, much effort will go into searching the Capitol building, and Seattle will blow up).
Fourth, this just doesn't happen.
Fifth (and this is the part which is hardest to get across to people, because seems; somehow, counter-intuitive) torture doesn't work.
Maher Arar confessed to travelling to Afghanistan, to study jihad. Only one problem, he didn't study jihad in Afghanistan, because he never went to Afghanistan in the first place.
Dilawar didn't know anything. His interrogator was convinced he did. Dilawar was therefore beaten to death (that's the charitable spin, the less charitable is that the interrogator just though Dilawar wasn't responding right/disrespectful, and so he was beaten to death).
That's two examples. We don't know how many more there are like that. We don't know how many false leads, blind alleys and wasted efforts are the fruit of people who "confessed" to things they didn't do, or about things they didn't know.
We can't know how may people are dead because of bad info leading to corrupted intel.
As much as good things go, Clinton, at least, wants to limit it to warrants (he said in this case the people who needed to "coerce" the truth out of Al Qaeda's number 2, should be able to go to the FISA Court and get approval), or to a justification defense; when they were tried for it.
If we allow the "ticking bomb" we will come to decide that anyone might be a step in the chain, and so deserves to be at the end of the swinging fist.
Abuse, beatings, and the like, should not be part of the price of being suspected (or accused; think of the possibilties for revenge. Calling the cops and saying someone sells drugs out of the house will get the house tossed, they may even be arrested, but that's [usually] where it stops. Being accused of "terrorism" will be so much more effective, because there isn't need for evidence; a case can be made that lack of evidence is evidence of being a part of a "sleeper cell" because they get trained to avoid leaving signs, then they just disappear).
If these are things we prohibit as punishment, how can we allow them as non-punishment?
For this, Clinton deserves censure.