It will be buried amid election results today, but today CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly acknowledged waterboarding and named three prisoners they waterboarded during 2002-03. He justified the practice of torture before the Senate Intelligence Committee as follows.
We used it against these three detainees because of the circumstances at the time... There was the belief that additional catastrophic attacks against the homeland were inevitable. And we had limited knowledge about al Qaeda and its workings. Those two realities have changed.
Note that the feared attacks were "inevitable," not "imminent." The interrogators were not operating under the "ticking time bomb" scenario so often used as a bogeyman by the Bush administration. Note that Hayden was not involved with the CIA during the timeframe cited--the Director of Central Intelligence (as it was called at the time) was George Tenet.