America's friends would, understandably, have breathed a sigh of relief at the Obama administration's frank renunciation of the inhuman treatment of terrorist suspects. This reaffirmation of cherished ideals and values in the face of terror, such as respect for human rights and justice according to the rule of law, is necessary to restore America's image around the world. For too long the attacks of September 11, 2001, distorted its moral compass. However, the release by the White House of secret memos detailing interrogation methods amounting to torture did not please some conservative politicians and ex-intelligence chiefs. Former vice-president Dick Cheney remains a staunch advocate of his old boss George W. Bush's right to do whatever necessary to defend the US. He has challenged the Central Intelligence Agency to release memos which, he claims, show that information extracted through harsh interrogations helped prevent further terrorist attacks. There will always be those like Mr Cheney who maintain that the end justifies the means, even if that means a defeat - savoured by terrorists - for democratic values. It is worth recalling how the White House and its legal advisers came to place the president above the law. The 9/11 attacks, which came from within, left the US traumatised and fearful of more atrocities. Moral values and international rules were easily seen as inconvenient to the so-called 'war on terror'. The fears were real enough, as evidenced by murderous attacks years later in London and Madrid. True, the US has not suffered another attack on its own soil, thanks to tough security and better intelligence. But this came at the cost of the serious erosion of civil liberties, such as the unlawful detention of suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the ill-treatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail and secret CIA prisons outside the US. These abuses served al-Qaeda's ends, by inflaming Muslim opposition and making it harder to win hearts and minds. President Barack Obama says that upholding human-rights values is what should set the US apart from its enemies. Such values should be upheld in any tolerant society. They must not be further eroded in the name of fighting terrorism.