The reason a special prosecutor is needed in the torture tapes obstruction of justice case, and the reason there is private panic in many Democratic and Republican circles, is that it now appears that some prominent Democrats, along with some prominent Republicans, gave a private thumbs-up to torture in 2002.
Waterboarding is torture. Torture is a crime. Looking at the various creative means of torture that have been publicly reported, the laws that were broken include the Geneva Convention, European law, the U.S. War Crimes Act, the domestic laws of probably a dozen countries at least, especially in Europe, and very possibly the Nuremberg rules.
Flashing back to 2001 and 2002, when torture was instituted and some Democrats and Republicans were briefed: That was the time when most senior Democrats joined Republicans in supporting the Iraq war and voting for the Patriot Act (including the
majority in the Congress who did not read the Patriot Act before voting for it).