Our sister publication, The Wall Street Journal, reports that President Obama is considering the release of CIA memos revealing in detail the interrogation techniques used in questioning terror suspects in the desperate days and months after 9/11.

The president's decision will tell us much about him. It is no secret that U.S. intelligence agents subjected key captives to rough treatment to extract information. Senior intelligence officials have said that the information obtained was some of the best they got and was vital to preventing further attacks. But the methods were harsh, to include the simulated drowning known as water boarding, and even the controlled banging of a suspect's head against a wall.

Some, including Senator John McCain, consider this stuff torture and the techniques are no longer in use. There is strong support for releasing the details from the left and with some in the administration including Attorney General Eric Holder.

But Mr. Obama is reported having doubts. Top intelligence officials argue that release of these details can only harm their work and their reputations. He may be wondering if it's good idea to inform terrorists precisely what treatment they will or will not face if captured. Maybe he's even looked up the 1947 law that created the CIA, which repeatedly mentions the responsibility of the intelligence agency and its leaders to protect two things: the sources and methods of their work.