As applied to the use of torture. First, a reminder (here as well),
Actually, in the denial of victims, I would think "who cares about terrorists" applies better.
And last but not least:
Indeed, the very existence of the legal memos wordsmithing formulations that would actually say "yeah, go ahead and torture" without actually saying so is a major form of rationalization "just in case". And the fact that such memos had to be issued over and over again clearly indicates that the people involved knew they were ordering torture or engaging in it.
There is probably a great institutional / organizational sociological study to be written about the bureaucratization of torture and its rationalization in the Bush administration, beyond the 1984 comparisons (which are eerie, though). But from what we already know, it is clear that torture had become instrumental to the internal purposes of the organization (the Bush administration), and not the pursuit of information to thwart terrorist attacks (just as we know that, in the USSR, torture was used extract false confessions as part of keeping the crumbling edifice of the statist apparatus up for a few more years) and to terrorize both the objects of torture and the larger global audience. After that, once permission was given, the actual torturers "simply" engaged in what Philip Zimbardo described in The Lucifer Effect.
In any event, Marcy Wheeler is doing a great job of going through these memos with a fine comb. Her series of posts on the subject (and her previous reporting on the Plame outing) are a must-read.