That's the concern voiced in "The Harm Initiative," an excellent item by Slate law columnist Dahlia Lithwick (left). She recalls having been worried that the 2004 disclosure of the Abu Ghraib detainee abuse photos would prove to be "a sort of foot in the door for looser torture standards—a way to begin desensitizing the American people to the kinds of abuse that had been going on in secret." (We've posted similar concerns about the effect of depicting violence here and here.)
Congress' loosening of standards in the Military Commissions Act of 2006 went a long way to that end, Lithwick writes. She then moves to her current concern: that "just as those images paved the way to our broader torture policy," any further information of "the CIA torture tapes now stand to do the same thing for water-boarding in particular."