District of Columbia: In an apparent jab at presidential challengers Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday the United States must never again resort to torture.
Trump, the frontrunner to secure the Republican nomination for this year`s White House race, has repeatedly said he supports the use of waterboarding, or simulated drowning, and "a hell of a lot worse" on terror suspects.
Texas senator Cruz, Trump`s closest rival, argues that waterboarding does not amount to torture and that he would consider authorizing it as president if America faced imminent attack.
President Barack Obama banned "enhanced interrogation techniques" after taking office in 2009 after CIA interrogators working under predecessor George W. Bush resorted to the torture of detainees.
Kerry, introducing the annual State Department global human rights report, insisted that the ban must stay in place and warned that America would be weaker if it lost its claim to moral leadership.
"I want to say a word about the issue of torture. I want to remove even a scintilla of doubt or confusion that has been caused by statements that others have made in recent weeks and months," he said, without giving names.
"The United States is opposed to the use of torture in any form, at any time, by any government or non-state actor.
"This is a standard that we insist that others meet and therefore we must meet this standard ourselves."
Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, said that he understands "the fierce anger that arises in war when fellow countrymen are attacked.
"But there is a sharp dividing line between societies that abandon all standards when times are tough and those that do their absolute best to maintain those standards. Because ultimately, upholding core values is what makes a nation strong."
This week, CIA director John Brennan said his agency would not carry out waterboarding or enhanced interrogation again, even if ordered to by a future president. Trump dismissed this warning as "ridiculous."