Washington: The fact that the US tortured suspected terrorists for years after 9/11 is not news. However, controversial details of a Senate report has compelled the nation to undertake the difficult task of examining its conscience.
"There's controversy in terms of the details, but what's not controversial is the fact that we did some things that violated who we are as a people," US President Barack Obama said in an interview with Telemundo and Univision television stations, after the details of the report were made public this week.
The document, which analyses controversial interrogation methods on suspected terrorists for eight years after 9/11, concludes that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) resorted to more brutal torture methods than it had admitted to.
Simulated suffocation, baths in frozen water, sleep deprivation for over a week, rectal feeding and hydration, and death threats and abuses were among the cruel practices that were revealed publicly Tuesday.
"This is not how Americans should behave. Ever," wrote The Washington Post in its editorial titled "The horrors in America's 'dungeon' should never have happened".
"Torture is wrong, whether or not it has ever 'worked'. As an Obama administration official said Tuesday, 'The reason we prohibited these techniques is because they are contrary to our values'," it added.
The Republicans, who are now in the opposition, and key members of the George W. Bush administration, including the former president himself, criticised the report and defended the CIA's methods, claiming that they helped prevent terrorist attacks and saved lives.
"We're fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the CIA serving on our behalf. These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base," Bush said before the report was published.
On the other hand are those who argue there can be no justification for torture.
"That some of these detainees were highly dangerous men does not excuse subjecting them to illegal treatment that brought shame on the United States and served as a recruiting tool for terrorist groups," lamented The New York Times in its editorial.
The Republicans acted "as though it is the reporting of the torture and not the torture itself that is bad for the country", it added.
Besides the debate regarding the legitimacy and effectiveness of the controversial methods highlighted in the report, it has also opened the risk of igniting more anger against the US in many parts of the world.
"No nation is perfect. But one of the strengths that makes America exceptional is our willingness to openly confront our past, face our imperfections, make changes and do better," Obama said.