For much of the Bush/Cheney era, the common refrain was that the United States did not engage in torture. The claim was entirely true, just so long as you abandoned any sensible definition of the word, and stuck to the preferred script of Republican officials at the time.
That said, it's fair to say the debate over whether or not the Bush/Cheney administration embraced torture techniques is over. The "most ambitious independent attempt to date to assess the detention and interrogation programs" has concluded that the evidence is "indisputable" -- in the years after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. "engaged in the practice of torture."
The sweeping, 577-page report says that while brutality has occurred in every American war, there never before had been "the kind of considered and detailed discussions that occurred after 9/11 directly involving a president and his top advisers on the wisdom, propriety and legality of inflicting pain and torment on some detainees in our custody." The study, by an 11-member panel convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, is to be released on Tuesday morning. [...]
The use of torture, the report concludes, has "no justification" and "damaged the standing of our nation, reduced our capacity to convey moral censure when necessary and potentially increased the danger to U.S. military personnel taken captive." The task force found "no firm or persuasive evidence" that these interrogation methods produced valuable information that could not have been obtained by other means. While "a person subjected to torture might well divulge useful information," much of the information obtained by force was not reliable, the report says.
Before the right howls that the findings are somehow tainted by liberal bias, note that the independent analysis was bipartisan, and the report was written in part by Republican Asa Hutchinson, a former member of Congress, a Bush administration veteran, and the man who recently led the NRA's task force on school violence.
"As long as the debate continues, so too does the possibility that the United States could again engage in torture," the report says.
And that's precisely why the truth of the administration's misdeeds still matters.