U.S. Air Force

Schriever Air Force Base on the plains east of Colorado Springs has always been a place of mystery.

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Photo via DoD

The CIA used an alleged accomplice in the Sept. 11 terror attacks as a test subject to train new interrogators. Agents diapered or left naked a one-legged CIA captive during his time in secret overseas detention. Taking showers still traumatizes the alleged USS Cole bomber, whom the CIA waterboarded in 2003.

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The United States is in the middle of a resurgent national conversation about the ethics and legality of torture, thanks primarily to President Donald Trump's choice of Gina Haspel, the current acting director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who oversaw the torture of detainees at a "black site" prison in Thailand, to head the agency. Among the questions that come up as part of one of America's most enduring post-9/11 debates: Does torture work? What are the long-term consequences? And at what point does torture compromise the country's moral standing?

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McCain On Torture

The Long March
The Washington Post via Getty Images/Matt McClain

There are so many disappointing things about American politics today that it is good to point out the opposite. John McCain, with little to lose or gain from the effort, maintains his principled stand against U.S. personnel using torture.

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Karl Gunnarsson, under CC 2.0 Lic.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump spoke somewhat disturbingly about waterboarding, saying, ”I love it, I think it’s great. And I said the only thing is, we should make it much tougher than waterboarding, and if you don’t think it works, folks, you’re wrong.” Though Trump himself has backed off those words, Vice President-elect Mike Pence wants the administration’s opinion to be ambiguous. “We're going to have a president again who will never say what we'll never do,” Pence said. That ambiguity, deliberate or not, may create a tactical advantage for the United States, but it surrenders the nation’s moral advantage.

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