The US Senate’s Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s systematic and unspeakably cruel torture of detainees, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, have forever altered the way the world will perceive America. The 6,700-page document, of which 400 pages have been declassified, is incontrovertible proof of CIA’s flagrant violation of every rule of international human rights and a damning judgement of how it engaged in a despicable process of lies and deceit with its government and its own people. The CIA’s inhumane conduct against the 119 detainees from 2001 to 2009 — with the help of doctors and psychologists actively guiding the ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods — reveals a pathological perversion, significant evidence of which it wilfully destroyed in the form of videotapes in 2008.

This public record is destined to be the ineffaceable symbol of America’s darkest moment of shame. Dianne Feinstein, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in her foreword to the report, talks of the need for America to use this study to guide future programmes, correct past mistakes and ensure such methods are never used again. This is effete optimism, however well meant. If America has to regain its moral ground and self-respect within the international community, it needs to prosecute those who engineered and implemented these torture programmes. Failing to do this will mean that the voice of America can never again dare to speak of its constitutionally enshrined human rights nor of the American values and ideals as its founding principles. And that will be a death knell for democracy.