By Dan Froomkin
Who are we as a nation? Are we who we used to be? Did one terrorist attack really change all that? Can it be changed back?
Those, at heart, are the questions raised by the Senate's passage yesterday of a bill that would ban harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA - a bill already passed by the House, and a bill President Bush has vowed to veto.
The debate is not just about waterboarding. It's about whether other tactics - such as prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures, forced nudity, sexual humiliation, mock executions, the use of attack dogs, the withholding of food, water and medical care and the application of electric shocks - should be part of our official interrogation toolkit.
Whether you call them torture or not, they are undeniably cruel. They are undeniable assaults on human dignity.
They are all prohibited by the Army Field Manual, which covers all military interrogations. They are all off limits to the FBI. Now Congress wants the CIA to adhere to the same restrictions.
But Bush says no.
The propagation of our values has long been a hallmark of American foreign policy. Chief among those values has been respect for human dignity. But the message we've been sending lately is altogether different. How can we tell other countries to respect human dignity when we have made it optional for our own government? When our official policy is that the ends justify the means?
(For the rest, click here.)