Michael Hayden, the director of the CIA, told Congress on Tuesday that shortly after the September 11 attacks, the CIA used a widely condemned interrogation technique known as waterboarding.
The US Congress has been debating banning the CIA from using this technique, which involves strapping a suspect down and pouring water over their cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning.
But White House spokesman Tony Fratto maintained that the practice - which the CIA said it had carried out on three high-profile al-Qaeda detainees - was legal.
Inside Story asks if torture is justified for national security. And what does the US admission mean for human rights globally?
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