he use of torture violates fundamental American values. It damages the reputation of the United States in the eyes of the international community, and it increases the risks for our military personnel, diplomatic officers, and intelligence agents around the world. Many intelligence professionals have stated that torture is ineffective: it is unlikely to produce the kind of timely and reliable information needed to disrupt terrorist plots. The negative consequences of the use of torture far outweigh the supposed benefits.

For decades, the United States used the Geneva Conventions as the standard for the treatment of captives, and we regularly condemned conditions and practices not in accord with the Conventions. Now, Bush administration officials have admitted that the United States has used waterboarding on at least three suspected terrorists, while refusing to define which interrogation methods would constitute torture.

To uphold American values and to underscore our belief that torture is wrong, the House of Representatives in December voted to expand the current prohibition against torture so that it applies not only to the Department of Defense but to all U.S. government personnel. America is on stronger ground ethically, morally, and practically when our practices for holding and interrogating captives are consistent with the Geneva Conventions-when we don’t torture. The next president should make the return to that standard our highest priority.