It goes as far back as the Colonies. We, ourselves, perfected the Water Torture against the Filipinos on the so-called "spanish-American War."
But Princeton prof, Bernard Chazelle--as he so often does--at Jon Schwarz' indispensable, always readable, always literate blog, A Tiny Revolution, puts things in their proper perspective, calling attention to one of the Murkin Heroes of the cold war period, one Dan Mitrione who, upon his (timely) demise at the hands of insurgents in Paraguay, was praised and lionized by his bosses in the FBI, and who still stands as a paradigm and a paragon for Murka's positions on torture (he taught 'em).
After gently excoriating Obama for his transparent expedience in dismissing the possibility of bringing any CIA torturers to justice, Chazelle concludes:
"The US government has always tortured. Usually it's better at blaming someone else. Here's what a more honest, if less eloquent, president might have said:“My fellow Americans, the last 50 years have been an uninterrupted sequence of dark, painful chapters. We institutionalized torture right after World War II and we exported it everywhere we could, from Vietnam to Greece to Iran to Latin America. We remember the Phoenix program; we remember the multibillion-dollar CIA torture project in the 50s; we remember El Mozote; we remember the CIA torture manual, KUBARK, and its wise recommendation, "The electric current should be known in advance"; we remember our training of SAVAK; we remember the School of the Americas; we remember our Salvadoran trainees who raped and killed nuns. The one thing we don't remember is if there were ever a time when we didn't teach and practice torture.
"The only difference this time is that top government lawyers were dumb enough to authorize this crap in writing. I promise to return to the good old days when torture was conducted in an environment of plausible deniability. And so I'm ordering a transfer of Gitmo prisoners to Bagram, an Afghan hellhole no one can locate on a map. I am banning all torture memos. Memos are bad. I solemnly swear that CIA personnel will be granted full immunity regarding all past, present, and future crimes. Let's close this dark, painful chapter, so we can open a brand-new dark, painful chapter -- so dark none of you will see it."