A top UN human rights envoy said there had been a “clear policy orchestrated at a high level”.
The CIA has defended its actions in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US, saying they saved lives.
President Barack Obama said it was now time to move on.
The summary of a larger classified report says that the CIA carried out “brutal” interrogations of al-Qaeda suspects in the years after the 9/11 attacks on the US and misled other officials about what it was doing.
The information the CIA collected this way failed to secure information that foiled any threats, the report said.
None of 20 cases of counterterrorism “successes” attributed to the techniques led to unique or otherwise unavailable intelligence. The CIA misled politicians and public. At least 26 of 119 known detainees in custody during the life of the programme were wrongfully held, and many held for months longer than they should have been Methods included sleep deprivation for up to 180 hours, often standing or in painful positions.
Saudi al-Qaeda suspect Abu Zubaydah was kept confined in a coffin-sized box for hours on end Waterboarding and “rectal hydration” were physically harmful to prisoners, causing convulsions and vomiting.
UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter-Terrorism Ben Emmerson said that senior officials from the administration of George W Bush who planned and sanctioned crimes must be prosecuted, as well as CIA and US government officials responsible for torture such as waterboarding.
“As a matter of international law, the US is legally obliged to bring those responsible to justice,” Mr Emmerson said in a statement made from Geneva.
“The US attorney general is under a legal duty to bring criminal charges against those responsible.”
Human Rights Watch executive director Kenneth Roth said that the CIA’s actions were criminal “and can never be justified”.
“Unless this important truth-telling process leads to prosecution of officials, torture will remain a ‘policy option’ for future presidents,” he said.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) argued that the attorney general should appoint a special prosecutor to conduct a full investigation.
Mr Obama said on Tuesday that he hoped that the publication of the report would not lead to a re-fight of old arguments, but “help us leave these techniques where they belong – in the past”.
He banned harsh interrogation techniques after taking office in 2009.
Correspondents say that the chances of prosecuting members of the Bush administration are unlikely, not least because the US justice department has said that it has already pursued two investigations into mistreatment of detainees since 2000 and concluded that the evidence was not sufficient to obtain a conviction.
Influential Republican Senator John McCain argued that torture “rarely yields credible information” and that even in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden the most important lead came from “conventional interrogation methods”.
Some Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee released a minority report, accusing the Senate report of having a “flawed analytical methodology”, “inadequate objectivity” and “political considerations”.
The CIA has argued that the interrogations had helped save lives.
“The intelligence gained from the programme was critical to our understanding of al-Qaeda and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day,” director John Brennan said.
However, the CIA also acknowledged mistakes in the programme, which was known internally as Rendition, Detention and Interrogation and took place from 2002-07.
Introducing the report to the Senate, Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein described the CIA’s actions as a “stain on US history”.
None of the countries where the so-called black sites were identified in the report, but several countries suspected to have hosted sites reacted strongly to the publication.