We recently wrote about the ongoing delays in releasing a (heavily redacted) executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA’s torture regime following 9/11. That was linked to a Reuters story about how the CIA and the Senate Intelligence Committee still can’t agree on what to redact. However, I’d totally missed a line at the end of that Reuters piece that Kevin Gosztola calls to our attention. It’s where Reuters reporter Patricia Zengerle decides to not call torture “torture,” but rather “physically stressful interrogation.”

Human rights activists and many politicians have labeled as “torture” some of the physically stressful interrogation techniques, such as water boarding – or simulated drowning – that were authorized under former President George W. Bush.

This is a cheap cop out by Reuters and Zengerle. Waterboarding is torture. A month ago, the NY Times finally got around to admitting that waterboarding and the other interrogation techniques used by the CIA were torture and that it would call it that in the future. Reuters should get with the program (also known as the English language). It’s the “view from nowhere” to pull the “well, some human rights activists call it torture.” It is torture. It is not just a few human rights activists saying this. It is widely accepted as torture. The UN has said it is torture, and Reuters reporters should know that because that article is from Reuters. Not only that, but it’s pretty clearly torture under US law which defines it as:

“torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;

The act further says that “severe mental pain or suffering” includes “the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering” and “the threat of imminent death.” Waterboarding fits both those classifications. It makes the brain think that you’re drowning. It is severe pain and suffering and makes those experiencing it think they are about to die. If you don’t like the US law, how about the Geneva Convention, which says that parties are “prohibited from taking any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands” and further defines “torture or inhuman treatment” as including “willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.” And if that’s not enough, we have the UN Convention Against Torture, which the US has both signed and ratified, which clearly notes:

For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

There is no legitimate argument that the activities carried out by the CIA go beyond “physically stressful interrogation techniques.” The CIA engaged in torture. And Reuters can (and should) call it that.


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