A Definition Of Torture, Ctd

Jan 11 2013 @ 2:03pm

A reader quotes me:

Torture is defined as breaking someone in order to get information. Cheney's torture program bragged of "breaking" people. John Yoo even bragged of crushing a child's testicles if necessary – which would, in his view, be perfectly legal for a president to authorize. The minute you apply mental and physical suffering sufficiently severe to force someone to "break", it's torture.

While I certainly am opposed to crushing a child's testicles, this definition is far too broad. Virtually all police interrogation is defined as torture in this case. Making a suspect sit in a room for a couple hours is "torture" if they can't handle it and give up the information according to this. ANYTHING is torture if the suspect doesn't like dealing with it and subsequently gives away information they didn't want to give (which is what "breaking" means). In other words, based on this definition, simply arresting someone and asking them if they committed the crime can be considered torture if, I don't know, the handcuffs kinda hurt and the threat of prison rape sufficiently disturbed them mentally so they revealed information. So merely "breaking" someone isn't torture. It's not that simple.

C'mon. The legal definition – as if the law matters any more on this subject – is the following:

(1) “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;

(2) “severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from— (A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality; (C) the threat of imminent death; or (D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and

(3) “United States” means the several States of the United States, the District of Columbia, and the commonwealths, territories, and possessions of the United States.

From a review of Central Park Five (trailer above):

We now know the kids [falsely convicted of gang rape] were subjected to 14-30 hours of stressful police interrogations complete with shouts, verbal threats and physical abuse that amounted to psychological torture.

"There was no food, no drink, no sleep and I didn't know when it was going to end."  Eventually the cops told the terrified, exhausted boys: "Your friends have all confessed and named you." It was a lie but it had the desired effect. "I figured: they did it to me; I'll do it to them." "I made stuff up." Told they would be allowed to go home if they "told the truth," the boys struggled to make up stories. When their descriptions didn't match reality, the cops coached them to change their stories to be more "believable."

Turning away from the camera and cringing at the sexually explicit details of his "confession," one of the Five tells Burns: "A 14-year-old boy doesn't talk like this. I was crying. [The cop] said: 'Don't worry. You did good. Everything's gonna be alright. I said it 'cause they told me to so I could go home."