Guidance: Effective References To ‘Torture’

Here are some examples of how our guidance on use of the word “torture” has been implemented in the past 24 hours. They may be helpful.

Key takeaway: A thread that connects them is that we establish that the report details instances of torture, cite examples and then get on with the news or conversations.

In a Newscast spot:

“A report released today by the Senate Intelligence Committee charges the CIA lied to lawmakers and the public about interrogation techniques it used on terrorism suspects after 9-11.  The report is based on some 6 million CIA documents. NPR’s Brian Naylor says the report concluded no useful information was obtained through the methods.

[Brian:] “The so-called ‘torture report’ says interrogators water-boarded suspects, forced detainees who had broken legs to stand for hours and employed quote rectal feeding un quote. …”

On Morning Edition:

“This is Morning Edition from NPR news. I’m Steve Inskeep.

“I’m Renee Montagne.

“What’s come to be known as the ‘torture report’ by Senate investigators … broke more new ground than expected.

“Lawmakers examined interrogations of terror suspects after nine-eleven.

[Steve:] “It was already known that interrogators used waterboarding, sleep deprivation and more.

“Senate investigators have now added to that story.

“The report, released by Democrats, contends the tactics failed to produce useful information.

[Renee:] “It says the CIA failed to tell lawmakers everything it was doing.

“And the report says interrogation practices were even more brutal than previously known.

“NPR’s National Security Correspondent Dina Temple-Raston reports on just what was more brutal.”

Also on Morning Edition, during a Two-Way with former CIA lawyer John Rizzo:

Renee: “I should warn our audience that there’s a difficult couple of techniques that I’m just going to describe in a line. One, putting a drill to a detainee’s head. Another, threatening sodomy with a broom handle. These were techniques that this report found were used. Do they constitute torture?”

Rizzo: “Well, they certainly were not authorized and they are indefensible. So, sure. I mean if those Justice Department legal opinions established the legal lines and legal limits … anything that went beyond those techniques, especially the gruesome ones that you described there, sure they would probably constitute torture.”

On All Things Considered:

Audie Cornish, to former CIA acting director John McLaughlin: “You had Senator John McCain on the Senate floor today saying torture produces more misleading information than actionable intelligence. And that is one major argument throughout this report – that there’s intelligence there that could have been yielded through other means – that some of the intelligence, using brutal techniques, was fabricated or not useful.”

Reminder: Other examples of how the word has been used include the way Robert Siegel said in April that the Senate report would address “the torture of terrorism suspects after 9/11.” Though there are those who argue that the techniques were not torture in the legal sense of that word, Merriam-Webster defines torture as “the act of causing severe physical pain as a form of punishment or as a way to force someone to do or say something.”

(Memmos; Dec. 10, 2014)

December 10, 2014

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