About Freaking Time: New York Times Will Finally Start Calling CIA Torture Practices 'Torture'
from the should-have-happened-long-ago dept
We’ve questioned in the past why Senators like Dianne Feinstein won’t come out and admit that what the CIA did was torture. Even President Obama has used the word to explain the CIA’s actions. Yet, beyond Senator Feinstein, there was one other major hold out: the NY Times refused to use that word. Until now. In a note from the executive editor of the Times, Dean Baquet, he says that the NY Times will finally be accurate and will describe the CIA’s actions as torture:
[F]rom now on, The Times will use the word ?torture? to describe incidents in which we know for sure that interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information.
In explaining the change, Baquet insists that early on, not as much was known about the techniques used by the CIA, and that many with knowledge of the situation insisted that it didn’t rise to the level of torture. Of course, that those with knowledge were often protecting themselves perhaps should have risen red flags for the Times. Baquet also notes that reporters at the paper urged editors to change their policy — so kudos to those reporters.
That said, there is something troubling in this part of the rationale:
Meanwhile, the Justice Department, under both the Bush and Obama administrations, has made clear that it will not prosecute in connection with the interrogation program. The result is that today, the debate is focused less on whether the methods violated a statute or treaty provision and more on whether they worked ? that is, whether they generated useful information that the government could not otherwise have obtained from prisoners. In that context, the disputed legal meaning of the word ?torture? is secondary to the common meaning: the intentional infliction of pain to make someone talk.
In other words, in the past, whether or not it was torture actually mattered, because legally it might have resulted in prosecutions of people committing war crimes. Under US law, the US has to prosecute those engaged in torture. But now that the “powers that be” have made it clear it simply won’t prosecute anyone, and thus it doesn’t really matter legally if it’s referred to as torture or not, the NY Times will finally call it what it is. That seems immensely troubling. It basically suggests the NY Times could have impacted an important debate, but chose to sit it out until it was much too late to matter.
So, yes, it’s good that the NY Times is finally calling torture, torture, but it’s a black mark on the paper that it didn’t do so years ago.