From CIA veteran Jose Rodriguez, explaining why the CIA's torture program wasn't really torture:
Detainees were given the opportunity to cooperate. If they resisted and were believed to hold critical information, they might receive — with Washington’s approval — some of the enhanced techniques, such as being grabbed by the collar, deprived of sleep or, in rare cases, waterboarded. (The Justice Department assured us in writing at the time that these techniques did not constitute torture.) When the detainee became compliant, the techniques stopped — forever.
So....it was OK because detainees could make it stop anytime by doing what they were told. In other words, pretty much the same as every other episode of torture in history.
Paul Waldman has a question about this that he'd like answered:
Can you give a definition of torture that wouldn't include waterboarding, stress positions, and sleep deprivation? I have no idea what such a definition might be, and I have to imagine that if they had any idea they would have offered one. Because here's the definition of torture you'd think everyone could agree on: Torture is the infliction of extreme suffering for the purpose of extracting information or a confession.
I have a different question: if you think the CIA torture program was OK, presumably that means you wouldn't be outraged if the same techniques were used on U.S. soldiers in order to extract information from them. Right? It can't possibly be the case that it's OK for us to do this stuff, but not for anyone else, can it? Given that, the only sensible interpretation of Rodriguez's position is that the CIA program wasn't torture and therefore should be thought of as the new baseline for treatment of enemy combatants throughout the world.
Welcome to the brave new barbarism.