This article has been corrected.
Torture is a term that should not be used lightly. It is a crime under international law and illegal in the United States. Journalists know this. In August, New York Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet penned an editorial in which he wrote that The Times would use “torture” to describe incidents where “interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner in an effort to get information.”
Yesterday, after the release of the Senate report on CIA interrogation practices of terror suspects after September 11—practices which included “rectal feeding,” physical abuse such as slamming detainees against walls, and “near drownings”—many news organizations faced the dilemma of what to call the acts.
Some settled on the word “torture.” Others demurred.
Below is a list of the news organizations that did or did not label the CIA interrogation techniques “torture” in the headlines of their biggest stories on the subject.
This list doesn’t include articles in the opinion section or headlines that used “torture” in quotation marks. For some outlets, it was obvious which story led their coverage, such as The Washington Post’s “Senate report on CIA program details brutality, dishonesty.” For others, it was less clear, so we used our best judgment.
Outlets varied considerably in the degree to which they sidestepped using the word. The Post and NPR, for example, very deliberately do not take a position on whether or not they consider the practice to be torture, but did quote other people calling it that. In contrast, the BBC, which did not include “torture” in its headline, refers in its story to “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, or torture by any other name.” Many of the outlets used the word “torture” in secondary stories.
|Media outlet||Sample headline||Does it use “torture”?|
|The New York Times||The Senate Report on the CIA’s Torture and Lies||yes|
|The Guardian||Senate report on CIA torture claims spy agency lied about ‘ineffective’ program||yes|
|CNN||Senate report: CIA misled public on torture||yes|
|Fox News||CIA, Senate contrast claims of effectiveness of torture of al-Qaida detainees||yes|
|Reuters||CIA tortured, misled, US report finds, drawing calls for action||yes|
|Buzzfeed||Senate Democrats Release Scathing CIA Torture Report||yes|
|The Economist||American Intelligence and Torture||yes|
|The New Yorker||Taking Responsibility for Torture||yes|
|The Atlantic||CIA Torture: ‘A Stain on Our Values and History’||yes|
|Vox||How the CIA misled the public on its torture program, in one chart||yes|
|WSJ||Senate Report Calls CIA Interrogation Tactics Ineffective||no|
|Washington Post||Senate report on CIA program details brutality, dishonesty||no|
|BBC||Report on CIA details ‘brutal’ post-9/11 interrogations||no|
|NPR||Report Says CIA Misled Congress, White House On Interrogation Program||no|
|Bloomberg||CIA Misled Bush, Congress on Interrogation Tactics, Report Finds||no|
|CBS||Senate report: CIA misled lawmakers, public on enhanced interrogation||no|
Correction: An earlier version of this article was incorrectly headlined, Here are the news organizations that don’t call torture “torture.” It and the story text have been changed to reflect the fact that some of the news organizations mentioned do use the word ‘torture,’ albeit in varying ways.