Is Waterboarding Torture?

Before deciding whether to call waterboarding "torture" it's worth considering what the legal definition of "torture" is. It is not necessary to create a new legal definition since there are already numerous formally ratified definitions already in place:
  1. Part 1, Article 1 and the US Reservations of the UN Convention Against Torture:

    The term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

  2. The US Reservations for the UN Convention Against Torture: In order to constitute torture, an act must be specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering and that mental pain or suffering refers to prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from (1) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering; (2) 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; (3) the threat of imminent death; or (4) 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.
  3. Article 32 of the Fourth Geneva Convention any measure of such a character as to cause the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.
  4. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
  5. Article 7(2)(e) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court "Torture" means the intentional infliction of severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, upon a person in the custody or under the control of the accused; except that torture shall not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to, lawful sanctions.
  6. Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture For the purposes of this Convention, torture shall be understood to be any act intentionally performed whereby physical or mental pain or suffering is inflicted on a person for purposes of criminal investigation, as a means of intimidation, as personal punishment, as a preventive measure, as a penalty, or for any other purpose. Torture shall also be understood to be the use of methods upon a person intended to obliterate the personality of the victim or to diminish his physical or mental capacities, even if they do not cause physical pain or mental anguish. The concept of torture shall not include physical or mental pain or suffering that is inherent in or solely the consequence of lawful measures, provided that they do not include the performance of the acts or use of the methods referred to in this article.
  7. 18 United States Code Title 18, §2340(2)

    “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;

92 tapes were destroyed by the CIA in November 2005 after a report by Inspector General John L. Helgerson’s office determined that they depicted "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as defined by the international Convention Against Torture".