2007 Statement Regarding Torture–Waterboarding

2007 Statement Regarding Torture–Waterboarding

American Jewish Committee has a longstanding record of support for tough anti-terror measures that at the same time are consistent with a deep and abiding respect for human rights and civil liberties. In this regard, AJC is unequivocally opposed to the use of torture by interrogators representing our nation.

In 2005, AJC supported the McCain amendment to the defense appropriations and authorization bills, which specifically banned the use by U.S. personnel of torture, or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment with respect to any detainee held by the United States anywhere in the world.

We are concerned as to the current national discussion, which suggests that there is some question as to whether waterboarding1 is legal and whether it constitutes torture. Waterboarding—an interrogation practice associated with the Spanish Inquisition and prosecuted under U.S. law as torture as much as a century ago—is unquestionably torture.
Torture is defined as:

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.2

Waterboarding meets all these required tests, including pain, severity and intentionality. Therefore, it should clearly be recognized as torture and as illegal.

The use of officially sanctioned torture techniques corrupts our intelligence services, removes our military from the moral high ground, materially damages our nation’s standing in the world, and exposes our military to similar treatment when captured.

Adopted by the Board of Governors, December 10, 2007
1Acts which create the fear of death from drowning or asphyxiation during interrogation or related confinement.
2Article 1 – The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified by the U.S. Senate in 1994).
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