Enhanced interrogation techniques or torture? How journalists talk about CIA interrogations | KBIA

Enhanced interrogation techniques or torture? How journalists talk about CIA interrogations

Dec 18, 2014

Credit Courtesy NBC

  When former Vice President Dick Cheney appeared on Meet the Press Sunday, he told moderator Chuck Todd that he approved of the CIA's interrogation techniques -- and said he'd use them all again "in a minute."

Some say those enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding and rectal rehydration amount to torture. The release of the Senate's CIA interrogation report left many in the media wondering what terminology to use. Missouri School of Journalism professors Earnest Perry, Mike McKean and Amy Simons discuss the issue.

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National Public Radio released guidelines for their reporters about what to call the CIA's actions. Their first sentence reads: "Do not refer to what was done as “enhanced interrogation techniques” unless you’re explaining that is the term the CIA uses for the practices it believes were legal."

NPR goes on to suggest other terms, such as 'interrogation techniques' or 'brutal interrogations.' And Professor Mike McKean said these suggestions were a helpful guide for journalists trying to find the right words.

"I think that the NPR guidelines were very nuanced and from that stand point, I really appreciate them...They did say it was ok to use torture in some instances, but they preferred kind of a middle ground, 'brutal interrogations.' And I think most of us would agree, they were brutal interrogations.

Some people have criticized NPR for not calling the CIA's actions 'torture,' and said the news organization has inadvertently taken a side by not using the term.

But Professor Earnest Perry said journalists should remain unbiased by allowing their sources to decide whether or not to call it torture.

"I think journalists should stick to 'What are others saying?' both those who defended the practice, and those who are against the practice, and let them tell the story as opposed to [the media] trying to define it."