In the domestic American debate, such minor forms of coercion as keeping in an interrogation subject awake or making him stand for extended periods have been commonly referred to as “torture.”
Controversial methods of coercive interrogation employed by US Counterterrorism agencies have included at the most extreme a technique called “waterboarding.”
The customary description of which reads: â€œThe prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisonerâ€™s face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.â€
Waterboarding sounds unpleasant, but the discomfort it inflicts is clearly primarily psychological. There is no genuine physical injury. There is no real threat to life.
US forces in a recent raid on an Al Qaeda safe house found instruments of real torture and and Al Qaeda manual illustrating a variety of techniques. See the story and pictures at the Smoking Gun.
Compare sleep deprivation, standing in the corner, a few face slaps, and even waterboarding to this.