President Obama broke the ice last Friday by telling the assembled White House Press Corps that “we [the United States] tortured some folks.” Now the New York Times has announced it will follow suit, using the word torture to describe “when interrogators inflicted pain on a prisoner” in an attempt to elicit information.

https://twitter.com/stella/status/497510447084343296

Times executive editor Dean Baquet explains:

When the first revelations emerged a decade ago, the situation was murky. The details about what the Central Intelligence Agency did in its interrogation rooms were vague. The word “torture” had a specialized legal meaning as well as a plain-English one. While the methods set off a national debate, the Justice Department insisted that the techniques did not rise to the legal definition of “torture.” The Times described what we knew of the program but avoided a label that was still in dispute, instead using terms like harsh or brutal interrogation methods.

But as we have covered the recent fight over the Senate report on the C.I.A.’s interrogation program – which is expected to be the most definitive accounting of the program to date – reporters and editors have revisited the issue. Over time, the landscape has shifted. Far more is now understood, such as that the C.I.A. inflicted the suffocation technique called waterboarding 183 times on a single detainee and that other techniques, such as locking a prisoner in a claustrophobic box, prolonged sleep deprivation and shackling people’s bodies into painful positions, were routinely employed in an effort to break their wills to resist interrogation.

No comment on whether the Times will now use the word “folks” to describe those who were interrogated.