However, the Times acknowledged that political circumstances did play a role in the paper's usage calls. “As the debate over interrogation of terror suspects grew post-9/11, defenders of the practice (including senior officials of the Bush administration) insisted that it did not constitute torture,” a Times spokesman said in a statement. “When using a word amounts to taking sides in a political dispute, our general practice is to supply the readers with the information to decide for themselves. Thus we describe the practice vividly, and we point out that it is denounced by international covenants and in American tradition as a form of torture.”
The Times spokesman added that outside of the news pages, editorials and columnists “regard waterboarding as torture and believe that it fits all of the moral and legal definitions of torture.” He continued: “So that's what we call it, which is appropriate for the opinion pages.”
So all you need to do to work the ref is to turn the issue into a "political dispute." I'm sympathetic to some of what Andrew Sullivan writes
here, but I think this is more the result of a systemic failure than
personal cowardice. This problem also has major implications beyond torture. Just ask David Roberts or Brad Plumer.
Honestly this was a big reason why I chose to work for a lefty magazine after journalism school. Fairness should not be the enemy of fact. As one of my professors once told me, you should be fair to the facts.
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(If there's one thing we know about comment trolls, it's that they're lazy)