The Associated Press is, as always, hot on the trail of heinous, despicable acts of torture:

An American geologist held and tortured by China’s state security agents was sentenced to eight years in prison Monday for gathering data on the Chinese oil industry in a case that highlights the government’s use of vague secrets laws to restrict business information.

In pronouncing Xue Feng guilty of spying and collecting state secrets, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court said his actions “endangered our country’s national security.” . . . Agents from China’s internal security agency detained Xue in November 2007 and tortured him, stubbing lit cigarettes into his arms in the early days of his detention.

Glenn Greenwald read the above and rightly called for the AP to apologize to China:

A few cigarette stubs into a forearm for a handful of days?  That’s it?  That’s “torture”?  Not according to the official definition of that term adopted by the U.S. Government, as explained by John Yoo:

Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death. For purely mental pain or suffering to amount to torture (under U.S. law), it must result in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years.

 Placing a lit cigarette on someone’s arm is unquestionably painful, but clearly does not rise to the level of pain “accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.”  Moreover, any psychological harm would likely be fleeting, not of “significant duration, e.g., lasting for months or even years” — that’s at least as true as the psychological harm from being repeatedly strapped onto a board and drowned close to the point of death.

Given the standards of Good Journalism prevailing in the U.S. media, as taught to us just this weekend by high-level executives at the NYT and The Washington Post (and previously at NPR):  what right does AP have to “take sides” in this dispute by substituting its own judgment about “torture” for the Chinese Government’s?  Beyond that, given that the U.S. Government has officially adopted a definition of “torture” that plainly does not include a few cigarette stubs on an arm, shouldn’t that preclude any Good Journalist from using the term in this subjective and biased way?  I hope AP will be apologizing to the Chinese shortly for its act of journalistic irresponsibility.  It’s not the role of journalists to take sides this way.

Shame on you, AP.  Everyone knows that countries around the world are now able to enhancedly interrogate people with impunity.  Get with the modern paradigm already.

(h/t John Cole, who is shrill)

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