713. 10/21/1994

On October 21, 1994, Congress passed a law which defined torture as ” ‘an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.’ Congress unquestionably intended its prohibition on torture to be narrow, much narrower than many popular understandings of the word. The alleged torturer must have acted with ‘specific intent,’ the highest level of criminal intent known to the law–the difference between premeditated, first-degree murder, and manslaughter. If severe physical or mental pain or suffering results, but was unintentional, or unanticipated, or resulted from negligent or perhaps even reckless action, it would not be torture. Further, if someone acts under the good faith belief that his actions do not violate the law, they do not meet the level for specific intent.”

 – John Yoo, War By Other Means, Pages 174-175

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