After the events of 9/11 the Bush administration started torturing (by international standards of the word) people suspected of terrorism. For example "enhanced interrogation" was used which included things such as water boarding. It's my understanding this was allowed, because according to lawyers such as John Yoo, the methods that they were using did not fit the definition of what the US considered torture.

It has been found the John Yoo's argument was poor but he never faced charges.

Did anything illegal happen? Was it illegal for the government to use enhanced interrogator and was it illegal for John Yoo to advise the government it was legal to use such techniques(for example could he be guilty of criminal negligence)?


Torture is defined at 18 USC 2340, and the law against torture is 18 USC 2340A. It is never illegal to give the government advice, just as it is not illegal to make a ridiculously false claim (there seems to be a popular belief that saying false things is against the law, which is a stunningly ironic belief). The only way to tell if the actions constituted torture would be to file a lawsuit (which would no doubt make its way to SCOTUS). I don't think there is any case law which one could base a prediction on. The answer certainly cannot be found with certainty based on the statutory wording.

  • False statements to the government ARE illegal. 18 U.S. Code § 1001 - "Except as otherwise provided in this section, whoever, in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Government of the United States, knowingly and willfully...makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent statement or entry; shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism... imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both." – D M Jun 13 '18 at 17:42

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