It doesn't matter what the Polling Data says (Karl), what matters is what the Law Says. The simple fact is that the is No Such Thing as Torture Lite ™?
It's not a question of whether Waterboarding is or isn't Torture, and therefore illegal, the simple fact is that Every Coercive Method Authorized by Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury and Bush all meet the U.S. and International definitions of torture.
All of Them.
Contrary to many arguments this isn't simply a matter of unenforceable International Law. The US signed and ratified the UN Convention Against Torture over a dozen years ago and implemented empowering legislation under 18 USC 2340 - The Torture Statute. It similarly made it a criminal offense to commit a grave Breach of Geneva under 18 USC 2441 - The War Crimes Act.
In his original August 2002 Memo (pdf) Jay Bybee argued that ten techniques, which had been culled from the Special Forces S.E.R.E. program were not torture because they did not induce "permanent or severe physical or psychological" damage as outlined under 18 USC 2340.
Those techniques were..
attention grasp, wailing, facial hold, facial slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivations, insects place in a confinement box and the waterboard
Bybee repeatedly argued that the pain and suffering would be "mild", and unlikely to induce long-term psychological stress because only a few of these kinds of signs had ever been recorded by S.E.R.E. students - but besides the fact that the S.E.R.E. program is voluntary, whereas being held against your will is decidedly NOT voluntary, there is also the issue of duration and repetition. The S.E.R.E. course lasts less than a week, and at any point a student can use a code-word to signify they have overextended their reach. Under the program outlined by Bybee, none of this was possible, and neither was there a definate end to the process...
Amnesty International Describes Torture according to the UN Convention Against Torture this way:
It defines torture as any act by which:
severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental; is intentionally inflicted on a person; for such purposes as:
* obtaining from him/her or a third person information or a confession
* punishing him/her for an act s/he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed
* intimidating or coercing him/her or a third person
* or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind;
when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.*
ANY ACT - which causes severe physical or mental pain and suffering for the purpose of extracting information. ANY ACT.
Slapping, Grasping, Wall Standing, Cramped Confinement, Waterboarding - it doesn't matter. ANY ACT.
Both the Geneva and the UN Convention Against Torture do not include a Laundry List of prohibited actions simply because one you do that, it increases the likelihood that someone might try to invent a technique which isn't included on the list and try to claim that it Isn't Torture on a technicality.
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits ''violence to life and person,'' in particular ''mutilation, cruel treatment and torture'' and also prohibits ''outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment''. These terms include ''other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment." The drafters of common Article 3 avoided a detailed list of prohibited acts in order to ensure that it had the broadest possible reach, leaving no loophole. As the official commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross explained:
''It is always dangerous to go into too much detail -- especially in this domain. However great the care taken in drawing up a list of all the various forms of infliction, it would never be possible to catch up with the imagination of future torturers who wished to satisfy their bestial instincts; the more specific and complete a list tries to be, the more restrictive it becomes. The form of wording adopted is flexible, and, at the same time, precise.''