The Short Version: Torture

The Short Version: Torture

The point of it all is to break down the headlines, the week’s most controversial issues, determine why a particular issue is important to you, and reveal the best arguments on each side of the story.

By reading Cleo Abram’s The Short Version, you join a vibrant group of people with two simple beliefs: 1) Every important issue can and should be discussed in a way we all can understand; 2) Understanding both sides makes us more thoughtful and our views more informed.

In some of  the most recent iterations of The Short Version, Cleo Abram explored the viability of the Electoral College, because, well, this is the second election of the past five in which the person with the most votes is not going to the White House.She examined the role of Facebook in helping to spread fake or misreported news (and therefore influencing the election). This week she opens the door on torture. Do we gain by inflicting pain? What constitutes “cruel and unusual punishment. (Check out the 8th amendment to our constitution.)

Note: If you have missed any of Cleo’s blogs, just go to our Home Page, type “The Short Version” into Search (magnifying glass icon) and poof, like magic, all her past blogs will appear.


Cleo Constantine Abrams of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

Cleo Constantine Abram of the “Short Form,” offering densely packed spins on issues of national and global importance.

What’s happening?

During the election, then-candidate Trump answered a question about torture: “I would bring back waterboarding and I’d bring back a hell of a lot worse than waterboarding.”

This week, President-elect Trump tapped General James “Mad Dog” Mattis for Secretary of Defense. General Mattis opposes waterboarding.

Trump described their conversation on the subject. “I said, ‘What do you think of waterboarding?’ He said—I was surprised—he said, ‘I’ve never found it to be useful.’ He said, ‘I’ve always found, give me a pack of cigarettes and a couple of beers and I do better with that than I do with torture.'”

Trump concluded, “I’m not saying it changed my mind.”

Why is it important?

Usually, when we talk about torture, we mean inflicting physical pain to gain information. Torture can also be used as a punishment, but the Supreme Court has consistently held that the Eighth Amendment (against “cruel and unusual punishments”) forbids this in the United States.

Waterboarding is one type of torture, as defined by U.S. Army Field Manuals. Others include electric shock, burning, and food or sleep deprivation. The field manuals stipulate that “no person in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense, regardless of nationality or physical location, shall be subject to torture.”

Federal law also prohibits torture, but the statutes are vague. Within the physical U.S., torture is covered by state criminal statutes. Outside U.S. borders, torture is forbidden by the “Torture Act” (formally known as 18 U.S. Code Chapter 113C). Here, torture is loosely defined as “the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering.”

All of this is complicated by the 2014 report on the CIA’s use of torture (including waterboarding) in the wake of 9/11. The report was widely seen as damning, and intensified the national conversation about “enhanced interrogation.”

Debate it!

Should the United States use torture for national security?

 Why “The Short Version” on TIO:

Nine+ ago, Telluride Inside…and Out began as a lifestyle webzine. Today, in the full knowledge that Telluride is a window on the world, we continue to bring the “zazz” (short for “pizzazz) of the region to a local, national, and global audience by covering everything from Telluride’s robust cultural economy – major events and festivals – to health and fitness and outdoor adventure. When Telluride travels, we write about places to go, people to meet too. (That’s part of the “Out” part of our handle, the other, obviously, Outdoors.)

And now, this new weekly column, “The Short Version,” which offers simple summaries of issues of national and global importance. (Though we won’t go political, or rather we won’t show bias.)

“The Short Version” is written by Cleo Constantine Abram, the daughter of Telluride locals Eleni Constantine and Jonathan Abram (and therefore an honorary local and regular visitor) and a digital strategist.

Why “The Short Version”? Because, though we live in Shangri-La, our bubble is not impermeable and the rest of the world is only a click away. Because there is no inconsequential action; only consequential inaction. And because information is power in a moment so many of us are feeling powerless.

More about Cleo Constantine Abram:

Cleo Abram 2

Cleo grew up in Washington D.C., lives in New York City, and loves to visit her parents in Telluride. She authors “The Short Version,” a newsletter that explains each week’s most important issue and both sides of the debate around it.

Cleo is a digital strategist now working at Vox, a general interest news site for the 21st century. Its mission is simple: Explain the news. Politics, public policy, world affairs, pop culture, science, business, and more.

Cleo’s work focuses on ways to share, educate, and inform using online platforms. While in college at Columbia University, she guided the school’s entrance into online education through her role as the youngest elected representative to the Columbia Senate, which makes university-wide policy.

She continued her work on online education at TED-Ed, the educational branch of the nonprofit, building new programs and online tools to support high school teachers worldwide.

Continuing her work with TED, Cleo founded and led an early TEDx conference, the organization’s community-specific series.

Most importantly, Cleo loves to ski.

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