Nearly two-thirds of Americans believe torture can be justified to extract information from suspected terrorists, according to a poll.
Are there laws against torture in the US? If yes, what is the process that legalizes torture and how long this process takes?


1 Answer 1


Yes, there is a section of the US constitution which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment, which by the looks of things has been ruled to include torture.

From the Wikipedia entry linked above:

In Furman v. Georgia, 408 U.S. 238 (1972), Justice Brennan wrote, "There are, then, four principles by which we may determine whether a particular punishment is 'cruel and unusual'."

  • The "essential predicate" is "that a punishment must not by its severity be degrading to human dignity," especially torture.
  • "A severe punishment that is obviously inflicted in wholly arbitrary fashion."
  • "A severe punishment that is clearly and totally rejected throughout society."
  • "A severe punishment that is patently unnecessary."

The manner by which torture might be legalised would be via an amendment to the United States Constitution:

A proposed amendment becomes part of the Constitution as soon as it is ratified by three-fourths of the States (38 of 50 States). When the OFR verifies that it has received the required number of authenticated ratification documents, it drafts a formal proclamation for the Archivist to certify that the amendment is valid and has become part of the Constitution. This certification is published in the Federal Register and U.S. Statutes at Large and serves as official notice to the Congress and to the Nation that the amendment process has been completed.

  • 2
    Does your answer apply only to torture as punishment, or also to torture as an interrogation technique, as in the OP?
    – DJohnM
    Jun 4, 2016 at 18:57
  • 1
    @DJohnM I would suggest that torture as interrogation technique would be viewed as a punishment for withholding information. Jun 4, 2016 at 22:16
  • The late Supreme Court Justice Scalia would differ.... theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/12/…
    – DJohnM
    Jun 6, 2016 at 20:01
  • 1
    @DJohnM From Anthonin Scalia I would have expected no different... Jun 6, 2016 at 20:02
  • @PeterDavidCarter yeah that's how normal people would rule that. But we are talking about the nation that fully embraced having multiple (conflicting) meanings for words in their system and generally being very creative with facts and words to further their own agenda
    – Hobbamok
    Mar 18 at 14:01

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