Synopses & Reviews
< p=""> When the gruesome images of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib first became public in April 2004, the United States government insisted that these actions were confined to a handful of low-ranking soldiers. The administration categorically denied senior officials were involved in authorizing the abuse and assured the world that all incidents would be investigated aggressively and the perpetrators held accountable. Since then, the military has commissioned numerous investigations purporting to examine the causes of the abuse, and each of these has ratified the administration's account of the events at Abu Ghraib and absolved senior officials of responsibility.<> < p=""> In stark contrast to this account, U.S. government documents obtained by the ACLU through the Freedom of Information Act establish beyond a doubt that the torture and abuse of prisoners was not confined to scattered incidents at Abu Ghraib. The documents show that senior officials endorsed the abuse of prisoners as a matter of policy - sometimes by tolerating it, sometimes by encouraging it, and sometimes by expressly authorizing it. Documents from Guantnamo describe prisoners shackled in excruciating stress positions, held in freezing-cold cells, forcibly stripped, hooded, terrorized with military dogs, and deprived of human contact for months. Documents from Afghanistan and Iraq describe prisoners beaten, kicked, and burned. Autopsy reports attribute numerous homicide deaths in U.S. custody to strangulation, asphyxia, and blunt force injuries. One such autopsy report from Iraq describes a prisoner who was found shackled to the top of a doorframe with a gag in his mouth; the report concludes thatinterrogators beat and asphyxiated the prisoner to death. These documents also note the failure of torture techniques to produce any actionable intelligence and confirm that an overwhelming majority of Abu Ghraib prisoners were not deadly terrorists but in fact innocent civilians. <> < p=""> < i=""> Administration of Torture<> is the first book to construct a portrait of the systematic abuse suffered by detainees caught in the net of America's war on terror. It begins with a narrative essay summarizing thousands of documents and follows with a reproduction of the most damning and critical examples. It implicates the conduct of a number of governments outside of the United States and is sure to become a controversial and critical tool in public and congressional inquiries. < i=""> Administration of Torture<> argues that the endorsement of abuse at the highest levels of government presents a powerful test for American democracy and the rule of law.<>
When the American media published photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration assured the world that the abuse was isolated and that the perpetrators would be held accountable. Over the next three years, it refined its narrative at the margins, but by and large its public position remained the same. Yes, the administration acknowledged, some soldiers abused prisoners, but these soldiers were anomalous sadists who ignored clear orders. Abuse, the administration said, was aberrational-not systemic, not widespread, and certainly not a matter of policy.
The government's own documents, obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union, tell a starkly different story. They show that the abuse of prisoners was not limited to Abu Ghraib but was pervasive in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan and at Guant?namo Bay. Even more disturbing, the documents reveal that senior officials endorsed the abuse of prisoners as a matter of policy-sometimes by tolerating it, sometimes by encouraging it, and sometimes by expressly authorizing it. Records from Guant?namo describe prisoners shackled in excruciating stress positions, held in freezing-cold cells, forcibly stripped, hooded, terrorized with military dogs, and deprived of human contact for months. Files from Afghanistan and Iraq describe prisoners who had been beaten, kicked, and burned. Autopsy reports attribute the deaths of those in U.S. custody to strangulation, suffocation, and blunt-force injuries.
Administration of Torture is the most detailed account thus far of what took place in America's overseas detention centers, including a narrative essay in which Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh draw the connection between the policies adopted by senior civilian and military officials and the torture and abuse that took place on the ground. The book also reproduces hundreds of government documents--including interrogation directives, FBI e-mails, autopsy reports, and investigative files--that constitute both an important historical record and a profound indictment of the Bush administration's policies with respect to the detention and treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad.
I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food, or water. Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold on another occasion, the A/C had been turned off, making the temperature probably over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night. -- "E-mail from FBI employee, August 2, 2004"