Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Administration of Torture

Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond

Jameel Jaffer
Amrit Singh
Copyright Date: 2007
Pages: 456
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Administration of Torture
    Book Description:

    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 Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51162-9
    Subjects: Law, Political Science, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Anthony D. Romero and Steven R. Shapiro

    The United States has both the oldest written constitution in the world and a long history of ignoring it in times of national crisis. The Alien and Sedition Acts were adopted less than a decade after the U.S. Constitution was ratified. The writ of habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War and more than 30,000 people were imprisoned without charges or trial. Thousands of people were jailed for opposing U.S. participation in World War I, including such prominent critics as Eugene Debs (who ran for president from jail). More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were “interned” in domestic concentration camps...

    (pp. 1-44)

    When the American media published photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the Bush administration assured the world that the abuse was isolated and that the perpetrators would be held accountable. In a May 10, 2004 address, President Bush said that the “cruel and disgraceful” abuses were the work of “a small number” of soldiers and that some of those responsible had already been charged with crimes.² Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld traveled to Iraq and offered similar assurances there.³ Over the next three years, the Bush administration refined its narrative at the margins, but by...

    (pp. 45-52)
    (pp. 53-66)

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and its partners obtained most of the documents compiled here through litigation under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The FOIA requests were filed in October 2003 and May 2004 with the Central Intelligence Agency and the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice, and State. The ACLU and its partners filed suit in June 2004 because none of the agencies had provided any meaningful response to the requests. In September 2004, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the agencies to search their...

  8. The Documents
    (pp. A-1-A-378)