Administration of Torture

Document Date: November 21, 2007

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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 aberrational. Government officials insisted that abuse took place in spite of policy, not because of it. But the government’s own documents tell a starkly different story.

dministration of Torture is the most detailed account thus far of what took place in America’s overseas detention centers and why. 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. They also collect and reproduce hundreds of government documents—including interrogation directives, FBI e-mails, autopsy reports, and investigative files—obtained by the ACLU and its partners through the Freedom of Information Act. The documents show that 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. The documents constitute both an important historical record and a profound indictment of the Bush administration’s policies with respect to the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody abroad.

Jameel Jaffer is a litigator for the American Civil Liberties Union and Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. Currently, his docket includes Doe v. Gonzales, a challenge to the FBI’s “national security letter” authority; ACLU v. NSA, a challenge to the constitutionality of warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency; American Academy of Religion v. Chertoff, a challenge to the government’s refusal to grant a visa to Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan; and ACLU v. Department of Defense, litigation under the Freedom of Information Act for records concerning the treatment and detention of prisoners held by the U.S. in Afghanistan, Iraq, and at Guantánamo Bay. Jaffer is a graduate of Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School.

Amrit Singh Amrit Singh is the Senior Legal Officer for the National Security and Counterterrorism program at the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) in New York. Prior to joining OSJI, she was a Staff Attorney at the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, where she litigated cases relating to the torture of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad, the government’s use of diplomatic assurances to return individuals to countries known to employ torture, the indefinite and mandatory detention of immigrants, and post 9/11 discrimination against immigrants. She was counsel, among other cases, in ACLU v. Dep’t of Defense, litigation under the Freedom of Information Act which yielded the public disclosure of more than 100,000 pages of documents relating to the abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad. Singh is co-author (with Jameel Jaffer) of Administration of Torture: A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond (Columbia University Press 2007).


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Authors talk about the book in a Columbia University Press podcast

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> The Line Between Interrogation and Torture (Talk of the Nation)
> Administration of Torture in the Bush White House (Leonard Lopate Show)


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