Administration of Torture

A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh. Foreword by Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, and Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU legal director

Columbia University Press

Administration of Torture

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Administration of Torture

A Documentary Record from Washington to Abu Ghraib and Beyond

Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh. Foreword by Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, and Steven R. Shapiro, ACLU legal director

Columbia University Press

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.

Administration of Torture is a powerful account of the devastating effects of deviating from longstanding legal prohibitions on the mistreatment of prisoners. Through government documents, Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh bring to light the grim reality of the torture and abuse of prisoners held in U.S. custody abroad. This book will serve as a historic reminder of the dangers of curtailing human rights protections in the name of national security.

Mary Robinson, former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights 1997-2002 and President of Ireland 1990-1997

The issues raised in this book are too fundamental to be left unaddressed. The years ahead will continue to test our security, and we will again be tempted to violate our values in the mistaken belief that we will be made more secure by doing so. Jaffer and Singh remind us that when that test comes, we must find the courage to defend our principles more firmly. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this message.

Alberto J. Mora, former U.S. Navy General Counsel

After the Second World War, the United States played a leading role in developing the rules that govern the conduct of states during times of peace and war. Simply by letting the facts speak for themselves, Jaffer and Singh show how far the country has strayed from that tradition. They go on to present a compelling case for rebuilding what the Bush administration has torn down.

George Soros, chairman, Open Society Institute

In gathering these truly telling documents Jaffer and Singh have distilled the essence of an evil that has shamed America. Exposing it can only help remove a terrible national stain.

John W. Dean, Nixon White House counsel and author of Broken Government: How Republican Rule Destroyed the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches

Jaffer, Singh, and their colleagues at ACLU deserve congratulations on two counts: first for their assiduous use of the Freedom of Information Act that brought the documents in this shocking dossier to light, and second for making it easily accessible here. Introduced by their lucid commentary, this book will be an essential source for historians of one of the darkest episodes in American history.

David Rose, contributing editor, Vanity Fair, and author of Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights

This is an extraordinary book. The documents that the ACLU has been able to wrest from government control are harrowing and the authors' treatment of them is judicious, meticulously researched, and ultimately damning. For more than three years now, we've heard over and over that the abuses at Abu Ghraib took place despite the Bush administration's policies, not because of them. As Jaffer and Singh show, that claim could not be further from the truth.

Rory Kennedy, director, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib

[An] extraordinarily important book

Naomi Wolf, The Huffington Post

An immensely useful resource.

David Cole, New York Review of Books

The definitive evidence of the Bush-Cheney war crimes.

Nat Hentoff, The Village Voice
Introduction: Administration of Torture
Timeline of Key Events
Description of the Documents
The Documents
Web Features

About the Author

Jameel Jaffer directs the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project and has been a litigator for the ACLU since 2002. He was educated at Williams College, Cambridge University, and Harvard Law School.

Amrit Singh is a Staff Attorney at the Immigrants' Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union and has been a litigator for the ACLU since 2002. She was educated at Cambridge University, Oxford University, and Yale Law School.