How America Tortures

How America Tortures (November 27, 2019).  95 Pages
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Americans may find it difficult to acknowledge that top officials in the West Wing of the White House and the Office of Legal Counsel of the Department of Justice orchestrated and poorly oversaw a horrific torture program that was responsible for the detention and interrogation of countless detainees. Seventeen years ago, the White House and the Department of Justice created a torture program and, through a series of legal memoranda, attempted to immunize Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agents from criminal liability. The language was formal, legalistic, antiseptic, and euphemistic. That, combined with vague definitions of the techniques, disguised the extent of abuse the memos were approving and/or permitting. For many years, virtually no attention has been paid to the specific details of the techniques that were used in America’s name and too little investigation has gone into the specific uses that the CIA made of these techniques.

This report presents the specific details of what the torture memos permitted and most importantly, how the techniques were implemented and applied. This report is based on information from many of those who were tortured under the program, including Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (Abu Zubaydah), as well as many CIA cables, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report, and numerous other government documents.

The torture memos described the ten techniques that were designed and approved to torture one person, Abu Zubaydah. All ten techniques were used upon him and, while he has not been allowed to speak, some of his descriptions of those experiences were declassified. They have not been previously examined. The descriptions by Abu Zubaydah of some of the torture techniques is attached as an appendix. The text incorporates parts of his description and when it is included in the text it is always bolded.

As compelling as the verbal descriptions of the techniques are, this report publishes the first visual representation of how the torture techniques were performed. The graphic representations are the original works of the man for whom the torture was designed, Abu Zubaydah. Because they have never been published before and because of their historical importance, all eight graphics are presented in full at the beginning of this report. The same graphics are also included in the text where they most appropriately belong.

In addition, the CIA’s cables from the beginning of Abu Zubaydah’s torture have also become available and this report allows the reader to see the application of the techniques not only as defined, but as applied, and not only from the CIA’s perspective but also from the perspective of the tortured. This report integrates Abu Zubaydah’s descriptions from the earliest days of his torture with the CIA cables that described those days from the CIA’s perspective.

The report will first address persistent conditions which were employed broadly against detainees, followed by an in depth look at each approved torture technique. Finally, the report will address several techniques not specifically approved, but which played a key role in advancing the program. Overall, this report will illustrate how the following factors led to the gross abuse of the torture program: (1) the lack of clarity and purposeful ambiguity in defining what was allowed and what was not allowed during interrogations; (2) the failure by the government to account for the use of persistent techniques and unapproved techniques alongside those that were approved; and (3) the negligence and intentional disregard of the consequences of such a torture program.

Report Contributors:

Mark Denbeaux
Seton Hall University, School of Law

Stephanie Moreno Haire
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Tatiana Laing
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Kristofer Guldner
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Denera Pope-Ragoonanan
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Adam Casner
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Brett Lewbel
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Timothy Paulson
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Timothy Profeta
Seton Hall University - School of Law

Jade Sobh
Seton Hall University - School of Law

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