Introduction to The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse
THE UNITED STATES AND TORTURE: INTERROGATION, INCARCERATION, AND ABUSE, Marjorie Cohn, ed., New York University Press, 2011
32 Pages Posted: 4 Feb 2011 Last revised: 20 Jun 2011
Date Written: February 3, 2011
Emboldened by the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the George W. Bush administration lost no time establishing a policy that authorized the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," that is, torture and abuse. Cofer Black, head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center, testified at a joint hearing of the House and Senate intelligence committees in September 2002: "This is a very highly classified area, but I have to say that all you need to know: There was a before 9/11, and there was an after 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off." Indeed, in his January 2003 State of the Union Address, President Bush admitted: "All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way: They are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies." Bush was tacitly admitting to the illegal practice of summary execution.
This book, the Introduction of which by editor Marjorie Cohn is posted here on SSRN by permission of New York University Press, details the complicity of the U.S. government in the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad. Following is an abstract of Professor Cohn's Introduction, summarizing the contents of the book.
The contributors to this book include Richard Falk, Marc D. Falkoff, Terry Lynn Karl, John W. Lango, Jane Mayer, Alfred W. McCoy, Jeanne Mirer, Sister Dianna Ortiz, Jordan J. Paust, Bill Quigley, Michael Ratner, Thomas Ehrlich Reifer, Philippe Sands, Stephen Soldz, and Lance Tapley.
In her compelling preface to the book, Sister Dianna Ortiz describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in 1987, when she was in Guatemala doing missionary work while the United States was supporting the dictatorship there. She survived and founded the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International, and her work has made her a national symbol of the struggle to abolish torture.
In Part I, "The History and Character of Torture," chapters written by an historian, a lawyer, and a political scientist trace the history of CIA torture and U.S. complicity in torture throughout Latin America. A philosopher and a lawyer then analyze the character of torture, the "ticking time bomb" scenario, and parallels between torture and "one-sided warfare."
Part II, "Torture and Cruel Treatment of Prisoners in U.S. Custody," brings the study into the current context of the so-called "War on Terror." A journalist examines the Bush administration's "extraordinary rendition" program, in which a person is abducted without any legal proceedings and transferred to a foreign country for detention and interrogation, often tortured. Two lawyers look at the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo. The role played by psychologists in the Bush torture program is set forth by one of the leaders of the movement to end that involvement. And a journalist brings the debate home with his description of the torture of prisoners in U.S. "supermax" prisons.
Finally, in Part III, "Accountability for Torture," three lawyers explain strategies for bringing to justice the officials and lawyers who participated in establishing the Bush administration's policies that led to torture and abuse, and a sociologist finds links between torture, war, and presidential power.
Keywords: torture, degrading and inhuman treatment, interrogation, abuse of prisoners, War on Terror, Bush Administration torture policy, rendition, extraordinary rendition, CIA, counterterrorism, supermax prisons
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation