The Torture Report, an initiative of the ACLU’s National Security Project, aims to give the full account of the Bush administration’s torture program, from its improvised origins to the systematized, lawyer-rationalized maltreatment of hundreds of prisoners in U.S. custody around the world.
How is the Report being written?
Published serially online in a novel, responsive format, The Torture Report will bring together everything we now know from government documents, official investigations, press reports, photographs, witness statements, testimonials, and several vivid and meticulously-researched books into a single narrative – one that is updated dynamically and subject to critical review and improvement as it unfolds.
The principal author of the Report is Larry Siems, who directs the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center and leads PEN’s ongoing efforts to defend writers facing persecution around the world and to protect freedom of expression in the United States. In addition to his human rights work, Siems is a poet and a nonfiction writer who has written and reported on undocumented workers, immigrant politics and human rights abuses along the U.S., and whose poems have appeared in leading literary journals.
We have also invited a group of expert contributors to offer comments and observations as new material appears. These contributors include Matthew Alexander, David Frakt, Glenn Greenwald, Joanne Mariner, Deborah Popowski, John Sifton, and Marcy Wheeler, as well as attorneys from the ACLU; their annotations are viewable in line in the text. We also invite you, the reader, to contribute additional information and comments at the end of the chapter. As new sections are added to the Report, chapters already online will be edited, expanded, or amended to address or incorporate the most valuable suggestions and latest information.
How do I navigate the site?
The Torture Report site encompasses several related web pages. At its core is the Report itself, to which new sections will be added regularly.
The Diary page, which will greet you each time you visit the site and which is updated frequently, will guide you to the latest additions to the Report and to new information or revelations that will be integrated into the Report in the future.
The Documents page makes available much of the primary-source material through which the narrative is revealed, incorporating a searchable archive of official the government documents the ACLU has gathered through litigation under the Freedom of Information Act.
Why do we need The Torture Report?
There is an urgent need for The Torture Report.
Assembling a comprehensive, up-to-the-minute, accessible account of the Bush administration’s torture program is vital to advancing public awareness of what happened, how it happened, and who should be held responsible for violations of U.S. and international law.
The recent appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate specific abuses in CIA custody is not likely to lead to a full accounting: that investigation was narrowly focused at the outset and reportedly grows narrower by the day. Congress has yet to initiate a full, serious investigation of prisoner abuse and other detention violations. There is little political will to press for accountability and little likelihood that any official reviews now underway will produce the kind of authoritative public record that is needed.
Several excellent reports and books have exposed significant elements of the program, but they either don’t attempt to tell the whole story or no longer reflect the full scope of what is known. The direct documentary evidence of abuse is now voluminous – too voluminous for most people to explore and make sense of on their own.
The Torture Report will provide both a readable, up-to-the-minute narrative account of what the evidence reveals and the tools for you to examine the mounting record of abuse yourself.