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VIDEO: Larry Siems on The Torture Report

November 16, 2011

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Larry Siems dissects 140,000 government documents to get at the real story behind U.S. torture.

Larry Siems has a new book on torture. Assiduously examining more than 140,000 government documents from the Bush era, he explains in this video he was still surprised at what he saw all these years later. I’m looking forward to reading this. The publisher’s description for the book is below.

—Joel Whitney

From the publishers: “Sometimes the truth is buried in front of us. That is the case with more than 140,000 government documents relating to abuse of prisoners by U.S. forces during the ‘war on terror,’ brought to light by Freedom of Information Act litigation. As the lead author of the ACLU’s report on these documents, Larry Siems is in a unique position to chronicle who did what, to whom and when. This book, written with the pace and intensity of a thriller, serves as a tragic reminder of what happens when commitments to law, common sense, and human dignity are cast aside; when it becomes difficult to discern the difference between two groups intent on perpetrating extreme violence on their fellow human beings. Victims, perpetrators, dissenters, and investigators are quoted side-by-side in this extraordinary report that reveals a prolonged failure of the American government.

“Often, the worse the torments prisoners were subjected to, the more fantastic their ‘confessions’ became, and then they were subject to yet more torture, in ‘a kind of Ponzi scheme of torture,’ as Siems puts it. Among the most notorious victims of serial torture torture were José Padilla, Abu Zubaydah, and Binyam Mohamed, the supposed masterminds behind a plot to detonate a nuclear bomb in a U.S. city. ‘Theirs was a story,’ writes Siems, ‘not of an attack averted, but of how torture begets torture—first because bad information invented during torture led to more torture and invented information, and finally because interrogations were conducted not to thwart plots, but to concoct cases to justify the detention and treatment of those who had been tortured.’

“The product of a concerted research effort to accumulate, in one narrative, every bit of information available to us on the subject—official investigations, press reports, photographs, witness statements, and testimonials—The Torture Report presents a stunning array of eyewitness and first-person reports of the CIA’s White House-orchestrated interrogations in illegal, secret prisons around the world; the Pentagon’s ‘special projects,’ in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba; plots real and imagined, and much more.”

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joel_whitney.jpgJoel Whitney is an editor of Guernica. Read his interview with Zoya Phan here, and with U.S. poet laureate W.S. Merwin here. Joel’s writing and commentary have appeared in the New York Times, World Policy Journal, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Paris Review, The Nation, Agni, New York magazine—and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn. He’s on Twitter.

  John Yoo: Devil’s Advocate: The former deputy assistant attorney general on his new book, the Geneva Conventions and the legal case for torture. More
 
  Jose Padilla: Indict Him Already: Padilla Counsel Donna Newman discusses Padilla’s case, his state of mind and why the Bush administration’s position sets an ugly precedent. More
     
  Joshua E.S. Phillips: The Wrong Question: Journalist Joshua Phillips on the left media’s standard torture story, untrained soldiers making it up as they go, and becoming a suicide hotline. More
 
  WATCH: Tariq Ali: Droning On: From stepped up drone attacks, backsliding on torture, the Afghan surge, has Obama doubled down on Bush’s bets? Recorded live at Asia Society. More

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