The United States and Torture

Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse

356 pages

April, 2012

ISBN: 9780814769829



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Marjorie Cohn is Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. Her books include The United States and Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse; Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law; and Cameras in the Courtroom: Television and the Pursuit of Justice.

All books by Marjorie Cohn

Torture has been a topic of national discussion ever since it was revealed that “enhanced interrogation techniques” had been authorized as part of the war on terror. The United States and Torture provides us with a larger lens through which to view America’s policy of torture, one that dissects America’s long relationship with interrogation and torture, which roots back to the 1950s and has been applied, mostly in secret, to “enemies,” ever since.

The United States and Torture opens with a compelling preface by Sister Dianna Ortiz, who describes the unimaginable treatment she endured in Guatemala in 1987 at the hands of the the Guatemalan government, which was supported by the United States. Following Ortiz’s preface, an interdisciplinary panel of experts offers one of the most comprehensive examinations of torture to date, beginning with the Cold War era and ending with today’s debate over accountability for torture.


  • “Because whistleblowers leaked the Abu Ghraib photos and some of the torture memos, the torture and abuse committed by the United States entered the national discourse. This book is the result of those efforts and this critical work by leading scholars and journalists who courageously provide a roadmap for holding Bush officials accountable for their war crimes.”

    —Daniel Ellsberg, author of Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers

  • “This is an extraordinarily important book. Marjorie Cohn has gathered some of the most knowledgeable and thoughtful voices who understand and oppose the horrific decision by the Bush/Cheney administration to employ torture to fight terrorists. In these pages they explain not only what was done but why it was so terribly wrong.”

    —John W. Dean, former Nixon White House counsel and author of Conservatives Without Conscience

  • “A magnificent, though deeply disturbing collection of essays on torture, considering its history, its use since September 11, and the obstacles to holding those responsible accountable. This is the best collection of essays on the topic and it leaves no doubt that the nation has not yet come to grips with the inhumanity perpetrated under the guise of national security.”

    —Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, School of Law

  • "An excellent addition to the cannon of work relating to the post-9/11 embrace of torture by the Bush Administration as well as the subsequent erosion of constitutional and international legal principles."

    —Adam L. Kress, Law and Politics Book Review

  • “A critical collection of essays on the United States’ descent into torture. The contributors, who include some of the nation’s most important human rights advocates and scholars, tell the untold story of how the country that was instrumental in drafting the Convention Against Torture has itself violated that document’s fundamental obligations, and what we should do about it.”

    —David Cole, author of The Torture Memos: Rationalizing the Unthinkable

  • "This gripping collection of essays explores how the United States has used torture both domestically and abroad since the 1950s . . . Strongly recommended to any reader interested in developing a deeper understanding of the government's torture policies."

    —Rachel Bridgewater, Library Journal

  • "The United States of Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, and Abuse is an interdisciplinary work detailing U.S. participation in torture and cruel treatment of prisoners both at home and abroad and discusses what can be done to hold those who set the torture policy accountable." 

    Z Magazine

  • "If this collection of authoritative and proficient essays does not convince every reader that key Bush officials and their lawyers should be prosecuted, it leaves no doubt that probable cause exists to justify the Justice Department opening a series of comprehensive investigations with ample resources and subpoena power to determine whether such crimes were committed and whether indictments should be issued...Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and anyone who cares about restoring respect for the Rule of Law in America should first read The United States and Torture, and then do the right thing."

    The Los Angeles Daily Journal

  • "Marjorie Cohn, law professor and president of the National Lawyers Guild, has collected 14 incisive and comprehensive essays which, taken together, serve as a detailed indictment of the Bush administration for its acts of commission and the Obama administration for its acts of omission."

    San Francisco Daily Journal

  • “This book is incredible. The truth is right there on the pages, assembled for everyone to see and read and understand. Finally. Accountability is the first step in healing as a nation. The last line of the final chapter says it all: ‘Let us begin.’ Indeed, we must.”

    —Janis L. Karpinski, author of One Woman's Army: The Commanding General