Washington, D.C., September 16, 2010 - Over 30,000 additional pages of documents comprise the latest update of the Torture Archive, an online repository for primary source material related to the detention and interrogation of individuals by the United States in the “global war on terror” since September 2001.
Compiled by The National Security Archive at George Washington University, the Torture Archive now contains 116,418 fully searchable and indexed pages providing the public with access to thousands of documents highlighting the abuse and torture of detainees in facilities such as Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib Prison. The Torture Archive provides a detailed account of the authorization of torture as a component of U.S. policy during the administration of President George W. Bush.
The initial launch of the Torture Archive in August 2009 included documents obtained through groundbreaking FOIA litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union and co-plaintiffs, as well as a complete set of documents (including detainee statements and transcripts) released by the Department of Defense from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative Review Boards. Additional pages include documents released through litigation by the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Security Archive.
Most recently, the Torture Archive added the CIA Inspector’s General Report of 2004 and the Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility 2009 Report, released in 2010, which investigated the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on suspected terrorists.
The Torture Archive has been recognized as one of “the most valuable and authoritative resources online” by the University of Washington’s Internet Scout Report which stated that “83,000 digitized pages of items related to torture might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but this invaluable resource created by the National Security Archive at the George Washington University is a real gem and an important research tool.”
The goal of the Torture Archive is to become the online institutional memory for essential evidence on torture in U.S. policy. Many of these documents are available in multiple locations on the Internet and in numerous private collections, thanks to landmark Freedom of Information Act and habeas litigation, leaks from whistleblowers, public relations releases from government, investigative reporting by journalists including the Torturing Democracy team, and Congressional investigations. But the disparate locations, enormous volume of documents, and lack of indexing or standard cataloging have presented real difficulties for users.
With support from the Open Society Institute and the JEHT Foundation since 2006, the National Security Archive has undertaken to bring together all these materials in digital formats, organize and catalog them for maximum utility and access, and publish them online in multiple packages including a comprehensive searchable database. By combining released executive branch policy memoranda, legal documents from U.S. and foreign courts, and on-the-ground information about actual practices by the U.S. military and intelligence personnel, the Torture Archive presents a comprehensive view of the war on terrorism, its foundations and its implications.
Together with the documentary film, Torturing Democracy, and the companion resources posted for viewers of the film, the Torture Archive provides multiple pathways for multiple levels of users, ranging from the high school student seeking a single key torture memo, to the dissertation writer needing a complete reference database of primary sources. Visitors can view the interactive timeline, the full annotated transcript of the film, interview transcripts, and YouTube excerpts, as well as the complete streaming video of the 90-minute film. Users can search the full database of documents by title, date, organization or keywords.
Special recognition for documentation efforts above and beyond the call of duty should go to the American Civil Liberties Union for the spectacularly successful FOIA lawsuit against the Department of Defense and other federal agencies for records on the treatment of prisoners apprehended by the United States in the "war on terror." This landmark litigation sparked strong open government rulings from federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein (Southern District of New York), is still pending in the courts, and has produced thousands of documents that would still be secret today if not for the ACLU's efforts. The ACLU filed their original FOIA requests in October 2003, together with the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace. After the revelations of the Abu Ghraib photographs in April 2004, the ACLU and its partners renewed the FOIA request, and went to court in June 2004 when the government failed to respond.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has also brought major litigation that has contributed to the documentary and public record that constitutes the Torture Archive. CCR particularly has coordinated the more than 500 attorneys who have worked pro bono in representing the detainees at Guantanamo, in proceedings that have also placed much new evidence on the record. The Associated Press brought the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that first opened the identities of the detainees at Guantanamo and forced the release of thousands of pages of related hearing transcripts. And the Senate Armed Services Committee, especially under the chairmanship of Sen. Carl Levin (D-Michigan), has pursued the torture issue from Abu Ghraib to the present and has compelled the release of hundreds of key documents and illuminating testimonies.
Numerous investigative journalists have also contributed to the documentary record by posting online at various Web sites the original records they obtained through their reporting, often through leaks from whistleblowers, or by quoting the records at length in their published articles. This list notably includes Seymour Hersh and Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, Dana Priest and Barton Gellman of the Washington Post, Michael Isikoff of Newsweek, Charles Hanley of the AP, Carlotta Gall and Tim Golden and Scott Shane of The New York Times, and the staff of Salon.com. Other documents in the Torture Archive have come from the National Security Archive’s own FOIA and declassification requests.
The Archive thanks the Washington Research Library Consortium for hosting the Torture Archive in yet another example of cooperative digital publishing innovation, as pioneered by the Archive’s work with our partners here at the Gelman Library of The George Washington University.
- Document acquisition: Kristin Adair, Yvette White, Owen Davies, Yvette Chin, Tom Blanton, Peter Kornbluh, Sherry Jones, and Carey Murphy
- Document compilation and preparation: Wendy Valdes
- Indexers: Stacey Chambers, Autumn Kladder, and Lisa Thompson
- Digital acquisition: Suboh Suboh
- Digital publication: Allison Zhang (WRLC)
- Project management: Joyce Battle, Carlos Osorio, Tom Blanton
- Web production: Michael Evans