Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law

Philippe Sands

Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law

This is the biography of a one page memorandum signed by Donald Rumsfeld on 2nd December, 2002 authorising 18 techniques of interrogation not previously allowed by the United States. The memorandum was in effect for six weeks during which at least two detainees at Guantanamo and the US airbase at Bagram died and a third was tortured over a period of seven weeks. "18 Techniques" traces the life of the memorandum and explores issues of individual responsibility. Four individuals dominate the story: Rumsfeld, US lawyer John Yoo, victim Mohammed al-Qahtani and X, an anonymous European prosecutor. 4.1 out of 5 based on 8 reviews
Torture Team: Deception, Cruelty and the Compromise of Law

Omniscore:

Classification Non-fiction
Genre Society, Politics & Philosophy, Psychology & Psychiatry
Format Hardback
Pages 336
RRP £20.00
Date of Publication May 2008
ISBN 978-1846140082
Publisher Allen Lane
 

This is the biography of a one page memorandum signed by Donald Rumsfeld on 2nd December, 2002 authorising 18 techniques of interrogation not previously allowed by the United States. The memorandum was in effect for six weeks during which at least two detainees at Guantanamo and the US airbase at Bagram died and a third was tortured over a period of seven weeks. "18 Techniques" traces the life of the memorandum and explores issues of individual responsibility. Four individuals dominate the story: Rumsfeld, US lawyer John Yoo, victim Mohammed al-Qahtani and X, an anonymous European prosecutor.

Reviews

The Observer

Rafael Behr

How did a state, conceived in awe of The Rights of Man, make psychopaths of its children? Who gave the orders? Meticulously, soberly, astonishingly, [Sands] finds the answer in testimony from some of the most senior figures in the US establishment... He sets out to establish whether or not the treatment of Guantánamo detainees meets international legal criteria to merit indictment as a war crime. Apparently it does. In the hands of a more polemic writer, that point alone could be sharpened over hundreds of pages and thrust into a rhetorical effigy of George W Bush. But for Sands, proving that the crime was committed is auxiliary to telling another story. Torture Team is about the jurisprudence of moral corruption.

24/04/2009

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The Guardian

Michael Byers

How did torture become part of the Guantánamo interrogation regime? Philippe Sands sets out to answer that in a gripping book which examines the role of lawyers in removing the legal barriers to abusive questioning techniques. A lawyer himself, Sands tells the story through a series of interviews that read like cross-examinations of accused perpetrators and witnesses to a crime - which is precisely what they are. Sands obtains access to most of the central players, asks the tough and necessary questions, and coolly draws the conclusion that "severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental", was deliberately caused.

24/05/2008

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The Times

Anthony Julius

Though Sands works hard to be fair, the book has a prosecutorial tone, and the comparison with Nazi lawyers is misjudged - regardless of Nuremberg's juridical value as a precedent. On occasion, he also gives the impression of advancing a broader political argument about the character of the current conflict, and no doubt America's enemies will welcome his book. None of this matters. Sands has written an important book about every lawyer's responsibility when giving advice to do more than merely please the client.

24/04/2009

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The Scotsman

Geoffrey Robertson

International law is not as clear as Sands would have us believe, thanks to academic obfuscations (eg: the arid distinction between "ill treatment" and "torture"). The weakest chapter sees Sands interview an anonymous (why?) prosecutor and judge from an anonymous (why?) country who solemnly say they may issue arrest warrants against Bush lawyers who vacation in their unknown country. Such an exercise is hardly likely to increase US respect for international law.

24/05/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Alasdair Palmer

...his interviews are fascinating and reveal both the extraordinary openness of many Americans and Sands's ability to sympathise with the dilemmas faced by the officials who had to implement the decisions taken by those at the top. Still, Sands never lets his capacity for empathy get the better of his indignation at what he sees as the morally outrageous nature of the decisions taken. He draws a comparison between the lawyers in the Bush administration and the Nazi lawyers who worked for Hitler... In this case, his passion may have got the better of his judgment.

15/05/2008

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The Daily Telegraph

Sadakat Kadri

Sands strikes a nice balance between confrontation and conviviality, and his subjects respond with an often startling candour. A genial Richard Myers, appointed chairman of the American joint chiefs of staff in October 2001, lets slip that he entirely misunderstood the legal basis for the war on terror.

15/05/2008

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The London Review of Books

Glen Newey

...Sands rues the fact that the law was fitted to the policy. But law is not an organic whole for politicians and bad lawyers to mangle. No doubt the mangling is real enough. But law is a shape-shifting congeries of norms, precedents, opinions, opinions about opinions, claims to authority, and – when reasoning fails to deliver a decisive outcome – power-broking, for example by vote, as in the Supreme Court’s verdict on Hamdan.

29/01/2009

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The Sunday Times

Michael Burleigh

He has to up the moral ante by introducing Nazism. By way of “analogy”, he devotes a chapter to the Nuremberg trial of Josef Altstötter and other Nazi lawyers... With epic tastelessness, Sands invited [Douglas] Feith (who is Jewish and lost nine family members in the Holocaust) to consider the “analogy” between Alstötter and his own conduct, even asking if Feith would sanction genocide as well as torture. Sands thus manages inadvertently to make the reader sympathise with Feith...

04/05/2008

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