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Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values
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Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  125 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed a memo that authorized the controversial interrogation practices that later migrated to Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. From a behind-the-scenes vantage point, Phillipe Sands investigates how this memo set the stage for a divergence from the Geneva Convention and the Torture Convention and holds the individual gatekeepers ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published May 12th 2009 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published January 1st 2008)
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Fascinating and disturbing look at how quickly ages-old human rights traditions and even signed conventions can be tossed aside in the name of [insert current bogeyman here]. The case examined with perfect concision here is that of the alleged "20th hijacker" who was held at Guantanamo and tortured by US Army personnel for 50-odd days, ostensibly because he had information of urgent national security value (a supposed ticking-time-bomb-Jack-Bauer-must-save-the-world-scenario). The questions aske ...more
Raewyn Honeycutt
Sands interviewed many senior personnel in the US government. Military, Judges, Senior Lawers and the middle men and women involved in the manipulation to subvert Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which states "No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any k ...more
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A remarkable synthesis of legal scholarship and investigative reporting by a British international lawyer that lays out the origins of the Bush Administration's infamous torture memos and makes the case that senior officials and lawyers in the US Government are parties to the commission of war crimes under the Geneva Conventions. Insightful, dispassionate and based on unprecedented access to key players throughout the entire chain of command, Phillipe Sands' book is essential to understanding th ...more
Jenna (Falling Letters)
Originally posted 23 July 2014 on Falling Letters.

In Torture Team, Sands explores "the role of lawyers who are required to give legal opinions on sensitive political matters, and asks what responsibility they bear". He does this by focusing on the 'enhanced interrogative techniques' approved and used on Guantanamo detainee Mohammed al-Qahtani. I did not think I would review this book. It took me a long time to read, due to the high level of detail and wide cast of characters with titles and rela
Jul 03, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: patriots
A measured but forceful book. Philippe Sands, an international law professor, is not shy about his own evaluation of the case; he argues that top Bush administration lawyers are vulnerable to prosecution for human rights crimes. But he makes his case pretty carefully. He weaves together the publicly available facts about the "torture memos," the record of the 54-day interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, and the story of his own investigation of the matter. He interviewed key figures in the case ...more
Sep 11, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not an easy book to read. It's a very detailed account of how aggressive new interrogation techniques came to be used on prisoners at Guantanamo and the chain of legal advice that led to those new interrogation techniques being deemed not to be torture. It shifts repeatedly from technical legal reasoning to presenting excerpts from interrogation law, with occasional digressions through the bureaucratic doublespeak of Bush administration officials trying to cover their asses. It's a fasci ...more
Jun 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: torture
A bit overly detailed, as the author recounts how the civilian leadership of the Rumsfeld/Bush defense department first authorized torturing captives at Guantanamo and then attempted to back away from responsibility for giving the orders. Sands shows how the orders themselves were greater violations of the Geneva Convention, the precedents of the Nuremburg trails and the U.N. Convention against Torture than were the activities of the interrogators at the prison.

He recounts every meeting, memo a
Elaha Naderi
content-wise: interesting, liked how much of the authors personality came through, liked his work. a bit hard for me to keep up with dates as I'm not good with these things, and to keep the bigger picture in mind, so it's only out of personal failure that this doesn't get a higher rating (for now). Aim to re-read. Starting point for dissertation
very, very interesting ideas actually, and I liked the scientific backing up of ideas by at least 2 indep. sources.
learnt something about being a barrist
Emily Flynn
Feb 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is soooo good. I usually hate name game books about political anything because I have such a hard time keeping up, but this is really really interesting. For a lawyer, Sands is completely readable without trying to prose it up too much or keep his recounting parched and distanced. I admire his objectiveness regarding certain questions and his methodology makes it so that you're not coming into this pointing fingers all over the place. Obv., if you pick this u, you're brining some heuristics ...more
Jul 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A detailed and moving investigation of the steps that led the Bush administration from upholding the Geneva convention and universal human rights to condoning the inhumane treatment of Guantanamo detainees. Along the way, Sands provides many historical details as well as medical, legal and other definitions of torture. I found this to be as balanced as any discussion of torture could be, and was left wondering how these people have yet managed not to be tried as war criminals.
Oct 05, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lost interest about 2/3 of the way through. Perhaps it's just not aging well in the age of Obama, perhaps it's just my stubbornly American worldview....or perhaps it's just too much info.

I might give this "current political" genre another shot, but for now, it's on to (mostly) Solzhenitsyn novels.
Eye-opening and disturbing. I heard Doug Feith talk after reading this. He explains it all away as "you had to be there to understand the pressure we were under" all the while showing a slide show of him with important people to impress us.
Carst van der Molen
Surprisingly gripping. Sands is very good at making a compelling narrative out of the actions of US government lawyers which paved the way for torture in Guantanamo, and arguably, Abu Ghraib. Must read.
Nov 18, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ohhhh this book mad me so mad. I think it's safe to say we all know Rumsfeld and Bush screwed up, but this book goes in depth about all sorts of things they did behind our backs. Every time I picked this book up to read it I was in an instant debate/angry mood.
Evi Routoula
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I learned about the existence of this book when i visited Hay On Wye literature festival in 2011. A lot of good and respectable actors did readings of it. Unfortunately all these things described in this book are true and took place.
Diane C.
Dec 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you want to understand more detail on the issues surrounding the Bush administration's endorsement of torture at Abu Ghraib and Gitmo, read this book, written in a journalistic style.

An eye opener!
Sobering look at the legal steps the Bush Administration took to ensure that torture was practiced at Guantanamo and in Iraq.
Kelly D.
May 08, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: unfinished
I couldn't finish it due to too many renewals at the library, but I found it almost excessively detailed. The book contained a number of typos.
Colleen Clark
Feb 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: American citizens.
Recommended to Colleen by: A friend who is also concerned about torture.
Shelves: politics-terror
The inside story of the early decisions about torture in the Bush administration. Eye-popping. Appalling
Paul Flynn
Good book but didn't go far enough in my opinion
rated it it was ok
Jun 29, 2011
Susan Hug
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Jun 16, 2015
Osama Iqbal Ahmed
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Scott Jones
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Joe Orenstein
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