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Torture Team: Rumsfeld's Memo and the Betrayal of American Values Hardcover – May 13, 2008

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews

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The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more

Editorial Reviews


“Rigorous, honest, devastating; I couldn't put it down.” ―Vanessa Redgrave

“Gripping, furious and very serious indeed.” ―John le Carré

“Sands has written a page-turning investigation into one of the darkest mysteries in American history: how a country that has led the world on human rights came to embrace a policy of barbaric abuse. One by one, he corners the suspects and sifts the clues, shedding new light at each step along the way.” ―Jane Mayer, staff writer, The New Yorker Magazine

“Philippe Sands has uncovered the proper assignment of responsibility for torture and cruel and unusual punishment administered by the U.S. in the so-called Global War on Terror. Read this book to learn who made these decisions. More importantly, read it to learn how under George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney America abandoned its strongest pillar of power--its own integrity.” ―Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell

“A remorseless, shocking, forensic narrative, Torture Team leads us from Rumsfeld's office in the Pentagon, via a score of eager-to-please lawyers and bureaucrats, and shows us the brutal consequences for one detainee. The parallel with Nazi Germany's descent into immorality is impossible to escape. This may well be the most important book to emerge since 9/11.” ―Robert Harris, journalist and bestselling author of Pompeii, Imperium and The Ghost

“Sands's...book put[s] "the torture team" - the group of more than a half dozen Bush Administration lawyers who gave the green light for the introduction of torture - into sharp focus.” ―Scott Horton, Harper's Magazine

Torture Team, Sands's book...may well be the best bit of contemporary investigative journalism you will read: it is right up there with Woodward and Bernstein, a tour de force of relentlessly dogged pursuit, of interviews with guilty men acquired against all the odds, a beautifully told and humane narrative that follows a paper trail and nails the truth.” ―The Sunday Times (London)

“Philippe Sands uses extensive interviews and documents to portray with painstaking accuracy what occurred in the White House – and that it did so because lawyers at the highest levels of government enabled it to happen…Torture Team's purpose is not solely to ascribe blame, however, though it does so with clarity and precision. Sands' other goal is to consider redress for these crimes.” ―The Financial Times

“No wonder the former Rumsfeld capo, Douglas Feith, is trying to discredit a damaging interview he gave to the British lawyer Philippe Sands for another recent and essential book on what happened, Torture Team.” ―Frank Rich, The New York Times

About the Author

Philippe Sands is an international lawyer and a professor of law at University College London. He is the author of Lawless World and is frequently a commentator on news and current affairs programs including CNN, MSNBC, and BBC World Service. He has been involved in many leading international cases, including those involving the treatment of British detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He lives in London, England.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (May 13, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230603904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230603905
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,359,058 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Phillipe Sands book brings together a lot that was already known with some new information provided by interviews. This book was valuable in that it places the information in a coherent narrative. Sands lets his Interviewees speak for themselves and succeeds in not judging them personally, nor questioning their motives, but only points out where the International and US law may be used to judge them and their possible guilt. He interviews Jim Haynes, General Hill, Doug Feith, Diane Beaver, General Myers and others, devoting a chapter to each interview. The overall effect of these interviews is at times startling.

Sands focuses his main argument on the fact that lawyers were not guided by law in their memos and advice to the President, VP, Secretary of Defense, and others, but were subservient to the policy choices of our leaders. To use a phrase of Vice President Cheney, the Pentagon and Justice Department lawyers tried to write the law from the "dark side." We the readers are the jury who will decide if they stayed within the bounds of the rule of law.

I think Sands does show, in disagreement with Alberto Gonzalez, General Myers, and Jim Haynes that the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo was not in response to a request for guidance from below but was the premeditated, concerted effort of the lead Principals and Lawyers in the Bush Administration to bypass Army FM 34-52. The timeframe of the discussions, memos and interrogation policies of Guantanamo all support that conclusion. There can be no question of coincidental connections.

Phillipe Sands convincingly connects the dots in my opinion. President Bush and his advisors made two momentous decisions.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is not a wild diatribe about the misguided Bush administration or an 'anti' anything. It's a well written and well documented account by an eminent British QC (Queens Council) of how Rumsfeld bent US and International law to allow interorgators to use torture in the prison camps in violation of the Geneva convention. It exposes part of the shame that Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld has brought on the great USA by invading Iraq.
Should be read by all loyal US citizens to make them aware of how important it is to use the voting booth in an enlightned way to ensure that an honorable and wise government is empowered.
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Format: Hardcover
Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law at University College London, wrote the acclaimed Lawless World. In this new book he investigates how the US state introduced aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo and elsewhere.

He interviewed key figures in the US Department of Defense, including Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Major General Michael Dunlavey, Commanding Officer of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo until 8 November 2002, General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General James Hill, Commander of US Southern Command.

Sands shows that the highest US authorities authorised criminal acts. As Abraham Lincoln said in 1863, "military necessity does not admit of cruelty ... nor of torture to extract confessions." Aggressive interrogation techniques, as well as being immoral, are unnecessary because they are unreliable, and they are also counter-productive because they discredit the user, undermine the user side's war effort and increase the risks to the user side's POWs. A National Defense Intelligence College study of 2006 concluded that there was almost no scientific evidence to support their use.

Yet in February 2002, President George W. Bush ruled that none of the Guantanamo detainees could rely on any of the protections granted by the Geneva Conventions. This ruling was intended to remove all constraints on interrogation, as Douglas Feith confirmed to Sands. On 2 December 2002 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signed an `Action Memo' one of whose four attachments authorised the use of eighteen interrogation techniques.
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Format: Hardcover
In November 2001, al-Qahtani Mohammed was captured in Afghanistan and sent to the American detention facility at Guantanamo, Cuba. About a year later, it was discovered that he had likely been an additional hijacker for the 9-11 terrorist attacks and a member of al-Qaeda, and so he was placed in isolation for 160 days. During that time he was subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques twenty hours a day for fifty-four straight days. His interrogation logs, in fact, were published by Time magazine on March 3, 2006, and Sands sprinkles excerpts of them throughout his book. al-Qahtani was not charged with any crimes for six years, not until February 11, 2008, and those charges were dropped by the Pentagon on May 12, 2008.

Philippe Sands teaches at the University College London, and is a leading expert in international law. He participated in the torture cases of Pinochet and Charles Taylor. His book is meticulous in detail, exhaustive in its research, fairminded in letting all the protagonists explain their versions of the story, cautious in his language, suprisingly suspenseful given the arcane and complex nature of the subject matter, and, more than anything else, devastating in its conclusions. Sands believes that al-Qahtani's treatment amounted to torture, and that those who were responsible for his treatment are guilty of war crimes in light of the Geneva Conventions (Article 3) and the 1984 Torture Convention. Of course, in the world of realpolitik they will not be prosecuted here in America, but Sands is deadly serious in his sober advice to the Bush lawyers (William Haynes, Doug Feith, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, and Jay Bybee) who provided legal rationalizations for the torture -- be very careful about traveling overseas.
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