Press Reaction

  • “When I write about torture, I always hear from readers who insist that America never tortured or that waterboarding is not torture. Let me invite you to watch a recent PBS documentary produced by Sherry Jones and the National Security Archive called Torturing Democracy.’ There you will see dramatizations of the techniques approved by the Bush administration and applied by the CIA and also hear from some of the detainees who experienced the torture.

    “Go to and watch what waterboarding looks like, what sleep deprivation, stress positions, enforced isolation and slamming against walls do to victims. Jones is right when she says, "It is not comfortable to see what has been done by our government in our name."

    “You may then conclude, as I do, that the memos and authorizations were nothing but legal cover for illegal, immoral and inhuman acts. The tortures endorsed by the Bush administration and perpetrated by the CIA come right out of the Inquisition of medieval Spain.”
    - Ken Bode, Indianapolis Star

  • “Americans who've been waiting for someone to graphically connect the dots between the legal memos justifying torture, abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo and beyond, and the consequences for the moral standing of this nation, need look no further.  It's all here. ‘Torturing Democracy’ should engender the same mass outrage as the 2004 photos from Abu Ghraib.”
    - Dahlia Lithwick, Slate

    “‘Torturing Democracy’ recounts how the Bush White House and the Pentagon decided to make coercive detention and abusive interrogation the official U.S. policy in the war on terror. …You’ll see and hear some things hard to bear but you’ll also meet some government insiders who refused to go along, who stood up and said, ‘This is wrong.’”
    - Bill Moyers, Bill Moyers Journal

    “This powerful, damning documentary …recounts in merciless detail the steps the Bush Administration took on a road to torture, beginning less than a month after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. …It’s like a train wreck: You cannot look away even though you are horrified and appalled.”
    - Candace Talmadge, North Star Writers Group
    “I've always said that I've thought that even at Guantanamo Bay the United States was careful to stay on this side of torture. In fact, you may recall that on a couple of occasions we got into a spirited debate on this program about waterboarding, and whether waterboarding was torture. And I took the position that it was not torture, that it was simulated drowning, and that if that produced information which preserved our national security, I thought it was permissible.

  • “And then I saw ‘Torturing Democracy.’

  • “And I'm afraid, now that I have seen what I have seen, that I was wrong about that. It looks to me, based on this documentary, as if in fact we have engaged in behavior and practices at Guantanamo Bay, and in these illegal renditions, that are violations of the international human rights code.

  • “And I believe that Dick Cheney is responsible. I believe that he was the agent of the United States government charged with developing the methodology used at Guantanamo Bay, supervising it for the administration, and indulging in practices which are in fact violations of human rights.

  • …“I really found this documentary, ‘Torturing Democracy,’ very, very disturbing. And I guess the reason that heretofore I have not been such an easy mark on the matter of this kind of charge is that I don't think I ever saw an organized, systematized review of what we did, and how we did it, as well presented as it was in this documentary.

  • “And it grieves me to say, as an American citizen, that I believe the leadership of our country is responsible for crimes against humanity. But, you know, we can't be trumpeting about the behavior of others, like Milosevic, and others, if we do not expect ourselves to be held to a similar high standard.

  • “And no matter our desire to preserve and protect our national security, which is uppermost in the minds of all of us, and something which our leaders are sworn to do by oath, if to do that we have to engage in torture, we should not do it.

  • “And as this documentary points out, there is no indication that any significant, credible evidence that made us safer was ever developed or deduced or adduced during these sessions. And in my view, some of these sessions went over the line.

  • “And I'd like to see a panel of international court judges review the evidence. They might not agree. They might find Vice President Cheney not guilty--who knows? But I'd certainly like to see a trial of Dick Cheney as the responsible party in the United States government for developing tortures that were violations of our obligations under international concordants and treaties involving human rights violations.”
    - Gene Burns, KGO-AM/San Francisco

  • A large part of the population still credits the Bush Administration’s absurd claim that it never embraced or applied torture to detainees as a matter of policy. Two recent documentaries, Alex Gibney’s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side (for which I was both a consultant and interviewee) and Sherry Jones’s PBS feature ‘Torturing Democracy’ investigate the administration’s policies and conduct.  Both draw from decision-makers inside the administration and soldiers on the frontline.

  • “The administration did its best to spike both films. Taxi was to be aired on the Discovery Channel, but with Discovery Communications then in the process of going public and facing sensitive SEC clearances, executives apparently decided not to risk provoking the anger of the White House. As I reported elsewhere, PBS also found that it had no network space for Torturing Democracy until January 20, 2009—the day the Bush Administration decamps from Washington.  Why was the administration so concerned about these two films? The conversion of Gene Burns supplies the answer. No one who sits through these films, I believe, will be able afterwards to accept the official version of events. George Bush has good reason to be afraid of too many Americans watching these documentaries.”
    - Scott Horton, Harper’s

  • “Please watch Torturing Democracy.’  It isn't easy to watch; but what so many innocent (and guilty) individuals were subjected to in your name was unimaginably harder.  As readers know, I've been fixated on this since Abu Ghraib. But that documentary made me ill by forcing me again to absorb the enormity of what Bush and Cheney have done - and the urgent, urgent task of repairing the damage.  If America is to recover, those responsible must be put on trial. Including the president.”
    - Andrew Sullivan, Atlantic

  • ‘Torturing Democracy’ features a number of state department and military officials dead set against these “enhanced interrogation” policies. …It also supplies interviews with prisoners who spent several years locked up, tortured and eventually released - all with no stated reason. …There’s fresh footage not seen in past stories from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, and fascinating archive footage of US Army training against the type of torture favored by the Chinese against troops in the Korean War, prompting one quote: ‘We have recreated our enemy’s methodology in Guantanamo.’”   
     -  Jim Wiener, Public Media Digest

    “The National Security Archive Project at George Washington University has created one of the most important portals publicly available of the video clips, documentary materials, statements and other valuable resources on the journalism, litigation, scholarship and advocacy surrounding America’s management of post-9/11 combat detainees.
    - Steve Clemons, The Washington Note

    “ (is the) website the producers are running in tandem with the amazing folks at National Security Archive (George Washington University). …Visiting the site and viewing the professionally made film is highly recommended.”
     - DailyKos

    “In one dramatic scene, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage describes being waterboarded  as part of a training program he went through before being sent to Vietnam.  Did he consider waterboarding to be torture, Armitage was asked.  “Absolutely.  No question.”  He continued, “There is no question is  my mind – there’s no question in any reasonable human being that this is torture.  I’m ashamed we’re even having this discussion.”  No one who has seen this dramatic documentary is likely to buy into the “rotten apples” narrative any longer.

  • “Simultaneously with the release of ‘Torturing Democracy,’ its producers have also published for the first time a damning document issued by military authorities at Guantanamo clarifying the highly coercive techniques – regularly identified by the United States as torture when used by other nations – which the Bush Administration had approved to use on prisoners in the war on terror.
    - Scott Horton, The Daily Beast

    “I can't recommend it highly enough.  Though it includes a few standard documentary tactics that I could do without (ominous music, grave-toned narration, black-and-white up-close photos of the villains), it is an extraordinarily well-documented account of America's torture program over the last seven years and, most informatively, the role that top Bush officials played in those programs.  Notably, most of the sources on which it relies are former U.S. military and Bush administration officials who waged courageous though ultimately unsuccessful battles to halt these programs.

  • “I'm particularly amazed that someone could be aware of this set of facts -- could know that our highest government officials deliberately and knowingly authorized torture techniques that are war crimes under both U.S. law and international treaties to which we are a party -- and still argue, as so many do, that it would be wrong to hold these political officials accountable for the laws they systematically violated.  It's easy to say how horrendous one finds torture to be.  But those who simultaneously advocate that American political leaders should be immunized from the consequences of their criminality -- that, in essence, we should refrain from enforcing these laws -- are proving that those are empty words indeed.”
    - Glenn Greenwald,