Torturing Democracy: The Project

When the publication of the photographs from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq made prisoner abuse an international controversy in April, 2004, both the National Security Archive and Washington Media Associates were already pursuing the story.

Award-winning producer Sherry Jones was in the final stages of editing the first full-length television investigation of the Administration's detention and interrogation policies, with a focus on the detention camp at Guantanamo. That ABC news special, "Peter Jennings Reporting: Guantanamo" aired on June 25, 2004.

The Archive had just published a reference collection of more than 1500 documents on U.S. counter-terrorism policy - from the earliest plane hijacking crises in 1968 through the war in Afghanistan in 2002 - and had filed hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests for Bush administration documents on terrorism and detention policies.

In May, 2004 the Archive was the first to post on the web the historic CIA interrogation manuals that were precursors to the treatment of prisoners in U.S custody during the war on terror. In June and July, 2004 the Archive added the full posting of the administration's legal and decision memos on interrogation policies - from the officially released papers, and the more revealing leaked documents.

Over the next two years, Washington Media would keep in touch with its sources and keep on the story. And the Archive would collect thousands of primary source documents, thanks to a multitude of investigations, leaks, journalistic coups, and successful lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Associated Press, and others. (For a more complete list of sources, see the introduction to the "Entire Archive.")

In January, 2007, the Archive and Washington Media decided to join forces, as we had done on documentary film projects over the past 20 years. The results are seen on this web site: The documentary, "Torturing Democracy," and the first stage of a comprehensive Torture Archive that aims to serve as the online institutional memory of the essential documentary evidence.