Getting Away with Torture: Secret Government, War Crimes, and the Rule of Law

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That American forces should torture prisoners in their “war” on terror is disturbing, but more shocking still is that the highest officials of the Bush-Cheney administration planned, authorized, encouraged, and concealed these war crimes. When the Supreme Court ruled that the officials were bound by the Geneva Conventions, a Republican Congress responded by granting amnesty to all responsible, from lowly interrogators to the president, while conservative judges erected a wall of secrecy to protect them even from civil liability. Meanwhile, timid Democrats have shown little stomach for repealing the amnesty law and bringing those responsible to justice.

Many Americans, including those who endorsed torture to find “ticking bombs” that never were, are now embarrassed by credible reports of CIA kidnappings for purposes of torture, secret prisons into which prisoners have disappeared without a trace, and rigged tribunals to convict al Qaeda’s criminals on evidence obtained by torture. But the problem is not just embarrassment; it is the widespread acceptance of unaccountable, secret government that now threatens to destroy the very foundations of constitutional government. The moral standing of the United States will not be restored, Christopher Pyle argues, until a concerted effort is made to bring our secret government under the rule of law.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Getting Away with Torture is an exceptionally well-sourced book. It will appeal to scholars, students, and general readers. Avoiding technical terms, Pyle follows the paper trail of torture memos leading to abuses at Guantanamo, and in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in meticulous detail.”

“A welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the subject. . . . As can be expected from an author of such distinction, Getting Away with Torture is an exceptionally well-sourced book. [The author] follows the paper trail of torture memos leading to abuses at Guantanamo, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere in meticulous detail. . . . Curbing government secrecy will be a long, often frustrating battle. . . . These depressing trends make it imperative that Pyle’s book is read as widely as possible."

“A study of the steps taken by the Bush Administration after 9/11 to wage its war on terrorism. The result of those steps, [the author] writes, was that the U.S. became a country that is ‘no longer a constitutional government under law.’ This is an unsettling book -- not to mention the disturbing photos of prisoner abuse and the self-satisfied visages of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld et al that are contained within. Nor does he take the easy out of concluding that, with the election of Barack Obama, we have turned the page.”

"A comprehensive look into the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ policies.”

“A collection of statistics, legal proceedings, personal accounts, and photographs, the book delivers a striking blow to the conscience, revealing information that will make both Democrats and Republicans cringe. . . . A compelling collection of facts and stories with the detail one would expect from a former military intelligence officer and legal expert.”

“This riveting book by one of the unsung heroes of the Watergate era shows that it is not enough to prosecute the war criminals; we must undo the elected monarchy that short-sighted Democrats and Republicans have constructed, revive checks and balances, and restore the rule of law.”

“Christopher Pyle has written a deeply documented and riveting exposure of the systemic torture policy that has discredited us among our allies and--as shown in a recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report--has served the terrorists as a very useful recruiting tool. Getting Away with Torture is a permanent contribution to restoring our Constitution and our moral credibility in the world.”

Getting Away with Torture is a timely tour de force. Pyle’s thought-provoking analysis of President George W. Bush's ‘war on international terrorism’ is as enlightening as it is disturbing. A must-read.”

“An exceptional study of the very deliberate steps taken after 9/11 toward unconstitutional government, a series of grave misjudgments by executive officials, Congress, the courts, and the general public. Christopher Pyle is to be commended for an unflinching condemnation of public policy that has left America weaker politically, economically, morally, and legally.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781597973878
  • Publisher: Potomac Books
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 370
  • Sales rank: 1,443,679
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

In 1970, Christopher Pyle disclosed the military’s surveillance of civilian politics in a pair of award-winning articles. As a former captain in Army intelligence, he also recruited 125 former agents to tell what they knew about that spying to Congress, the courts, and the press. Those disclosures ended the Army’s domestic spying and began a series of investigations into the misuse of intelligence agencies that historians now refer to as the Watergate era. Pyle worked on those investigations a consultant to Senator Sam J. Ervin’s Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights and Senator Frank Church’s Select Committee on Intelligence. Since 1976, he has taught constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College and written extensively on freedom of expression, equal protection of the laws, and rights of privacy. Pyle is the author of four books, the most recent, Extradition, Politics, and Human Rights, analyzes how the United States went from being a nation of asylum for foreign revolutionaries in the nineteenth century to become the long arm of foreign injustice in the twentieth. He lives in South Hadley, MA.
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  • Posted September 17, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Brilliant account of the US state's role in torture

    Christopher Pyle, who teaches constitutional law and civil liberties at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, has written a strong indictment of the US state's use of and connivance in torture. Bush secretly authorised the CIA to kidnap suspected terrorists from European countries and turn them over for interrogation under torture to Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pyle comments, "That unprecedented development was strong evidence that the rule of law no longer mattered to American officials in power." Torture is a form of terrorism: it is illegal under US law and US military law. He writes, "The old adage that 'no man is above the law' is no longer valid. American courts, supported by three Republican attorneys general, have made it abundantly clear: high government officials who secretly authorize the kidnapping, torture, or murder of foreigners abroad cannot be prosecuted for the crimes the officials commit or sued for injuries they cause." After 9/11, Congress authorised the President to use military force only against 'those responsible for the recent attacks'. It did not license an endless 'war against terrorism' or a limitless war against 'States that harbour or support them' (as per John Yoo's Memo 25 September 2001). The International Committee of the Red Cross said that the US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was 'an intentional system of cruel, unusual, and degrading treatment and a form of torture'. As Pyle notes, "more than 90% of the men and boys tormented at Guantanamo Bay had not been captured in combat but had been sold to the United States for large bounties." The CIA has or had secret prisons in Thailand, Afghanistan, Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, Kosovo, Macedonia and Ukraine. Pyle comments, "the CIA made suspected terrorists 'disappear', as if the United States were little more than a Latin American dictatorship. Many of these prisoners still have not been found." He writes, "the torture, cruelty, and degradation revealed in those Abu Ghraib pictures were not merely the work of a few bad apples but were the result of a conscious policy of the Bush administration." The USA's highest officials 'authorized, approved and encouraged the torture and degradation of suspected terrorists'. Pyle sums up, "The United States is no longer a constitutional government under law. Thanks to helpful legislators and judges, its president is now an elected monarch who can, if he chooses, commit criminal acts with impunity. He need not think of himself as a constitutional officer pledged to uphold the Constitution and laws against all enemies, foreign and domestic. He can operate like an Afghan warlord with legions of kidnappers, covert paramilitary units, and clandestine prisons at his disposal. "At the moment, no one has any timely or effective legal protection against this warlord. Neither Congress nor the courts is disposed to confront this elected monarch until the terrorist threat, which the Republican Party has recklessly striven to make perpetual, has passed. "As a result, the United States is in the worst constitutional crisis in its history. Many of the wrongs for which the American colonists went to war in 1776 now pale in comparison to the crimes the Bush administration committed. Even during the bitter Civil War, neither side instituted a policy of torture."

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