In "Torture Team", Phillippe Sands analyzes the Bush legal team's strategy to implement interrogation tactics at Guantanamo that defy the Geneva Convention. He first interviews the lower level lawyers who worked on the ground in Guantanamo, then works his way up to Cheney's immediate legal advisors.
At this point many Americans acknowledge that torture wasn't the action of a "few bad apples", rather something that was sanctioned at the top of the administration. Recognizing that fact makes the book no less interesting, rather it's even more chilling to see how the lawyers carefully pieced together a policy that would not only to obliterate the standard of international law but fly in the face of long standing wisdom on how best to deal with terrorism. Sands' position as an international lawyer who worked on Chile's Pinochet case and also a UK citizen who also saw first hand the failure of torture policies to stem IRA terrorism gives him a unique perspective to analyze the implications of Bush's policies.
Sands concludes that the most senior Department of Defense officials, the president, vice-president, and their most senior lawyers are directly implicated in the policies for Guantanamo detainees. He focuses particularly on the legal framework constructed for torture tactics used on the prisoners, and the six lawyers at the top who wrote those policies: David Addington, Jay Bybee, Doug Feith, Alberto Gonzales, Jim Haynes and John Yoo.
He notes that despite the public outrage propagated when the torture memos were revealed, none of the lawyers' "careers have suffered unduly". Jay Addington works for Vice President Cheney. Doug Feith teaches at Georgetown, and since Sands' book, published his own book and strode through the talk show circuit forcefully advocating his version of events. Alberto Gonzalez had not yet forfeited his position as Attorney General when Sands finished his book, a fact Sands attributed to his "poor memory and the personal support of the President". Perhaps now he's regaining a memory that will debut as a memoir. Jay Bybee was assigned to the Ninth Circuit Court in San Francisco by George W. Bush. Jim Haynes, having failed to be confirmed as a federal judge had announced his intention to leave DoD when Sands finished "Torture Team", is now working for Chevron, headquartered in the Bay Area. A third lawyer in the Bay Area, John Yoo, teaches constitutional law at the University of California, Berkeley. Their futures look bright, although Sands concludes:
"Thanks to the immunity from criminal process that has been built into U.S. law, and to which several of these lawyers contributed, they are presently free from criminal investigation at home. That immunity does not, however, extend beyond the shores of the United States. The members of this distinct group of six lawyers, and perhaps others, may decide wisely to think carefully about where they travel in the future."
Equally interesting is Jane Mayer's "The Dark Side" : The inside story of how the war on terror turned into a war on American ideals." Like Sands' book, her story pulls the bits and pieces of the new's we've heard together. She explains: "It's been hard even for someone paying close attention, like myself, to follow these developments. We have learned about them out of order - first perhaps with the pictures of Abu Ghraib- and only piece by piece later - did we get to read the legal memos that justified a whole new system of law and detention." Mayer describes how not only lawyers and top administration brought about torture, but how they involved psychologists and physicians in it's practice. She also describes how the system spread beyond Guantanamo to foreign countries, and how US citizens have also been imprisoned.
Sands' focus is on one prisoner and his specific treatment in the hands of his captors. While any sane person can read from his description a system of torture, the media have focused on what everyone agrees is barbaric, waterboarding. Mayers stresses that the media focus on waterboarding "deflected attention from what was truly the worst part of the program - the combination of many forms of physical and psychological pain together over time."
While Mayer's acknowledges the Red Cross determination that the torture committed constitutes war crimes, she also says that it "would take a political movement bent on punishing the most powerful members of the Bush administration for taking steps it thought necessary to protect the country. Right now, I have trouble imagining there will be the political appetite for this." She notes that ranking members of congress were briefed on "enhanced interrogation" techniques and are therefore also complicit. While torture is not historically new, Mayers says, the way it has been institutionalized in the United States violates not only civil liberties but "the spirit of The Enlightenment on which the country was founded. It's a very deep break with the founders' values."