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Reading List September 28, 2019

The Legality and Reality of Torture

Our best writing from our archives on why torture is not the same thing as interrogation.

Amid all the global scandals recently,  has been drowned out. On September 18th, U.S. judges in a federal appellate court finally admitted that “enhanced” interrogation techniques are torture.

This comes seventeen years too late. In that time, Abu Zubaydah—the Saudi Arabian citizen detained in the wake of September 11 and still languishing in Guantánamo—has been waterboarded on 83 occasions, as well as being subjected to sleep deprivation, confinement in small, dark boxes, and physical assault.

In our latest piece, Joseph Margulies, one of Abu Zubaydah’s former lawyers, argues that while the decision is good news, we should have done much more. In the intervening years, the failure to register our collective disgust has allowed torture to become “just another word. Defused, it loses its explosiveness.”

We have paired Margulies’ essay with other essays from our archive in an effort to recapture some of what is at stake here: from the ethics of torture, to its legality, to its reality. Boston Review regular Judith Levine makes the case that asking whether torture “works” is an immoral question, Israeli legal scholar Itamar Mann examines the United States’s use of an Israeli precedent on abusive interrogation, and investigate reporter Lance Tapley reveals the results of his five years spent researching the torture conditions at a supermax prison in Maine.

tortue boston reviewv
Joseph Margulies

They also acknowledged, for the first time, that the grounds for torturing Abu Zubaydah—who was detained in the wake of September 11 and is still languishing in Guantánamo—were mistaken.

Judith Levine

It's like asking if slavery is good economic policy.

Adam Hosein

Why do so many legal theorists think prosecuting would be undemocratic?

Itamar Mann

Justifying the necessity defense in Israel and the United States.

Lance Tapley

Supermax Torture in America

Colin Dayan

The end of the Eighth Amendment.

Our weekly themed Reading Lists compile the best of Boston Review’s archive. Previews are delivered to members every Sunday. Become a member to receive them ahead of the crowd.

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