Award-winning producer Sherry Jones presents a comprehensive documentary - more than 18 months in the making - that examines America's detention and interrogation practices in the "war on terror" in Torturing Democracy, premiering Thursday, October 16 at 9 p.m. on Thirteen/WNET.Here's a YouTube clip showing the film's promo:
The film examines how coercive interrogation methods were used by the CIA and migrated to the United States military at Guantanamo Bay and other locations as well as the charges that these interrogations became "at a minimum, cruel and inhuman treatment and, at worst, torture," in the words of the former General Counsel of the United States Navy, Alberto Mora. It carefully presents the evidence that the Bush administration promoted these methods and developed legal justification for the practice. The film features in-depth interviews with senior military and government officials who fought the policy and former Guantanamo detainees who experienced it, uncovers the origins of the tactics the White House calls "enhanced interrogation techniques."
Senior Bush administration insiders describe the internal debate over whether the U.S. government should opt out of the Geneva Conventions in order to avoid future prosecution for war crimes. Among the film's notable senior military and diplomatic officials is Richard Armitage, former United States Deputy Secretary of State, who describes - for the first time on camera - being waterboarded during his military training. "There is no question in my mind," says Armitage, "that this is torture. I'm ashamed that we're even having this discussion."
The 90-minute documentary will be followed by a half-hour panel discussion moderated by Wide Angle anchor Aaron Brown that updates and expands the documentary with an in-depth conversation on recent Congressional hearings and legal decisions, as well as what the methods used to combat terrorism may mean for America's standing in the world and how U.S. military personnel may be affected.
Bill Moyers has called Torturing Democracy "profoundly journalistic and profoundly affecting. This one will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, 'What did we do?'"
The documentary details how the secret U.S. military interrogation program - "Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape" - or SERE - became the basis for many of the harshest methods used in interrogating prisoners in U.S custody. The simulated captivity is supposed to expose students to "a totalitarian evil nation with a complete disregard for human rights and the Geneva Convention," says SERE trainer Malcolm Nance in the film. Methods used include slapping, hooding, sleep disruption, stripping, exposure to temperature extremes, sexual humiliation, and the practice now known as "waterboarding." Nance adds, "We have recreated our enemies' methods in Guantanamo... It will hurt us for decades to come."
The film's website, www.torturingdemocracy.org, is scheduled to launch Friday, October 10. The site, a collaboration with the National Security Archive at George Washington University, will feature the entire film available for streaming; a timeline of key events; extended interviews; and the memos, legal opinions and other documents featured in the film.
Other government and military interviewees include Major General Thomas Romig, Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army, who reveals the inside story of a Pentagon task force set up by the Secretary of Defense in early 2003; retired Navy General Counsel Alberto Mora; veteran Air Force interrogator Colonel Steven Kleinman; military prosecutor Colonel Stuart Couch; former Pentagon lawyer Richard Shiffrin; and Martin Lederman, senior advisor in the Justice Department.
Former detainees interviewed include Moazzam Begg (Detainee #558), Shafiq Rasul (Detainee #083), and Bisher Al-Rawi (Detainee #906).
Torturing Democracy was produced by Washington Media Associates in association with the National Security Archive. It was written and produced by Sherry Jones. Carey Murphy is the co-producer. Peter Coyote is the narrator. It was edited by Penny Trams and Foster Wiley. The 30-minute discussion following the film will be produced by Erin Chapman for Thirteen.
Bill Moyers has called Torturing Democracy “profoundly journalistic and profoundly affecting. This one will go into the record books for historians and teachers and others who look back to ask, ‘What did we do?’”
For more clips, check out the filmmakers' YouTube channel.