by Philippe Sands
Philippe Sands kicks off Torture Team with a memorandum to Donald Rumsfeld from Jim Haynes, legal counsel to the former US defence secretary. Attached to the 2002 document was a list of 18 interrogation methods to be used on Guantanamo Bay detainees. Sands, a law professor at University College London, points out the documents did not mention limits on their use over time, or forbid the use of two or more techniques simultaneously. The memo was signed by Rumsfeld, who added in writing: 'I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?' This memo then went to Major General Geoffrey Miller, notorious for his role at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Sands' investigation into how torture came to be sanctioned, in contravention of Geneva Convention rights, produces discomfiting reading. It is made even more unsettling by his description of what happened to a guinea pig for those techniques, detainee 063, Mohammad Al-Qahtani, an alleged accomplice in the September 11 attacks. By 'ferreting around' with the instinct of a journalist, Sands has produced an important book that names, shames and shows how systematic cruelty came to be approved.