Main content

Torturing Democracy

In a riveting and dramatic narrative, TORTURING DEMOCRACY tells the inside story of how the U.S. government adopted torture as official policy in the aftermath of 9/11. With exclusive interviews, explosive documents and rare archival footage, the documentary has been called the definitive broadcast account of a deeply troubling chapter in recent American history.

Produced by Emmy and Dupont award-winning broadcast journalist Sherry Jones, the film relies on the record to connect the dots in an investigation of interrogations of prisoners in U.S. custody that 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. Producer Jones carefully presents the evidence that leads straight to the top of the chain of command - and so lays to rest the 'rotten apple' defense for abusive interrogations at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and elsewhere.

In the film, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage describes - for the first time on-camera - being waterboarded during military training before he was sent to Vietnam. When asked if he considered waterboarding to be torture, he answered, 'Absolutely. No question.' He added: 'There is no question in my mind - there's no question in any reasonable human being, that this is torture. I'm ashamed we're even having this discussion.'

The documentary traces how the secret U.S. military training program - 'Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape' or SERE - became the basis for many of the harshest interrogation methods employed first by the CIA and subsequently by interrogators at Guantanamo and in Iraq. The tactics designed to 'inoculate' elite American troops mirror tactics used by 'a totalitarian, evil nation with complete disregard for human rights and the Geneva Conventions,' according to Malcolm Nance, former SERE master trainer for the U.S. Navy.

Besides Armitage and Mora, government and military interviewees include Major General Thomas Romig, Judge Advocate General for the U.S. Army; 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 #086), and Bisher Al-Rawi (Detainee #906).

Related Films

Torture Made in USA

A disturbing examination of the the United States policy of torture under…

The War You Don't See

John Pilger's powerful and timely investigation into the media's role…


A brilliant visual essay about the costs, benefits and history of the…