cover image The Forever Prisoner: The Full and Searing Account of the CIA’s Most Controversial Covert Program

The Forever Prisoner: The Full and Searing Account of the CIA’s Most Controversial Covert Program

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy. Atlantic Monthly, $30 (464p) ISBN 978-0-8021

Journalists Scott-Clark and Levy (The Exile) chronicle the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program in this disturbing and deeply reported history. Spotlighting Zayn-al-Abidin Abu Zubaydah, a mid-level Saudi jihadi who was falsely accused of being a top al-Qaeda leader, arrested in Pakistan in March 2002, and transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006, where he still remains, despite never being charged with a crime, the authors describe how CIA operatives devised a set of “enhanced interrogation techniques” that included waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and confinement in coffin-size boxes. Carried out in secret prisons around the world, these and other punishments were made permissible by a thin veneer of legality scripted by the George W. Bush administration. Using extensive interviews with interrogators, testimony from secret hearings, and classified documents made public through FOIA lawsuits, the authors chart the downward spiral of the first legally authorized torture program in American history and persuasively dispute CIA claims that enhanced interrogation was “tough but necessary.” Though the excruciatingly detailed interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and other prisoners, some of whom died while being questioned, become nearly indistinguishable, this is a crucial record of how the U.S. government betrayed its ideals to wage the war on terror. (Apr.)