The goal of the Torture Archive is to become the online institutional memory for essential evidence on torture. Specifically, the Torture Archive seeks to catalog and publish on the Web all primary source documents related to the detention and interrogation of individuals by the United States, in connection with the conduct of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the broader context of the "global war on terror." Thousands of these documents are currently available in multiple locations on the Internet and in numerous private collections, thanks to landmark Freedom of Information Act and habeas litigation, leaks from whistleblowers, public relations releases from government, investigative reporting by journalists including the Torturing Democracy team, and Congressional investigations. But the disparate locations, large number of items, and lack of indexing or standard cataloging present real difficulties for users.
With support from the Open Society Institute and the JEHT Foundation since 2006, the National Security Archive has undertaken to bring together all these materials in digital formats, organize and catalog them for maximum utility and access, and publish them online in multiple packages including a comprehensive searchable database. The idea is to present the documents online in a way that is fully searchable and also includes brief commentary of certain highlighted documents as well as background information in each topic area (such as in the Archive's series of online "electronic briefing books"). The Web site will ultimately allow a user to browse chronologies of events and related documents, and search the entire body of documents or a limited group of documents for information related to a particular individual, location, or government body. By combining released executive branch policy memoranda, legal documents from U.S. and foreign courts, and on-the-ground information about actual practices by the U.S. military and intelligence personnel, we hope to present a comprehensive view of the war on terrorism, its foundations and its implications.
As a chronology, a database that can be searched or browsed, and a substantive electronic briefing book, the site will provide document summaries and highlights, scanned images of original documents wherever available, and a full-text searchable database created by optical character recognition (OCR) software. Together with the documentary film, Torturing Democracy, and the companion resources posted for viewers of the film, the Torture Archive will provide multiple pathways for multiple levels of users, ranging from the high school student seeking a single key torture memo, to the dissertation writer needing a complete reference database of primary sources.
Sources for the documents