American Torture: The Book

Exposes the secret history of US torture at home and abroad...

"Michael Otterman's powerful book... should be compulsory reading for everyone with concerns over human rights." Rod Barton, Former Director of Intelligence (Australia), Weapons Inspector and Advisor to the CIA (Iraq).

“AMERICAN TORTURE is a hard-hitting survey revealing how torture became a standard practice in the War on Terror, how it was honed and legalized and how the US military and CIA had used torture before both at home and abroad… A 'must' for any college-level collection strong in ethics or social issues.” - The Midwest Book Review

“Most impressively, Otterman tackles the legal machinations of the [Bush] administration. How is it legal to shock a man’s genitals and explain that his wife is being raped as punishment for his “crime?” How is this behavior consistent with such inconvenient international realities as the War Crimes Act, the Geneva Conventions, and the International Criminal Court? With the right lawyers, anything is legal. - The Texas Observer

“Otterman writes as a patriot - one who expects much of his country and is angry when it fails him.” - The Age (Melbourne)

“Michael Otterman's book makes you think long and hard not only about human nature, but also about what the long haul of civilisation has brought us. The irony is that one of modern history's outstanding democracies is peeling back those achievements like the skin of an orange. Fortunately, many decent Americans are fighting back.” - Sydney Morning Herald

George W. Bush called them an 'alternative set of procedures': forcing victims to stand for forty hours, depriving them of sleep for weeks on end, dousing naked prisoners with ice water in rooms chilled to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, and strapping them to inclined boards then flooding their mouths with water. These techniques are torture and have been used by the United States of America for decades.

In American Torture, Michael Otterman reveals the deep history of US torture and shows how these procedures became standard practice in the Bush Administration’s 'war on terror.' Initially, the US military and CIA learned these methods from their enemies: the Nazis, Russians and Chinese. During the Cold War, billions of dollars were spent studying, refining, codifying then employing these techniques at military Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) schools and in interrogations in Vietnam, Latin America and elsewhere. As the Cold War ended, these tortures -- engineered to leave deep psychological wounds but few physical scars -- were ostensibly legalized using the very laws designed to eradicate their use. After 9/11, the Bush Administration turned to Department of Justice lawyers to formally permit use of these tortures and to SERE school psychologists and trainers to teach interrogators in Guantanamo, secret black sites, Afghanistan and Iraq the torture methods once used by America’s enemies.

Michael Otterman shows that these interrogation methods violate more than international law and fundamental human rights. They radicalize enemies, undermine credibility and yield unreliable intelligence. They make America less safe.



Michael Otterman’s American Torture has been featured widely on television, radio and online. To schedule an interview with Michael Otterman, please email americantorture [at]


3 News, TV3 New Zealand

NOVA, Nederland 2

The Tavis Smiley Show, PBS

BBC World News

JTV, ABC Australia


PM, ABC Radio National

Breakfast, ABC Radio National

ABC Radio Perspective

The Wire, 2SER Sydney

Web Interviews:


The Talking Dog Interview


American Torture Book Reviews::

The Age, reviewed by Dennis Altman

Onlineopinion, reviewed by Dr Ken Macnab

The Australian, reviewed by Roy Williams

Sydney Morning Herald, reviewed by Warren Reed

Texas Observer, reviewed by James McWilliams

MidWest Book Review


Publisher Information:
American Torture © 2007
Melbourne University Publishing
Pluto Press
Distributed in North America by Macmillan