The Architects of Torture - Rajkamal Kahlon


The following interviews were conducted in New York between September 11 - November 1, 2012 while I served as an Artist-In-Residence at the American Civil Liberties Union. The residency was supported by the Lambent Foundation and was related to my ongoing research and project, Did You Kiss the Dead Body? which uses military autopsy reports and death certificates of detainees killed in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The reports were first made public on the ACLU's website in 2004.  My residency centered on a set of conversations I had with lawyers working in the Human Rights and National Security Projects about torture, human rights, empathy, trauma, truth and justice. The 40 interview segments represent an abbreviated archive of what we talked about and can be viewed in their entirety here.

In this segment, attorney Steven Watt, compares Operation Condor to the CIA's Extraordinary Rendition program, drawing out similarities and differences between past right-wing South American dictatorships' use of torture and intimidation with American uses of torture after 9/11. Operation Condor was a program of terror and cooperation between many South American countries ( Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay) to target, torture and execute leftists including students, activists, politicians and labor organizers.

Steven Watt is a Senior Staff Attorney with the ACLU’s Human Rights Program. Watt specializes in civil and human rights litigation before domestic courts and international tribunals. Watt is counsel in a host of state and federal court cases involving U.S. rendition, detention, and interrogation programs, trafficking and forced labor, juvenile justice, women’s and immigrants’ rights, and prison conditions.  Prior to joining the ACLU, Watt was a Human Rights Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights, where he focused on post-9/11 civil and human rights litigation, including Rasul v. Bush, Arar v. Ashcroft, and Turkmen v. Ashcroft.

Hina Shamsi reflects on the role of race in human rights abuses in the U.S. post 9/11 through the systematic racial profiling of American Muslims, Arab Americans and South Asian Americans. Shamsi describes a culture of fear and silence among minority communities critical of the U.S.'s War on Terror.

Hina Shamsi is the Director of the ACLU's National Security Project. She engages in civil liberties and human rights litigation, research, and policy advocacy on issues including the freedoms of speech and association, torture, detention, and post-9/11 discrimination against racial and religious minorities. Her work has included a focus on the intersection of national security and counterterrorism policies and international human rights and humanitarian law. Ms. Shamsi previously worked as the Acting Director of Human Rights First's Law & Security Program and then as a Staff Attorney in the ACLU's National Security Project. Before returning to the ACLU in her current position, Ms. Shamsi served as Senior Advisor to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions.