Welcome to the Torture Database. There are a number of different ways to search the database and to refine your search results, so please explore. Below we explain the basics.

Free Search

  • The "Free Search" box is the simplest way to search the database. Simply enter your search terms and hit Enter.
  • By default, the database will ensure that every word appears in each of your search results. For example, a search of [waterboarding videotapes] will be interpreted as [waterboarding AND videotapes] unless you check the "Look for any of these terms" box, which will turn the search into [waterboarding OR videotapes].
  • You may also choose to exclude particular words from your search by using the minus [-] key. For example, if you are interested in waterboarding documents that do not mention videotapes, you might try the search string [waterboarding –videotapes].

Search Results

  • Once you have completed a search, your search results will appear on the left side of the page, and key information about your search results will appear on the right.

  • Results: The results initially appear in order of relevance but can easily be sorted by either the date of the record or the date that the record was released to the public.

    • Along with each result, the database displays assorted information, including:

      • The date of record (not all records have dates)

      • The branch, agency, and/or component that authored the record.

      • The record’s title.

      • The record’s identifying number, which appears in the form of ACLU-RDI #.

      • The type of the record (e.g., legal memo, email, investigative file, etc.).

      • A description of the record.

      • Other information, which you can view by expanding the "Show More Info" link, such as governmental officials or detainees mentioned in the record, etc.

  • Information about the results: After you run a search, the area to the right of your results will display a variety of filters that can be used to focus your search further. Click on one or multiple filters to hone in on the documents of interest to you. You can remove a selected filter by clicking the link next to it.

    • The information shown in the filters will vary but may include the following information about your search results:

      • A graph of the dates of the records

      • A list of the authoring agencies

      • A list of the governmental officials mentioned

      • A list of the detainees mentioned

      • A list of the interrogation techniques mentioned

      • A list of the types of records

Advanced Search Options

  • For the most part, the advanced search options should be self explanatory (please email us if that is not the case), though some of the features are explained in more detail below. You can use them to fine-tune your search by date, author, recipient, detainee, governmental official, interrogation technique, incident, and release date.

  • Text boxes:

    • All of the text-entry fields in the advanced search options are auto-fill fields. When you begin to enter text in those fields (for example, in the "Official" field), the database lists possible matches underneath the text box for your selection.

      • For example, if you begin to enter [Yoo], a box will appear below the field with the possible match of [John C. Yoo]. If the match is correct, you may simply select the suggestion to add the official to your advanced search options.

      • You do not need to worry about alternate spellings or variations of the names you select from the auto-fill fields. Once you have selected the right match, the database will find all documents that we have tagged with the name, regardless of the spelling. If you believe we have missed any spellings, please let us know.

    • The "Detainee" and "Official” fields also make use of aliases. If you begin to type an alternative spelling of a detainee’s name, the detainee’s ISN or SEQ into the "Detainee" field, or if you type the title of a governmental official into the "Official" field, the system will try to recognize the individual for whom you are trying to search and display what it believes to be the right name. You can then simply select the right detainee or official.

      • Examples:

        • "Detainee" field

          • Typing [Kahtani] will result in [Mohammed al Qahtani (AKA Mohamed al Kahtani)]

          • Typing [63] or [ISN 63] will result in [Mohammed al Qahtani (AKA ISN 63)]

        • "Official" field

          • Typing [Chief of Staff] will result in [David S. Addington (Chief of Staff to the Vice President)]

          • Typing [Counsel to the Vice President] will result in [David S. Addington (Counsel to the Vice President)]

  • Agency selections:

    • The authoring and receiving agency selection boxes allow you to limit your search results by the agency or branch of government that either wrote or was sent the document. For example, if you want to view only documents that the Department of Defense authored or issued, then select DOD, beneath Executive.

    • If an executive agency has relevant components, those components will appear in the list on the right. For example, to select a component of the DOD, first select DOD, and its components will show up in the list on the right. You may then select one or more of those components.

    • Note that you can make multiple selections from both the right and left lists using Ctrl-click or Shift-click, and you can deselect a branch, agency, or component using Ctrl-click.

    • If you want to search all of an executive agency (like DOD or CIA), then do not select any of its components. Our lists of components are not exhaustive (and sometimes it is not possible to categorize a document by component), so if you select all of the components of an agency, you will actually be excluding documents from your search that are from that agency but not labeled with a component.

Acronyms used for executive agencies:

N.B. The gray entries do not appear in our actual list but are included to help you design your searches.

White House (WH)

  1. Executive Office of the President (EOP)

  2. Office of the Vice President (OVP)

  3. National Security Counsel (NSC)

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

  1. Office of General Counsel (OGC)

  2. Office of the Inspector General (OIG)

Department of Defense (DOD)

  1. Department of the Army (DOA)

    1. Criminal Investigation Command (CID) [acronym taken from old name: Criminal Investigation Division]

  2. Department of the Navy (DON)

    1. Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)

  3. U.S. Air Force (USAF)

  4. Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)

    1. Defense Human Intelligence Services (DHS or HUMINT)

  5. National Security Agency (NSA)

  6. Office of the General Counsel (OGC)

  7. Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCOS)

  8. Office of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps (OJAG)

  9. Office of Military Commissions (OMC)

  10. Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT)

  11. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM)

  12. U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)

    1. JTF-170

    2. JTF-160

    3. JTF-GTMO

Department of Justice (DOJ)

  1. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

  2. Criminal Division (CRIM)

  3. Office of Legal Counsel (OLC)

  4. National Security Division (NSD)

  5. Executive Office for United States Attorneys (EOUSA)

  6. Office of the Inspector General (OIG)

  7. Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR)

Department of State (DOS)

Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI)


Please feel free to contact us with questions, suggestions for improvement, or comments at thetorturedatabase@aclu.org.