Author Biography

Adam Jacobson is a Researcher at the nonpartisan advocacy organization Human Rights First, having worked for the organization in multiple capacities since 2010. As Researcher, he provides in-depth research, analysis, and writing on national security issues. He has been published by Al Jazeera America, The Hill, and Just Security, and his analysis has been quoted by The Huffington Post and TruthOut. Before joining Human Rights First, he coordinated the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s advocacy at the United Nations and spearheaded the Center’s Generations Against Genocide project, which recruited the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to raise awareness of modern day genocide. He received an MS in Global Affairs with a concentration in Transnational Security from New York University.



Subject Area Keywords

Defense policy, Intelligence collection, Interrogation and intelligence interviewing, National security, Security policy, Terrorism / counterterrorism


In 2015, the United States passed legislation that reaffirmed its ban on using torture and abusive techniques in national security interrogations. However, the Republican president-elect Donald Trump has repeatedly promised to revive torture as official policy, and the idea of torturing suspected terrorists is popular with the American public. Given these facts, what are the vulnerabilities within the current prohibition that makes a return to an official torture policy possible? This paper examines the weaknesses within each branch of government and other factors that could contribute to making a return to official torture by the United States more likely. It shows that the prohibition against torture does face vulnerabilities that can be exploited to reinstitute a torture policy, and that while this may not be likely in the current political environment, it is possible.


The views expressed in this paper represent those of the author and not Human Rights First.


The author would like to thank Mary Beth Altier for her guidance.