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Barry Eisler’s New Thriller Draws Upon U.S. Torture Program

Barry Eisler’s new novel, Inside Out, was released in stores yesterday, and is already climbing the book sales charts. An excerpt from the novel was posted at Truthout the other day, under the title, "The New National Security State."

The publication of Inside Out is a big deal, because until now no one has taken the headlines surrounding the Bush/Cheney/CIA torture scandal and made them the subject of memorable fiction. The book itself has an impressive bibliography, showing the amount of research that went into the tale of black ops special forces officer, Ben Treven, called upon to track down a former colleague who has stolen dozens of CIA torture videotapes and is blackmailing the U.S. government, lest he release them to a shocked world. Treven is in a race with a plethora of other agents from other parts of the government, as no one wants this evidence about U.S. crimes against humanity to be released.

The seriousness behind the fiction is evidenced by the recent article by Nick Baumann and Daniel Shulman at Mother Jones, which describes the Department of Justice investigation aimed at attorneys and their investigators, like John Sifton, for being, from the CIA’s standpoint, too conscientious in pursuing the defense of the Guantanamo prisoners whom they represent. Photographic evidence plays a role in this case, as the government is upset that investigators may have obtained pictures of CIA interrogators involved in rendition-torture cases, and shown them as part of a line-up of photos to their detainee clients. The attorneys apparently were hoping to find the interrogators involved in the torture of their clients, so they could subpoena them to court.

But for the U.S. government, it’s all about protecting their secret agents and their actions, even if it included torture sanctioned by the previous administration. As an article by Scott Horton on the Sifton case noted, 21 CIA agents were convicted by an Italian court in absentia last year for the rendition of Abu Omar, while there are pending arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents in Spain for the rendition to torture of Khaled El-Masri. But behind the actions taken against individual agents and interrogators lies the possibility of investigations and prosecutions of those who created, enabled, implemented and administered the torture program: George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the OLC attorneys, Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, Condi Rice, George Tenet, John Ashcroft, possibly even members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. So the stakes around battles over evidence, especially photographic evidence, are quite high.

It is precisely that premise that makes Eisler’s novel, Inside Out, the exciting and engaging read that it is. It presents an enticing "what if…?" What if the torture tapes were not destroyed, but copies still existed and were used in a byzantine struggle between intra-governmental actors involved in blackmail, murder, and other crimes, all to cover up crimes that may be even worse than what has yet been revealed (the "Caspers"!)? Of course, what the novel is really trying to do is educate people about what we do know regarding the torture program, by embedding its fiction within a well-researched matrix of factual material.

Eisler is known for his intelligent thrillers, and especially his John Rain series. With Inside Out he continues his move in a more political direction (always implicit within his novels anyway), towards an examination of the oligarchical powers that run the United States, who have in the name of national security engaged in torture and other crimes.

Barry writes:

Inside Out is dedicated to the bloggers — the independent sleuths who are after the truth, not a pat on the head from the White House; who have a passion for change, not "a vested interest in keeping things pretty much the way they are;" who serve the people, not the powerful. Much of the information and insight upon which Inside Out is based was developed by bloggers and other independents; it’s fitting, therefore, that the Inside Out book tour thank them for what they do. So I’m proud to announce that my Bay Area, Los Angeles, DC, and New York City events are not just book signings, but also fundraisers for AlterNet, Firedoglake, GRITtv, and Truthout, three superb sources of independent political news and opinion.

The book signing schedule this summer for Inside Out can be accessed here.

Tune in (or what does one say in the era of the Internet?) to the Firedoglake Book Salon, this Saturday, July 3, 5pm EDT/2pm PDT, to chat with Barry Eisler and myself about the thin line between fiction and truth on torture, on disappeared prisoners and black-site prisons, and more.

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Jeff Kaye

Jeff Kaye

Jeffrey Kaye is a retired psychologist who has worked professionally with torture victims and asylum applicants. Active in the anti-torture movement since 2006, he has his own blog, Invictus, previously wrote regularly for Firedoglake’s The Dissenter, as well as at The Guardian, Truthout, Alternet, and The Public Record. He is the author of Cover-Up at Guantanamo, a new book examining declassified files on treatment of prisoners at the Guantanamo detention camp.

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