Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Costs of War

Legacy of the “Dark Side”: The Cost of Unlawful U.S. Detentions and Interrogations Post-9/11

This paper assesses the massive costs of U.S. unlawful transfers, secret detentions, and torture after September 11 – to the rights of victims and suspects, to U.S. taxpayers, and to U.S. moral authority and counterterrorism efforts worldwide, ultimately jeopardizing universal human rights protections for everyone.

The costs of the U.S. post-9/11 wars include a legacy of extraordinary renditions, unlawful detentions, and torture.

  • The CIA orchestrated a system of black sites throughout the world in which it rendered and secretly detained at least 119 foreign Muslim men, and tortured at least 39.
  • The military also held thousands of foreign Muslim men and in some cases boys in detention centers, including in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
  • Nearly 800 men and boys have been held in Guantánamo, and 39 remain detained to this day, 27 without criminal charges.
  • Cases of U.S.-facilitated indefinite detention and rendition continued under the Obama and Trump administrations.

The authors call on the Biden administration to close the Guantánamo prison and enact significant legal and policy reforms to end further abuses. Reforms should include far greater transparency about crimes that U.S. forces committed and accountability at the highest levels, as well as robust efforts to address religious, racial, and ethnic bias in counterterrorism efforts.