Top Secret No.00



In this installation, recently declassified Top Secret documents have been posted covering all the walls of the exhibition. These documents constitute the remains of 124 pages, addressing the subject of torture, water boarding, and procedures for the treatment of prisoners.  Projected onto the walls from a central rotating projector, a video displays one such tactic used on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and around the world. The Top Secret documents written by the Bush Administration’s Department of Justice from 2002 to 2005 were released in April 2009.  Much of the document has been blacked out, a common tactic used when declassifying such documents.

This video displays the artist being water boarded, recorded with the flickering light of an analog projector as the only source of illumination. With the documents posted on the wall, the projected video lights up the words for the audience to read as it circles the darkened installation. The artist also provided flashlights to those who were willing to sign up as participants, referred to as recruits.  These recruits were willing to not only read the “Top Secret” documents but also have the video project on them as it circled the room.

The United State’s Office of Legal Counsel stated the CIA’s definition of water boarding in a Top Secret 2002 memorandum as follows:

“In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, airflow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth… During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches. After this period, the cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths… The procedure may then be repeated. The water is usually applied from a canteen cup or small watering can with a spout… You have… informed us that it is likely that this procedure would not last more than twenty minutes in any one application.”

Authorized by the Department of Justice in 2007 the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) started water boarding extrajudicial prisoners. This was with the knowledge that the United States Government hanged Japanese soldiers for water boarding US prisoners during Word War II.  President Obama banned the use of water boarding as an interrogation practice in April 2009.

This exhibition was curated by Angelica Jubran-Bishara and displayed during the entire month of July 2009 at the Heritage Square Gallery.