Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Enquiry


The War on Terror, initiated by the US Government under George W. Bush, reintroduced torture as an overt tool of the state. The Australian Government was heavily implicated in colluding and covering up the US torture program. Drawing on a model of outrage management, newspaper articles from 2002-2012 reveal extensive evidence that government officials, their agents, and the media, utilised methods that served to reduce outrage over the use of torture in the War on Terror. These tactics not only inhibited outrage, but promoted acceptance of torture as a legitimate security tool in the post 9/11 era.

There is significant evidence that government officials, and a mostly compliant media, engaged in cover-up, either by omitting information, destroying evidence of torture, or failing to call into question statements made by US or Australian officials. There is extensive evidence of dehumanising or devaluing the survivors/victims and their experience including denigrating them as liars, casting them as unreliable sources, or, alternatively, attacking their personal character. Evidence extends to the reinterpretation of events and the way in which language was used to shift focus off torture to concerns about innocence or guilt. Rather than naming torture for what it is, terminology such as ‘abuse’ or ‘mistreatment’ was commonly used throughout the decade of analysis.

The use of official channels to minimise outrage was apparent through the use of official spokespeople, or investigations that only gave the appearance of justice. There was also extensive evidence of the use of intimidation towards whistleblowers and torture survivors in order to prevent them from telling their stories. Those involved in torture were rewarded, commonly through promotion.

These tactics were enabled by networks of individuals, organisations and institutions that carry out ideological, economic, practical or political functions to support the facilitation and cover-up of state-inflicted torture. These networks include shallow governments that deploy misleading political rhetoric related to torture and terrorism, the increased role of militarism and covert operations, and the expansion of the surveillance state. Therefore, challenging torture in the War on Terror requires broader structural and societal change to eliminate the pillars of support for torture. Removing the structural support for torture may require the dismantling of the entire network through a process of nonviolent resistance.



Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.