Michael Melt­sner — the George J. and Kath­leen Waters Matthews Dis­tin­guished 
Uni­ver­sity Pro­fessor in the School of Law — has written a play about the 
Guan­tanamo Bay deten­tion camp to express his out­rage over the tor­ture 
inflicted by U.S. mil­i­tary per­sonnel on sus­pected ter­ror­ists after Sept. 11.

If tor­ture is not wrong in both the legal and moral sense then it’s hard to 
imagine what is,” said Melt­sner, a former civil rights lawyer who has argued 
six times before the U.S. Supreme Court. “Lawyers in the George W. 
Bush admin­is­tra­tion defined tor­ture in such a con­vo­luted way that hardly 
passed the laugh test.”

A dra­matic reading of the play, enti­tled “In Our Name,” will be per­formed 
for a sold-​​out audi­ence at the Boston Play­wrights’ The­atre on Tuesday 
evening. Stu­dents at the City Uni­ver­sity of New York will per­form the play 
at the Black Box The­ater in May.

Brendan Shea, a dra­matics asso­ciate at the Amer­ican Reper­tory The­atre in Cam­bridge, MA, 
praised the play, calling it a “living essay in which the United States’ 
actions at Guan­tanamo Bay are put on trial.”

Melt­sner, who will read the part of a Guan­tanamo Bay offi­cial in tonight’s 
pro­duc­tion, did not expect his play to receive so much atten­tion.  
“So far it’s been a serendip­i­tous journey,” he said. 
 
“My goal was to present the issues to people in such a way that they could 
reach their own con­clu­sions based on their hearts and minds,” he added, 
noting his hope that the play would “get under people’s skin.”

Melt­sner based his play on public records and often-​​redacted tran­scripts of 
Guan­tanamo Bay pris­oners, which were obtained by the Amer­ican Civil 
Lib­er­ties Union through the Freedom of Infor­ma­tion Act.

The Bush admin­is­tra­tion kept many of the doc­u­ments secret, but they were 
even­tu­ally released,” Melt­sner explained. “Some of the legal memos have been 
with­drawn because the gov­ern­ment no longer stands by their reasoning.”

Melt­sner crit­i­cized the Obama admin­is­tra­tion for fol­lowing many of the same 
national secu­rity poli­cies employed by the Bush administration.

Noting the killing of American-​​born al-​​Qaida oper­a­tive Anwar al-​​Awlaki five 
months ago in Yemen, he said, “The Bush Doc­trine basi­cally said that the 
pres­i­dent gets to decide in secret what can be done without com­plying with 
the basic prin­ci­ples of the rule of law. The Obama admin­is­tra­tion has, in 
effect, claimed this same power.”

Melt­sner hopes his play will con­tribute to making major changes in the way 
sus­pected ter­ror­ists are treated, but he’s not bet­ting on it. “There’s 
always the hope that your ideas will con­tribute, but my goal is merely to 
make people con­front what’s been done and may be done again in their name.”