What We Know So Far: A Torture Timeline (Updated)
by DanK Is Back
Thu Apr 23, 2009 at 09:38:04 PM PDT
(From the diaries. An incredible and valuable resource. Susan)
So I thought it would be helpful to put together a timeline of known facts, reports and claims to try to give some chronological perspective to it all. As with any such collection, the selections are somewhat subjective, but I have tried to be fair (but not balanced; this isn't a sporting event) in including what is known, admitted or reasonably validated. And - for once - I will leave speculation to the comments.
It turns out there is so much information already known that just summarizing it is torture. The timeline thus focuses mainly on the torture memos themselves and the events occurring at the time they were written, tested and replaced.
[Updated] Updated to include some of the Bush administration denials, and the Red Cross report.
[Update] Include John Bolton's letter opting out of the ICC; spelling corrections.
Aug-early Sep 2001 Concerned that the administration is not giving terrorism high priority, NSC counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke increasingly pressures NSA Condoleeza Rice to set up a meeting with President Bush. In testimony to the 9/11 Commission, Rice will dispute Clarke's version of events. (Wall St Journal Summary of Rice, Clarke testiomny [PDF])
11 Sep 2001 Terrorists using three highjacked airplanes attack and destroy the World Trade Center, and damage the Pentagon. A fourth plane was also highjacked and was heading toward Washington, DC, possibly with the Capitol as its target, but was brought down by passengers would fought the highjackers and succeeding in crashing the plane in western Pennsylvania. After first denying involvement, Osama bin Laden will release a broadcast on 29 Oct 2004 in which he admits he and Al-Qaeda plotted the attacks.
12 Sep 2001 At a White House meeting, SecDef Donald Rumsfeld urges the bombing of Iraq in response to the WTC attack. Clarke tells him "they were certain al-Qa'ida was to blame and there was no hint of Iraqi involvement."
15 Sep 2001 At a meeting in the White House Situation Room, Bush takes Clarke aside and demands to know if there is a connection between the terror attacks and Saddam Hussein:
"The president dragged me into a room with a couple of other people, shut the door, and said, 'I want you to find whether Iraq did this.' Now he never said, 'Make it up.' But the entire conversation left me in absolutely no doubt that George Bush wanted me to come back with a report that said Iraq did this.
"I said, 'Mr. President. We've done this before. We have been looking at this. We looked at it with an open mind. There's no connection.'
"He came back at me and said, "Iraq! Saddam! Find out if there's a connection.' And in a very intimidating way. I mean that we should come back with that answer. We wrote a report."
Clarke continued, "It was a serious look. We got together all the FBI experts, all the CIA experts. We wrote the report. We sent the report out to CIA and found FBI and said, 'Will you sign this report?' They all cleared the report. And we sent it up to the president and it got bounced by the National Security Advisor or Deputy. It got bounced and sent back saying, 'Wrong answer. ... Do it again.' "CBS News 60 Minutes 21 Mar 2004
16 Sep 2001 In an interview on Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney hints strongly that the administration will consider using torture:
We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We’ve got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in, and so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.
11 Oct 2001 Former CIA Director James Woolsey is sent to England "in search of evidence that Saddam Hussein played a role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks...."
December 2001 "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh is captured in Afghanistan. Lindh, an American citizen, was pictured blindfolded, duct-taped naked to a board.... in what is probably the first recorded instance of torture of a detainee under the Bush administration. (Hat tip to Jesselyn Radack.)
January 2002James Mitchell, a retired Air Force psychologist, and Bruce Jessen, the senior SERE psychologist at the agency, drafted a paper on "al-Qaeda resistance capabilities and countermeasures to defeat that resistance." WaPo 22 Apr 2009, analyzing the Senate ASC report
9 Jan 2002 John Yoo writes a memo (PDF) stating that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to captured Taliban and Al-Qaeda members.
25 Jan 2002 White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez accepts Yoo's argument, saying that the new war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions." SoS Colin Powell and the JAG object to this interpretation, but their objections are ignored.
2 Feb 2002 William Howard Taft IV, the State Dept's legal adviser, sends Gonzales a memo (PDF) saying that the Geneva Convention does apply to captured Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and that rejecting the convention's protections could have serious policy consequences.
7 Feb 2002 Bush signs a memorandum stating the Article 3 protections of the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees.
13 Feb 2002 Bush has decided to overthrow Hussein.
28 March 2002 Abu Zubaydah, a senior Al-Qaeda official, is arrested in Pakistan and brought to the United States for interrogation. Ali Soufan, a supervisory special FBI agent, and a second agent, with CIA agents watching, use traditional interrogation methods to question him from March through June 2002, and learn that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) was the mastermind of the 11 September attacks.
Spring 2002 Senior officials begin studying how to use SERE techniques in prisoner interrogations. SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE INQUIRY INTO THE TREATMENT OF DETAINEES IN U.S. CUSTODY 12 Dec 2008 In April, the CIA begins videotaping interrogation sessions, some of which apparently include waterboarding. It is not yet clear whether Zubaydeh was among those waterboarded at that time. The tapes have all been reported destroyed.
6 May 2002 John Bolton, at that time Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, formally informs the UN that the US "does not intend to become a party to the treaty [establishing the International Criminal Court]."
May 2002 Condoleeza Rice and "other top Bush administration officials" are briefed about "alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding." In July, Rice tells CIA Director George Tenet he can proceed to use these techniques.
23 Jul 2002 Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), reports to Prime Minister Tony Blair on his recent meeting with his counterparts in Washington:
Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The Downing Street Memo (Emphasis added)
1 Aug 2002 Assistant Attorney General Jay Baybee, head of the Office of Legal Counsel, issues a memorandum to the CIA telling them that "enhanced interrogation techniques" such as waterboarding do not, in the OLC's opinion, constitute torture.
August 2002 Abu Zubaydeh is subjected to waterboarding at least 83 times. A former CIA officer, John Kiriakou, who interrogated Zubaydeh (but who did not witness any of the waterboarding says that "it took only 35 seconds once the technique was employed for Zubaydah to start talking." Kiriakou says that it was torture, but it was necessary. He does not appear to be aware of the multiple waterboardings.
(Note: Kiriakou's claim that that Zubaydeh had refused to cooperate prior to the (first) waterboarding is contradicted by FBI agent Ali Soufan's report that Zubaydeh had been cooperating for months; see above. It's also not clear (yet) whether Zubaydeh was waterboarded or otherwise tortured during the period when Soufan was interrogating him for the FBI.)
August 2002 FBI officials are so concerned about the CIA's interrogation of Zubaydeh that they have a meeting with FBI Director Robert Mueller to discuss it. Mueller decides that the FBI will no longer participate in the interrogation, which he later extends as a "bright line rule" applying to all CIA interrogations of detainees.
11 Oct 2002 The commander at GTMO requests permission to use "aggressive interrogation techniques."
2 Dec 2002 Rumsfeld signs a memo authorizing 15 specific "aggressive techniques." The Senate report notes that interrogations using these techniques (including sleep deprivation) actually started on 23 Nov 2002, a week before Rumsfeld gave his approval of them.
29 Dec 2002 The US military issued a statement denying stories that its prisoners in Afghanistan were being tortured, or that the CIA had a secret base there.
2002-03 generally Administration officials, particularly Cheney and Rumsfeld, pressure the CIA to come up with a link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda.
"Cheney's and Rumsfeld's people were told repeatedly, by CIA . . . and by others, that there wasn't any reliable intelligence that pointed to operational ties between bin Laden and Saddam, and that no such ties were likely because the two were fundamentally enemies, not allies."
Senior administration officials, however, "blew that off and kept insisting that we'd overlooked something, that the interrogators weren't pushing hard enough, that there had to be something more we could do to get that information," he said. McClatchy 21 Apr 2009
3 Mar 2003 US officials report that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) has been arrested in Pakistan and transferred to US custody for questioning. KSM is subjected to waterboarding, [winning] the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess. It is later revealed that KSM was waterboarded "183 times during March 2003...."
20 Mar 2003 The invasion of Iraq begins. On 1 May, Bush announced that "major combat operations in Iraq have ended." He adds: "And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because the regime is no more."
No weapons of mass destruction are ever found in Iraq.
14 May 2003 John Yoo wrties a second memo which basically says the president can do anything he wants in time of war:
[F]ederal criminal laws of general applicability do not apply to properly~authorized interrogations of enemy combatants, undertaken by military personnel in the course of an armed conflict. Such criminal statutes, if they were misconstrued to apply to the interrogation of enemy combatants, would conflict with the Constitution's. grant of the Commander in Chief power solely to the President. Yoo memo PDF
14 Dec 2003 Saddam Hussein is captured. Although news stories at the time report that he was found in a hole in the ground after "torture lite" of captured bodyguards, later reports tell a different story, including that Saddam was captured by Kurds, who drugged him and turned him over to US authorities.
April 2004 The Abu Ghraib scandal breaks.
13 May 2004 The BBC posts one of the early stories suggesting the CIA is using "brutal" interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.
June 2004 Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith orders both Yoo memos withdrawn. He directs Daniel Levin in the OLC to write a new memo. That same month, Goldsmith is forced by pressure from the White House and from Cheney counsel David Addington to resign.
23 Jun 2004 In response to the revelation of the 2002 Yoo/Bybee memo, DoJ disavows the memo. Bush denies ordering prisoners at GTMO tortured. "Let me make very clear the position of my government and our country: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture."
28 Jun 2004 The Supreme Court rules in Hamdi v Rumsfeld that detainees at GTMO were entitled to legal due process, rejecting the administration's claim of expansive executive powers in wartime.
7 Jul 2004 Alberto Mora, general counsel for the US Navy, writes a memo (PDF) summarizing the history to date of abuse of detainees at GTMO and his office's attempts to stop it. The memo dismisses the legal arguments in Yoo's memos. Mora's memo is buried and he is forced to retire. (See this New Yorker article of 27 Feb 2006 for more on the Mora saga.)
30 Dec 2004 The OLC publishes Daniel Levin's memo, stating that:
Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms. This universal repudiation of torture is reflected in our criminal law....
There is no exception under the statute permitting torture to be used
for a "good reason." Thus, a defendant's motive (to protect national security, for example) is not relevant to the question whether he has acted with the requisite specific intent under the statute. Memorandum by Daniel Levin (PDF)
Levin's memo replaces the Yoo memos. There is a report that Gonzalez, who was about to take over as Attorney General, blocked Levin from finishing a second memo which would have examined specific techniques, including waterboarding, to determine if they fell within the definition of torture.
10 May 2005 Steven Bradbury of the OLC issues a new memo (PDF)m, which, apparently, finish the job Levin was not allowed to do, and from what I can see replaces Levin's December 2004. In it, he finds that
although extended sleep deprivation and use of the waterboard present more substantial questions in certain respect under the statute and the use of the waterboard raises the most substantial issue-none of these specific techniques, considered individually, would violate the prohibition [against torture]."
Bradbury issues two other memos in May (PDF and PDF) further providing legal cover. But it seems clear from the timeline that in the period of June 2004, when the Yoo memos were rescinded, and certainly from December 2004 with the Levin memo, until May 2005, the issuance of the Bradbury memos, there was no legal cover from OLC allowing torture. When the existence (though not the actual content) of the Bradbury memos became known in October 2007, Dana Perino, Bush's spokesperson, denied that any torture was taking place or that the Levin memo had been rescinded.
June 2005 Philip Zelikow, legal adviser to now-SoS Rice, writes a memo in which he takes issue with each of the justifications offered by the Bradbury memos. The Bush White House attempted to collect and destroy all copies of the memo.
18 Nov 2005 ABC News learns about, and reports on, some of the specific CIA interrogation techniques being used, including waterboarding and also rendition to third-party countries. The CIA declines to comment.
26 Jan 2006 Bush insists Americans are not allowed to torture. "No American will be allowed to torture another human being anywhere in the world...."
23 May 2006 US rejects charges by Amnesty International that it is torturing prisoners at GTMO.
26 Sep 2006 The Senate passes the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which approves torture for detainees, in effect reversing Hamdan. Then-Senator Barack Obama delivered a speech on the Senate floor in which he accused his colleagues of cutting corners and betraying American values.
September 2006 The International Committee of the Red Cross visits Guantanamo and conducts unsupervised interviews with 14 "high-value" detainees.
25 Oct 2006 In a radio interview, VP Dick Cheney "endorses" waterboarding of teror suspects, calling it a "no-brainer."
28 Oct 2006 Bush denies that Cheney meant waterboarding or any similar technique, saying "This country doesn’t torture, we’re not going to torture."
14 Feb 2007 The Red Cross delivers to the Bush administration its report detailing torture of prisoners at GTMO. In keeping with standard Red Cross practice, it keeps the report (PDF) confidential until it is leaked by an unknown source in March 2009, though information in the report does make its way into Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side (New York Times 11 Jul 2008).
6 Oct 2007 Bush defends CIA tactics, saying its methods are necessary and legal and do not constitute torture.
22 Jan 2009 On his second full day in office, President Barack Obama issues an executive order requiring that treatment and interrogation of all detainees be in accord Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions - in other words, no more torture.
2 Mar 2009 President Obama orders the release of several previously classified memos, including the Yoo and Bybee memos, but not the 2005 Bradbury memos.
17 Apr 2009 As ordered by President Obama, DoJ releases copies of the Bradbury memos.