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Torture, Rendition, and other Abuses against Captives in US Custody

Attempts to conceal or cover up illegal US interrogation methods and other prisoner abuses

Project: Prisoner Abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Elsewhere
Open-Content project managed by Derek, KJF, mtuck

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The US deports Hani El-Sayegh, a Saudi National who is a suspect in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing (see June 25, 1996), back to Saudi Arabia. [Grey, 2007, pp. 247] The deportation is approved by a US judge. [Washington Post, 10/29/2000]
History - In 1996, el-Sayegh, who had been living in Iran, moved to Kuwait. He later went to Canada, where he cut a deal with American officials that called for him to plead guilty in an unrelated plot against Americans in Saudi Arabia that was never carried out. In 1997, Canada expelled el-Sayegh for suspected terrorist activity. Attorney General Janet Reno allowed him into the United States solely for prosecution under the pact. But after arriving, he said he had not understood the accord, knew nothing about the Khobar attack, and was out of Saudi Arabia when the bombing occurred. Despite this, the Saudis suspected him of being present at the bombing and his brother was held in connection with it, and allegedly tortured in a Saudi jail. [New York Times, 10/12/1999]
Agreement - The deportation follows an agreement between FBI Director Louis Freeh and Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister. Under the agreement, el-Sayagh is returned to Saudi Arabia, and, according to officials familiar with the arrangement, FBI agents will be allowed to watch his interrogation through a one-way mirror and submit questions to his Saudi inquisitors. Washington Post journalist David Vine will comment, “Such practices are sharply at odds with Freeh’s oft-stated message about the FBI’s need to respect human dignity and the tenets of democracy while fighting crime.” Although FBI officials will say a year later they have not seen any indication that el-Sayegh has been tortured, Vine will add, “But agents say privately that when entering a foreign culture to do police work they do not have control over how prisoners are treated and must tread lightly.” [Washington Post, 10/29/2000]
Khobar Towers Attack Could Have Been Prosecuted in US - The Khobar Towers attacks may have been in Saudi Arabia, but were against US nationals, so suspects can be prosecuted in the US. Tony Karon of Time magazine will express surprise at the deportation: “Run that one by again: The United States doesn’t want to try a man suspected of a bomb attack that killed Americans—and they’re sending him home?!” However, the Justice Department apparently thinks there is not enough evidence to try him in the US, and, according to Time correspondent William Dowell, “Clearly, there’s a lower standard of proof in Saudi courts,” so, “It may be easier for Washington if the Saudis handle the trial—and the execution, which would likely follow.”
Possible Geopolitical Motive - According to Karon, an alternative explanation is that geopolitics may be behind the decision: “Sending el-Sayegh… back to Saudi Arabia could solve another touchy problem for Washington.” This is because President Clinton said the US would retaliate against any government that was involved in the attacks, and an Iranian hand is suspected in the bombing. However, according to Time Middle East bureau chief Scott Macleod: “the attack occurred before the election of President Khatami, who has clearly demonstrated a commitment to end state terrorism and normalize Iran’s relations with the rest of the world. Given Washington’s desire to strengthen his reformist government against its hard-line opponents, the US would be unlikely to take military action against Iran unless there were fresh acts of terrorism.” [Time, 10/5/1999]

Entity Tags: Louis J. Freeh, Janet Reno, Hani El-Sayegh, Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Tony Karon, Scott Macleod, William Dowell

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Detainments, Rendition before 9/11

In late 2001 or early 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld creates Operation Copper Green, which is a “special access program” with “blanket advance approval to kill or capture and, if possible, interrogate ‘high value’ targets.” especially al-Qaeda leaders (see Late 2001-Early 2002). According to a Pentagon counterterrorism consultant involved in the operation, the authorizations are “very calibrated” and vague in order to minimize political risk. “The CIA never got the exact language it wanted.” According to a high-level CIA official involved in the operation, the White House would hint to the CIA that the CIA should operate outside official guidelines to do what it wants to do. The CIA will later deny this, but CIA Director George Tenet will later acknowledge that there had been a struggle “to get clear guidance” in terms of how far to go during detainee interrogations. Slowly, official authorizations are expanded, and according to journalist Seymour Hersh, they turn “several nations in North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia into free-fire zones with regard to high-value targets.” But Copper Green has top-level secrecy and runs outside normal bureaucracies and rules. According to Hersh, “In special cases, the task forces could bypass the chain of command and deal directly with Rumsfeld’s office.” One CIA officer tells Hersh that the task-force teams “had full authority to whack—to go in and conduct ‘executive action,’” meaning political assassination. The officer adds, “It was surrealistic what these guys were doing. They were running around the world without clearing their operations with the ambassador or the chief of station.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007] Another former intelligence official tells Hersh, “The rules are ‘Grab whom you must. Do what you want.’” [Guardian, 9/13/2004] The above-mentioned high-level CIA official will claim, “The dirt and secrets are in the back channel. All this open business—sitting in staff meetings, etc…, etc…—is the Potemkin Village stuff.” Over time, people with reservations about the program get weeded out. The official claims that by 2006, “the good guys… are gone.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, Central Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld, Operation Copper Green, White House, George J. Tenet

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Impunity, High-level Decisions and Actions, Operation Copper Green

In the first months after 9/11, the FBI is generally in charge of captured al-Qaeda detainees and the assumption is that these detainees will be sent to the US for criminal prosecutions. However, beginning in January 2002, this policy begins to change. The highest ranking al-Qaeda detainee in US custody at the time, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, is transfered from FBI to CIA custody and then flown to Egypt to be tortured by the Egyptian government (see January 2002 and After). ]]). Also in January, the CIA, not the FBI, begins secretly flying detainees to the US-controlled prison in Guantanamo, Cuba (see January 14, 2002-2005). Journalist James Risen will later comment, “By choosing the CIA over the FBI, [President] Bush was rejecting the law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that had been favored during the Clinton era. Bush had decided that al-Qaeda was a national security threat, not a law enforcement problem, and he did not want al-Qaeda operatives brought back to face trial in the United States, where they would come under the strict rules of the American legal system.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 28] This change of policy culminates in the arrest of Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). The Washington Post will later report, “In March 2002, Abu Zubaida was captured, and the interrogation debate between the CIA and FBI began anew. This time, when FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III decided to withhold FBI involvement, it was a signal that the tug of war was over. ‘Once the CIA was given the green light… they had the lead role,’ said a senior FBI counterterrorism official.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] The CIA decides that Guantanamo is too public and involves too many US agencies to hold important al-Qaeda detainees. By the time Zubaida is captured the CIA has already set up a secret prison in Thailand, and Zubaida is flown there just days after his capture (see March 2002). Risen will comment, “The CIA wanted secret locations where it could have complete control over the interrogations and debriefings, free from the prying eyes of the international media, free from monitoring by human rights groups, and most important, far from the jurisdiction of the American legal system.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 29-30]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Abu Zubaida, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert S. Mueller III, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: High-level Decisions and Actions, Key Events, Abu Zubaida, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Coverup, Impunity, Destruction of CIA Tapes

John Yoo, a neoconservative lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel serving as deputy assistant attorney general, writes a classified memo to senior Pentagon counsel William J. Haynes, titled “Application of Treaties and Law to al-Qaeda and Taliban Detainees.” [New York Times, 5/21/2004]
Yoo: Geneva Conventions Do Not Apply in War on Terror - Yoo’s memo, written in conjunction with fellow Justice Department lawyer Robert Delahunty, echoes arguments by another Justice Department lawyer, Patrick Philbin, two months earlier (see November 6, 2001). Yoo states that, in his view, the laws of war, including the Geneva Conventions, do not apply to captured Taliban or al-Qaeda prisoners, nor do they apply to the military commissions set up to try such prisoners.
Geneva Superseded by Presidential Authority - Yoo’s memo goes even farther, arguing that no international laws apply to the US whatsoever, because they do not have any status under US federal law. “As a result,” Yoo and Delahunty write, “any customary international law of armed conflict in no way binds, as a legal matter, the president or the US armed forces concerning the detention or trial of members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.” In essence, Yoo and Delahunty argue that President Bush and the US military have carte blanche to conduct the global war on terrorism in any manner they see fit, without the restrictions of law or treaty. However, the memo says that while the US need not follow the rules of war, it can and should prosecute al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees for violating those same laws—a legal double standard that provokes sharp criticism when the memo comes to light in May 2004 (see May 21, 2004). Yoo and Delahunty write that while this double standard may seem “at first glance, counter-intuitive,” such expansive legal powers are a product of the president’s constitutional authority “to prosecute the war effectively.” The memo continues, “Restricting the president’s plenary power over military operations (including the treatment of prisoners)” would be “constitutionally dubious.” [Mother Jones, 1/9/2002; US Department of Justice, 6/9/2002 pdf file; Newsweek, 5/21/2004; New York Times, 5/21/2004]
Overriding International Legal Concerns - Yoo warns in the memo that international law experts may not accept his reasoning, as there is no legal precedent giving any country the right to unilaterally ignore its commitment to Geneva or any other such treaty, but Yoo writes that Bush, by invoking “the president’s commander in chief and chief executive powers to prosecute the war effectively,” can simply override any objections. “Importing customary international law notions concerning armed conflict would represent a direct infringement on the president’s discretion as commander in chief and chief executive to determine how best to conduct the nation’s military affairs.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 146] The essence of Yoo’s argument, a Bush official later says, is that the law “applies to them, but it doesn’t apply to us.” [Newsweek, 5/21/2004] Navy general counsel Alberto Mora later says of the memo that it “espoused an extreme and virtually unlimited theory of the extent of the president’s commander-in-chief authority.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 181]
White House Approval - White House counsel and future Attorney General Alberto Gonzales agrees (see January 25, 2002), saying, “In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions.” [Mother Jones, 1/9/2002]
Spark for Prisoner Abuses - Many observers believe that Yoo’s memo is the spark for the torture and prisoner abuses later reported from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison (see Evening November 7, 2003), Guantanamo Bay (see December 28, 2001), and other clandestine prisoner detention centers (see March 2, 2007). The rationale is that since Afghanistan is what Yoo considers a “failed state,” with no recognizable sovereignity, its militias do not have any status under any international treaties. [Newsweek, 5/21/2004; Newsweek, 5/24/2004]
Resistance from Inside, Outside Government - Within days, the State Department will vehemently protest the memo, but to no practical effect (see January 25, 2002).

Entity Tags: Patrick F. Philbin, Robert J. Delahunty, US Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Taliban, John C. Yoo, Colin Powell, Geneva Conventions, Al-Qaeda, George W. Bush, Alberto Mora, US Department of State, Alberto R. Gonzales, William J. Haynes

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Human Rights Groups, Legal Proceedings, Internal Memos/Reports, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Key Events

President Bush says of the detainees held at Guantanamo prison in Cuba, “We are adhering to the spirit of the Geneva Convention. They’re being well treated.” He also says, “We are not going to call them prisoners of war. And the reason why is al-Qaeda is not a known military. These are killers, these are terrorists, they know no countries.” [Associated Press, 1/29/2002]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, Public Statements, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

After the capture of al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002), the US government is forced to review procedures on how Zubaida and future detainees should be treated. One CIA source will later say, “Abu Zubaida’s capture triggered everything.” The legal basis for harsh interrogations is murky at best, and the Justice Department will not give any legal guidelines to the CIA until August 2002, after Zubaida has already been tortured (see March 28-August 1, 2002 and August 1, 2002).
Bush Kept out of Discussions - New York Times reporter James Risen will later claim in a 2006 book that after showing some initial interest in Zubaida’s treatment (see Late March 2002), President Bush is mysteriously absent from any internal debates about the treatment of detainees. The CIA’s Office of Inspector General later investigates evidence of the CIA’s involvement in detainee abuse, and concludes in a secret report that Bush is never officially briefed on the interrogation tactics used. Earlier meetings are chaired by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and attended by, among others, Vice President Cheney’s chief lawyer David Addington, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo, White House lawyer Timothy Flanigan, and Pentagon chief counsel William J. Haynes. Later, CIA Director George Tenet gives briefings on the tactics to a small group of top officials, including Vice President Cheney, National Security Adviser Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and future Attorney General Gonzales, but not Bush.
CIA: 'No Presidential Approval' Needed for Torture - Risen will note that “Normally, such high-stakes—and very secret—CIA activities would be carefully vetted by the White House and legally authorized in writing by the president under what are known as presidential findings. Such directives are required by Congress when the CIA engages in covert action.” But through a legal sleight-of-hand, the CIA determines the interrogations should be considered a normal part of “intelligence collection” and not a covert action, so no specific presidential approval is needed. Risen concludes: “Certainly, Cheney and senior White House officials knew that Bush was purposely not being briefed and that the CIA was not being given written presidential authorization for its tactics. It appears that there was a secret agreement among very senior administration officials to insulate Bush and to give him deniability, even as his vice president and senior lieutenants were meeting to discuss the harsh new interrogation methods. President Bush was following a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy on the treatment of prisoners.” Later, Flanigan will say of the meetings, “My overwheming impression is that everyone was focused on trying to avoid torture, staying within the line, while doing everything possible to save American lives.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 23-27; Savage, 2007, pp. 154]

Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, John C. Yoo, William J. Haynes, Timothy E. Flanigan, John Ashcroft, David S. Addington, George W. Bush, Abu Zubaida, James Risen, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Alberto R. Gonzales, Condoleezza Rice

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Destruction of CIA Tapes, Abu Zubaida

Captured al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002), after recovering somewhat from three gunshot wounds inflicted during his capture, is transferred to a secret CIA prison in Thailand, presumably the revamped Vietnam War-era base in Udorn. [Weiner, 2007, pp. 297; Washington Post, 4/22/2009] In late 2006, after being transferred to Guantanamo, Zubaida will tell representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross the story of his interrogation in Thailand (see October 6 - December 14, 2006). Zubaida becomes what CIA interrogator John Kiriakou will later call “a test case for an evolving new role… in which the agency was to act as jailer and interrogator of terrorism suspects” (see September 17, 2001).
New Tactics To Be Used - Officials from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program are involved in Zubaida’s interrogations. SERE officials have prepared a program of so-called “harsh interrogation methods,” many of which are classified as torture under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture (see December 2001 and July 2002). A 2009 Senate report (see April 21, 2009) will find: “At some point in the first six months of 2002, JPRA [the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency] assisted with the preparation of a [redacted name], sent to interrogate a high-level al-Qaeda operative.” Further investigation will prove that the person whose name will be redacted is, indeed, Zubaida. According to a June 20, 2002 memo, the SERE officials’ participation in the Zubaida interrogation is “training.” JPRA psychologist Bruce Jessen, one of the authors of the JPRA torture methodology (see January 2002 and After), suggests that “exploitation strategies” be used against Zubaida. Jessen’s collaborator on the torture proposal, James Mitchell, is present for Zubaida’s torture; Mitchell plays a central role in the decision to use what the CIA calls an “increased pressure phase” against Zubaida. [Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
First Weeks Shackled and Sleep-Deprived - Zubaida will begin his narrative after his initial, and successful, interrogation by FBI agents (see Late March through Early June, 2002). He spends the first weeks of his captivity shackled to a chair, denied solid food, and kept awake. In Zubaida’s words: “I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can’t remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by [the] hands and feet for what I think was the next two to three weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket. Water for cleaning myself was provided in a plastic bottle. I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure [a nutrient supplement] and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time. The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise. The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks. During this first two to three week period I was questioned for about one to two hours each day. American interrogators would come to the room and speak to me through the bars of the cell. During the questioning the music was switched off, but was then put back on again afterwards. I could not sleep at all for the first two to three weeks. If I started to fall asleep one of the guards would come and spray water in my face.” In 2009, author Mark Danner will write: “One can translate these procedures into terms of art: ‘Change of Scenery Down.’ ‘Removal of Clothing.’ ‘Use of Stress Positions.’ ‘Dietary Manipulation.’ ‘Environmental Manipulation.’ ‘Sleep Adjustment.’ ‘Isolation.’ ‘Sleep Deprivation.’ ‘Use of Noise to Induce Stress.’ All these terms and many others can be found, for example, in documents associated with the debate about interrogation and ‘counter-resistance’ carried on by Pentagon and Justice Department officials beginning in 2002. Here, however, we find a different standard: the [proposed regulations say], for example, that ‘Sleep Deprivation’ is ‘not to exceed four days in succession,’ that ‘Dietary Manipulation’ should include ‘no intended deprivation of food or water,’ that ‘removal of clothing,” while ‘creating a feeling of helplessness and dependence,’ must be ‘monitored to ensure the environmental conditions are such that this technique does not injure the detainee.’ Here we are in a different place.”
CIA Team Moves In - The first weeks of Zubaida’s captivity are maintained by a small team of FBI agents and interrogators, but soon a team from the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center takes over. As Kiriakou will later recall: “We had these trained interrogators who were sent to his location to use the enhanced techniques as necessary to get him to open up, and to report some threat information.… These enhanced techniques included everything from what was called an attention shake, where you grab the person by their lapels and shake them, all the way up to the other end, which is waterboarding.” After the initial period of captivity, Zubaida is allowed to sleep with less interruption, stretched out naked and shackled on the bare floor. He is also given solid food for the first time in weeks—rice. A female doctor examines him and asks why he is still naked; he is, he will recall, “provided with orange clothes to wear.” The clothes only last a day, though: “[G]uards came into my cell,” Zubaida will recall. “They told me to stand up and raise my arms above my head. They then cut the clothes off of me so that I was again naked and put me back on the chair for several days. I tried to sleep on the chair, but was again kept awake by the guards spraying water in my face.”
Alternating Harsh and Lenient Treatments - For the next few weeks, Zubaida’s treatment veers from abusive to almost lenient. Mostly he is kept naked and confined to his cell, often suffering from intense cold in the frigid air-conditioned environment. One official later tells the ICRC that often he “seemed to turn blue.” Clothing is provided, then taken away. Zubaida will tell ICRC officials: “When my interrogators had the impression that I was cooperating and providing the information they required, the clothes were given back to me. When they felt I was being less cooperative the clothes were again removed and I was again put back on the chair.” For a time he is given a mattress to sleep on; sometimes he is “allowed some tissue paper to use when going to toilet on the bucket.” A month goes by with no interrogations. He will recall: “My cell was still very cold and the loud music no longer played but there was a constant loud hissing or crackling noise, which played 24 hours a day. I tried to block out the noise by putting tissue in my ears.” Then, “about two and half or three months after I arrived in this place, the interrogation began again, but with more intensity than before.” Danner will write that he isn’t sure if the wild swings in procedures are intentional, meant to keep Zubaida off-guard, or, as he will write, “resulted from disputes about strategy among the interrogators, who were relying on a hastily assembled ‘alternative set of procedures’ that had been improvised from various sources, including scientists and psychiatrists within the intelligence community, experts from other, ‘friendly’ governments, and consultants who had worked with the US military and now ‘reverse-engineered’ the resistance training taught to American elite forces to help them withstand interrogation after capture.” Danner notes that some CIA documents going back to the 1960s advocate subjecting the captive to sensory deprivation and disorientation, and instilling feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness. The old CIA documents say that captives should be kept in a state of “debility-dependence-dread.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]
Justice Department's 'Ticking Bomb' Scenario - The August 2002 “golden shield” memo from the Justice Department (see August 1, 2002) will use what is often called the “ticking bomg scenario”—the supposition that a terror attack is imminent and only torture can extract time-critical information from a terrorist detainee to give US officials a chance to stop the attack—to justify Zubaida’s torture. According to CIA reports, Zubaida has information regarding “terrorist networks in the United States” and “plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas.” But Brent Mickum, who later becomes one of Zubaida’s attorneys, will say that he believes the Justice Department memo retroactively approved coercive tactics that had already been used. “If torture occurred before the memo was written, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, and the writing of the memo is potentially criminal,” Mickum will note. [Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
Interrogations Continue in June - Sometime in June, Zubaida will once again be interrogated (see June 2002).

Jay Bybee.Jay Bybee. [Source: Public domain]The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) sends a non-classified memo to White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, offering the opinion that a policy allowing suspected al-Qaeda members to be tortured abroad “may be justified.” [US Department of Justice, 8/1/2002 pdf file] This memo will later be nicknamed the “Golden Shield” by insiders in the hopes that it will protect government officials from later being charged with war crimes (see April 2002 and After). [ABC News, 4/9/2008]
Multiple Authors - The 50-page “torture memo” is signed and authored by Jay S. Bybee, head of OLC, and co-authored by John Yoo, a deputy assistant attorney general. It is later revealed that Yoo authored the memo himself, in close consultation with Vice President Cheney’s chief adviser David Addington, and Bybee just signed off on it (see December 2003-June 2004). [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] Deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan also contributed to the memo. Addington contributed the claim that the president may authorize any interrogation method, even if it is plainly torture. Addington’s reasoning: US and treaty law “do not apply” to the commander in chief, because Congress “may no more regulate the president’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.” [Washington Post, 6/25/2007]
Statute Only Prohibits 'Extreme Acts' - Gonzales had formally asked for the OLC’s legal opinion in response to a request by the CIA for legal guidance. A former administration official, quoted by the Washington Post, says the CIA “was prepared to get more aggressive and re-learn old skills, but only with explicit assurances from the top that they were doing so with the full legal authority the president could confer on them.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] “We conclude that the statute, taken as a whole,” Bybee and Yoo write, “makes plain that it prohibits only extreme acts.” Addressing the question of what exactly constitute such acts of an extreme nature, the authors proceed to define torture as the infliction of “physical pain” that is “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” Purely mental pain or suffering can also amount to “torture under Section 2340,” but only if it results “in significant psychological harm of significant duration, e.g. lasting for months or even years.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004]
Torture Legal and Defensible - Bybee and Yoo appear to conclude that any act short of torture, even though it may be cruel, inhuman or degrading, would be permissible. They examine, for example, “international decisions regarding the use of sensory deprivation techniques.” These cases, they notice, “make clear that while many of these techniques may amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, they do not produce pain or suffering of the necessary intensity to meet the definition of torture. From these decisions, we conclude that there is a wide range of such techniques that will not rise to the level of torture.” More astounding is Bybee and Yoo’s view that even torture can be defensible. “We conclude,” they write, “that, under the current circumstances, necessity or self-defense may justify interrogation methods that might violate Section 2340A.” Inflicting physical or mental pain might be justified, Bybee and Yoo argue, “in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network.” In other words, necessity or self-defense may justify torture. Moreover, “necessity and self-defense could provide justifications that would eliminate any criminal liability.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] International anti-torture rules, furthermore, “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” of suspected terrorists. [US News and World Report, 6/21/2004] Laws prohibiting torture would “not apply to the president’s detention and interrogation of enemy combatants” in the “war on terror,” because the president has constitutional authority to conduct a military campaign. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004]
Protecting US Officials from Prosecution - In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write: “In case an interrogator was ever prosecuted for violating the antitorture law (see October 21, 1994 and January 26, 1998, Yoo laid out page after page of legal defenses he could mount to get the charges dismissed. And should someone balk at this strained interpretation of the law, Yoo offered his usual trump card: Applying the antitorture law to interrogations authorized by the president would be unconstitutional, since only the commander in chief could set standards for questioning prisoners.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 155-156]
Virtually Unrestricted Authority of President - “As commander in chief,” the memo argues, “the president has the constitutional authority to order interrogations of enemy combatants to gain intelligence information concerning the military plans of the enemy.” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] According to some critics, this judgment—which will be echoed in a March 2003 draft Pentagon report (see March 6, 2003)—ignores important past rulings such as the 1952 Supreme Court decision in Youngstown Steel and Tube Co v. Sawyer, which determined that the president, even in wartime, is subject to US laws. [Washington Post, 6/9/2004] The memo also says that US Congress “may no more regulate the president’s ability to detain and interrogate enemy combatants than it may regulate his ability to direct troop movements on the battlefield.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2004]
Ashcroft Refuses to Release Memo - After the memo’s existence is revealed, Attorney General John Ashcroft denies senators’ requests to release it, and refuses to say if or how the president was involved in the discussion. “The president has a right to hear advice from his attorney general, in confidence,” he says. [New York Times, 6/8/2004; Bloomberg, 6/8/2004; Washington Post, 6/9/2004] Privately, Ashcroft is so irritated by Yoo’s hand-in-glove work with the White House that he begins disparagingly referring to him as “Dr. Yes.” [New York Times, 10/4/2007]
Only 'Analytical' - Responding to questions about the memo, White House press secretary Scott McClellan will claim that the memo “was not prepared to provide advice on specific methods or techniques,” but was “analytical.” But the 50-page memo seems to have been considered immensely important, given its length and the fact that it was signed by Bybee. “Given the topic and length of opinion, it had to get pretty high-level attention,” Beth Nolan, a former White House counsel from 1999-2001, will tell reporters. This view is confirmed by another former Office of Legal Counsel lawyer who says that unlike documents signed by deputies in the Office of Legal Counsel, memorandums signed by the Office’s head are considered legally binding. [Washington Post, 6/9/2004]
Memo Will be Withdrawn - Almost two years later, the OLC’s new head, Jack Goldsmith, will withdraw the torture memos, fearing that they go far beyond anything countenanced by US law (see December 2003-June 2004).
Memo Addresses CIA Concerns - The administration, particularly the axis of neoconservatives centered around Cheney’s office, has enthusiastically advocated the use of violent, abusive, and sometimes tortuous interrogation techniques, though the US has never endorsed such tactics before, and many experts say such techniques are counterproductive. The CIA, responding to the desires from the White House, hastily put together a rough program after consulting with intelligence officials from Egypt and Saudi Arabia, where detainees are routinely tortured and killed in captivity, and after studying methods used by former Soviet Union interrogators. The legal questions were continuous. The former deputy legal counsel for the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, Paul Kelbaugh, recalls in 2007: “We were getting asked about combinations—‘Can we do this and this at the same time?… These approved techniques, say, withholding food, and 50-degree temperature—can they be combined?’ Or ‘Do I have to do the less extreme before the more extreme?’” The “torture memo” is designed to address these concerns. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]

Entity Tags: John C. Yoo, Paul Kelbaugh, Timothy E. Flanigan, Scott McClellan, John Ashcroft, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Jay S. Bybee, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), David S. Addington, Alberto R. Gonzales, Beth Nolan, Al-Qaeda, Charlie Savage, Central Intelligence Agency, Jack Goldsmith

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Internal Memos/Reports, Destruction of CIA Tapes, Key Events

Although some members of both the House and Senate intelligence committees are briefed about a CIA detainee interrogation program around this time (see September 2002), the briefing is not received by all committee members. Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D-FL) will later say that the information is not shared with all committee members because the activities are regarded as covert. Within the intelligence committees, the information is restricted to the “gang of four”—the two top members from each committee. Graham will later complain about this: “Not only should I have been briefed [about the CIA interrogation program] but the entire committee [should have] been briefed. The only basis for what they called these covert gang of four briefings is where the president has indicated there’s an action that’s being undertaken for which the United States wants to have deniability. It’s not a blanket for every subject that the intelligence community might be involved with. In my judgment, this was not a covert operation and should have been briefed to the entire intelligence committee.” [CNN, 12/13/2007] However, President Bush, who would usually be briefed on activities like the interrogation program, is not briefed on it, precisely because it is not regarded as a covert activity, but is classified as a normal part of “intelligence collection” (see April 2002 and After).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Senate Intelligence Committee, Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, House Intelligence Committee

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes

David Brant, the head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), learns of the horrific abuse of a Saudi detainee, Mohamed al-Khatani (sometimes spelled “al-Qahtani”—see February 11, 2008), currently detained at Guantanamo Bay. Al-Khatani is one of several terror suspects dubbed the “missing 20th hijacker”; according to the FBI, al-Khatani was supposed to be on board the hijacked aircraft that crashed in a Pennsylvania field on 9/11 (see (10:06 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Al-Khatani was apprehended in Afghanistan a few months after the terrorist attacks. He is one of the examples of prisoner abuse (see August 8, 2002-January 15, 2003) that Brant takes to Naval General Counsel Alberto Mora (see December 17-18, 2002). In 2006, Brant will say that he believes the Army’s interrogation of al-Khatani was unlawful. If any NCIS agent had engaged in such abuse, he will say, “we would have relieved, removed, and taken internal disciplinary action against the individual—let alone whether outside charges would have been brought.” Brant fears that such extreme methods will taint the cases to be brought against the detainees and undermine any efforts to prosecute them in military or civilian courts. Confessions elicited by such tactics are unreliable. And, Brant will say, “it just ain’t right.” [New Yorker, 2/27/2006]

Entity Tags: David Brant, Alberto Mora, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohamed al-Khatani

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Indications of Abuse, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba), Mohamed al-Khatani

David Brant, the head of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), approaches Naval General Counsel Alberto Mora about the abuse of detainees in US custody at Guantanamo, abuse perhaps authorized at a “high level” in Washington. Brant is in charge of a team of NCIS agents working with the FBI at Guantanamo, called the Criminal Investigative Task Force. The task force’s job is to obtain incriminating information from the detainees for use in future trials or tribunals.
Troubling Information - Brant has learned troubling information about the interrogations at Guantanamo (see Early December, 2002). Brant had never discussed anything so sensitive with Mora before, and later recalls, “I wasn’t sure how he would react.” Brant had already discussed the allegations of abuse with Army officials, since they have command authority over the detainees, and to Air Force officials as well, but goes to Mora after deciding that no one in either branch seems to care. He is not hopeful that Mora will feel any differently.
Worried about Abuse - Brant goes to Mora because, he will recall, he didn’t want his investigators to “in any way observe, condone, or participate in any level of physical or in-depth psychological abuse. No slapping, deprivation of water, heat, dogs, psychological abuse. It was pretty basic, black and white to me.… I didn’t know or care what the rules were that had been set by the Department of Defense at that point. We were going to do what was morally, ethically, and legally permissible.” Brant had ordered his task force members to “stand clear and report” any abusive tactics that they might witness.
Mora 'Rocked' - Brant is not disappointed in Mora’s reactions. A military official who works closely with Brant will later recall that the news “rocked” Mora. The official will add that Mora “was visionary about this,” adding, “He quickly grasped the fact that these techniques in the hands of people with this little training spelled disaster.” Brant asks if Mora wants to hear more about the situation; Mora will write in a 2004 memo (see July 7, 2004), “I responded that I felt I had to.”
Second Meeting - Brant meets with Mora the next day, and shows Mora part of the transcript of the [Mohamed al-Khatani] interrogations. Mora is shocked when Brant tells him that the abuse was not “rogue activity,” but apparently sanctioned by the highest levels in the Bush administration. Mora will write in his memo, “I was under the opinion that the interrogation activities described would be unlawful and unworthy of the military services.” Mora will recall in a 2006 interview: “I was appalled by the whole thing. It was clearly abusive, and it was clearly contrary to everything we were ever taught about American values.” Shocked, Mora will learn more from his counterpart in the Army (see December 18, 2002), and determine that the abusive practices need to be terminated.
Meeting with Pentagon Lawyer - He will bring his concerns to the Pentagon’s general counsel, William J. Haynes, and will leave that meeting hopeful that Haynes will put an end to the extreme measures being used at Guantanamo (see December 20, 2002). But when Mora returns from Christmas vacation, he will learn that Haynes has done nothing. Mora will continue to argue against the torture of detainees (see Early January, 2003). [New Yorker, 2/27/2006; Vanity Fair, 5/2008]

Entity Tags: William J. Haynes, David Brant, Alberto Mora, Naval Criminal Investigative Service, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Indications of Abuse, Reports/Investigations, Internal Memos/Reports, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Alberto Mora, the Navy’s general counsel, has learned that possibly illegal interrogation techniques are being used against Guantanamo Bay detainees (see December 17-18, 2002). After getting the authorization of Gordon England, the secretary of the Navy, Mora meets with the Pentagon’s general counsel, William J. Haynes, in Haynes’s Pentagon office.
Meeting with Pentagon Counsel - In 2006, Mora will recall telling Haynes in the meeting that whatever its intent, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s decision to allow extreme interrogation techniques (see December 2, 2002) is “torture.” Haynes replies, “No, it isn’t.” Mora asks Haynes to reconsider his opinions. For example, what does “deprivation of light and auditory stimuli” mean? Detention in a completely dark cell? For how long? Until he goes blind? And what does the phrase “exploitation of phobias” entail? Could it mean holding a detainee in a coffin? Threatening him with dogs, or rats? Can an interrogator drive a detainee insane? Mora notes that at the bottom of Rumsfeld’s memo, he asks why a detainee can be forced to stand for no longer than four hours a day when he himself often stands “for 8-10 hours a day.” While Rumsfeld may have intended to be humorous, Mora notes that Rumsfeld’s comment could be used as a defense argument in future terrorist trials. (In 2006, Lawrence Wilkerson will say of Rumsfeld’s comment: “It said, ‘Carte blanche, guys.’ That’s what started them down the slope. You’ll have My Lais then. Once you pull this thread, the whole fabric unravels.”) Mora leaves the office hoping that Haynes will come around to his point of view and convince Rumsfeld to withdraw the memo. He will be sharply disappointed (see July 7, 2004). [New Yorker, 2/27/2006] He later calls the interrogation practices “unlawful and unworthy of the military services.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 179]
Haynes Close to Cheney's Office - Mora may not be aware that in meeting with Haynes, he is also in effect engaging the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. Haynes is a protege of Cheney’s neoconservative chief of staff, David Addington. Haynes worked as Addington’s special assistant when Addington served under then-Defense Secretary Cheney in 1989, and Addington promoted Haynes to the office of general counsel of the Army. When George W. Bush took office in 2001, Haynes was awarded the position of the Pentagon’s general counsel. Addington has played key roles in almost all of the administration’s legal arguments in favor of extreme interrogation techniques and detainee policies. One former government lawyer will describe Addington as “the Octopus” because his hands seem to reach into every legal issue. Many of Haynes’s colleagues know that information moves rapidly between Haynes’s and Cheney’s offices. While not a hardline neoconservative like Addington and many other Cheney staffers, Haynes is, as one former Pentagon colleague will call him, “pliant” to serving the agenda of the vice president. [New Yorker, 2/27/2006]

Entity Tags: Alberto Mora, Gordon England, David S. Addington, William J. Haynes, Lawrence Wilkerson, Donald Rumsfeld, US Department of Defense, George W. Bush, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

The US military responds to recent media stories about the torture and abuse of suspected al-Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan by denying that any such treatment takes place. Recent articles in the Washington Post have claimed that detainees held at Bagram Air Force Base were subjected to “stress and duress” techniques (see December 26, 2002). These techniques include “stress positions,” where detainees are shackled or strapped into painful positions and kept there for hours, and sleep deprivation. US military spokesman Major Steve Clutter denies the allegations. “The article was false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram; there is a facility run by the US Army,” he says (see October 2001). “However, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that persons under control of the US Army have been mistreated. The United States Army is treating enemy combatants under government control, humanely, and in conditions that are generally better than they were experiencing before we placed them under our control” (see December 2001 and After, Late 2002, January 2002, March 15, 2002, April-May 2002, April-May 2002, Late May 2002, June 4, 2002-early August 2002, June 5, 2002, July 2002, August 22, 2002, November 30-December 3, 2002, Late 2002-February 2004, Late 2002 - March 15, 2004, December 2002, December 2002, December 1, 2002, December 5-9, 2002, December 8, 2002-March 2003, and December 10, 2002). Clutter also denies that detainees have been subjected to “rendition”—being turned over to foreign governments who routinely torture prisoners. Instead, he says, most prisoners held at Bagram were released after being interrogated in a process overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross. “I would like to point out that persons under US government control who come to Bagram are not automatically deemed to be terrorists or enemy combatants,” Clutter says. “When they arrive, they go through an interview process to determine whether they are enemy combatants or have information that can help us prevent terrorist attacks against Americans or attacks against US forces. If they are deemed to be enemy combatants or pose a danger, they become detainees. If they are not, they are ultimately released.” [Agence France-Presse, 12/29/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Central Intelligence Agency, International Committee of the Red Cross, Stephen Clutter, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Reports/Investigations, Bagram (Afghanistan)

Alberto Mora, the Navy’s general counsel, learns to his dismay that the torturing and abuse of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is continuing (see December 17-18, 2002), even after a meeting with the Pentagon’s chief counsel, William J. Haynes. Mora had hoped that Haynes would put a stop to the extreme techniques being used (see December 20, 2002). Mora has read an article in the Washington Post detailing allegations of CIA mistreatment of prisoners at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan; the story notes that the director of Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, believes that US officials who knew about such treatment could be charged with crimes under the doctrine of command responsibility. [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; New Yorker, 2/27/2006] The specific allegations detailed in the story closely parallel what Mora knows were authorized at Guantanamo Bay. Mora continues to argue against the intense interrogation techniques, and his arguments quickly reach the ears of top Pentagon officials such as Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz; Captain Jane Dalton, the legal adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke; and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had authorized harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo a month before (see December 2, 2002). [New Yorker, 2/27/2006]

Entity Tags: Victoria (“Torie”) Clarke, Kenneth Roth, Alberto Mora, Paul Wolfowitz, Central Intelligence Agency, Jane Dalton, Donald Rumsfeld, William J. Haynes

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

The Navy’s general counsel, Alberto Mora, is angered at the lack of response to his attempts to persuade the Pentagon to stop abusing prisoners at Guantanamo and is particularly frustrated with the Pentagon’s general counsel, William J. Haynes (see December 20, 2002 and January 9, 2003 and After). Mora decides to take a step that he knows will antagonize Haynes, who always warns subordinates never to put anything controversial in writing or in e-mail messages. Mora delivers an unsigned draft memo of his objections to Haynes, and tells him that he intends to “sign it out” that afternoon—thereby making it an official document—unless the harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo stop. Mora’s memo describes the interrogations at Guantanamo as “at a minimum cruel and unusual treatment, and, at worst, torture.”
'Working Group to Be Created - Haynes calls Mora later that day with good news: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is suspending his authorization of the disputed interrogation techniques (see December 2, 2002) and is appointing a “working group” of lawyers from all branches of the armed forces to develop new interrogation guidelines. Mora will be a part of that working group. An elated Mora begins working with the group of lawyers to discuss the constitutionality and effectiveness of various interrogation techniques. In 2006, he will say that he felt “no one would ever learn about the best thing I’d ever done in my life.”
Mora Outmaneuvered - But Haynes has outmaneuvered Mora. A week later, Mora sees a lengthy classified document that negates every argument he has made. Haynes has already solicited a second, overarching opinion from John Yoo, a lawyer at the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, that supersedes Mora’s working group (see January 9, 2002). Mora is astonished (see January 23-Late January, 2003). He will later learn that the working group’s report will be forced to comply with Yoo’s legal reasoning. In fact, the group’s final report is never completed—though the draft report, which follows Yoo’s memo, is signed by Rumsfeld without Mora’s knowledge. [New Yorker, 2/27/2006] Mora later says that while Yoo’s memo displays a “seeming sophistication,” it is “profoundly in error,” contradicting both domestic law and international treaties. Mora and the other “dissident” members of the working group are led to believe that the report has been abandoned. [Savage, 2007, pp. 181] He will learn about Rumsfeld’s signature on the draft report while watching C-SPAN in mid-2004. [New Yorker, 2/27/2006; Savage, 2007, pp. 189]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, US Department of Justice, Alberto Mora, John C. Yoo, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Donald Rumsfeld, William J. Haynes

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Reports/Investigations, Statements/Writings about Torture, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Jan Mohammed re-enacts the alleged murder of his brother, Wakil.Jan Mohammed re-enacts the alleged murder of his brother, Wakil. [Source: Crimes of War Project]Wakil Mohammed, an unarmed peasant, is shot to death by a US Special Forces soldier while being questioned about his possible role in a firefight. He was protesting that he and his brother—an eyewitness to the shooting—were merely returning home from afternoon prayers and had nothing to do with the fighting. (His brother will later tell the reporters that he and several others were detained and tortured, including having their heads held underwater in a form of waterboarding, and having their toenails torn out.) Mohammed’s death is not reported at all in the initial reports of the firefight. The death is later listed by the Army as a murder, but no charges have ever been filed in relation to the shooting. The team’s battalion commander will later claim that Mohammed’s death was never reported to him. One member of the Special Forces team involved in the murder will tell the Los Angeles Times that his unit held a meeting after the teen’s death in order to coordinate their stories should an investigation arise. “Everybody on the team had knowledge of it,” says the soldier. “You just don’t talk about that stuff in the Special Forces community. What happens downrange stays downrange… Nobody wants to get anybody in trouble. Just sit back, and hope it will go away.” The Times learns that the Special Forces unit in Gardez already is under heavy scrutiny by superior officers. One officer reported that the Gardez unit was “the most troubled” field team among nearly a dozen in Afghanistan. Another senior officer wrote that the team was gaining a reputation as “a rogue unit,” and a battalion commander characterizes the unit’s performance as “a Guard unit operating unprofessionally in a combat zone.” The Times will later report, “What distinguishes these two fatalities from scores of other questionable deaths in US custody (referring to the murder of both Mohammed and another detainee, Jamal Naseer—see March 16, 2003) is that they were successfully concealed—not just from the American public but from the military’s chain of command and legal authorities.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006]

Entity Tags: US Special Forces, US Department of the Army, Wakil Mohammed

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Prisoner Deaths, Waterboarding, Gardez (Afghanistan)

Communications antenna at Stare Kiejkuty, the Polish “black site” where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was held for a time after his capture.Communications antenna at Stare Kiejkuty, the Polish “black site” where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was held for a time after his capture. [Source: CBC]9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, after being detained and abused for three days in US custody in Afghanistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003 and Shortly After February 29 or March 1, 2003), is transferred to another CIA-run facility in Poland. [New Yorker, 8/6/2007; New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] The facility is later identified as Stare Kiejkuty, a secret prison near the Szymany military airbase. Mohammed is flown in on a Gulfstream N379P jet known to prison officials as “the torture taxi.” The plane is probably piloted by “Jerry M,” a 56-year-old pilot for Aero Contractors, a company that transfers prisoners around the world for US intelligence agencies. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 4/27/2009] He is dressed in a tracksuit, blindfolded, hooded, has sound-blocking headphones placed over his ears, and is flown “sitting, leaning back, with my hands and ankles shackled in a high chair,” as he will later tell officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC—see October 6 - December 14, 2006). He later says he manages to sleep a few hours, for the first time in days. Upon arrival, Mohammed is stripped naked and placed in a small cell “with cameras where I was later informed by an interrogator that I was monitored 24 hours a day by a doctor, psychologist, and interrogator.” The walls are wooden and the cell measures some 10 by 13 feet. [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 4/27/2009]
'I Would Be Brought to the Verge of Death and Back Again' - As he will later recall, it was in this detention camp that “the most intense interrogation occurred, led by three experienced CIA interrogators, all over 65 years old and all strong and well trained.” The interrogators tell him that they have received the “green light from Washington” to give him “a hard time” (see Late September 2001 and September 25, 2002). As he will later recall: “They never used the word ‘torture’ and never referred to ‘physical pressure,’ only to ‘a hard time.’ I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the ‘verge of death and back again.‘… I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor.” When he falls asleep, “all my weight [is] applied to the handcuffs around my wrist resulting in open and bleeding wounds.” The ICRC will later confirm that Mohammed bears scars consistent with his allegations on both wrists and both ankles. “Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”
Interrogations - He is interrogated in a different room, in sessions lasting anywhere from four to eight hours, and with a wide variety of participants. Sometimes women take part in the interrogations. A doctor is usually present. “If I was perceived not to be cooperating I would be put against a wall and punched and slapped in the body, head, and face. A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall. The beatings were combined with the use of cold water, which was poured over me using a hose-pipe. The beatings and use of cold water occurred on a daily basis during the first month.”
'Alternative Procedures' - The CIA interrogators use what they will later call “alternative procedures” on Mohammed, including waterboarding (see After March 7, 2003) and other techniques. He is sprayed with cold water from a hose-pipe in his cell and the “worst day” is when he is beaten for about half an hour by one of the interrogators. “My head was banged against the wall so hard that it started to bleed. Cold water was poured over my head. This was then repeated with other interrogators.” He is then waterboarded until a doctor intervenes. He gets an hours’s sleep and is then “put back in my cell standing with my hands shackled above my head.” He sleeps for a “few minutes” on the floor of cell after the torture sessions, but does not sleep well, “due to shackles on my ankles and wrists.” The toilet consists of a bucket in the cell, which he can use on request, but “I was not allowed to clean myself after toilet during the first month.” In the first month he is only fed on two occasions, “as a reward for perceived cooperation.” He gets Ensure [a liquid nutritional supplement] to drink every four hours. If he refuses it, “then my mouth was forced open by the guard and it was poured down my throat by force.” He loses 18 kg in the first month, after which he gets some clothes. In addition, “Artificial light was on 24 hours a day, but I never saw sunlight.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]
Deliberately False Information - As he will later tell ICRC officials, he often lies to his interrogators: “During the harshest period of my interrogation, I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop.… I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent… wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the US.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of Mohammed’s confessions may be unreliable. Furthermore, he will recant many of his statements (see August 6, 2007).

Entity Tags: Jack Goldsmith, “Jerry M”, Aero Contractors, International Committee of the Red Cross, David S. Addington, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Stare Kiejkuty

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Human Rights Groups, Statements/Writings about Torture, Rendition after 9/11, Extreme Temperatures, Insufficient Food, Isolation, Physical Assault, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Waterboarding, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Stare Kiejkuty (Poland)

When an Associated Press reporter asks the US military to comment on the accounts of two former Afghan detainees (see December 10, 2002) (see November 30-December 3, 2002), spokesman Roger King claims their accounts are mostly untrue. “Some of the stuff they are saying sounds like partial truths, some of it’s completely bogus,” he says. “They were stripped naked probably to prevent them from sneaking weapons into the facility. That’s why someone may be stripped…. We do force people to stand for an extended period of time…. Disruption of sleep has been reported as an effective way of reducing people’s inhibition about talking or their resistance to questioning….They are not allowed to speak to one another. If they do, they can plan together or rely on the comfort of one another. If they’re caught speaking out of turn, they can be forced to do things—like stand for a period of time—as payment for speaking out.” [Associated Press, 3/14/2003; Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Roger King

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Public Statements

Jamal Naseer, an 18-year old newly recruited Afghan soldier, dies in US custody, apparently as a result of beating and torture. Naseer dies after several days in detention at a US Special Forces “firebase,” a small, outlying military base set up to support advancing troops, at Gardez, Afghanistan. [CBS News, 9/21/2004] Naseer and seven other detainees were taken into custody about a week before by Special Forces troops attempting to secure the area from the depredations of a local warlord, Pacha (or Bacha) Khan. Naseer’s brother Ahmad insists that he, his brother, and the other detainees are allies of the Americans, and never participated in Taliban- or al-Qaeda-led attacks against American forces. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006] It is unclear why the men were detained in the first place, but Los Angeles Times reporters Craig Pyes and Mark Mazzetti report that according to an Afghan intelligence report. “the action was requested by a provincial governor feuding with local military commanders.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2004] Naseer’s death will be officially recorded as resulting from “natural causes,” but fellow detainees will say that Naseer’s death was caused by abuse suffered at the hands of US Army Special Forces soldiers near Gardez. Ahmad Naseer will later describe how he and his brother were beaten and abused while in custody, subjected to electric shocks, immersed in cold water, forced to assume stress positions, thrashed with cables, suffered the forcible tearing off of their toenails, and made to lie for hours in the snow. The last time he spoke with his brother, he says Jamal was “moaning about the pain in his kidneys and back” from being repeatedly beaten. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006] Jamal died shortly thereafter while being helped outside to relieve himself by two Afghan kitchen workers. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2004] After Naseer’s death, the unit holds a meeting to discuss the incident. The team is told that Naseer died of a sex-related infection that shut down his kidneys. According to one soldier in the meeting, the point of discussion is “to make sure everybody’s on the same sheet of paper—this is what happened to the man”—in case there’s ever an investigation. Captain Craig Mallak, medical examiner for the US armed forces, says that Naseer’s death is never reported to his office (any death of a detainee is required to be reported unless the detainee is determined to have died of natural causes). Naseer’s body is transferred to a civilian hospital where no autopsy is performed. One hospital worker who prepares the body for burial will later tell the Times that Naseer’s body was “completely black” from bruising and injuries, and was “completely swollen, as were his palms, and the soles of his feet were swollen double in size.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006] Asked about such injuries, Dr. Michael Baden, a prominent forensic pathologist who works for the New York State Police, says the descriptions are inconsistent with death by organ failure. “You can’t confuse those. It sounds very much like blunt trauma.” A local physician who examined the survivors later confirmed that all of the men were suffering from similar trauma, with extensive bruising and seeping, and unbandaged wounds. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006] Eventually, Ahmad Naseer and his comrades are secretly transferred to a civilian prison in Kabul, still without any formal charges. Afghan military prosecutors immediately launch an investigation into their unexplained detention. That inquiry eventually produces a 117-page report asserting that the detainees had been tortured and that there is a “strong probability” that one of the men had been “murdered.” The report speculates that the prolonged imprisonment was intended to give the detainees’ wounds time to heal. Fifty-eight days later, all of the prisoners are released; no charges are ever filed. [Los Angeles Times, 9/25/2006]

Entity Tags: Taliban, US Special Forces, Michael Baden, Pacha Khan, Al-Qaeda, Jamal Naseer, Ahmad Naseer, Craig Mallak

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Prisoner Deaths, Physical Assault, Stress Positions, Electrodes, Sleep Deprivation, Extreme Temperatures, Gardez (Afghanistan)

The Pentagon rejects Amnesty International’s request to visit the US military base at Bagram, Afghanistan. The Defense Department declares that “access to detainees is provided to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and on a case-by-case basis to selected government officials.” In a letter, Marshall Billingslea, principal deputy to the assistant secretary of defense, writes that “in this war, as in every war, captured enemy combatants have no right to counsel or access to courts for the purpose of challenging their detention.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003]

Entity Tags: Amnesty International

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Human Rights Groups, Bagram (Afghanistan)

One of a group of 25 al-Qaeda members captured in Pakistan, Tawfiq bin Attash (see April 29, 2003), is taken into US custody and sent to a CIA-run detention facility in Afghanistan. Years later, after being transferred to Guantanamo, he will discuss his experiences and treatment with officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC—see October 6 - December 14, 2006), who will identify him as “Walid bin Attash” in their documents.
'Forced Standing' - Bin Attash will recall his introduction to detention in Afghanistan as follows: “On arrival at the place of detention in Afghanistan I was stripped naked. I remained naked for the next two weeks. I was put in a cell measuring approximately [3 1/2 by 6 1/2 feet]. I was kept in a standing position, feet flat on the floor, but with my arms above my head and fixed with handcuffs and a chain to a metal bar running across the width of the cell. The cell was dark with no light, artificial or natural. During the first two weeks I did not receive any food. I was only given Ensure [a liquid nutritional supplement] and water to drink. A guard would come and hold the bottle for me while I drank.… The toilet consisted of a bucket in the cell.… I was not allowed to clean myself after using the bucket. Loud music was playing 24 hours each day throughout the three weeks I was there.” Author Mark Danner, writing of the ICRC report in 2009 (see March 15, 2009), will note that the “forced standing” technique. with arms shackled above the head, was a favorite technique of the Soviets, who called it “stoika.” Bin Attash, who had lost a leg fighting in Afghanistan, found the technique particularly painful: “After some time being held in this position my stump began to hurt so I removed my artificial leg to relieve the pain. Of course my good leg then began to ache and soon started to give way so that I was left hanging with all my weight on my wrists. I shouted for help but at first nobody came. Finally, after about one hour a guard came and my artificial leg was given back to me and I was again placed in the standing position with my hands above my head. After that the interrogators sometimes deliberately removed my artificial leg in order to add extra stress to the position.” He is checked periodically by a doctor. The doctor does not object to the ‘forced standing,’ even though the treatment causes intense pain in bin Attash’s leg; neither does the doctor object to the suspension from shackles, even though the shackles cut and abrade his wrists.
Cold Water, Physical Beatings - Bin Attash will tell ICRC officials that he is “washed down with cold water every day.” Every day he is also subjected to beatings: “Every day for the first two weeks I was subjected to slaps to my face and punches to my body during interrogation. This was done by one interrogator wearing gloves.… Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks a collar was looped around my neck and then used to slam me against the walls of the interrogation room. It was also placed around my neck when being taken out of my cell for interrogation and was used to lead me along the corridor. It was also used to slam me against the walls of the corridor during such movements. Also on a daily basis during the first two weeks I was made to lie on a plastic sheet placed on the floor which would then be lifted at the edges. Cold water was then poured onto my body with buckets.… I would be kept wrapped inside the sheet with the cold water for several minutes. I would then be taken for interrogation.”
Moved to Second Facility - It remains unclear where bin Attash is moved to after his initial detention in Afghanistan, but he will tell ICRC officials that his captors there—also Americans—“were rather more sophisticated than in Afghanistan because they had a hose-pipe with which to pour the water over me.” Danner will later note that the methods used to interrogate and torture bin Attash are somewhat more refined than those used on an experimental basis with another al-Qaeda suspect, Abu Zubaida (see April - June 2002). For example, a towel was wrapped around Zubaida’s neck and used to slam him into walls, while bin Attash was given a plastic collar. [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Khallad bin Attash, Al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaida, Mark Danner, Central Intelligence Agency

Category Tags: Coverup, Criticisms of US, Independent Investigations, Extreme Temperatures, Insufficient Food, Isolation, Physical Assault, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Waterboarding, Other High Ranking Detainees

On May 7, 2003, Leonie Brinkema, the judge in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, asks the CIA if it has recordings of interrogations of detainees related to Moussaoui’s case. Two days later, the CIA replies that it does not, although it is actually in possession of some recordings. In 2002, the CIA secretly videotaped interrogations of high-ranking detainees Abu Zubaida and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see Spring-Late 2002) but it does not reveal this to anyone involved in the Moussaoui trial. In 2005, some of these videotapes will be destroyed (see November 2005), around the time the Brinkema makes a repeat request for the tapes (see November 3-14, 2005). However, other recordings—two videotapes and one audio tape—will survive and will finally be viewed by Moussaoui’s prosecutors in 2007, long after Moussaoui has been convicted (see September 19 and October 18, 2007). [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 10/25/2007 pdf file; Reuters, 11/13/2007] Although the identity of the detainees in the recordings requested is not known, one of the prosecutors will later say, “Obviously the important witnesses included [Abu] Zubaidah, [Ramzi] bin al-Shibh, and KSM [Khalid Shaikh Mohammed]… those are the guys at the head of the witness list.” However, he will not specifically recall which tapes are requested. [Associated Press, 12/7/2007]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Leonie Brinkema, Zacarias Moussaoui

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes

Kean (left) and Hamilton (right) of the 9/11 Commission.Kean (left) and Hamilton (right) of the 9/11 Commission. [Source: Doug Mills / New York Times]The 9/11 Commission does not receive video or audio recordings of interrogations of detainees thought to know something about the 9/11 plot (see Spring-Late 2002), even though it is unhappy with the amount and quality of information it is getting from detainees (see Summer 2003) and has a series of meetings with CIA officials to improve access (see November 5, 2003-January 2004). The CIA will indicate that the Commission never asks for the tapes, saying it “went to great lengths to meet the requests of the 9/11 Commission,” and that one of the reasons that the tapes are not destroyed until after the Commission releases its final report in 2004 is so that it could have the tapes, if it so desires. [New York Times, 12/8/2007] However, when the tapes’ destruction is revealed in late 2007 (see November 2005 and December 6, 2007), former 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean and Vice Chairman Lee Hamilton will dispute this, saying that in hours of negotiations and discussions with the CIA and written requests they make it clear they want all material connected to the interrogations of the relevant detainees. [International Herald Tribune, 12/8/2007] Kean will say, “They knew what they had and they didn’t give it to us.” [ABC News, 12/7/2007] Hamilton will say, “The CIA certainly knew of our interest in getting all the information we could on the detainees, and they never indicated to us there were any videotapes… Did they obstruct our inquiry? The answer is clearly yes. Whether that amounts to a crime, others will have to judge.” [International Herald Tribune, 12/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Thomas Kean, Central Intelligence Agency, Lee Hamilton, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes

Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, sends letters to the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon with complaints about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan and “other locations outside the United States.” He writes that according to unnamed officials, the prisoners are being subjected to beatings, lengthy sleep- and food-deprivation, and other “stress and duress” techniques (see April 16, 2003). He asks if these techniques are indeed being employed and urges the administration to issue a clear statement that cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees will not be tolerated. The Pentagon and CIA respond with denials that the United States is torturing its prisoners. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; USA Today, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Leahy

Category Tags: Coverup, Indications of Abuse

The 9/11 Commission becomes unhappy with the quality of information being provided by the CIA, FBI, and Pentagon about detainees in US custody who are being interrogated, because “the government’s investigators [are] not asking the detainees the kinds of questions [it wants] answered” - they are asking about future threats rather than the history of the 9/11 plot. The Commission is receiving detainee evidence “third-hand - passed from the detainee, to the interrogator, to the person who writes up the interrogation report, and finally to [its] staff in the form of reports, not even transcripts.” It can take up to six weeks for a report on an interrogation to be produced. Due to the absence of any interaction between Commission staff and detainees, they also have “no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information.” [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 119-123] In at least one case, it seem possible that the 9/11 Commission was not given all the information from CIA interrogations that it needed. Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later independently view some interrogation transcripts, and from them he will claim that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) confessed to attending a pivotal al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia where the 9/11 plot was discussed (see January 5-8, 2000). The CIA was in charge of monitoring this meeting, so their failure to notice the presence of KSM, a photographed and well-known terrorist mastermind with a $2 million bounty on his head at the time, would have been nearly inexplicable (see July 9, 2003). The Commission subsequently requests direct access to the detainees, but this request is not granted (see November 5, 2003-January 2004).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Rohan Gunaratna, US Department of Defense, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Destruction of CIA Tapes, Coverup

Private Alyssa Peterson.Private Alyssa Peterson. [Source: Arizona Daily Sun]Private Alyssa Peterson, deployed as an Arabic-speaking interrogator in Iraq, commits suicide rather than participate in torturing Iraqi prisoners. Peterson, from Flagstaff, Arizona, serves with the 311th Military Intelligence Unit, a part of the 101st Airborne, at an American air base in Tal Afar. Her death is initially cited as an accident resulting from a “non-hostile weapons discharge,” a not uncommon citation. Shortly after her death, Army officials tell the Arizona Republic that “a number of possible scenarios are being considered, including Peterson’s own weapon discharging, the weapon of another soldier discharging, or the accidental shooting of Peterson by an Iraqi civilian.” In 2005, reporter Kevin Elston will probe more deeply into Peterson’s death; documents released under the Freedom of Information Act will show that, according to Elston’s report for radio station KNAU: “Peterson objected to the interrogation techniques used on prisoners. She refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage. Army spokespersons for her unit have refused to describe the interrogation techniques Alyssa objected to. They say all records of those techniques have now been destroyed.” Official records show that Peterson had been “reprimanded” for showing “empathy” for the prisoners. The report of her death states, “She said that she did not know how to be two people; she… could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.” She was reassigned to gate duty, and sent to suicide prevention training, but, the report reads, “[O]n the night of September 15th, 2003, Army investigators concluded she shot and killed herself with her service rifle.” A notebook is found next to her body, but its contents are entirely redacted. Peterson also leaves a suicide note, which Elston will be unable to obtain. After reviewing the records documenting the circumstances of her death, Elston will say: “The reactions to the suicide were that she was having a difficult time separating her personal feelings from her professional duties. That was the consistent point in the testimonies, that she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were.” Peterson’s parents will not be told of their daughter’s suicide for three years, but are told merely that she died as a result of an accident. [Huffington Post, 4/24/2009] In 2009, reporter and author Greg Mitchell will interview former Sergeant Kayla Williams, an Army interpreter who served briefly with Peterson at Tal Afar. Williams, like Peterson, objected to abusive techniques being used on prisoners, and is eventually transferred to different duties (see Late September 2003). Williams will note that there are probably more factors involved in Peterson’s suicide than her revulsion to torture. “It’s always a bunch of things coming together to the point you feel so overwhelmed that there’s no way out,” Williams will say. “I witnessed abuse, I felt uncomfortable with it, but I didn’t kill myself, because I could see the bigger context. I felt a lot of angst about whether I had an obligation to report it, and had any way to report it. Was it classified? Who should I turn to?… It also made me think, what are we as humans, that we do this to each other? It made me question my humanity and the humanity of all Americans. It was difficult, and to this day I can no longer think I am a really good person and will do the right thing in the right situation.” Mitchell will write, “Such an experience might have been truly shattering to the deeply religious Peterson.” [Huffington Post, 4/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Kayla Williams, Kevin Elston, US Department of Defense, US Department of the Army, Alyssa Peterson, Greg Mitchell

Category Tags: Coverup, Criticisms of US

Kayla Williams.Kayla Williams. [Source: Bowling Green State University]Sergeant Kayla Williams, an Army interpreter, witnesses prisoners being abused while being detained in Mosul. Williams is troubled by the death of an acquaintance, Private Alyssa Peterson, who actually committed suicide rather than take part in the torture of prisoners (see September 15, 2003 and After). Williams witnesses an incident that closely parallels the kind of interrogation Peterson objected to. She is taken into a special holding area called “the cage,” where she sees US soldiers punching a naked detainee in the face and burning him with lit cigarettes. There is no interrogation, just the brutalization of a prisoner. Williams will later write: “It’s one thing to make fun of someone and attempt to humiliate him. With words. That’s one thing. But flicking lit cigarettes at somebody—like burning him—that’s illegal.” She will later write that soldiers will soon tell her that “the old rules no longer applied because this was a different world. This was a new kind of war.” In 2005, Williams will recall the incident on CNN: “I was asked to assist. And what I saw was that individuals who were doing interrogations had slipped over a line and were really doing things that were inappropriate. There were prisoners that were burned with lit cigarettes. They stripped prisoners naked and then removed their blindfolds so that I was the first thing they saw. And then we were supposed to mock them and degrade their manhood. And it really didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to me. I didn’t know if this was standard. But it did not seem to work. And it really made me feel like we were losing that crucial moral higher ground, and we weren’t behaving in the way that Americans are supposed to behave.” After that session and several others that same day, she tells a superior officer that she will not take part in future interrogations. “I sat through it at the time,” she will recall. “But after it was over I did approach the non-commissioned officer in charge and told him I think you may be violating the Geneva Conventions.… He said he knew and I said I wouldn’t participate again and he respected that, but I was really, really stunned.” In 2009, Williams will say: “In general, interrogation is not fun, even if you follow the rules. And I didn’t see any good intelligence being gained. The other problem is that, in situations like that, you have people that are not terrorists being picked up, and being questioned. And, if you treat an innocent person like that, they walk out a terrorist.” [Huffington Post, 4/24/2009]

Entity Tags: Kayla Williams, Alyssa Peterson

Category Tags: Coverup, Criticisms of US, Statements/Writings about Torture, Physical Assault, Sexual Humiliation

The Associated Press submits a list of questions to the US military command regarding specific accounts from former detainees regarding torture, execution, and poor living conditions at Coalition detention centers in Iraq. US command does not respond. [Associated Press, 11/3/2003]

Category Tags: Coverup, Indications of Abuse, Media

The Department of Defense denies expedited processing on the ACLU request (see October 7, 2003) for the release of documents.

Category Tags: Coverup

Charles Graner giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body on November 4, 2003.Charles Graner giving the thumbs up over Manadel al-Jamadi’s dead body on November 4, 2003. [Source: Public domain]Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus is summoned to the shower stall of the Hard Site in Abu Ghraib. When he arrives he discovers that detainee Manadel al-Jamadi, interrogated by the CIA less than an hour before (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003), is dead. Jamadi’s body is still shackled to the stall. When the hood is removed, he is found to have severe head wounds. (It is unclear whether these wounds were present when the prisoner was taken in, or whether they were inflicted during the interrogation.) [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Stevanus calls a medic and notifies his superiors. Lt. Col. Steven Jordan arrives at the site at around 7:15 a.m. He finds several MPs and medics in the shower stall. The deceased prisoner is still handcuffed with his hands behind his back, lying on the floor face down. When the body is uncuffed and turned over, Jordan notices a small spot of blood on the floor where his head has lain. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file Sources: Jason A. Kenner] There is also extensive bruising on the body. [Guardian, 5/20/2004 Sources: Jason A. Kenner] Jordan alerts Col. Thomas M. Pappas. A CIA supervisor is also notified. He arrives and requests that the Hard Site hold the body until the next day. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] According to ABC News, Spc. Jason A. Kenner sees the body packed in ice while a “battle” rages between CIA and military intelligence interrogators over who should dispose of the corpse. [Guardian, 5/20/2004] The body is then put in a body bag, packed in ice, and stored in the shower area. [New Yorker, 5/10/2004; US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file Sources: Ivan L. Frederick II] Photographs are later released of MP Spcs. Charles Graner and Sabrina Harman posing next to the dead body wrapped in cellophane and packed in ice, giving a “thumbs up.” [New Yorker, 5/10/2004] According to MP Spc. Bruce Brown, an MP with the 372nd, they spray “air freshener to cover the scent.” [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/2004] The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is also alerted. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Thomas M. Pappas, Sabrina Harman, Manadel al-Jamadi, Steven L. Jordan, Dennis E. Stevanus, Bruce Brown, Charles Graner, Criminal Investigation Division, Jason A. Kenner

Category Tags: Coverup, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Other Detainees

Manadel al-Jamadi in a body bag on November 4, 2003.Manadel al-Jamadi in a body bag on November 4, 2003. [Source: Public domain]The body of deceased Abu Ghraib detainee Manadel al-Jamadi is taken away on a litter to make it appear he is only ill. [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Medics soon arrive, put his body on a stretcher with a fake IV in his arm, and take him away. The identity of the prisoner is never recorded in the prison’s files and the man is never assigned a detainee identification number. [New Yorker, 5/10/2004 Sources: Ivan L. Frederick II] An autopsy is performed at the morgue of the prison facility at Baghdad International Airport concluding that the Iraqi “died of a blood clot in the head, likely a result of injuries he sustained during apprehension.” [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] According to an internal Pentagon report later obtained by the Denver Post, the “autopsy revealed the cause of death was blunt force trauma complicated by compromised respiration.” [Denver Post, 5/18/2004] However, others will say they believe the prisoner died as a result of harsh interrogation tactics. Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick will later write in one of his letters home (see (Mid-January 2004)), “They stressed him out so bad that the man passed away.” [New Yorker, 5/10/2004] The CIA’s inspector general will eventually investigate the case as a possible criminal homicide. [New York Times, 5/17/2004]

Entity Tags: Manadel al-Jamadi, Ivan L. Frederick II

Category Tags: Coverup, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Other Detainees

After the 9/11 Commission becomes unhappy with the information it is getting from detainees in US custody who may know something about the 9/11 plot (see Summer 2003), it asks CIA Director George Tenet to let it either talk to the detainees itself, or at least view interrogations through a one-way mirror. [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 119-126]
Reasoning - Dieter Snell, the head of the Commission’s plot team and a former prosecutor, is extremely keen that the detainees, such as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, be interviewed. According to author Philip Shenon, he is aware that “testimony from key witnesses like the al-Qaeda detainees would have value only if they were questioned in person, with investigators given the chance to test their credibility with follow-up questions. The face-to-face interrogations would be especially important in situations in which the al-Qaeda members were giving conflicting testimony.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 182]
Request Denied - However, Tenet denies the request because he does not want the Commission to know where the detainees are, and he claims questioning by a Commission staffer could apparently damage the “relationship” between interrogator and detainee and “upset the flow of questioning.” In addition, Tenet is worried that if the Commission has access to the detainees, Zacarias Moussaoui might also be able to compel them to testify in court, so he rejects compromise proposals.
Pushback - The Commission decides “to push the issue” and drafts a letter outlining why they should have direct access. Although the draft is seen by Tenet and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it is never officially sent. At a White House meeting attended by Rumsfeld and commissioners Lee Hamilton and Fred Fielding, Tenet and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales repeat the arguments Tenet made previously, but Tenet says the Commission can submit written questions, and a CIA “project manager” will try to get them answered. After the administration “plead[s]” with the Commission not to use public pressure to get access to detainees, the Commission decides to drop the matter.
Relatives and Media Blamed - Hamilton and Commission Chairman Thomas Kean will later partially blame the victims’ relatives and media for this failure: “Interestingly, there was no pressure from some of the usual sources for us to push for access. For instance, the 9/11 families never pressed us to seek access to detainees, and the media was never engaged on this issue.” Kean and Hamilton will later say that the “project manager” arrangement works “to a degree.”
Report Includes Disclaimer - However, a disclaimer will be inserted into the 9/11 Commission Report in the first of two chapters that draw heavily on detainees’ alleged statements (see After January 2004). It will say that the Commission could not fully judge the credibility of detainee information, so, according to Kean and Hamilton, “it [is] left to the reader to consider the credibility of the source—we had no opportunity to do so.” [Kean and Hamilton, 2006, pp. 119-126]
Criticism from Staffer - Commission staffer Ernest May will later criticize the Commission’s “reluctance ever to challenge the CIA’s walling off al-Qaeda detainees.” May will also say: “We never had full confidence in the interrogation reports as historical sources. Often we found more reliable the testimony that had been given in open court by those prosecuted for the East African embassy bombings and other crimes.” [New Republic, 5/23/2005] CIA videotapes and transcripts of interrogations are not provided to the Commission (see Summer 2003-January 2004).

Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Thomas Kean, Fred F. Fielding, Lee Hamilton, US Department of Defense, Ernest May, Dietrich Snell, 9/11 Commission, Alberto R. Gonzales, Central Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes

Department of Defense Principal Deputy General Counsel Daniel Dell’Orto writes to Senator Patrick Leahy and confirms that earlier Pentagon statements (see June 25, 2003) about the treatment of detainees bind the entire executive branch. But he fails to answer specific questions about interrogation guidelines and adds that articles reporting improper treatment of detainees “often contain allegations that are untrue.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Patrick J. Leahy, Daniel J. Dell’Orto

Category Tags: Coverup

At Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, MPs hide prisoners from a Red Cross delegation by shifting them around the complex. These prisoners, or “ghost detainees,” are a group of detainees that have been imprisoned without names, charges, or other documentation. According to Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba’s February 26 report (see February 26, 2004), a number of jails operated by the 800th Military Police Brigade “routinely held” such prisoners “without accounting for them, knowing their identities, or even the reason for their detention.” Taguba will note that the practice is a “violation of international law.” [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; Los Angeles Times, 5/5/2004; Washington Post, 5/9/2004; Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01]

Entity Tags: Antonio M. Taguba

Category Tags: Coverup, Ghost Detainees, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

In February 2004, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, leading an investigation into detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, will come to believe that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, US Army commander in Iraq, and some other generals at the military headquarters in Baghdad had extensive knowledge of the abuse even before a CD-ROM of abuse photographs was given to military intelligence. Taguba was aware that in late 2003, when most of the photographed abuse took place, Sanchez routinely visited the prison, and personally witnessed at least one interrogation. In 2007, Taguba will say, “Sanchez knew exactly what was going on.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Ricardo S. Sanchez, Antonio M. Taguba

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Indications of Abuse, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

The US Army investigates the report of a colonel who documented potential abuses of Iraqi detainees by a joint Special Operations and CIA task force looking for weapons of mass destruction. The report will be made public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) almost four years later (see August 15, 2007). The ACLU believes the colonel, whose name is redacted from the report, is Colonel Stuart Herrington (see December 12, 2003). The colonel reports that in late November someone called him with details of prisoner abuse that had occurred in June or July 2003 in the vicinity of Baghdad International Airport. The colonel’s source had previously reported the abuse to Major General Keith Dayton, commander of the Iraq Survey Group in charge of the hunt for weapons of mass destruction, and to officials in the Defense Intelligence Agency. The colonel meets with Major General Barbara Fast, the top intelligence officer in Baghdad, to brief her on his investigation into the matter, and gives her a copy of the report. The colonel is subsequently informed that the Judge Advocate General’s office attached to the US command in Iraq found “no evidence to support the allegations that detainees were mistreated.” The colonel believes this conclusion is a “cover-up,” and, in later testimony, will refer to his “blunt dismay” at the finding. He will testify that he cannot understand how his own report could have been taken so lightly given that he had provided names of the witnesses and “already had two people who admitted it.” Fast will later say to the colonel that she never saw his report until mid-2004, a statement that the colonel has trouble believing. Fast will be cleared of all allegations of misconduct by the Army inspector general, who will conclude that she took prompt action to alert the proper authorities once she was informed of the alleged abuse. [American Civil Liberties Union, 8/15/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, American Civil Liberties Union, Barbara G. Fast, Central Intelligence Agency, Keith Dayton, Judge Advocate General Corps, Defense Intelligence Agency, Stuart A. Herrington

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Reports/Investigations

Saddam Salah al-Rawi is taken to Abu Ghraib and registered under number 200144. [Guardian, 5/13/2004] For the first 18 days of his detention at Abu Ghraib, he will be subjected to a series of techniques. Interrogations follow only after this period. The first MP Al-Rawi encounters puts a hood over his head, cuffs his hands, and leads him away, “intentionally smashing [his] face against several doors along the way.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] “He locked his arm under mine and holding the back of my head he beat my head against the doors of the cells,” Al-Rawi will later recall. [Guardian, 5/13/2004] In another testimony, Al-Rawi repeats the same allegation: “Wherever he saw a wall, he would hit me against it. Wherever there’s a door, he would push me and hit me against it.” [ABC News, 8/8/2004] He is left in a cell, still hooded and cuffed, with three or four other prisoners, who are also tied up but have no hoods on. He asks one of them, whom he later names as Thamir Issawi, to lift up his hood to allow him to breathe more easily. “When he opened my hood I could see his back. He was naked. All of them around me were naked.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] It was, according to Al-Rawi, “something I have never seen in my life. A man’s buttocks were facing me.” [ABC News, 8/8/2004] “I was so shocked and disgraced that I asked the man to put my hood back on, which he did.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] An hour later, soldiers take him into the hall, and order him to strip. “I refused to because it is forbidden for Muslims.” Al-Rawi faces the inevitable. “They forced off my clothes and beat me,” he says. [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] “I was completely naked with two bags on my head.” [ABC News, 8/8/2004] The soldiers then force him to stand on a box with his hands on his head. “I stood like this for an hour, or an hour and a quarter. Then some American soldiers came and they were laughing and some were beating me. They were beating me on my back and my legs. They were beating and laughing.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] His next experience is an example of the “stress positions” tactic. “Next, they made me hold a plastic chair over my head for a long time. All along, I could hear them laughing and snapping photographs.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] Elsewhere, he reportedly says, “I remember them taking pictures. I remember there were these prisoners standing beside me. I was hooded but I remember a flash from the camera and the sound of a click when they took the picture.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] At one point, he cannot take it any longer. “I became so exhausted that I fell down and hit my head on the wall.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] At that moment, “I lost consciousness.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] The soldiers then remove his hood, [ABC News, 8/8/2004] and when he regains consciousness, Al-Rawi comes face to face with his attackers. “I saw Sgt. Joyner, an Egyptian translator who wore fatigues, named Abu Hamed, two male soldiers, one with glasses, and one female soldier.… Then a soldier from another group came and peed on me.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] [In a May 30, 2005 email to the Center for Cooperative Research, Sgt. Joyner denied abusing detainees] Next, Al-Rawi later recounts, “they started to drop cold water on me.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] “Other soldiers then dragged me along the floor in the hall and did other similar things to keep me awake all night.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] In the morning he is put in cell 42 in Tier 1-A, and allowed a few moments alone. His cell has a water tap, a loo, and a metal bunk bed, but no sheets, blanket, or mattress. [CPTnet, 5/12/2004; Guardian, 5/13/2004] “I was still naked and very tired. I sat against the wall, shivering and trying to sleep. I could see through some small openings in the wall that the sun was rising.” Somewhat later that morning, Al-Rawi meets with Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick and a female sergeant who take him to another room. “I was still unhooded and untied. They gave me some cloth to cover myself. Sergeant Ivan threatened me, saying that if I didn’t give up any information, he would have other soldiers rape me. (Abu Hamed was translating.) I was so stunned that I couldn’t reply.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] Al-Rawi is often left in his cell with his hands and feet bound; sometimes in a way designed to be highly uncomfortable. One such “stress position” leaves him with his hands and feet stuck through the metal bars of his cell door and tied together at the outside. A civilian American with a goatee beard, whom Al-Rawi identifies as “Steven,” possibly private contractor Steven Stephanowicz, forces him to adopt the so-called “scorpion” position. “They tied my hands to my feet behind my back,” explains Al-Rawi. “My left hand to my right foot and my right hand to my left foot. I was lying face down and they were beating me like this.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] During his first 18 days at Abu Ghraib, Al-Rawi says he is almost constantly tortured, “for 23 hours per day.” During this time, there are no interrogations, no investigations, and no medical treatment. He encounters the whole range of techniques, starting with the familiar nudity. “They left me naked the entire time.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] He is also subjected to sleep deprivation. “There was a stereo inside the cell and it played music with a sound so loud I couldn’t sleep. I stayed like that for 23 hours.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] Al-Rawi is beaten repeatedly. “One time they knocked out two of my teeth [lower left molars].” He is also threatened with dogs. “Whenever they took me out of my cell, they used dogs to threaten me.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] On one occasion a naked Al-Rawi is pushed from behind by a guard towards another guard holding a dog on a leash. At some point the experience becomes too much to bear. “In my cell I was shouting,” said Al-Rawi, “‘Please come and take me. Please kill me. I am Osama bin Laden, I was in the plane that hit the World Trade Centre.’ I wished for death at that time,” he says. “I wanted to be dead 1,000 times. I asked my God to take my soul.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] After these 18 days, his preparation for interrogation has finished. He has his clothes returned and is finally questioned. Having lost all defenses he gives any answer his interrogators want. “I just didn’t care anymore.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004] “Whatever they asked me, I said yes. They told me I was from Ansar al-Islam [a militant Iraqi group] and I said yes. I told them the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammad [another Iraqi militant group] was my cousin. They asked me about Zarqawi [a Jordanian militant thought to be in Iraq] and al-Qaeda and I said yes even though I don’t know who they are.” [Guardian, 5/13/2004] He even declared being Osama bin Laden himself. “I did the explosions on September 11,” he said. “The interrogators just said, ‘Bullsh_t!’ to all of my answers and beat me.” [CPTnet, 5/12/2004]

Entity Tags: Thamir Issawi, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Steven Stephanowicz, Ivan L. Frederick II, Abu Hamed, Saddam Salah al-Rawi

Category Tags: Key Events, Coverup, Forced Confessions, Sexual Humiliation, Physical Assault, Stress Positions, Intimidation/Threats, Sleep Deprivation, Medical Services Denied, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Saddam Salah al-Rawi

Cell blocks 1A and 2A, where the infamous Abu Ghraib abuses take place.Cell blocks 1A and 2A, where the infamous Abu Ghraib abuses take place. [Source: CBC]The US military replies to the Red Cross’ November 6 letter (see November 6, 2003), claiming that the prisoners being held in cell bocks 1A and 2A of Abu Ghraib are “security detainees” who are not entitled to “full GC protection as recognized in GCIV/5 [Article 5 of the Fourth Geneva Convention].” The 3-page letter adds that “such protection will be afforded as soon as the security situation in Iraq allows it.” Article 5 allows an occupying power to exempt captives from the protection of the Conventions if they can be shown to be a continuing threat to the occupying force. However according to critics of the administration’s judgment, the provision is supposed to be applied on a case-by-case basis and is not meant to include people who have valuable intelligence. [US Department of the Army, 12/24/2003; New York Times, 5/22/2004] The letter also says that the Red Cross should schedule its visits to the cell bocks 1A and 2A ahead of time instead of showing up unannounced. The response letter—written by Army lawyers in Washington but signed by Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski in Baghdad—claims that such visits could interrupt interrogations. [New York Times, 5/19/2004] In fact, many of the detainees in those cell blocks are not suspected to be security threats.

Entity Tags: Janis L. Karpinski, American Red Cross

Category Tags: Human Rights Groups, Coverup

The Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agent who received the Abu Ghraib prison photographs from Spc. Joseph Darby (see January 13, 2004), calls his boss, a colonel, who takes them to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez. [Signal Newspaper, 7/4/2004] Within three days, a report on the photos makes its way to Donald Rumsfeld, who informs President Bush, though it is not clear exactly when Bush is informed (see Late January-Mid-March 2004). [New Yorker, 5/24/2004] Within the Pentagon, few people are informed—unusually few—according to Hersh, who will later write that knowledge of the abuses were “severely, and unusually restricted.” A former intelligence official will tell him: “I haven’t talked to anybody on the inside who knew; nowhere. It’s got them scratching their heads.” Rumsfeld and his civilian staff, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and Gen. John P. Abizaid, reportedly try to suppress the issue during the first months of the year. “They foresaw major diplomatic problems,” according to a Pentagon official. [New Yorker, 5/17/2004] According to one former intelligence official, the Defense Secretary’s attitude is: “We’ve got a glitch in the program. We’ll prosecute it.” The former official explains to Seymour Hersh, “The cover story was that some kids got out of control.” [New Yorker, 5/24/2004]

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Criminal Investigation Division, John P. Abizaid, Ricardo S. Sanchez

Category Tags: Coverup, Indications of Abuse, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez orders a high level administrative investigation into the 800th Military Police Brigade apart from the criminal investigation that was announced three days earlier (see January 16, 2004). He appoints Major General Antonio M. Taguba to conduct the inquiry and limits the scope of the investigation to the conduct of the military police brigade. Taguba’s report will be filed on February 26 (see February 26, 2004). [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; Sydney Morning Herald, 5/4/2004; New York Times, 5/10/2004] As preparations for investigation are underway, investigators reportedly give the MPs at Abu Ghraib “a week’s notice before inspecting their possessions.” [ [Sources: Several unnamed soldiers] Whether it is an attempt to sabotage the investigation, or a matter of clumsiness on the part of the military leadership or the CID, the result may well be that evidence of abuse is deliberately destroyed. “That shows you how lax they are about discipline. ‘We are going to look for contraband in here, so hint, hint, get rid of the stuff,’ that’s the way things work in the Guard,” MP Ramone Leal will say. [Reuters, 5/6/2004]

Entity Tags: Ramone Leal, Ricardo S. Sanchez, Antonio M. Taguba

Category Tags: Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Coverup

The FBI’s on-scene commander in Baghdad sends an e-mail to senior FBI officials at FBI headquarters in Washington, discussing the allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. The e-mail advises the senior officials not to investigate the allegations. “We need to maintain good will and relations with those operating the prison,” it reads. “Our involvement in the investigation of the alleged abuse might harm our liaison.” [American Civil Liberties Union, 2/23/2006]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba begins investigating abuses at Abu Ghraib prison. He is limited to investigating the 800th MP (military police) unit, as the abuse photographs mainly involve them. However, he suspects that superiors are to blame as well. He will later comment, “From what I knew, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups.… These MP troops were not that creative. Somebody was giving them guidance, but I was legally prevented from further investigation into higher authority. I was limited to a box.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Donald J. Ryder, Ricardo S. Sanchez

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

According to journalist Seymour Hersh, “Within three days” of when army investigators are given photographs depicting Abu Ghraib prison abuse on January 13, 2004, “a report made its way to Donald Rumsfeld, who informed President Bush” (see January 13-16, 2004). [New Yorker, 5/24/2004] But Rumsfeld is vague in later public testimony about just when he first informs Bush. He suggests it could have been late January or early February. He explains that he routinely met with Bush “once or twice a week… and I don’t keep notes about what I do.” But he remembers that in mid-March, he and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers “meeting with the President and discussed the reports that we had obviously heard” about Abu Ghraib. But Hersh later comments that regardless of when Bush was first informed, “Bush made no known effort to forcefully address the treatment of prisoners before the scandal became public, or to reevaluate the training of military police and interrogators, or the practices of the task forces that he had authorized. Instead, Bush acquiesced in the prosecution of a few lower-level soldiers. The President’s failure to act decisively resonated through the military chain of command: aggressive prosecution of crimes against detainees was not conducive to a successful career.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Seymour Hersh, George W. Bush

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

In February 2004, a confidential report by the International Committee of the Red Cross says that “military intelligence officers told [us] that in their estimate between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake.” Half or more of all prisoners in Iraq are held at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. This report echoes the conclusions of an unpublished US Army report by Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder given to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq, on November 5, 2003 (see November 5, 2003). Ryder, the US Army’s provost marshal, reported that some Iraqis had been held for several months for nothing more than expressing “displeasure or ill will” towards US troops. And it said the process for deciding which arrested Iraqis posed security risks and which should be released violated the military’s own policies. It also complains that the continuing influx of new prisoners detained despite little evidence against them threatens to strain the prison system. Senior officers claim that Brig. Gen. Barbara Fast, the top Army intelligence officer in Iraq, often ruled last against the release of prisoners, even vetoing the recommendations of a military police commander and military intelligence officers. [New York Times, 5/30/2004] Similarly, Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, who investigates abuses at Abu Ghraib prison around this time (see February 26, 2004), will later say very few prisoners there were affiliated with any terrorist group. Taguba saw classified documents revealing that there were only “one or two” suspected al-Qaeda prisoners at Abu Ghraib. Most of the detainees were not even connected to the Iraqi insurgency. [New Yorker, 6/17/2007] Despite this evidence, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt will later claim, “If they were innocent, they wouldn’t be at Abu Ghraib.… The number that were released because they were innocent? That number… is zero. Persons are held at Abu Ghraib because they are determined to be security threats, imminent security threats here in [Iraq].” [New York Times, 5/30/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald J. Ryder, Barbara G. Fast, International Committee of the Red Cross, Mark Kimmitt, Ricardo S. Sanchez

Category Tags: Human Rights Groups, Coverup, Independent Investigations, Criticisms of US, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba begins investigating the MPs (military police) involved in the Abu Ghraib abuse photographs, but he soon begins to suspect involvement by military intelligence and the CIA in the abuse as well. For instance, the name of Lt. Col. Steven Jordan repeatedly comes up in interviews with MPs. For three weeks, Taguba is unable to find any sign of Jordan. When he finally does find him, Jordan has a beard, which suggests that he’s been in hiding. In interviews, Jordan claims, “I’m a liaison officer for intelligence from Army headquarters in Iraq.” But Taguba suspects that Jordan is involved in the sometimes brutal interrogations of important detainees. Taguba will later note, “Jordan denied everything, and yet he had the authority to enter the prison’s ‘hard site’ carrying a carbine and an M9 pistol, which is against regulations.” The hard site is where the most important detainees are held. Furthermore, Jordan’s record showed an extensive intelligence background and it appeared Jordan was not reporting through the regular chain of command. But because Taguba only has a mandate to investigate MPs, he is limited in what he can ask Jordan and what he can report. He will later recall, “I suspected that somebody was giving [the MPs] guidance, but I could not print that.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Antonio M. Taguba, Steven L. Jordan

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

The US learns that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a former al-Qaeda camp commander, was allegedly tortured in Egypt, where he was rendered by the CIA (see January 2002 and After). Although CIA Director George Tenet will describe al-Libi’s handling by the Egyptians as “further debriefing,” after being returned to US custody, al-Libi tells CIA officers he was tortured and these claims are documented in a series of cables sent to CIA headquarters on February 4 and 5. These cables are the final proof, many believe, that the US is illegally “outsourcing” torture to other countries, against suspects who have not been convicted or even charged with a crime. After being tortured by his Egyptian captors (see November 11, 2001), al-Libi was returned to US custody on November 22, 2003. The February 5 cable reads, in part, that al-Libi was told by the Egyptians that “the next topic was al-Qaeda’s connections with Iraq…. This was a subject about which he said he knew nothing and had difficulty even coming up with a story.” The Egyptians didn’t like al-Libi’s response, and locked him in a 20 inch by 20 inch box for 17 hours—effectively burying him alive. The Egyptians released him and gave him one more change to “tell the truth.” When al-Libi did not give the proper response, he was knocked to the ground and beaten. The CIA debriefers send this information straight to Washington (see February 14, 2004), thus informing the CIA that not only was this key piece of evidence about the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda false, but it was obtained by extreme, US-sanctioned torture. Although stories and witness accounts about torture in such US-allied countries as Egypt, Syria, Morocco, and Uzbekistan have long been known, this is the first time such torture has been detailed in an official US government document. It will be almost a year before the Bush administration will confirm the CIA’s rendition program (see March 11, 2002), and even then it will begin a litany of reassurances that the US does not torture, nor does it hand over prisoners to countries that torture. The CIA cables will be declassified in September 2006, and roundly ignored by the mainstream media. And as of late 2007, al-Libi will still be a “ghost prisoner” whose whereabouts and circumstances are considered a US state secret. [ABC News, 11/6/2007]

Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, George J. Tenet

Category Tags: Coverup, Detainments, High-level Decisions and Actions, Indefinite Detention, Rendition after 9/11, Abrogation of Rights, Dangerous Conditions, Ghost Detainees, Physical Assault, Stress Positions, Internal Memos/Reports, Bagram (Afghanistan), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi

Antonio M. Taguba.Antonio M. Taguba. [Source: US Army]Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba files a 53-page classified report which finds that between October and December of 2003, members of the 372nd Military Police Company and US intelligence community engaged in numerous incidents of “sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal abuses” against prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. As evidence, he cites “detailed witness statements and the discovery of extremely graphic photographic evidence.” The photographs—which are later leaked to the press (see Mid-April 2004), causing an enormous international public outcry—are not included in the report. [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; New Yorker, 5/10/2004; New Yorker, 5/17/2004] Taguba also takes issue with the November 5 (see November 5, 2003) Ryder report which concluded that the military police units had not intentionally used inappropriate confinement practices. “Contrary to the findings of MG [Maj. Gen.] Ryder’s report, I find that personnel assigned to the 372nd MP Company, 800th MP Brigade were directed to change facility procedures to ‘set the conditions’ for MI interrogations.” Army intelligence officers, CIA agents, and private contractors “actively requested that MP guards set physical and mental conditions for favorable interrogation of witnesses.” [US Department of the Army, 3/9/2004; New Yorker, 5/10/2004] He presents his report to his commander on March 3 (see March 3, 2004).

Entity Tags: Antonio M. Taguba

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Key Events

In response to a request by Human Rights First, the Defense Department says, “The number of detainees within Afghanistan is classified due to ongoing military operations and force protection concerns.” [First, 6/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Human Rights First

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup

General John Abizaid, head of US Central Command (Centcom) threatens Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba over Taguba’s hard-hitting report on the Abu Ghraib prison abuses (see February 26, 2004). Riding with Abizaid in the back of a car in Kuwait a few weeks after Taguba’s report was leaked to the public, Taguba will later claim that Abizaid turned to him and quietly said, “You and your report will be investigated.” Taguba will later recall, “I wasn’t angry about what he said but disappointed that he would say that to me. I’d been in the Army thirty-two years by then, and it was the first time that I thought I was in the Mafia.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: John P. Abizaid, Antonio M. Taguba

Category Tags: Coverup, Impunity, High-level Decisions and Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

A former high-level Defense Department official later tells journalist Seymour Hersh that when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, Senator John Warner (R-VA), chairman of the Armed Services Committee, was warned “to back off” on the investigation, because “it would spill over to more important things.” A spokesman for Warner later acknowledges that there had been pressure on Warner, but says that Warner stood up to it. For instance, Warner insisted on putting Rumsfeld under oath when he testified about Abu Ghraib (see May 7, 2004). However, Hersh will later note, “Despite the subsequent public furor over Abu Ghraib, neither the House nor the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings led to a serious effort to determine whether the scandal was a result of a high-level interrogation policy that encouraged abuse.… An aggressive congressional inquiry into Abu Ghraib could have provoked unwanted questions about what the Pentagon was doing, in Iraq and elsewhere, and under what authority.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: John W. Warner, Seymour Hersh

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

The US restricts the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) access to the Kandahar base, where there is a detention facility. “If Kandahar is being used as a detention facility and people are being detained there, we would expect to have access to them,” ICRC Kabul spokeswoman Jessica Barry says. [Reuters, 5/15/2004] Private non-profit organizations like Amnesty International also find it difficult or impossible to access US-run prisons in Afghanistan. “We have asked for access many times but in general there has been no response,” says Amnesty International’s Nazia Hussein, “so it is very difficult to determine what conditions are like.” [Guardian, 6/23/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Jessica Barry, Nazia Hussein

Category Tags: Coverup, Kandahar (Afghanistan)

MPs evacuate all the prisoners from the Hard Site at Abu Ghraib, except Huda al-Azzawi and a small number of other women in the upstairs cells. The guard assigned to her, “Mrs. Palmer,” tells them, according to Al-Azzawi, that during the inspection prisoners must lie quietly on their beds. They are promised with more time outside of their cells if they behave well. [Guardian, 9/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi

Category Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Coverup, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

May 5, 2004: Journalists Tour Abu Ghraib

For the first time, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller leads a group of journalists around the Abu Ghraib prison. When prisoner Huda al-Azzawi sees Miller with the group of reporters, she shouts out: “We are not the killers. You are the killers. This is our country. You have invaded it.” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Journalists notice five women screaming and waving their arms through the iron bars. One of them, possibly Al-Azzawi, shouts in Arabic: “I’ve been here five months. I don’t belong to the resistance. I have children at home.” [CBS News, 5/5/2004] The women had been instructed the day before to keep quiet (see May 4, 2004). Al-Azzawi recalls: “After that they didn’t let me out of my cell for an entire month. A US officer came to me and said: ‘Because of you we have all been punished.’” [Guardian, 9/20/2004] Elsewhere at Abu Ghraib, prisoners run out shouting as the bus with journalists drives by. A man with one leg waves his prosthetic leg in the air, shouting in Arabic: “Why? Why? Nobody has told me why I am here.” [CBS News, 5/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Geoffrey D. Miller

Category Tags: Huda al-Azzawi, Coverup, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, author of a hard-hitting report on Abu Ghraib prison abuse, is summoned to meet Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld for the first time. Rumsfeld is scheduled to testify about Abu Ghraib before Congress the next day (see May 7, 2004). Also attending the meeting is Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Under-Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, Army chief of staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant Lt. Gen. Bantz Craddock, and others. According to Taguba, when he walks in, Rumsfeld declares in a mocking voice, “Here… comes… that famous General Taguba—of the Taguba report!” Asked if there was torture at Abu Ghraib, Taguba recalls, “I described a naked detainee lying on the wet floor, handcuffed, with an interrogator shoving things up his rectum, and said, ‘That’s not abuse. That’s torture.’ There was quiet.” Rumsfeld asks who leaked Taguba’s report to the public, but Taguba says he doesn’t know. Rumsfeld then complains that he has not seen a copy of his report or the Abu Ghraib abuse photographs and yet he has to testify to Congress tomorrow. Taguba is incredulous, because he sent over a dozen copies of his report to the Pentagon and Central Command headquarters, and had just spent several weeks briefing senior military leaders about it. He also was aware that Rumsfeld, Myers, Craddock, and others were notified about the abuse and the photographs back in January, before Taguba even began his investigation (see January 15-20, 2004). Taguba will later suspect that the military leaders were trying to remain ignorant of the scandal to avoid responsibility and accountability. For instance, when Taguba urged one lieutenant general to look at the photographs, he got the reply, “[I] don’t want to get involved by looking, because what do you do with that information, once you know what they show?” Taguba will later complain of the meeting, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Antonio M. Taguba, Bantz J. Craddock, Peter J. Schoomaker, Richard B. Myers, Stephen A. Cambone, Paul Wolfowitz

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says in a testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “Any suggestion that there is not a full, deep awareness of what has happened [at Abu Ghraib], and the damage it has done, I think, would be a misunderstanding.” [Washington Post, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld

Category Tags: Coverup

Albert T. Church III.Albert T. Church III. [Source: US Navy]Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III reports to journalists the results of his review of prison operations at Guantanamo conducted the week before (see May 6-7, 2004). He finds: “There is a very, we have a very professional organization in place. With very detailed and understood roles and responsibilities. Strong leadership, strong chain of command, and a very positive command climate. The directions to the secretary of defense with respect to humane treatment of detainees and the interrogation techniques were being carried out as best we could determine.” Over a period going back to 2002, he only finds eight cases of mistreatment, which he repeatedly refers to as “minor infractions.” Four of the eight cases involved guards; three involved interrogators; and one involved a barber who gave a prisoner an “unauthorized” Mohawk-style haircut. Punishments, Church says, “ranged from admonishment to reduction in rate, and some cases maybe more.” One person, he says, was court-martialed. But, he says, “We found no evidence of current abuse….” Church says he is “very impressed” with the small amount of infractions by prison guards and interrogators, when taking into account the stressful conditions they were working under, “particularly when you look at the other side, the 14 incidents against the guards weekly.” He says he was told that each week on average prison personnel are the victim of about 14 acts of abuse by prisoners against guards: “verbal harassment, throwing of excrement, that type of thing.” [US Department of Defense, 5/12/2004] Church did not interview a single detainee during the course of his investigation. [Human Rights Watch, 6/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Albert T. Church III

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Nouri Badranm, a recently retired interior minister of Iraq’s Governing Council, tells Reuters that US soldiers running detention camps in Baghdad concealed the conditions of the prison from Iraqi officials who came to inspect the facility. “Every time they had pressure on them and there was a visit, they arranged things in advance,” he explains. “They cleaned up the prison and fixed the situation of the prisoners. So when a council member or another official went there they saw nothing.” He also says that occupation officials were aware that abuses were going on. “The abuses have been happening for a long time and the occupation forces knew about them. We heard about them from prisoners who were released. The occupation officials said nothing when we asked them.” [Reuters, 5/12/2004; China Central Television, 5/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Nouri Badranm

Category Tags: Coverup

A native German speaker visits Khalid el-Masri in the US prison in Kabul but does not identify himself. “I asked him,” El-Masri recalls, “‘Are you from the German authorities?’ He says: ‘I do not want to answer that question.’ When I asked him if the German authorities knew that I was there, he answered: ‘I can’t answer this question.’” What the German is able to tell him, is that one of the obstacles to his release is that the Americans do not want to leave any evidence that el-Masri has ever been in the prison. [Guardian, 1/14/2005]

Entity Tags: Khalid el-Masri

Category Tags: Khalid el-Masri, Coverup, Salt Pit (Afghanistan)

Samuel Provance.Samuel Provance. [Source: ABC News]Sgt. Samuel Provance of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion is interviewed by Maj. Gen. George Fay. But according to Provance, the general seems interested only in the part played by the military police, not the interrogators. Fay, who has been charged with determining the role of military intelligence in the abuses committed against detainees, also appears to discourage Provance from testifying, threatening to recommend administrative action against him that would bar promotions for failing to report what he knew sooner. [ABC News, 5/18/2004] Shortly after the interview, Provance receives written orders not to discuss Abu Ghraib. [Chicago Tribune, 5/20/2004] He becomes convinced that the government is engaged in a cover-up. [ABC News, 5/18/2004]

Entity Tags: George R. Fay, Samuel Provance

Category Tags: Coverup, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Sgt. Samuel Provance of the 302nd Military Intelligence Battalion tells ABC News that the US military is engaged in a cover-up of the Abu Ghraib abuses. “There’s definitely a cover-up,” he says. “People are either telling themselves or being told to be quiet.” He also says the MPs seen in the photos with naked Iraqi prisoners at the prison were acting under orders from military intelligence. “Anything [the MPs] were to do legally or otherwise, they were to take those commands from the interrogators…. One interrogator told me about how commonly the detainees were stripped naked, and in some occasions, wearing women’s underwear. If it’s your job to strip people naked, yell at them, scream at them, humiliate them, it’s not going to be too hard to move from that to another level.” [ABC News, 5/18/2004; Washington Post, 5/20/2004]

Entity Tags: Samuel Provance

Category Tags: High-level Decisions and Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Coverup

Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager tells reporters that the media will not be permitted access to secret detention facilities in Afghanistan, claiming that to do so would violate the prisoners’ rights under the Geneva Conventions. However in February 2002, the administration had denied “prisoner of war” status to all Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters captured in Afghanistan (see February 7, 2002) on grounds they were “illegal combatants.” Since then, the US has maintained that these prisoners are not protected by the Conventions. Nonetheless, Mansager explains: “Part of… spirit [of the Geneva Conventions] is to ensure that the persons under confinement are not subject to any kind of exploitation. It is the coalition’s position that allowing media into the facilities would compromise that protection.” [Reuters, 5/19/2004]

Entity Tags: Tucker Mansager

Category Tags: Coverup, Media

FBI Director Robert Mueller appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee and is asked if the FBI is aware of prisoner abuse by the military or the CIA similar to what happened at Abu Ghraib. Mueller is said to appear “uneasy and unusually hesitant.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein says: “He gave me a kind of gobbledygook answer. At best his answer was confusing and at worst it was obfuscatory.” Mueller’s response is that FBI agents “on occasion… may disagree with the handling of a particular interview.” [Newsweek, 1/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Dianne Feinstein

Category Tags: Coverup

Lt. Col. Ricardo S. Sanchez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller appear before a classified session of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. The following day, Representative Jane Harman shoots a letter off to Miller saying there were “gaps and discrepancies” in his presentation and accuses him of selectively withholding information. She also tells him that she now questions his candor. [Newsweek, 6/7/2004]

Entity Tags: Ricardo S. Sanchez, Geoffrey D. Miller, Jane Harman, US Congress

Category Tags: Coverup

After speaking to the media (see May 18, 2004) (see May 19, 2004), Sgt. Samuel Provance receives a disciplinary order from his battalion commander, Lt. Col. James Norwood, notifying him that he has been stripped of his security clearance, transferred to a different platoon, and made ineligible for promotions or awards. He is also informed that he may be prosecuted for speaking out because his comments were “not in the national interest.” [ABC News, 5/21/2004] Norwood says: “There is reason for me to believe that you may have been aware of the improper treatment of the detainees at Abu Ghraib before they were reported by other soldiers.” The conclusions of Maj. Gen. George Fay’s investigation (see August 25, 2004), Norwood warns, “may reveal that you should face adverse action for your failure to report.” [Newsweek, 6/7/2004] Indeed, the Fay report will conclude that Provance “[f]ailed to report detainee abuse” and “[f]ailed to obey a direct order.” Maj. Gen. Fay will also write, “He interfered with this investigation by talking about the investigation, giving interviews to the media, and passing the questions being asked by investigators to others via a website.” [US Department of Defense, 8/23/2004 pdf file] Provance’s attorney, Scott Horton, believes the military is intimidating soldiers in an effort to prevent them from speaking out about what they know. “I see it as an effort to intimidate Sgt. Provance and any other soldier whose conscience is bothering him, and who wants to come forward and tell what really happened at Abu Ghraib,” he says. [ABC News, 5/21/2004]

Entity Tags: George R. Fay, Scott Horton, James Norwood, Samuel Provance

Category Tags: Coverup, Disciplinary Actions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales stresses in an interview that President Bush had urged interrogation and detention policy to be legally sound. Gonzales says, “Anytime a discussion came up about interrogations with the president,… the directive was, ‘Make sure it is lawful. Make sure it meets all of our obligations under the Constitution, US federal statutes and applicable treaties.’” [Washington Post, 6/9/2004]

Entity Tags: Alberto R. Gonzales

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup

When the Taguba report (see March 9, 2004), which together with all its 106 annexes includes 6,000 pages, is delivered by the Pentagon to the Senate Armed Services Committee, some 2,000 pages are missing, withheld by the Defense Department. Pentagon spokesman Larry DiRita calls this an “oversight.” [Associated Press, 5/24/2004] Nevertheless, the missing pages contain key documents, internal Army memos and e-mails, sworn statements by soldiers, officers, contractors, and prisoners. It also includes the final section of Taguba’s interview with Col. Thomas M. Pappas. [Newsweek, 6/7/2004] The missing annexes of the Taguba report hold evidence that the abuse was not conducted solely by a few MPs acting on their own, but instead at the instigation and with the involvement of military intelligence personnel.

Entity Tags: US Congress, Larry DiRita, Thomas M. Pappas

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Key Events

The legal office of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo issues a warning to military and civilian personnel at Guantanamo, titled Interaction with Defense Counsel, informing them that they are not required to provide the attorneys of detainees statements on the “personal treatment of detainees” or any “failure to report actions of others.” Refusing to cooperate with the attorneys, the document states, “will not impact your career.” [USA Today, 6/12/2004]

Category Tags: High-level Decisions and Actions, Coverup, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Maj. Gen. Antonio M. Taguba is a young officer rising through the ranks of the US Army with unusual speed. But after his hard-hitting report on the Abu Ghraib abuses (see February 26, 2004), he claims that Gen. John Abizaid, head of US Central Command, threatens to have him investigated (see May 2004). Taguba had been scheduled to rotate to the Third Army’s headquarters in Georgia in June of 2004, but instead he is ordered to work at the Pentagon. A retired four-star Army general later tells Taguba that he had been sent to the job in the Pentagon so that he could “be watched.” Taguba later claims that in January of 2006, General Richard Cody, the Army’s Vice-Chief of Staff. calls him and bluntly tells him without any explanation, “I need you to retire by January of 2007.” Taguba does retire in January 2007, after thirty-four years of active service.. He will later complain, “They always shoot the messenger. To be accused of being overzealous and disloyal—that cuts deep into me. I was being ostracized for doing what I was asked to do.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Antonio M. Taguba, Richard Cody

Category Tags: Coverup, Other Events, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

An Iraqi detainee in US custody in Tikrit charges that he has been beaten and shocked with a taser. A US military medic examines the prisoner and finds evidence confirming his allegations. The medic states, “Everything he described he had on his body.” Yet the medic gives the detainee Tylenol and clears him for further interrogations. There are no indications that the medic ever reports the abuse. [American Civil Liberties Union, 5/2/2006]

Category Tags: Coverup, Electrodes, Physical Assault, Other US Bases and Centers, Other Detainees

The American Civil Liberties Union, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and four other independent organizations file a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act demanding the release of information about detainees held by the United States at military bases and other detention facilities overseas. “The government’s ongoing refusal to release these records is absolutely unacceptable, particularly in light of the severity of the abuses we know to have occurred,” says Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU staff lawyer. More than seven months have passed since the initial request (see October 7, 2003) was made to the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security and Justice, and the CIA for these documents. [American Civil Liberties Union, 6/2/2004]

Entity Tags: American Civil Liberties Union

Category Tags: Coverup, Human Rights Groups

Cpt. Bruce Frame, a US Army spokesman for CENTCOM, tells Human Rights First that there “may or may not” be detention centers in countries other than Iraq and Afghanistan. [First, 6/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Human Rights First, Bruce Frame

Category Tags: Coverup

The Washington Post reveals the existence of a secret August 2002 memo from the Justice Department. This memo advised the White House that torturing al-Qaeda terrorists in captivity “may be justified,” and that international laws against torture “may be unconstitutional if applied to interrogations” conducted in the US war on terrorism (see August 1, 2002). The legal reasoning was later used in a March 2003 report by Pentagon lawyers assessing interrogation rules governing the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay (see March 6, 2003). Bush officials say that despite the memo, it has abided by the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties proscribing torture (see February 7, 2002). The incidents at Abu Ghraib, where numerous Iraqi prisoners were tortured, maimed, and sometimes murdered, were not policy, officials say. Human rights organizations and civil libertarians are appalled at the memo. “It is by leaps and bounds the worst thing I’ve seen since this whole Abu Ghraib scandal broke,” says Tom Malinowski of Human Rights Watch. “It appears that what they were contemplating was the commission of war crimes and looking for ways to avoid legal accountability. The effect is to throw out years of military doctrine and standards on interrogations.” A senior Pentagon official says that the Judge Advocate Generals (JAGs) were quick to challenge the Justice Department opinion when it was promoted by the Pentagon. “Every flag JAG lodged complaints,” the official says. A senior military attorney says of the memo: “It’s really unprecedented. For almost 30 years we’ve taught the Geneva Convention one way. Once you start telling people it’s okay to break the law, there’s no telling where they might stop.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004] Attorney General John Ashcroft tells the Senate Judiciary Committee that he will not discuss the contents of the August 2002 memo, nor turn it over to the committee. “I believe it is essential to the operation of the executive branch that the president has the opportunity to get information from the attorney general that is confidential,” he says. [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]

Entity Tags: Senate Judiciary Committee, Bush administration (43), Geneva Conventions, John Ashcroft, Tom Malinowski, US Department of Justice, Judge Advocate General Corps, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup

The Guardian, during the course of an in-depth investigation of the Bagram air base in Afghanistan, learns that while some of the base’s prisoners are being transferred to Guantanamo, others are being purposely kept off the books, a practice that a human rights organization has coined, “RPing,” or “Rumsfeld Processing.” These prisoners are sometimes called ghost prisoners. These detainees are sometimes rendered to the intelligence services of Egypt or other foreign governments for interrogation. [Guardian, 6/23/2004]

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Independent Investigations, Rendition after 9/11, Ghost Detainees, Bagram (Afghanistan)

In an “Urgent Report” addressed to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, an FBI official says that an unidentified individual has “observed numerous physical abuse incidents of Iraqi civilian detainees conducted in… Iraq.” According to the FBI official, the informant said that the abuses included “strangulation, beatings, placement of lit cigarettes into the detainees ear openings, and unauthorized interrogations.” The FBI official also says that the informant provided the name of a person involved in covering up these abuses. The report is later released to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a heavily redacted state, with several paragraphs blanked out. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6/25/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, American Civil Liberties Union

Category Tags: Coverup, Physical Assault

Scott Horton.Scott Horton. [Source: HBO]Scott Horton of the New York City Bar Association says that investigations by the Pentagon “have a reputation for tending to whitewash, but even taking this into account, the current investigations seem to be setting new standards.” He adds: “Rumsfeld has completely rigged the investigations. My friends say we should expect something much akin to the army inspector general’s report— ‘just a few rotten apples.’” [Guardian, 9/13/2004]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Scott Horton

Category Tags: Coverup, Criticisms of US, Reports/Investigations

A CD is found during a routine clean-up of the office of a captain at Bagram. The CD contains half a dozen photographs showing uniformed but masked US soldiers pointing their M-4 rifles and 9-mm guns at the heads of handcuffed and hooded or blindfolded detainees. In one photo, a detainee has his head pushed against the wall of a cage. The shots were apparently taken in and around a US base in southern Afghanistan near the village of Deh Rawod, called Fire Base Tycze, between December 2003 and February 2004. The unit responsible for the photographs is the 2nd platoon of the 22nd Infantry Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum, NY. Soldiers of this unit admit to Army investigators that similar photos were purposely destroyed after the Abu Ghraib scandal erupted. A specialist explains in a report dated July 8, 2004, “After seeing the problems they had in Iraq, I knew this was a problem and should have never been done. I realized there would be another public outrage if these photographs got out, so they were destroyed. I knew it was wrong after I [saw] the reports in the newspaper on the prison abuse scandal in Iraq.” The destruction is an apparently unit-wide effort. A staff sergeant tells a specialist to “get rid of the pictures” and a specialist says he “verbally counseled” a soldier to “get rid of” his photographs. Another says, “I realize it makes me and my unit look bad, and in no way meant for this to happen.” The destroyed pictures allegedly depicted detainees being kicked and beaten. [US Department of Army, 7/8/2004 pdf file; US Department of Army, 8/2/2004 pdf file; US Department of Army, 8/5/2004 pdf file; US Department of Army, 8/25/2004 pdf file; US Department of the Army, 10/11/2004 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 2/18/2005]

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Other US Bases and Centers

After months of ignoring requests from the Senate Armed Services Committee for Red Cross reports on detention operations at US-run prisons in Iraq, [New York Times, 7/24/2004] the Pentagon finally delivers 24 of the organization’s 25 reports. [New York Times, 7/16/2004] But the reports are shown only briefly to senators and a few members of the Armed Services Committee staff before being taken back to the Pentagon. [New York Times, 7/16/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Category Tags: Coverup

(Show related quotes)

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, in a speech to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), says that there is proof that Iraqi prisoners, including women and children, were raped and sodomized by US guards while in custody at Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison. Hersh, who, as evidenced by a video recording of the speech, is struggling with what to say and what not to say, tells the assemblage: “Debating about it, ummm.… Some of the worst things that happened you don’t know about, okay? Videos, um, there are women there. Some of you may have read that they were passing letters out, communications out to their men. This is at Abu Ghraib.… The women were passing messages out saying, ‘Please come and kill me, because of what’s happened,’ and basically what happened is that those women who were arrested with young boys, children in cases that have been recorded. The boys were sodomized with the cameras rolling. And the worst above all of that is the soundtrack of the boys shrieking that your government has. They are in total terror. It’s going to come out.” Hersh continues: “It’s impossible to say to yourself how did we get there? Who are we? Who are these people that sent us there? When I did My Lai [a US military atrocity during the Vietnam War] I was very troubled like anybody in his right mind would be about what happened. I ended up in something I wrote saying in the end I said that the people who did the killing were as much victims as the people they killed because of the scars they had, I can tell you some of the personal stories by some of the people who were in these units witnessed this. I can also tell you written complaints were made to the highest officers, and so we’re dealing with a enormous massive amount of criminal wrongdoing that was covered up at the highest command out there and higher, and we have to get to it and we will. We will.” In an earlier speech, Hersh noted the photos and videos of “horrible things done to children of women prisoners, as the cameras run.” [Salon, 7/15/2004] Other stories from Abu Ghraib document the rape and sexual assault of prisoners (see October 7, 2003, October 24, 2003, and January 4, 2004).

Entity Tags: Seymour Hersh, American Civil Liberties Union

Category Tags: Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath, Coverup, Criticisms of US, Physical Assault, Sexual Humiliation, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Other Detainees

Paul T. Mikolashek.Paul T. Mikolashek. [Source: US Army]The US Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, presents a 300-page report listing 94 documented cases of prisoner abuse to the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Of the 94 cases cited in the report, 39 are deaths. Twenty of those are suspected homicides. [Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2004] In preparing the report, Mikolashek’s team visited more than two dozen US military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the US. Unlike previous investigations, Mikolashek did not look at individual cases. Instead, his team reviewed records of reported cases and the findings of previous investigations. Team members also interviewed 650 soldiers and officers and looked at broad Army doctrine and training. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Mikolashek’s report concludes that abuses were not due to “systemic” problems. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] For example, it found no evidence that there was a “pattern of abuse” in the central command’s area of responsibility. [New York Times, 6/6/2004] The report’s conclusions are made in spite of the fact that the investigative team identified numerous problems at the prison stemming from poorly trained US military personnel, inadequate supervision, and vague and contradictory policies and orders. According to Mikolashek, documented cases of abuse were “aberrations” that did not follow from Army doctrine but from the “the failure of individuals to follow known standards of discipline and Army values and, in some cases, the failure of a few leaders to enforce those standards of discipline.” They were, the report stressed, “unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals.” The conduct of most of the soldiers, however, exhibited “military professionalism, ingrained Army values, and moral courage,” the report insisted. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] The report’s conclusions stand in stark contrast to the Red Cross’s report (see February 24, 2004), released in late February, which concluded that problems in the US detention system were widespread and systemic. Though the report will be heavily criticized for its conclusion that military and administration officials should not be blamed for the atrocities, it does contain an abundant amount of evidence that they created an environment that encouraged the abuses to happen. For example, Mikolashek’s team found:
bullet The military hired private contractors to interrogate detainees because the military had too few translators and interrogators in the field. More than a third of these private contractors were not sufficiently trained. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Almost two thirds of the prisoners were kept in makeshift prison camps, or collection points, for as many as 30 days—60 times the 12-hour limit set by Army doctrine. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Preventive medical services were insufficient. Not one of the US-run facilities visited by the team met the Army’s medical screening requirements. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Copies of the Geneva Conventions in the detainees’ native languages were present at only four of the 16 facilities visited by Mikolashek’s team, in contravention of international law. There was not a single US-run facility in Afghanistan that had a copy. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet At Abu Ghraib, the conditions were extremely unsanitary. The prison was seriously overcrowded, lacked an adequate supply of potable water, and had garbage and sewage strewn on the grounds of the outdoor camps. There were only 12 showers available for 600 to 700 detainees. Meals provided to the detainees were often contaminated with dirt and rodent droppings. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The Bagram base in Afghanistan had a leaking roof and no sanitary system. “Human waste spills were frequent on the main floor,” the reports says. Sections of the base were contaminated with toxic chemicals leftover from previous airport operations. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The military’s interrogation policy was confusing and instructions were often conflicting. “While the language of the approved policies could be viewed as a careful attempt to draw the line between lawful and unlawful conduct, the published instructions left considerable room for misapplication.” This could “create settings in which unsanctioned behavior, including detainee abuse, could occur,” the report’s authors conclude. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Paul T. Mikolashek

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Prisoner Deaths, Reports/Investigations, Poor Conditions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Key Events

An unnamed Defense Department official tells the Washington Post that the soon-to-be-released Fay report (see August 25, 2004), authored by Lt. Gen. Anthony R. Jones and Maj. Gen. George R. Fay, will demonstrate that the prisoner abuses “were bad, illegal, unauthorized, and some of it was sadistic.” But the report will conclude that they were “the actions of a few; actions that went unnoticed because of leadership failures.” [Washington Post, 8/24/2004]

Entity Tags: George R. Fay, Anthony R. Jones

Category Tags: Impunity, Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

An unnamed Army officer, interviewed by the Washington Post, says that an incident involving two MP dog handlers who were competing to be the first to make juvenile detainees urinate on themselves had “nothing to do with interrogation.” Rather, “It was just them on their own being weird,” he contends. [Washington Post, 8/24/2004]

Category Tags: Impunity, Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

Referring to the forthcoming Fay report (see August 25, 2004), an unnamed Pentagon adviser tells the Telegraph of London: “Some of the military lawyers are incandescent. There’s been a deliberate attempt to make sure the buck stops well before it gets to the doors of the civilian hierarchy.” [Sunday Telegraph, 8/15/2004]

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations

A lawyer, who has been in regular communication with military officials about the problem of prisoner abuse, tells the Telegraph of London that the soon-to-be-released Fay report (see August 25, 2004) is a whitewash: “This is a whitewash—a carefully orchestrated one. People in the Pentagon have been coming to me in a fury because of the way this has been handled. By naming military intelligence officials as well as the seven military police who have been charged, it will look like action has been taken. But basically it’s still the same storyline of just a few bad apples, way down the food chain.” [Sunday Telegraph, 8/15/2004]

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations

Portions of the Fay report (see August 25, 2004) are leaked to the Baltimore Sun. It is quickly characterized as a deliberate cover-up to protect senior military and civilian officials. [Sunday Telegraph, 8/15/2004]

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations

The UN’s independent expert on human rights in Afghanistan, Cherif Bassiouni, visits the Afghan government’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison in Kabul where 725 Taliban members and Pakistani supporters are being held. After his visit, he describes conditions at the prison as “inhuman” and says that the prisoners should be released. He also wanted to visit the US-run detention centers in Afghanistan but US authorities rejected his request. Bassiouni says the US’s lack of transparency “raises serious concerns about the legality of detention and conditions of those detainees.” [Reuters, 8/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Cherif Bassiouni

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Human Rights Groups

The Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) opens a probe into the deaths of two Afghan detainees, allegedly at the hands of US Special Forces soldiers. The two men, Wakil Mohammed and Jamal Naseer, died on March 1, 2003 and March 16, 2003, respectively (see March 1, 2003 and March 16, 2003). Mohammed, an unarmed peasant, was being interrogated about his role in a recent firefight. While he was protesting his innocence, he was shot in the face by an American soldier. Naseer, taken into custody with seven other Afghans for interrogation about their supposed involvement with local Taliban or al-Qaeda fighters, died about a week after his capture, allegedly from repeated torture and abuse. Los Angeles Times reporters Craig Pyes and Mark Mazzetti write, “Motivation for those arrests remains cloaked in Afghan political intrigue. The action was requested by a provincial governor feuding with local military commanders, an Afghan intelligence report says.” While the Army apparently looked into the circumstances of the deaths shortly after they occurred, no official investigation was ever mounted until the Crimes of War Project began its own investigation into the deaths. When the organization released its findings to two Los Angeles Times reporters, Kevin Sack and Craig Pyes, and the reporters filed a series of articles on the deaths in September 2004, the CID opened its own probe. Former Attorney General for the Armed Forces Yar Mohammed Tamkin, who directs the Afghan investigation into the death of Naseer, concludes in his own report that there was a “strong possibility” that Naseer was “murdered as the result of torture” at the hands of his US captors. Under Afghan law, he writes, “it is necessary for our legal system to investigate the torture of the seven individuals and the murder of Jamal, son of Ghazi, and other similar acts committed by foreign nationals.” CID investigators say that the Army’s original inquiry into the deaths was stymied by a lack of information made available by the Gardez unit’s commanders. “We’re trying to figure out who was running the base,” says Army detective Christopher Coffey. “We don’t know what unit was there. There are no records. The reporting system is broke across the board. Units are transferred in and out. There are no SOPs [standard operating procedures]… and each unit acts differently.” Coffey does acknowledge that “Gardez is the worst facility—it is three or four times as bad as any other base in Afghanistan.” Naseer’s death was officially attributed to “natural causes” stemming from an apparent sexually-contracted urinary tract infection, and his death was never reported, as is standard Army procedure. Shortly after Naseer’s death, the other seven detainees were transferred to the custody of local Afghan police, who mounted their own investigation. The seven were released without charge six weeks later. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2004] Two special Forces soldiers accused of complicity in Naseer and Mohammed’s deaths will be given administrative reprimands by the Army in 2007 (see January 26, 2007).

Entity Tags: Yar Mohammed Tamkin, Jamal Naseer, Al-Qaeda, Christopher Coffey, Wakil Mohammed, Taliban, US Department of the Army

Timeline Tags: War in Afghanistan

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations, Media

The FBI prepares a detailed 300-page report in response to follow-up questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee about Director Mueller’s earlier testimony on May 20, 2004 (see May 20, 2004) regarding incidents of abuse known by the FBI. However the Justice Department refuses to release the report saying that it must first review it. [Newsweek, 1/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup

Senator Patrick Leahy, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, releases a statement condemning the allegations of the abuse and torture of Iraqi and Afghan detainees; the statement coincides with a letter Leahy sends to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. [Pyes, 9/20/2004] In the statement, Leahy says that committee chairman Sen. John Warner’s efforts to investigate the scandals "remain… hampered by the leadership of his own party and an Administration that does not want the full truth revealed.… Despite calls from a small handful of us who want to find the truth, Congress and this Administration have failed to seriously investigate acts that bring dishonor upon our great Nation and endanger our soldiers overseas.… The Bush Administration circled the wagons long ago and has continually maintained that the abuses were the work of ‘a few bad apples.’ I have long said that somewhere in the upper reaches of the executive branch a process was set in motion that rolled forward until it produced this scandal. Even without a truly independent investigation, we now know that the responsibility for abuse runs high up into the chain of command." He accuses the Senate Judiciary Committee, and the Senate as a whole, of falling “short in its oversight responsibilities.” He calls for a truly independent investigation into the torture allegations, along the lines of the 9/11 Commission. He also calls for the US to once again begin following the guidelines of the Geneva Conventions. [US Senate, 10/1/2004] Sen. Warner’s office will later admit that Warner was pressured by unnamed Bush administration officials to “back off” investigating the Abu Ghraib abuses (see May 2004).

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Patrick J. Leahy, John W. Warner, Donald Rumsfeld, US Department of the Army

Category Tags: Coverup, Reports/Investigations

The CIA says in a court filing that it cannot confirm or deny the existence of documents being sought after by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) “because to do so would tend to reveal classified information and intelligence sources and methods that are protected from disclosure.” The ACLU sued the government for access to the documents two months earlier. The documents, which a US District Court ordered the government to provide (see August 12, 2004), relate to the treatment of detainees in Guantanamo and Afghanistan. [Boston Globe, 12/27/2004]

Entity Tags: American Civil Liberties Union

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Human Rights Groups, Coverup, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

Randall Schmidt.Randall Schmidt. [Source: US Air Force]FBI agents at Guantanamo prison have been complaining to superiors about military personnel abusing detainees there since 2002 (see End of 2002). However, there is no official investigation until December 2004, after the widely publicized Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. Gen. Bantz Craddock, head of the US Army’s Southern Command and a close associate of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, assigns Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt to investigate. Schmidt will later say, “I found some things that didn’t seem right. For lack of a camera, you could have seen in Guantanamo what was seen at Abu Ghraib.” Schmidt will say that he determined Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of the Guantanamo prison, “was responsible for the conduct of interrogations that I found to be abusive and degrading. The intent of those might have been to be abusive and degrading to get the information they needed.… Did the means justify the ends? That’s fine.… He was responsible.” Schmidt formally recommends that Miller be “held accountable” and “admonished.” But Craddock rejects this and absolves Miller of any improprieties, and the army’s Inspector General seconds that conclusion. By this time, Miller is in charge of reforming Abu Ghraib and other prisons in Iraq (see March 22, 2004). Schmidt will later learn that Rumsfeld was in contact with Miller about some Guantanamo interrogations and personally approved the most severe interrogation tactics. [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Donald Rumsfeld, Geoffrey D. Miller, Bantz J. Craddock, Randall Schmidt

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Reports/Investigations, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

The US television news media virtually ignores the court-martial of Specialist Charles Graner, who is charged with abusing and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006 and January 16, 2005), according to author and media critic Frank Rich. “[I]f a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture,” Rich will write. Much of the broadcast coverage is focused on stories about President Bush’s upcoming inauguration and on Britain’s Prince Harry, who had dressed up in Nazi regalia for a costume party. The network and cable news stations grant Graner’s trial only “brief, mechanical” summations “when it was broadcast at all.” The usual claims that television news only focuses on lurid, scandal-ridden news stories do not apply here, Rich writes: “It surely didn’t lack for drama; the Graner trial was Judgment at Nuremberg turned upside down.” Viewers do not learn of defense lawyer Guy Womack’s claim during his closing argument that “In Nuremberg, it was the government being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers.” Rich will later write that if the American public could not be exposed to fictional films about World War II (see November 11, 2004), then it “certainly… could not be exposed to real-life stories involving forced group masturbation, electric shock, rape committed with a phosphorescent stick, the burning of cigarettes in prisoners’ ears, involuntary enemas, and beatings that ended in death (see May 3-11, 2004). When one detainee witness at the Graner trial testified… that he had been forced to eat out of a toilet, his story was routinely cited in newspaper accounts but left unmentioned on network TV newscasts.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]

Entity Tags: Guy Womack, Charles Graner, Frank Rich

Timeline Tags: Domestic Propaganda

Category Tags: Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath, Coverup, Disciplinary Actions, High-level Decisions and Actions, Media, Physical Assault, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq)

The Justice Department issues a secret opinion that countermands and contradicts the administration’s official policy that torture is “abhorrent” and will not be practiced by US military or law enforcement officials (see December 30, 2004). The secret opinion is, the New York Times writes two years later while publicly revealing its existence, “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The opinion gives explicit authorization to abuse detainees with a combination of physical and psychological abuse, including head-slapping, stress positioning, simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), and prolonged exposure to intense cold. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales (see November 10, 2004) approves the memo over the objections of deputy attorney general James Comey, himself preparing to leave the Justice Department after a series of battles over the legality of torture and the domestic surveillance program (see March 10-12, 2004). Comey says at the time that everyone at the department will be “ashamed” of the new opinion once the world learns of it. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Alberto R. Gonzales, Central Intelligence Agency, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Impunity, Legal Proceedings, Media, Statements/Writings about Torture, Abrogation of Rights, Dangerous Conditions, Extreme Temperatures, Forced Confessions, Mental Abuse, Sleep Deprivation, Stress Positions, Waterboarding, Internal Memos/Reports

Shortly after 9/11, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the creation of Special Access Program (SAP) task forces that are given blanket authority in advance to kill or interrogate high-value targets anywhere in the world (see Late 2001-Early 2002). In April, 2005, an unnamed US Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officer complains in a memo to CIA headquarters that it is impossible to investigate members of a SAP force suspected of prisoner abuse. “[We have been] unable to thoroughly investigate… due to the suspects and witnesses involvement in Special Access Programs (SAP) and/or the security classification of the unit they were assigned to during the offense under investigation.” Attempts by investigators to be given security clearance to understand the programs have been unsuccessful. Furthermore, the officer writes that “fake names were used” by members of the task force, and the force claims they had a “major computer malfunction which resulted in them losing 70 per cent of their files; therefore, they can’t find the cases we need to review.” The officer concludes that the investigation “does not need to be reopened. Hell, even if we reopened it we wouldn’t get any more information than we already have.” [New Yorker, 6/17/2007]

Entity Tags: Operation Copper Green, Criminal Investigation Division

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, Impunity, Reports/Investigations, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Operation Copper Green

An employee of the watchdog organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) finds an unclassified draft of a document on the Defense Department’s Web site. The document proposes holding suspected Iraqi insurgents without trial in the same way that suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members have been imprisoned at Guantanamo and other US detention facilities. When HRW publicly denounces the proposal, the Defense Department takes down its entire electronic library of unclassified documents, including hundreds of unrelated papers and memos. When the Pentagon eventually restores the library to public view, many of the documents have been purged. [Savage, 2007, pp. 103-104]

Entity Tags: Human Rights Watch, US Department of Defense

Category Tags: Coverup, Detainments, High-level Decisions and Actions

Author Gerald Posner has claimed that shortly after al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida was captured in late March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), he was tricked into thinking he had been handed over to the Saudis and then confessed high-level cooperation between al-Qaeda and the Saudi and Pakistani governments. Posner’s account has since been corroborated by New York Times journalist James Risen (see Early April 2002). In a 2005 book, Posner further alleges: “From conversations with investigators familiar with the [9/11 Commission’s] probe, the portions of Zubaida’s interrogation in which he named [Saudi and Pakistani connections] were not provided to the Commission. The CIA has even withheld [them] from the FBI, which is supposed to have access to all terror suspects’ questioning.” [Posner, 2005, pp. 14] There is some circumstantial evidence to support this. Aside from the alleged Saudi trickery, Zubaida reportedly confessed vital intelligence in late March and into April 2002, including the previously unknown fact that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (see Late March through Early June, 2002). But footnotes from various 9/11 Commission reports indicate that the earliest Zubaida interrogation used by the Commission is from May 23, 2002, after a new CIA team had taken over his interrogation (see Mid-May 2002 and After). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 65 pdf file] Hundreds of hours of Zubaida’s interrogation sessions have been videotaped by the CIA, but these videotapes will be destroyed by the CIA in 2005 under controversial circumstances (see November 2005).

Entity Tags: Gerald Posner, Abu Zubaida, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes, Abu Zubaida

Jay Rockefeller.Jay Rockefeller. [Source: US Senate]Ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) requests “over a hundred documents” from the CIA’s Inspector General. The documents are referenced in or pertain to a report the Inspector General drafted in May 2004 about the CIA’s detention and interrogation activities. Rockefeller also requests a report drafted by the CIA’s Office of General Counsel (see 2003) on the examination of videotapes of detainee interrogations stating whether the techniques they show comply with an August 2002 Justice Department opinion on interrogation (see August 1, 2002). However, the CIA refuses to provide these documents, as well as others, even after a second request is sent to CIA Director Porter Goss in September 2005. [US Congress, 12/7/2007] The videotapes Rockefeller is asking about will be destroyed by the CIA just two months after his second request (see November 2005).

Entity Tags: Senate Intelligence Committee, John D. Rockefeller, Office of the Inspector General (CIA), Central Intelligence Agency, Porter J. Goss

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

Category Tags: Coverup, Destruction of CIA Tapes

Newsweek prints an item in its “Periscope” section that reports an American guard at Guantanamo Bay flushed a detainee’s Koran down a toilet. According to the report, the US Southern Command intends to mount an investigation into the desecration, which violates US and international laws. The report sparks widespread rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that results in the deaths of at least 17 people. The Pentagon and the Bush administration immediately blame Newsweek for the riots and the deaths; Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the senior commander of US forces in Afghanistan, says the report did not spark the Afghan rioting, as does Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Newsweek says the information came from an American official who remains unidentified. “We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst,” Mark Whitaker, Newsweek’s editor, writes in a subsequent article. Whitaker adds: “We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.” The Pentagon denies the report; spokesman Bryan Whitman says: “Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations.” The report is “demonstrably false” and “irresponsible.” Whitman says the report has “had significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world.” Senior Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita calls Whitaker’s note “very tepid and qualified.… They owe us all a lot more accountability than they took.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says, “Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care.” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Newsweek is wrong to use “facts that have not been substantiated.” And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issues the admonishment, “[P]eople need to be careful what they say… just as people need to be careful what they do.” According to Whitaker, while the magazine tries to avoid using unnamed sources when it can, there are instances where sources will not speak to reporters unless their anonymity is guaranteed. The administration source has been reliable in the past, Whitaker says, and, moreover, the reporters of the story, Michael Isikoff and John Barry, received confirmation from both the source and a senior Pentagon official. Whitaker’s explanation notes that Newsweek has chosen not to publish previous reports of Koran desecration at Guantanamo because the sources are former detainees whom it considers unreliable. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that guards and officials at Guantanamo have looked for documentation of the reported Koran-flushing and cannot find it. [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 164] The Pentagon will conclude that the Newsweek report is indeed responsible for the riots; Isikoff and Barry’s source for the story will back off on his original claim (see May 15, 2005). A month later, the Pentagon will confirm that at least five instances of Koran desecration at Guantanamo did indeed occur (see June 3, 2005).

Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, John Barry, Hamid Karzai, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Bryan Whitman, Karl Eikenberry, Lawrence Di Rita, Mark Whitaker, Michael Isikoff, Scott McClellan, US Department of Defense, US Southern Command, Richard A. Boucher, Newsweek

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Media, Reports/Investigations, Statements/Writings about Torture, Abrogation of Rights, Suppression of Religious Expression, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

The Pentagon reports that an internal investigation shows no US guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility ever flushed a Koran down a toilet, as Newsweek recently reported. Furthermore, the rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that broke out after the report was released and claimed the lives of 17 people was directly sparked by the Newsweek report (see May 6-9, 2005). Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita informs Newsweek that its report is wrong. Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, the co-author of the report, goes back to his anonymous administration source to confirm the story. However, “the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the [US Southern Command] report [on prisoner abuse],” Newsweek writes. The story of the Koran being desecrated might have been in other reports, the source tells Isikoff. “Told of what the Newsweek source said, Di Rita explode[s],” the magazine writes. “‘How could he be credible now?’ Di Rita thunders.” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley says the White House is “vigorously” investigating the report; if true, Hadley says, stern disciplinary action will be taken. Hadley adds that radical Islamic elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan are using the report as an excuse to incite violence. [New York Times, 5/16/2005] Three weeks later, the Pentagon will confirm that at least five instances of Koran desecration at Guantanamo did indeed occur (see June 3, 2005).

Entity Tags: Michael Isikoff, Bush administration (43), Lawrence Di Rita, US Southern Command, US Department of Defense, Stephen J. Hadley, Newsweek

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Media, Reports/Investigations, Suppression of Religious Expression, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

A Koran kept for detainees’ use at Guantanamo. The surgical mask is provided to keep the Koran off the floor, and the guards from touching the book.A Koran kept for detainees’ use at Guantanamo. The surgical mask is provided to keep the Koran off the floor, and the guards from touching the book. [Source: GlobalSecurity (.org)]The Pentagon confirms that at least five incidents of deliberate and accidental Koran desecration have occurred at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon and White House recently denied a Newsweek report of one such incident. Both lambasted the news magazine for printing the claim without what it called sufficent proof, and blamed Newsweek’s reporting for sparking lethal riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan (see May 6-9, 2005 and May 15, 2005). While the Pentagon and White House denunciations of the Newsweek report were timed to garner extensive media attention, the Pentagon report is released to the press and the public at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, ensuring that it will not make Friday evening newscasts and, as author Frank Rich will later write, “be buried in the weekend papers.” (The Pentagon denies trying to downplay the report.) In the documented incidents, guards stepped on, kicked, and in one case urinated on Korans owned by the detainees. The urination incident is described as accidental—according to the report, a guard urinated near an outside air vent and his urine was caught in the airstream and carried into a prisoner’s cell. The detainee, who was also splashed, was given a fresh garment and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded. In another instance, guards throwing water balloons got detainees’ Korans wet. In a third instance, a two-word obscenity in English was written on the inside cover of a Koran, though the investigation could not determine whether a guard or a detainee wrote the phrase. In a fourth incident, an interrogator kicked a detainee’s Koran (see February 26, 2002-March 7, 2002). In a fifth incident, a contract interrogator stepped on a detainee’s Koran during questioning; the contractor is later fired for misconduct. Four other complaints of Koran desecration are not confirmed. “Mishandling a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence,” says Brigadier General Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo Joint Task Force. “Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned.” Hood says that no evidence of a Koran being flushed down a toilet, as Newsweek reported, has been found. Hood has already been caught in at least one misstatement; he claimed before the report that four of the five instances took place before January 2003, when written procedures covering handling of religious materials were implemented. The report says that four of those five incidents actually took place after January 2003. Captain Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for the task force, says he cannot explain Hood’s contradictory statement. “Maybe he misspoke,” Weir says. “I’m not sure why he would have put it that way.” Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the Hood report confirms that US guards handle the Koran with respect and dignity. “The Southern Command policy of Koran handling is serious, respectful, and appropriate,” he says. “The Hood inquiry would appear to affirm that policy.” [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 166]

Entity Tags: Jeffrey Weir, Bush administration (43), Frank Rich, Jay W. Hood, US Southern Command, Lawrence Di Rita, US Department of Defense, Newsweek

Category Tags: Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Media, Reports/Investigations, Suppression of Religious Expression, Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba)

The Justice Department decides not to prosecute in most cases where detainees were abused and killed by the CIA. The cases, of which there are apparently eight, had been referred to the department by the CIA’s inspector general (see (August 2004)) and were investigated primarily by the US Attorneys Office for the Eastern District of Virginia, although officials at department headquarters in Washington are also involved in the decision not to prosecute. Although some of the cases are still technically under review at this time, the department indicates it does not intend to bring charges. [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The cases include:
bullet The death of Iraqi prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi in CIA custody in November 2003 (see Between 4:30 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. November 4, 2003 and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003);
bullet The asphyxiation of Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush in Iraq, also in November 2003 (see November 24 or 25, 2003 and November 26, 2003). This incident involved the military, as well as at least one CIA contractor; [New York Times, 10/23/2005]
bullet The intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a gun and drill (see September 11, 2003).
bullet The death of detainee Gul Rahman, who froze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). The case was examined by prosecutors, but, in the end, a recommendation not to prosecute the officer who caused the detainee to die is made. [Washington Post, 9/19/2009] The officer’s first name is not known, although his last name is Zirbel. [Mahoney and Johnson, 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file] The decision is made because prosecutors conclude that the prison was outside the reach of US law; although the CIA funded it and vetted its Afghan guards, it was technically an Afghan prison. In addition, it is unclear whether Rahman, who was captured in Pakistan and then taken to Afghanistan, would have died from injuries sustained during his capture, rather than by freezing. Although hypothermia was listed as the cause of death in the autopsy, the body was not available to investigators. According to the Washington Post, “questions remain whether hypothermia was used as a cover story in part to protect people who had beaten the captive.” However, according to a “senior official who took part in the review,” the decision not to prosecute in this case is not initially that clear, and an indictment is considered. However, the prosecutors decide not to press charges against Zirbel and a memo explaining this decision is drafted. An official involved in the review will later say there is “absolutely no pressure” from the Justice Department’s management to decide not to prosecute. However, a later report by the Post will indicate there may be a split among prosecutors over the decision, and that a political appointee, US Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia Paul McNulty, assesses the case. McNulty will be nominated for the position of deputy attorney general around this time (see October 21, 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009]
However, one CIA employee, a contractor named David Passaro, has been charged with detainee abuse (see June 18-21, 2003). [New York Times, 10/23/2005] The department will begin a second review of some or all of these cases in 2009 (see August 24, 2009).

Entity Tags: Matthew Zirbel, Paul J. McNulty, Gul Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Abed Hamed Mowhoush, Manadel al-Jamadi, US Department of Justice

Category Tags: Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath, Coverup, High-level Decisions and Actions, Legal Proceedings, Reports/Investigations, Dangerous Conditions, Physical Assault, Poor Conditions, Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq), Salt Pit (Afghanistan), Other Detainees

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Key Events

Key Events (98)

General Topic Areas

Abu Ghraib Scandal Aftermath (28)Coverup (144)Criticisms of US (171)Detainee Treatment Act (15)Detainments (121)Disciplinary Actions (17)High-level Decisions and Actions (450)Human Rights Groups (81)Impunity (49)Indefinite Detention (41)Independent Investigations (27)Indications of Abuse (61)Legal Proceedings (217)Media (77)Military Commissions / Tribunals (66)Other Events (20)Prisoner Deaths (48)Private Contractors (8)Public Statements (84)Reports/Investigations (144)Statements/Writings about Torture (129)Supreme Court Decisions (5)

Renditions

Extraordinary Rendition (24)Rendition after 9/11 (75)Rendition before 9/11 (34)

Types of Abuses Performed by US

Abrogation of Rights (37)Dangerous Conditions (18)Deception (5)Electrodes (9)Exposure to Insects (4)Extreme Temperatures (48)Forced Confessions (37)Ghost Detainees (28)Insufficient Food (25)Intimidation/Threats (44)Involuntary Drugs (14)Isolation (33)Medical Services Denied (14)Mental Abuse (21)Physical Assault (140)Poor Conditions (30)SERE Techniques (30)Sexual Humiliation (57)Sexual Temptation (3)Sleep Deprivation (74)Stress Positions (65)Suppression of Religious Expression (18)Use of Dogs (20)Waterboarding (92)

Documents

Internal Memos/Reports (95)Presidential Directives (8)

Specific Events or Operations

Destruction of CIA Tapes (94)Operation Copper Green (9)Qala-i-Janghi Massacre (17)

US Bases and Interrogation Centers

Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq) (187)Al Jafr Prison (Jordan) (8)Al Qaim (Iraq) (6)Bagram (Afghanistan) (60)Camp Bucca (Iraq) (13)Camp Cropper (Iraq) (13)Diego Garcia (8)Gardez (Afghanistan) (7)Guantanamo (US Base in Cuba) (293)Kandahar (Afghanistan) (19)Salt Pit (Afghanistan) (34)Stare Kiejkuty (Poland) (21)US Base (Thailand) (15)USS Peleliu (7)Other US Bases and Centers (40)

High Ranking Detainees

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (32)Abu Zubaida (52)Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani (6)Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (26)Hambali (9)Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (10)Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (34)Majid Khan (7)Ramzi bin al-Shibh (13)Other High Ranking Detainees (14)

Other Detainees

Abed Hamed Mowhoush (8)Asif Iqbal (20)Binyam Mohamed (14)Bisher al-Rawi (11)Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (37)Huda al-Azzawi (10)Jamal Udeen (10)Jamil al-Banna (9)John Walker Lindh (29)Jose Padilla (31)Khalid el-Masri (17)Maher Arar (14)Moazzam Begg (8)Mohamed al-Khatani (13)Mohammed Jawad (14)Rhuhel Ahmed (22)Saddam Salah al-Rawi (8)Salim Ahmed Hamdan (12)Shafiq Rasul (20)Tarek Dergoul (11)Yaser Esam Hamdi (22)Other Detainees (167)
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