Recycling Torture Timelines

Per Jeff’s suggestion, I took a closer look at Zelikow’s memo on how the CIA stiffed the 9/11 Commission on evidence relating to interrogations of Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri. I’ll come back and comment on it in more detail–but I was struck by how closely the requests coincided with the beginnings of the Abu Ghraib scandal and Tenet’s resignation. So for now, I’m just adding some dates to this timeline (which I’ve integrated my torture tapes timeline). Look closely at the roles of Rummy, Cambone, Tenet, and McLaughlin.

August 1, 2002: Bybee Memo on torture governing interrogations by CIA

March 2003: Second John Yoo opinion on torture, governing interrogations by DOD

June 6, 2003: 9/11 Commission requests "’all TDs and other reports of intelligence information obtained from interrogations’ of forty named individuals from CIA, DOD, and FBI

August 31 to September 9, 2003: Major General Geoffrey Miller ordered to Abu Ghraib from Gitmo

September 22 and September 25, 2003: 9/11 discussions with CIA about interrogation process

October 1, 2003: Hamdi petition filed with SCOTUS

October 14 and 16, 2003: 9/11 Commission sends questions to CIA General Counsel Scott Muller on interrogations

October 31 and November 7, 2003: Response to 9/11 Commission with little new information

Fall 2003: General Sanchez visits Abu Ghraib regularly

December 2003: Jack Goldsmith tells Rummy he will withdraw March 2003 opinion on torture

December 23, 2003: 9/11 Commission requests access from Tenet to seven detainees; Tenet says no; Lee Hamilton asks for any responsive documents

January 5, 2004: 9/11 Commission decides CIA responses inadequate

January 9, 2004: SCOTUS agrees to hear Hamdi

January 13, 2004: Joseph Darby gives CID a CD of images of abuse

January 15, 2004: Memo to Gonzales, Muller, and Steve Cambone asking for more information

January 15, 2004: General Craddick receives email summary of story

January 19, 2004: General Sanchez requests investigation of allegations of abuse

January 20, 2004: Craddick and Admiral Keating receive another notice of abuse

January 2004: General Myers learns of abuse

January 26, 2004: After negotiations with Gonzales, Tenet, Rummy, and Christopher Wray from DOJ, 9/11 Commission accepts asking questions through intermediary

January 31, 2004: Taguba appointed to conduct investigation

February 9, 2004: 9/11 Commission requests “all TDs and reports related to the attack on the USS Cole, including intelligence information obtained from the interrogations of Abd al Rashim al Nashiri” from CIA

February 2 to 29, 2004: Taguba’s team in Iraq, conducting investigation

March 9, 2004: Taguba submits his report

Late March, 2004: 60 Minutes II starts on story

April 2004: General Miller ordered to Abu Ghraib to fix problems

April 7, 2004 (approximately): 60 Minutes II acquires photos authenticating Abu Ghraib story

Mid-April, 2004: General Myers calls Dan Rather to ask him to delay story

Mid-April, 2004: Taguba begins to brief officers on his report ("weeks" before his May 6 meeting with Rummy)

April 28, 2004: Hamdi v. Rumsfeld argued before SCOTUS; Paul Clement assures SCOTUS that the Administration doesn’t torture

QUESTION: May I ask just one other question, I think it’s just relevant. But do you
think there is anything in the law that curtails the method of interrogation that may be employed?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, I think there is, Justice Stevens. I mean —

QUESTION: And what is that?

MR. CLEMENT: Well, just to give one example, I think that the United States is signatory
to conventions that prohibit torture and that sort of thing. And the United States is going to honor its treaty obligations. The other thing that’s worth mentioning of course —

QUESTION: But you said something about self-executing. In connection with the Geneva
Convention, you said, well, it’s not self-executing. Would you say the same thing about the torture convention?

MR. CLEMENT: Justice Ginsburg, I actually have the sense that the torture victims — you have the Torture Victim Protection Act, of course, which I think doesn’t actually apply to the United States. So I’m not sure that there would be any other basis for bringing a private cause of action against the United States. But as this Court noted in footnote 14 of the Eisentrager opinion, the idea that a treaty is going to be enforced through means other than a private cause of action doesn’t mean that it’s not a binding treaty, doesn’t mean that it’s not going to constrain the actions of the executive branch. Just to finish up my answer to Justice
Stevens’ question, I wouldn’t want there to be any misunderstanding about this. It’s also the judgment of those involved in this process that the last thing you want to do is torture somebody or try to do something along those lines.

April 28, 2004: Abu Ghraib story airs on 60 Minutes II

May 2004: CIA briefing for Addington, Bellinger, and Gonzales on torture tapes

May 6, 2004: Taguba meets with Rummy, Wolfowitz, Cambone, Myers, and others

In the meeting, the officials professed ignorance about Abu Ghraib. "Could you tell us what happened?" Wolfowitz asked.


“Here I am,” Taguba recalled Rumsfeld saying, “just a Secretary of Defense, and we have not seen a copy of your report. I have not seen the photographs, and I have to testify to Congress tomorrow and talk about this.”

May 7, 2004: Rummy testifies before Congress on Abu Ghraib

May 20, 2004: 9/11 Commission asks about Abu Zubaydah reference to Saudi prince; they get no response

June 3, 2004: Tenet announces his resignation; John McLaughlin resigns as well

June 7, 2004: WSJ refers to March 2003 OLC opinion

June 8, 2004: WaPo refers to Bybee Memo

June 15, 2004: Goldsmith informs Ashcroft he will withdraw Bybee Memo and resigns

June 28, 2004: Hamdi decision

June 29, 2004: John McLaughlin confirms that CIA "has taken and completed all reasonable steps necessary to find the documents in its possession, custody, or control responsive" to the 9/11 Commission’s formal requests and "has produced or made available for review" all such documents

July 11, 2004: Tenet’s resignation effective

I’m struck by three things.

First, Rummy and Cambone almost certainly knew of the Abu Ghraib scandal when they were negotiating with the 9/11 Commission about getting testimony from Abu Zubaydah, among others.

Second, one of the last things McLaughlin did before he resigned as DDCI was to assure the 9/11 Commission they had handed over all the documents relating to the interrogations in question.

Third, look at the context of that CIA briefing for Addington, Gonzales, and Bellinger in May 2004. Not only was the Administration dealing with the aftermath of the Abu Ghraib story, but it was also facing Goldsmith’s reconsideration of John Yoo’s torture guidance.

29 replies
  1. MadDog says:

    EW, fwiw I listened to McLaughlin this afternoon on CNN. Note that McLaughlin is “employed” by CNN in some form/fashion to be consulted on camera on National Security issues.

    When asked (repeatedly by Fredricka Whitfield) why the CIA did not hand over the tapes to the Commission, McLaughlin’s “eventual” response was that the CIA provided transcripts of the interrogations.

    Since the Commission therefore had all the “information” from the interrogations, the CIA and/or McLaughlin did not think that providing the videotapes was necessary or more helpful (this is not verbatim but my version of what he said).

    • Hugh says:

      I would be very leery of what Mclaughlin has to say about anything. It is not clear that there were full transcripts of the interrogations. There has been talk of cables and summaries. Transcripts would imply that there was some electronic record from which they were made from. The idea of a court stenographer during the interrogations would be the stuff of black humor. Listening to high ups and former high ups in the intelligence community, I have gotten the impression that they are more interested in pitching a story that sounds plausible (especially if it is not looked at too closely) rather than relating one that is true.

  2. TheraP says:

    It occurs to me that the Red Cross apparently complained to the US about treatment of detainees prior to the public reports of abuse at Abu Graib. We may not have that info, because it may not be public, but it would be interesting to have the dates of their official complaints to add to your time line. So, just a reminder that that was going on in the background or, if you prefer, “underground.”

    • Peterr says:

      The Red Cross makes it complaints privately, so as to be able to say to whoever they are addressing “we’re not picking sides in the conflict; we just want good treatment for everyone’s prisoners.” They did complain to the DOD about lack of access, etc. prior to the Gitmo photos surfacing.

  3. PetePierce says:

    Very nice timeline by EW.

    The proposition that any official in the CIA, DOD, or DOJ, wasn’t fully aware of the extent of torture and the destruction of hiding and allegedged destruction of torture tapes–these or any others that surface in the future is ludicrous.

    I see lots of musing on different threads about whether DOJ was fully informed of tape destruction/or hiding, document destruction/or hiding, email destruction/or hiding.

    DOJ was always knowledgable and culpable in this administration, and always will be.

    If you think you’ve seen wagons circling, enjoy the show for the rest of Shrubco and beyond, because now that Mukasey is on board, the lawfirm of Addington, Fielding and Mukasey is going to stonewall and obfuscate to a degree you’ve never seen.

    Congressional whimps/liars are completely powerless to investigate or check this administration, no matter how many feigned “oversight” hearings they hold. About the only thing they are focused on is riding the coattails of whomever Iowa decides will be the next President if they are up for re-election and figuring out how they can double their earmarks in the 11th Congressional budget.

    Hugh made quite a fine list the other day, and BobHi had a fine wiki, and there Team Teflon is going to cover every one of them and forge a Unitary Executive that will do permanant damage to this country that will never be undone.

  4. CTuttle says:

    I have a question, does the MCA of ‘06 give ex post facto powers(or immunity?) to the Prez, in regards to 18 USC 2441 (War Crimes), as it was enrolled by Pub. L. 109-366 sec. 6… It appears to allow EO’s to determine the validity of the Geneva Conventions and Torture…

    • PetePierce says:

      You bring up a very important connection, because in the MCA 2006,timed for the Nov. 7 elections, and alleged by Bush to be in memory of lives lost in 911 when it had nothing to do with 911 which very possibly would not have happened had Bush and his incompetents not been in place.

      The bill retroactively purported to legalize torture by the CIA from 2001 to 2005 as did the signing statement.

      I don’t know the answer to the question whether the MCA 2006 alleged that EOs can give immunity to Pres. or whether the signing statement alleged that. I don’t want to read either right now, because I’m not sure I have enough IV phenergan to handle that.

      I do know that the SCOTUS has the chance to show some balls and clear the air and reinstate habeas and debunk all of Bush’s ridiculous arguments in his signing statement and Congress’ cowardly conduct in passing this turkey. Ayk they heard oral arguments for these two consolidated cases on December 5, 2007.

      Boumediene v. Bush and Al Odah v. US No. 06-1195, 06-1196


      Whether the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Pub. L. No. 109-366, 120 Stat. 2600, validly stripped federal court jurisdiction over habeas corpus petitions filed by foreign citizens imprisoned indefinitely at the United States Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay.

      Whether Petitioners’ habeas corpus petitions, which establish that the United States government has imprisoned Petitioners for over five years, demonstrate unlawful confinement requiring the grant of habeas relief or, at least, a hearing on the merits.

      Former SJ during Clinton, Seth Waxman argued for the detainees, and S.J. Paul Clement argued for the government.

      I haven’t an idea of what the Court will do, but I have a damn good idea of what the opinions of Scalia and Roberts will be, and they won’t be pretty. Scalia and Roberts will predictably go after an alien’s right to use habeas corpus to challenge in U.S. courts. They have the opportunity to trash Bush and the worthless Congress with this clearly illegal law, and Bush’s insipid claims replete with lie after lie in his signing statement.

      They have the chance to restore habeas corpus, and this could well be the most important case Waxman has argued and one of the most important in the S. Ct.

      Kennedy has already written that Gitmo is an American territory in Judge Stevens’ opinion that the U.S. Court system had the right to decide whether foreign nationals aka non-citizens are rightfully imprisoned at Gitmo. Rasul v. Bush, 542 U.S. 466 (2004).

        • PetePierce says:

          Thanks Hugh and thanks again for your splendid work in the list. I’m not surprised at all. I’m worried the Supremes will fail to do what they should do to attack the MCA, and I have little confidence if they remand the case back to the D.C. Circuit replete with Bushie rubber stamps and former Bush homies and employees for a narrow interpretation.

          • Hugh says:

            I’m worried the Supremes will fail to do what they should do to attack the MCA

            It will be very interesting to see how they rule on Boumediene. As for the MCA, this was essentially the remedy they called for in Hamdan. They wanted a Congressional signoff on tribunals and commissions which they got in the MCA. Now with Boumediene they have a chance to undercut the MCA and the Detainee Treatment Act by restoring habeas rights. I would think that there are 4 solid votes to affirm the MCA in all its aspects: Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts. Kennedy seems to be the swing vote but last year he sided with the radical conservatives pretty much across the board. In all honesty I don’t know how the ruling will come out on this but if I had to guess I wouldn’t expect a broad endorsement of habeas, rather some tinkering with it to show the Court has not ceded its prerogatives on the issue to the Executive. In other words, this may have more to do with turf than the Constitution.

  5. Jeff says:

    Wow, June 2004 really must have felt like Mensis Horribilis for the White House – and only four or five months out from the election! The Abu Ghraib and torture memo thing explodes, and Goldsmith withdraws the torture memo, they’ve been dealing with the videotape thing, the 9/11 Commission report is coming up, and – let’s not forget – almost certainly Cheney (before June 4 or so in any case) and certainly Bush (June 22, I believe) have to do interviews with Fitzgerald in the CIA leak case. Plus as a side annoyance, at least, they have to deal with Tenet and his people leaking damaging information on their way out the door.

    They must have felt like it would be a miracle if they got reelected.

    • bluebird says:

      Yeh, the Republicans made sure they would win re-election in 2004. They stole it, Ohio is proof of that. And the Republicans swiftboated Kerry all summer to ensure the media had something to discuss on the news and nothing else.

  6. radiofreewill says:

    Here’s a date that’s likely to be at the headwaters of all the Pixie-Dusting and Compartmentalization that BushCo has done:

    Oct 4, 2001 – The day Bush ’superceded’ the Constitution as the UE.

    That’s the day BushWorld arose in Secret, Above the Rule of Law, and rendered Our Constitutional Processes all Kabuki.

    In Secret, with No Checks and Balances, Bush Chose to:

    – Torture, Tape the Torture, and then Destroy the Tapes to avoid a Judicial Order
    – Spy on Citizens and their Social Networks on Suspicion, not Probable Cause, without Warrants
    – ‘Out’ a Covert Spy for Political Spite
    – Politicize DoJ and its Key Departments – the USAs, PIN, OLC, and OPR
    – Ignore Standing Executive Orders

    And, he was able to do all of this because he could Pixie-Dust EOs Without Telling Anyone, and Compartmentalize People with Secrecy Oaths to make them Work for Him.

    So, for instance, Yoo was in OLC, inside DoJ, but his Work was Compartmentalized away from Ashcroft the AG, such that Ashcroft never saw Yoo’s ‘UE Authorization’ OLC Memo that was the legal foundation for Teh Program that Ashcroft ’signed-off’ on every 45 days, or so, as well.

    Functionally, Addington’s Compartmentalization made Yoo report to Addington, and screened the ‘Legal’ away from the ‘Political.’ For his part, Ashcroft was Compartmentalized as part of the ‘Political’ reporting to Bush, away from the ‘Legal.’ In this way, the right and the left hands always have ‘plausible deniability.’

    I strongly suspect Compartmentalization is at the heart of All BushCo’s Extra-Legal and Illegal Activities – Hiding what the Pixie-Dush says isn’t there.

    It’s very likely that

  7. Hugh says:

    I have a long entry on the Administration’s attempts to stonewall and/or manipulate the 9/11 Commission. The torture tapes would appear to be only one episode among many.

    I just glanced at the last post. Lederman was arguing that once the 9/11 Commission had finished the CIA quickly destroyed the tapes. But the 9/11 Commission released its report on July 22, 2004. It is my understanding that the tapes were destroyed in November 2005. I would hardly call that “quickly”.

  8. bmaz says:

    The argument that cold transcripts provide the equivalent information of an interrogation/confession as a videotape is beyond absurd. Transcripts do not indicate the mannerisms, intonation, physical actions, anger, fear, nor any other physical aspects of any of the subjects, whether they be inquisitors or detainee. This argument from an administration that believes momentary observations of travelers in airports by TSA flunkies is grounds for specialized investigation, is criminally incredulous.

    • PetePierce says:

      I had the same thought in reading through this thread, and speaking of

      This argument from an administration that believes momentary observations of travelers in airports by TSA flunkies is grounds for specialized investigation, is criminally incredulous.

      Have you seen this bmaz in today’s WaPo? They’d do a helluva lot better in preserving our freedoms if they used this technology to track individual luggage I thought when I saw the picture in NYT above the fold of all that baggage and wondered how much of it would get to its owner.

      FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics

  9. pdaly says:

    The above links to a short email. The last two sentences are most apropos to this discussion of torture by the US Government:

    “These tactics have produced no intelligence of a threat neutralization nature to date and CITF believes that techniques have destroyed any chance of prosecuting this detainee.

    If this detainee is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done the [sic]*FBI* interrogators. The FBI will left [sic] holding the bag before the public.” [my bold]

    Do you think the writer of this email was using the old definition of “torture”? (/snark)

  10. Jeff says:

    One of the surprising things about the NYT article yesterday was that the CIA seemed to be taking as if official line a position that actually seems to support the case for the knowing concealment of material information on the part of CIA back in 2004:

    “Because it was thought the commission could ask about the tapes at some point, they were not destroyed while the commission was active,” Mr. Mansfield said.

    John McLaughlin clearly sees the danger in that position for Team Tenet, very much including himself, so he has to push back against it, as he did yesterday in that CNN appearance:

    MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what I would tell you at the time is, you know, the implication, again, in the “New York Times” story is that we had somehow decided not to destroy them because we thought they might ask for them. This is just flat wrong. We had decided not to destroy them, period, and they were just — they were there. That’s all there was to it.

    Now, that’s not the implication of the NYT story, it’s the explicit, stated position of the CIA itself! What’s up with that?

    It is worth noting that McLaughlin’s position is strengthened by the fact that the CIA apparently did not destroy the tapes until November 2005. If the CIA were just waiting until the 9/11 Commission finished its work, it would have destroyed them in 2004. It may be that there was at that point something else that kept them from doing so – whether it was the advice of the White House, some other pending investigation or whatever – or it could even be that some tapes were destroyed in 2004, for all we know. But there must be more to the story than that the CIA waited until the 9/11 Commission was done to destroy the tapes – 16 months later!

  11. Jeff says:

    Zelikow’s memo (p. 6) observes that Committee staff remained unsatisfied with what they got from CIA in order to address questions regarding the credibility and meaning of the information provided by interrogations, and notes that their concerns were highlighted in a text box on p. 14 of the 9/11 Commission report. Looking at that text box simply leaves no doubt that CIA must have understood that the recordings of interrogations would have been just the sort of thing the Commission was looking for. Here it is, titled “Detainee Interrogation Reports”:

    Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these “detainees” have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot.

    Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses–sworn enemies of the United States–is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

    We have nonetheless decided to include information from captured 9/11 conspirators and al Qaeda members in our report. We have evaluated their statements carefully and have attempted to corroborate them with documents and statements of others. In this report, we indicate where such statements provide the foundation for our narrative. We have been authorized to identify by name only ten detainees whose custody has been confirmed officially by the U.S. government.

    Of course both Abu Zubhaydah and al Nashiri are among those ten identified in the attached footnote.

    Very damning.

    It looks to me like the CIA’s legal defense is going to pivot around two claims (at least): first, the 9/11 Commission never specifically and explicitly asked for video recordings of interrogations; and second, anyway the recordings are not germane to the narrow inquiry into 9/11 (as distinct from the pursuit of forward-looking intelligence or whatever).

    • bmaz says:

      Jeff – I believe you are spot on with your analysis of the two prongs of defense the CIA is, and will be, relying on. Quite frankly, I don;t think either one, or both combined, hold water because of the inclusion by the Commission of the “other information” clause in it’s request. There is a secondary argument that videotapes are included under the term “documents” when the term was used in relation to the interrogations. This is actually a better argument than most might think as there is at least some basis under general criminal law practice that occurs in courts throughout the country every day; but I would not want to hang my hat on it. It is a cognizable argument, but not the best one available.

      This all just doesn’t shape up very pretty for the CIA (or anyone else in the Administration involved in this process regarding the tapes). As they currently have their bogus defense postured, the second prong doesn’t pass the smell test because they specifically say that the only reason they didn’t destroy the tapes earlier is that they knew the tapes were germane and might be requested. Prong number one is out because of the “other information” portion of the request I noted above. It seems that most people have looked at this behavior as a crime. There are two distinct classes of crimes here: the first being the failure to disclose; the second being the destruction. Both appear to be pretty clear cut; of course, that has never stopped this greasy crew from slipping out of culpability before.

  12. Mary says:

    I think you should consider adding in the Maher Arar torture victims act lawsuit against Larry Thompson, John Ashcroft et al that was filed in January of 2004 (22?) and the June 1 Padilla press conference.…..index.html

    The whole first part of the press conf is about all the classified info reviewed by DOJ prior to the presser, then it goes into a string of recitations about Zubaydah that had to have made Coleman choke a little.

    In any event, before Clement gave his speech on torture, you had Arar filing a torture victims act claim against the AG of the United States and his DAG for their roles in torture. You supposedly also had DOJ in the midst of an “unprecedented” review of classified info very specifically including the Zubaydah handling, all of which gve rise to Comey’s presser in June.

  13. bmaz says:

    I was hoping you would show up because I wanted to ask you about exactly this point. I think Arar may be a a significant piece of the puzzle. I don’t think they could have banked on the case being shut down, and if it was not…. the tapes flat out kill them as the the authorized procedures of the Administration. Have you seen the latest immunity thread posted just a bit ago? I am interested in your take.

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