SSCI Torture Narrative

The SSCI just released a narrative–originally requested by Jello Jay–of the general history of torture under the Bush Administration, including, purportedly, all the OLC memos that support torture (though it doesn’t include the 2003 one Michael Hayden referenced the other day). 

I’ll have a few more details in a bit. But this document reads to me like a mutual CYA for Gang of Eight members and the (former) Administration on torture. It is most interesting for the list of briefings it has.

In addition, the SSCI narrative confirms Spencer’s report that there’s an unreleased 2007 memo. Great work, Spencer!

One thing this narrative makes clear is that the July 10, 2002 intelligence from Abu Zubaydah came before the interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah was done.

On July 13, 2002, according to CIA records, attorneys from the CIA’s Office of General Counsel met with the Legal Adviser to the National Security Council, a Deputy Assistant Attorney General from OLC, the head of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice, the chief of staff to the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Counsel to the President to provide an overview of the proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah.

On July 17, 2002, according to CIA records, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) met with the National Security Adviser, who advised that the CIA could proceed with its proposed interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. This advice, which authorized CIA to proceed as a policy matter, was subject to a determination
of legality by OLC.

Not that that means they weren’t already torturing him. But this confirms my earlier assertion that Abu Zubaydah’s information on running terrorist training camps either came before they tortured him, or without any legal authorization whatsoever. 

I’ll update with some comments. But for now, consider this a working thread. 

Update: So here are the briefings on torture this document lists:

April 2002: Rizzo begins conversations with Bellinger and Yoo/Bybee on proposed interrogation plan for Abu Zubaydah. Bellinger briefed Condi, Hadley, and Gonzales, as well as Ashcroft and Chertoff.

Mid-May 2002: Rizzo met with Ashcroft, Condi, Hadley, Bellinger, and Gonzales to discuss alternative interrogation methods, including waterboarding.

July 13, 2002: Rizzo met with Bellinger, Yoo, Chertoff, Daniel Levin, and Gonzales for overview of interrogation plan.

July 17, 2002: Tenet met with Condi, who advised CIA could proceed with torture, subject to a determination of legality by OLC.

July 24, 2002: Bybee advised CIA that Ashcroft concluded proposed techniques were legal.

July 26, 2002: Bybee tells CIA waterboarding is legal.

August 1, 2002: Bybee Memos.

Fall 2002: CIA briefed Bob Graham and Richard Shelby on torture.

January 2003: Pat Roberts is briefed on torture, along with staff director and minority staff director of Committee; Jello Jay Rockefeller did not attend briefing.

After March 2003: Robers and Jello Jay  briefed on torture.

July 2003: Tenet and Muller meet with Cheney, Condi, Ashcroft, Acting head of OLC?, Yoo, Gonzales, and Bellinger to discuss torture. Principals reaffirmed that program was lawful.

September 16, 2003: Colin Powell and Rummy briefed on torture.

May 7, 2004: CIA IG report comes out.

May 2004: Muller meets with Gonzales, Addington, Bellinger, and "senior DOJ officials" about the IG report.

June 2004: Roberts, Jello Jay, and staff directors get copies of CIA IG report.

June 2004: OLC withdraws unclassified Bybee Memo.

July 2004: CIA briefs Roberts and Jello Jay on IG Report; CIA indicates it is determining whether program consistent with CAT.

July 2004: Principals meeting–all agree to seek new OLC memo.

July 14, 2004: Associate Deputy Attorney General (?) explains Senate reservation on CAT.

July 22, 2004: Ashcroft confirms to Acting DCI (McLaughlin?) that all techniques except waterboarding legal under CAT.

August 6, 2004: Daniel Levin advises that subject to reservations, CIA’suse of waterboarding not illegal. 

December 30, 2004: Daniel Levin opinion on torture, with footnote.

March 2005: CIA briefs Roberts and Jello Jay on torture.

May 2005: Bradbury opinions.

October 2005: Bradbury notes in QFR that we abide by Article 16.

December 2005: Condi and Hadley states US policy accords with Article 16.

December 30, 2005: Detainee Treatment Act. (No reference to Bush’s signing statement.)

June 2006: Hamdan v. Rumsfeld rules Article 3 applies to al Qaeda.

August 2006: Opinions on Detainee Treatment Act, "interpretation" of Common Article 3, both on confinement.

September 6, 2006: Bush admits we torture. CIA briefs all SSCI members about CIA’s torture program.

October 2006: Congress passes Military Commissions Act. [Jeebus our Congress is craven.]

July 2007: EO 13440 interprets Common Article 3. OLC issues legal opinion analyzing torture. Does not include analysis of anti-torture statute but refers to May 2005 opinions.  Does not address waterboarding.

January 30, 2008: Mukasey states waterboarding not used.

February 2008: Michael Hayden discloses waterboarding used on 3 detainees. Michael McConnell states waterboarding not used. SSCI discusses torture program with Hayden and McConnell in closed session.

January 22, 2009: Obama signs EO 13491 which revokes EO 13440 and all OLC opinions issued by DOJ between September 11, 2001 and January 20, 2009.

42 replies
  1. stryx says:

    This footnote was a nice touch:

    1 Descriptions of these meetings are based on contemporaneous CIA records that Committee staff has reviewed.
    The Committee has not conducted a complete search of Executive Branch records, nor has it requested records or
    testimony from all of the individuals whom CIA records included as having participated in these meetings.

  2. acquarius74 says:

    Marcie, I couldn’t wait longer for the rebuttal to Cheney’s claims of success by using torture in interrogations. Please see my diary today at Oxdown entitled, ‘Successful Interrogation vs. Torture: Proven in WW II.

    I’m hoping some Real Men Marines, old or young, will see it and come out in support of their traditional stand against torture.

    Now is the critical time to prove by historical record that Cheney is wrong!

  3. eagleye says:

    I’m not aware of much testimony from CIA or FBI personnel who were involved in a hands-on way with the torture that took place under the Bush administration. I’m wondering if one of the by-products of Obama’s recent statement that he will not prosecute agency personnel for their crimes might be that some of them now come forward to sing?

  4. Arbusto says:

    Good god, if (big IF) Holder is smart and hires a Special Prosecutor, we’ll need a giant court with bleachers for the defendants! There’d be hundreds of the little critters. Maybe George would lend us his Library. It’d be pretty empty anyway. No wonder Barak is wishy washy on prosecution.

    • tjbs says:

      Just suspend Federal MJ drug prosecutions. That frees up staff from 800,000 prosecutions a year.

  5. emptywheel says:

    I think this is partly CYA (for Jello Jay to say he didn’t get briefing before KSM was tortured.

    But I also think he was 1) trying to suggest that CIA IG report said CIA program violated CAT, and 2) they completely ignored DTA (that’s a gut feel).

  6. jfaustus says:

    $50 in the tip jar for your outstanding reporting. I generally lurk, but wanted you to know that you have supporters out there.

    • KiwiJackson says:

      Good job jfaustus. Garnering more than that coming soon via the entire family here and those still over at work. Landay has a close compatriot and rival. Emptywheel must be paid at least as he is paid.

    • bobschacht says:

      Here is the place to Donate to the Marcy Wheeler Investigative Blogging Fund. That’s the place to actually put Marcy on salary with staff to help her do her work. So far, more than 400 people have contributed more than $23,000. Jane should have a “thermometer” icon up on the right sidebar over at FDL one of these days, but for now you can see it here, I think. You can sign up for a monthly pledge, too. How about a dollar a day? Isn’t all this breathtaking reporting worth at least that much?

      Bob in HI

  7. maeme says:

    So basically KSM was just a manager; an organizer of Al Qaeda; he was involved, but was it ever proofed that he had anything to actually do with 9-11? Reason being all of the news shows here are saying KSM was the mastermind of 9-11 and tortued 183 times; asking viewers to weigh-in should the interrogators and lawyers in the justice department be punished? Which is wrong and leaves folks thinking if he was behind 9-11; maybe it is okay that he was tortued?

    I know KSM admitted to everything – but did he actually have any involvement in 9-11 or is he just a detainee by virtue of his being a muslim and involved with Al Qaeda?

    • cinnamonape says:

      Ah, that’s the rub…do we have evidence that he was involved prior to anyone getting tortured that he was involved in these plots. I think that the best line of evidence for his being involved in something like the 9/11 attacks was his involvement in the “Bojinka” Plot with Ramzi Yousef back in the mid-1990’s. That was a plan to hijack and fly several aircraft into Los Angeles and crash them. It was thwarted by the Philippine Police after Ramzi accidently set off explosive materials and set his hotel room afire. The police found a lap top with all sorts of information about the plot on it.

      KSM, Ramzi’s uncle, was in the room next door, and escaped.

      No evidence that Ramzi was tortured, he was tried in open Federal Courts, and convicted.

      It would make a nice narrative that KSM was attempting vengeance against the US and following up on what his nephew had planned. But that’s speculation on my part….not trustworthy evidence.

      • cinnamonape says:

        Oh one more point of information. Ramzi also escaped to Pakistan and was arrested in 1997, I believe. KSM was on the FBI’s most wanted list for years. Sadly, most of those that have provided information on the others have been, if not water boarded, subjected to variety of other “enhanced interrogations”, extreme isolation, and sleep deprivation. Some are definitely crazy…Moussouai for example.

  8. Peterr says:

    The intro to the report contains a nice little smackdown of the Bush White House:

    In August 2008, I asked Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey to join the effort to create such an unclassified narrative. The Attorney General committed himself to the endeavor, saying that if we failed it would not be for want of effort. Over the next months, Committee counsel and representatives of the Department of Justice, CIA, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the office of the Counsel to the President discussed potential text. The shared objective was to produce a text that, putting aside debate about the merits of the OLC opinions, describes key elements of the opinions and sets forth facts that provide a useful context for those opinions, within the boundaries of what the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Intelligence Community would recommend in 2008 for declassification.

    The understanding of the participants was that while the final product would be a Legislative Branch document, the collaborative nature of this process would provide the Executive Branch participants with the opportunity to ensure its accuracy. Before the end of the year, this process produced a narrative whose declassification DOJ, the DNI and the CIA supported. However, the prior Administration’s National Security Council did not agree to declassify the narrative.

    I renewed this effort in early February as soon as Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., took office. Except for this preface, some minor edits, and the addition of a final paragraph to bring the narrative up to date as of President Obama’s Executive Orders of January 22, 2009, this document is the same as the one that secured support for declassification last year. This declassification, which National Security Adviser James L. Jones effected on April 16, 2009 and Attorney General Holder transmitted to the Committee on April 17, 2009, is supported again by the DOJ, the DNI, and the CIA.

    Despite the concurrence of the DOJ, DNI, and CIA, the NSC said “no” to declassification? You don’t suppose David Addington had anything to do with that, do you?

    • emptywheel says:

      I wonder whether the same thing happened with Levin’s SASC report. This flood has more to do with the backup of Bush than with a camapign to end torture.

      Though I don’t know why they’d bother. It’s a vanilla report. Except for the news that the program was against CAT and they ignored DTA.

  9. TomWells says:

    Condi is guity of approving torture. She leads to George Bush.

    We had a government of war criminals. Invading Iraq, torturing, wiretapping.

    American needs “de-Nazification”

    • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

      Actually, worse than that it would appear.
      Go read some of EW’s other older Timelines from the right sidebar. Pay special attention to the period of April – May 2003, during which it appears that some individuals operating out of Feith’s DoD office, and also out of OVP/Pres, were involved in actually creating bogus ‘evidence’ to persuade the media that WMD existed.

      This is the tip of an iceberg that seems to have a limitless number of underground caverns.

  10. Peterr says:

    Why bother?

    My guess is that the objection was on general principles. That’s what makes me suspect Addington was involved in the denial.

  11. Hmmm says:

    What good is a false confession if it can’t then be propagandized? I wonder whether the reason they ran the videotapes was to catch the TV-worthy clip of the moment when they finally they got the false Iraq – al Queda confession out of the detainee. But then that moment never came. And then all they were left with was a thorough video record of exactly who was doing exactly what incredibly excessive and illegal things to whom, over and over and over and over again. So that had to be destroyed.

    (Were there transcripts made? Crossing over into surreal-land, in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil there’s a scene where a secretary is listening to torture session tapes on headphones — the protagonist looks at her typewriter and the paper says “AAAARRRGGHHHG… STOP… FOR THE LOVE OF GOD STOP…” in 12-point Courier.)

  12. MadDog says:

    And no surprise that Senator Diane Feinstein, current chairperson of SSCI, is nowhere to be found in this document.

    I guess Jello Jay won’t let her take the training wheels off just yet.

    • Nell says:

      I don’t quite understand your point. Feinstein would have been part of briefings where all SSCI members were present, otherwise played no role. The timeline only goes up through the end of Rockefeller’s chairmanship.

      What mention of Feinstein do you think should be there that isn’t?

  13. Mary says:

    So it looks like the unreleased opinion is going to stand pat on the Dept’s views of 2340 (which should make domestic torture prosecutions *interesting*) and looks like they focus on the changes to the war crimes act (2441) and the MCA powers to the President to interpret, maybe lack of civil remedies and AG needing to prosecute what the AG’s dept has approved as an additional protection although maybe they dont’ get that blatant???, and the limitations for what parts of Common Article 3 violations are deemed to be treated as “grave violations” and what are not? I have a hard time believing as much as everyone tried to paper themselves that no one took advantage of the Congressional change in 2441 to give a little self satisfied hooray that under the revised 2441 there might be able to be an argument that there’s no statutory crime left for the transportation across national boundaries of protected persons that the GCs would otherwise internally define to be a grave breach and pretty significant war crime.

    So all the detainees Addington and Bush were told in 2002 were innocent – Harry Reid helped make sure they got cut off at the knees. Maybe no one took advantage of the passage of the MCA to paper that, but I have to think they might have. It could just all be 14 pp of “Bush is our father, we shall not want, he interpreteth the Geneva Conventions, did we mention we shall not want?” though

  14. cinnamonape says:

    The Weinstein mentioned on July 13, 2002 could it be Deputy AG Kenneth L. Wainstein?

    If so, talk about putting someone in charge of the torture tape investigation that is directly involved!!!

    BTW I searched about 100 pages trying to find an appropriate Weinstein that might attend such a meeting from the Pentagon (DoD), White House (Jared Weinstein…Bush’s Special Assistant and Jenna’s new husband?), State Dept., and public figures at the CIA. Couldn’t find one…so maybe it’s this guy?

  15. Raven says:

    “Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story” Author
    Gen Janis Karpinski is lighting Cheney and co up on KO.

    • STTPinOhio says:

      “Commanding General of Abu Ghraib Tells Her Story” Author
      Gen Janis Karpinski is lighting Cheney and co up on KO.

      Man o man was she ever!

      People are coming out of the woodwork to lay wood to these bastards, and it couldn’t happen to a more deserving bunch.

      Git your popcorn ready; this is gonna make the Libby trial look like traffic court.

      • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

        Just watched it, and am impressed that Karpinski is still in contact with former soldiers under her command (who are serving time in prison). She seemed more ‘outraged’ than ‘angry’. (And good for her!)

        Anyone who cares as much as she seems to about the welfare of soldiers (formerly) under her command is okay by me. Too bad that Mr Five Deferrments Cheney, and Mr AWOL GW Bush didn’t care even half that much about the soldiers.

        Her recommendation that an investigation be done, including members from US allied nations, seemed very smart. That would pull the conversation out of a Dem/Republican tug-of-war, and focus on the deeper issues.

        Great interview!

  16. nahant says:

    (Ret) Gen Janis Karpinski was just on KO’s and boy she is pissed that their are soldiers doing time because they were forced to Follow Rumsfeld’s orders and use “Enhanced” interrogation techniques. She asked where was Darth five years ago to defend these soldiers. She really is pissed and wants an independent and not a political investigation into the whole torture issue.
    Wow she is absolutely right! We need an independent Prosecutor to get to the bottom of all of this, he must have the full authority to look at everything, right down to when Darth and Bush pissed & where they pissed. I am sure it in in a log somewhere!!

  17. bgrothus says:

    Marcy, I think this is a good start for the torture timeline:

    As we know, there are known knowns. There are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns. That is to say we know there are some things
    we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don’t know
    we don’t know.

    Donald Rumsfeld—Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing

  18. Raven says:

    Elizabeth De La Vega, former fed prosecutor says a special prosecutor shuts down the conversation. All you people talking about what a coward Obama is can’t imagine he’s gamin these fuckers can you?

  19. Mary says:

    EW – I don’t think that would be Wainstein, although timing is very “interesting”

    From a couple of sources, “On July 16, 2002, Mr. Wainstein was appointed to serve as the FBI’s General Counsel, and on March 31, 2003, he assumed the position of Chief of Staff to Director Mueller.”

    Can’t find who the COS was before him in a fast google

  20. decotodd says:

    What’s with this WaPo article (and maybe the SSCI report?) claiming that Rumsfeld didn’t know until 2003? (”Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld were not briefed on the program until Sept. 2003, according to the narrative.”)…

    That doesn’t jibe with McClatchy article about Rumsfeld/Cheney seeking Al Qaeda/Sadaam link:

    But for most of 2002 and into 2003, Cheney and Rumsfeld, especially, were also demanding proof of the links between al Qaida and Iraq that (former Iraqi exile leader Ahmed) Chalabi and others had told them were there.”

    It was during this period that CIA interrogators waterboarded two alleged top al Qaida detainees repeatedly — Abu Zubaydah at least 83 times in August 2002 and Khalid Sheik Muhammed 183 times in March 2003 — according to a newly released Justice Department document.

    “There was constant pressure on the intelligence agencies and the interrogators to do whatever it took to get that information out of the detainees, especially the few high-value ones we had, and when people kept coming up empty, they were told by Cheney’s and Rumsfeld’s people to push harder,” he continued.

  21. emptywheel says:

    And incidentally, this narrative brings the events from the DOJ IG report back a few days.

    Yet another piece of evidence that suggests one of the 10 pieces of evdience the 9/11 commission used was pre-torture.

  22. Mary says:

    In the nyt piece, Pelosi admits she was briefed on torture techniques and their “legality” too, but I don’t see a date on the timeline for that. Do we have one?

    • Nell says:

      That is weird; the whole timeline/narrative only mentions Senate intel people. WTF? Just because SASC is a Senate committee is no reason to omit crucial points in a narrative.

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