The IG Report Chronology

I wanted to make some observations about the chronology included in the CIA IG Report–Appendix B of the report. These are mostly just observations, so I apologize if this post is incoherent.

Three columns

First, notice that the chronology has three columns, only one of which (Events at Washington) is labeled. The other two columns appear to be organized in parallel structure to the report itself, with the High Value Detainee program–which corresponds with pages 33 though 45 in the report–in the third column, and a program that appears to be in Afghanistan and Pakistan–which corresponds with pages 46 through 77 [note–someone smart already pointed out this structure WRT the report itself–apologies for forgetting who it was]–in the center column.

The most interesting detail of the three-column structure is that it shows the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in the center column, whereas the capture of Abu Zubaydah is in the third column, suggesting a different administrative entity captured KSM than captured AZ (though KSM was transferred into that other entity immediately after being captured). 

First Column

So let’s look at the first column. The first redaction probably pertains to the Finding authorizing the program in general–I’ll come back to treatment of this after that Finding is released on Monday. It also describes CIA OGC "beginning research" on interrogation issues as early as September 2001. That suggests legal research (and no doubt refers to work done in cooperation with John Yoo and David Addington), but I wonder if OGC also started the technical research–which would put that genesis of the torture program (unsurprisingly) much earlier than the December 2001 date currently claimed.

The rest of the column–at least the unredacted bits–include four different kinds of information:

  • Policy maker deliberations (July 2002)
  • DOJ deliberations and authorizations (July 2002, August 2002, July 2003)
  • Congressional briefings (Fall 2002, February to March 2003–I’ll return to these later)
  • Management improvements (November 2002, January 2003, April 2003, June 2003, September 2003)

Of those, one very interesting detail (in addition to the redacted event in December 2002) is the repeated focus on OMS (Office of Medical Services) guidelines, which demonstrates the degree to which they used medical personnel to make this look legit. Note that the CIA doesn’t include the "Legal Principles" document in there, even though it considered that a key authorization–or so it says.

In addition, there’s the June 2003 guidelines requiring "that subject pose a continuing serious threat," which suggests they realized by that point that they had detainees who didn’t pose a continuing threat (that might stem from a realization that we had a bunch of taxi drivers stuck at Gitmo). 

 Second Column

The first entries in the middle column (Afghanistan) program appear as soon as November 2001, which is not a surprise but worth noting (Could that be the capture of John Walker Lindh? The related prison uprising?).

The redacted cell in the center column for November 2002 must pertain to the multiple deaths that occurred in CIA custody in Afghanistan that month.

Third Column

Next, note the at-least three redacted items in the third column in March 2002–pertaining to Abu Zubaydah’s early detention period. While some of this might refer simply to the establishment of the Thai location for interrogation, it also might include the turf war with FBI, and/or the early experimentation with and authorization of enhanced techniques in April 2002.

Note, too, the redacted event in September 2003–I have no idea what that would be.


Next, note the way the chronology tries to fudge or mis-represent details.

Congressional Briefings

It dates the first, September 2002 briefings of Congress to "Fall 2002," even though CIA claims in its own briefing schedule that those briefings happened on known dates in September 2002. Oddly, though, this replicates earlier references you’d see in news coverage. I used to think they did that to obscure that the first briefing happened after Abu Zubaydah’s waterboarding was already completed. But now I wonder whether there’s another reason for it. Is it possible they didn’t have solid dates (and therefore, solid records) for one or another of the briefings? This would be particularly likely in the case of the Shelby-Graham briefing from the end of September. We know Graham has, and shared, details of that briefing with the CIA, so I wonder if they didn’t have details of that briefing originally? Another possibility is that there were more briefings–briefings not included on the CIA Briefing list. Is it possible that Porter Goss got an earlier briefing on Abu Zubaydah in August (rounding up to "Fall"), or that the Republicans got another briefing in October or November pertaining to al-Nashiri or admitting that waterboarding had already been used?

Likewise the second Congressional briefing–listed here as "February to March." There is no briefing in March listed in the CIA briefing list. Is it now saying it conducted a briefing? Of whom? Porter Goss, again?

Whatever the explanation, the reference to these Congressional briefings is yet another reason to distrust the CIA’s own representation of its own briefings.

Ashcroft’s "Reaffirmation"

Then there’s the reference to the July 2003 "reaffirmation" of the legality by John Ashcroft. As I’ve shown, this is a contested event. Which makes it notable that it features so prominently in CIA’s chronology of important events in DC.

Al-Nashiri’s Chronology

And, finally, there’s the chronology’s treatment of al-Nashiri (much of which is redacted). The chronology shows al-Nashiri being "captured" in November 2002. But we know that’s not right–he was captured in October 2002, but held and "allegedly" interrogated in Dubai for a month before being handed over to the CIA.  Did the IG know about this earlier treatment? Did he account for it in his treatment of al-Nashiri’s fitness to be tortured by the US? 

Then there’s the depiction of the "unauthorized interrogation techniques" (presumably referring to the drill threats, etc.) as occurring in "late December or early January."  I find that somewhat dubious given two supporting documents included with the IG Report release on Monday. There’s the "spot report" of al-Nashiri’s interrogation, dated November 20. And then there’s the email forwarding that same report which we can’t see but DOJ made clear is dated January 23, 2003 (See the ACLU titles for these documents, which are the same used by DOJ). Now given the IG Report’s explanation for the genesis of the review:

In January 2003, the DDO informed OIG that he had received allegations that Agency personnel had used unauthorized interrogation techniques with a detainee, ‘Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri, at another foreign site, and requested that OIG investigate.

It seems that that January email may pertain to either Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt passing this complaint onto IG John Helgerson, or Pavitt learning of it himself.  If so, that would place the unauthorized techniques in November, not January.

Now, that’s all speculative. But it does raise questions of whether the unauthorized techniques occurred in December, as the chronology shows, or in November, which would mean they would have been captured on the videotapes but might well be among the videotapes that are damaged or blank.

Timelines and the Interrogation Index

Between the vagueness pertaining to Congressional briefings and the questions about al-Nashiri’s timeline, there is reason to question whether or not the chronology in the IG Report has been massaged–either by the OIG itself, or by withholding information from Helgerson–to present the least damning story.

I find that particularly interesting given the reference to at least four "draft timelines" in the materials pertaining to the destroyed torture tapes in the interrogation index CIA submitted to ACLU during this FOIA. Those timelines are long–from 10 to 38 pages–and we don’t actually know whether they cover just the torture tapes, the interrogation program altogether (which might make them draft work for this chronology), or for the torture tape destruction. CIA ultimately withheld them from the Vaughn Index, claiming they were derivative works. But seeing the holes even in this simple one-page chronology, it sure makes me want to see those longer timelines, whatever their content.

33 replies
  1. BoxTurtle says:

    If you can’t dazzle them with genius, baffle them with bull$#!+. The document reads to me like bureaucratic obfuscation.

    Still, the parts where they go vague or avoid discussion tell us eaxctly where they don’t want us looking.

    Boxturtle (Where’s the outrage? *sigh*)

    • emptywheel says:

      Well, all narrative is, at its core, a biased perspective (yes, even my timelines). This is just one example. What I’m particularly interested in about it is whether Helgerson was aware of some of these details, and the degree to which the narrative put forward here is what he honestly believes to have been true.

      That is, whose bureaucratic obfuscation was it? Helgerson’s? Or CTC’s, having carefully managed what details Helgerson got?

      • BoxTurtle says:

        I get the impression from reading the memo that it was the product of several folks. Dunno writing styles well enough to identify any of them.

        Bureaucratese like the above normally results from a team effort, as in bureaucratland the team concept can also be used to dilute and disguise responsability.

        Boxturtle (And if it works out well, the best bureaucrat can claim full credit)

  2. AZ Matt says:

    They are counting on the MSM having eyes glaze over and miss the details. That has worked well for them. Here it is a Fail.

  3. Timewatcher says:

    I am in Awe of you. Thank you! I think I need a drink now. It is after 8am, after all. I Love the way you tie it, in a neat time-line package for all to see it, in these very dark places called our Gov’t.

  4. wavpeac says:

    I have a question about the “drill threat” and use of drills. I remember reading an article about PTSD and soldiers. In the article it described that soldiers in Iraq were having “reactions” to finding tortured bodies of Iraqi people who had been “drilled” through from the bottom through the top of their heads. The article implied that Iraqi’s were doing this to each other. However, I think it’s very weird that torture threats as documented include a “drill threat”. Maybe Iraqi’s were “drilling” each other…and the torture team “used” the fear of it. OR maybe there was something larger scale going on.

    Also…I cannot find the article…anywhere. I know I did not make up the idea that Iraqi’s were being “drilled”. In fact I think there were pictures on a web site. Did anyone else see this? Does anyone else think it’s strange that we would use the threat of a “drill” if this is something some military personnel reported was exacerbating PTSD for soldiers??

    I will keep looking for the article…maybe it’s meaningless but I think it’s weird.

    • Timewatcher says:

      I definitely remember that whole ordeal, hundreds of people were killed that way, Dr’s couldn’t believe the volume of people done so savagely. I thought is was the brit’s(sorry) at the time, making more caos, but I really hate to go to the dark side, thinking it was mmmmmmmm cheney’s gang?

    • prostratedragon says:

      I remember reading of people being drilled in Iraq. The reports were not too extensive, though.

    • prostratedragon says:

      Try googling drill torture Iraq. That got some of the reports I think I saw, from 2005 and 2006 up top, concerning Iraqi police behavior. I don’t think your suspicions will be allayed, unfortunately.

    • Mary says:

      It sounds like you are looking, not so much for stories on bodies showing evidence of torture by drills, as much as a particluar story on soldiers with ptsd and the mention of the bodies with evidence of drill. I’m not sure that it is what you are getting at, but they did the stories a few weeks ago about the Colorado soldiers who had been involved in killings back here on their return and that was mentioned in by some of those soldiers IIRC.

  5. Mary says:

    But now I wonder whether there’s another reason for it.

    Just tossing out possiblities, esp with the IMO odd way they refer to the “Congressional” briefings, I tend to wonder if they also briefed other people in Congress – other than the gang of 4 – and on the one hand don’t want to openly now ante that up (that select members were getting briefings and why – like appropriations or other reasons – even while the full gang of 8 and the intel committees were being excluded) and yet they don’t want to say something that would preclude them from being able to say – if and when needed – that soandso was also briefed on such and such on xyz date.

    BTW – sideways to topic, I notice that the OMS guidelines start off by saying, “Captured terrorists turned over to the CIA for interrogation may be subjected to a wide range of legally sanctioned techniques, all of which are also used. on U.S. military personnel in SERE training programs” emph added

    So we put SERE trainees in diapers for over 72 hours, then sling them around headfirst into walls, while keeping them shackled in stress positions and sleep deprived, on a diet of ensure, for weeks on end – all while they are disappeared (not just isolated – disappeared from) their families? Uh huh. And then the doc goes on, re: waterboarding, to contradict itself, saying that the SERE instances of waterboarding were onesies and so aren’t comparable. It also says that they really have no freakin medical idea whatsoever how harmful waterboarding is or isn’t and whether you can do it safely:

    A rigid guide to medically approved use.of the waterboard in essentially healthy individuals is not possible,

    but the good news is they have human guinea pigs to experiment on. IMO, there’s no way the following sounds like the giving of medical advice on how to avoid severe physical and mental damage by waterboarding – it sounds like the instructions you give reasearchers for human experimenation:

    NOTE: In order to best inform future medical judgments and recommendations, it is important that every application of the waterboard be thoroughly documented: how long each application (and the entire procedure) lasted, how much water was used in the process (realizing that much splashes off), how exactly the water was applied, if a seal was chieved, if the naso- or oropharynx was filled, what sort of volume was expelled, how long was.the break between applications; and how the subject looked between each treatment.

    My last incoherent offering – I haven’t looked at oodles of this stuff yet (intervening migranines not helping) but even with the redactions I’m surprised in some ways at the lack of volume. Two NYC phonebooks thick was what we were told at one point, right? So the missing appendixes must be huge? Like with statements and transcripts maybe?

  6. Garrett says:

    The CIA seems to have made about the worst timeline, ever. The idea of it, parallel timelines for Washington, Afghanistan, and the HVD program is pretty good.

    It seems to me to be more the CIA not having a good grip on the information and not putting any effort into it, rather than spin and misinformation. It is just so sketchy and incomplete.

  7. WilliamOckham says:

    I think you really have to read this report carefully to get the intended meaning. For example, there is this passage from p. 36:

    An OGC attorney reviewed the videotapes in November and December 2002 to ascertain compliance with the August 2002 DoJ opinion and compare what actually happened with what was reported to Headquarters. He reported that there was no deviation from DoJ guidance or the written record.

    Three paragraphs later, the OIG review describes the rather substantial deviations from DoJ guidance. They don’t ever come out say “Don’t believe anything the OGC guys tell you”, but the implication is clear. I think there are a lot those types of things still redacted.

  8. WilliamOckham says:

    Is it possible they didn’t have solid dates (and therefore, solid records) for one or another of the briefings?

    Not just possible, it’s certain. If they had dates, we would have seen them by now. Also, tucked into the discussion of the DCI Interrogation Guidelines is this nugget (emphasis mine):

    Prior to January 2003, CTC and OGC disseminated guidance via cables, e-mail, or orally on a case-by-case basis to address requests to use specific interrogation techniques. Agency management did not require those involved in interrogations to sign an acknowledgement that they had read, understood, or agreed to comply with the guidance provided. Nor did the Agency maintain a comprehensive record of individuals who had been briefed on interrogation procedures.

    That last sentence is quite interesting. It’s a bit out of place, but it gets back to the lack of an adequate record of who was briefed (including Congress).

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think your logic follows.

      Assume, for the moment, they know they briefed Pelosi and Goss on September 4 and Graham and Shelby on September 27, but they also briefed Goss on August 1 or on October 15, potentially in the company of Cheney. Saying “fall 2002″ and also specifying that this is not a comprehensive list–as they have said–would be a nice way to hide that they got “Congressional authorization” from Porter Goss without asking for it from the three others. They wouldn’t want to give us more specific dates even if they had them because doing so would reveal they had played politics with the briefings (and this is, after all, akin to what they did with the 2005 briefings Cheney attended). And ultimately, they DID come up with dates, even if it’s possible that Graham helped them a bit.

      Also, I don’t take your bolded sentence to be so out of place–as someone who has done procedures, it makes perfect sense to me. Particularly in a document that–for the first time–requires sign-off, this seems to be saying “we don’t have proof that Mitchell was briefed on the limits to torture,” which is a fundamentally a training issue and has nothing in the least to do with briefing Congress (the paperwork would be totally different).

      One of the reasons I think it important to maintain this distinction is bc the reasons for the vagueness of the Congressional briefing are likely entirely different than the reasons for the absence of a sign-off on briefings (that is, instructions).

      • WilliamOckham says:

        Perhaps, but why all the run around with Graham? They can’t prove any of this early stuff because they very deliberately and scrupulously avoided writing anything down (outside of Agency operational records) until the OIG investigation forced them to. Everybody figured that they could avoid giving up any information to Congress or anyone else about this program until the OIG review which had to be shared with Congress and opened the door to FOIA requests.

        • emptywheel says:

          I’m not saying you might not be right, I’m saying it’s not the only explanation.

          Another explanation (remember, they told Graham he had been briefed twice in April and twice in September) is that they had each briefing listed, without attendees (which would be consisted with their other fuckups, including the Jello Jay one from February 2003). SO they may have briefed SHELBY on the very specific dates they had told Graham he had been briefed, but since they didn’t keep roll, they didn’t know Graham wasn’t there.

          Thing is they’ve gotten the dates right for the briefings attended by Dems, but had a bunch more dates. That suggests there were more briefings we don’t know about, which in turn suggests the Republicans (or someone else) was getting briefings but the Dems weren’t.

          • WilliamOckham says:

            But it’s exactly the two briefings in April 2002 that make absolutely no sense. Did they hide those from the IG?

            Here’s another data point. If you take a look at the original sample Vaughn index (before they had to cough up the one of the operational records concerning the destroyed tapes), you’ll find that there is not a single one earlier than January 2003 except those in the custody of the OIG. No records from the Office of Congressional Affairs (if there were multiple briefings we should have seen at least one memo to file), none from the DCI’s office, none even from the OGC (which is really suspicious).

            • emptywheel says:

              Yeah, but that, too can be explained by other issues.

              I’m not saying I know what the explanation is, but I am saying we know they say there may be more briefings than what they’ve given us and we know there are now records.

    • chetnolian says:

      I don’t think it is out of place. It is bureaucratise for “You don’t have a clue whether the guidelines were followed.” As such it struck me as a particularly damning comment on the CIA’s management of this issue. Remember this is a report from the CIA’s own Inspector General.

  9. tjbs says:

    Has anyone offered up a description of the tapes; 8 track ,digital, VCR or what?
    If with the extreme security over the Saddam assassination, there were cell phone videos released, how are they sure no one has any video copies of these snuff videos?

    • cinnamonape says:

      I’ve also never understood the comments about “blank tapes”. There’d be some sort of information on them unless they were totally bulked using a high energy degausser. That’s not a typiical thing people have round outside of recording studios. That would imply very real intent to destroy the contents permanently…not simply allow the tapes to be re-used.

      • chetnolian says:

        And in the real world does anyone doubt that was the intent? If recording studios have degaussers, you bet the CIA does. An easy way (I am not for a moment suggesting this was done) would be to leave them in a submarine being degaussed. Everything goes, even the strips on credit cards.

      • Rayne says:

        But we don’t really know what “blank tapes” are, given this work was started under a different administration whose agenda is at odds with being investigated.

        Not that someone didn’t toast the tapes with some form of electromagnetic wipe, but we need more info to say that someone did.

        chetnolian (23) — I think the Iranian situation is both meta and micro; keep in mind that considerable effort and resources could have been expended on laying the groundwork for the election via covert ops in order to contest the legitimacy of the existing regime. It would be the same entities who were ultimately responsible for torture who’d have been doing this covert work, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that among those being tortured are covert assets, contract or not. The fugly chickens laid and hatched have come home to roost.

  10. fatster says:

    Published on Friday, August 28, 2009 by
    Blackwater in Court Today in War Crimes Hearing
    by Jeremy Scahill

    “Lawyers for Blackwater and its owner Erik Prince are in federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia today where they are arguing that the five lawsuits against them should be thrown out. The judge in the case, TS Ellis III, is a Reagan appointee with an interesting recent history.”


  11. chetnolian says:

    And slightly ot. We are now seeing the macro-political fallout from what has been done. The Iranian regime has clearly started to torture opponents. And if the USA complains they’ll say so did you, and they will be right.

    One of the best reasons for not torturing people you don’t like is that doing so, and of course getting found out, stops you effectively preventing other people torturing those you do like.

    • prostratedragon says:

      Especially when the official response on the exposure of the truth seems rather far from outrage, a sense of shame, a resolution to get to the top and the bottom of the matter, or any other thing more like those than like whining about being distracted, as if no other government has multiple objectives.

      Sure hope that optimistic view of Dunham’s actions proves out, since there are precious few other opportunities for redemption on the horizon.

  12. MadDog says:

    For the benefit of all Hotwheelers, the National Security Archive has a fantastic new facility they call the Torture Archive.

    To quote the National Security Archive:

    The National Security Archive announces the publication of the Torture Archive — more than 83,000 pages of primary source documents (and thousands more to come) related to the detention and interrogation of individuals by the United States, in connection with the conduct of hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in the broader context of the “global war on terror.”

    There is some pretty amazing capabilities with this new facility. There is a fantastic Search page ya’ll should check out. From the limited amount of searches I’ve done, the documents are all “text-searchable”, and hence, capable of being used for copy and paste work.

    The latest document dump from the CIA is not onboard just yet, but I’d guess that’s already in the works.

  13. Mary says:

    Sideways to topic –

    Remember that the Report is the CIA’s IG report. The CIA IG isn’t necessarily empowered to, nor would they generally want to, go digging through DOJ files and records, getting Congressional info etc. I’m sure there was a bit, but they are supposed to be doing intra agency oversight, which means that they are going to be relying for some things (like info on Congressional briefings and info on Ashcroft’s reauthorizations, etc.) with paper trails and statements given primarily from within the agency. They also aren’t doing oversight for contractors here, or investigating the use of contractors per se in torture plans, or investigating torture arrangements with third party countries, etc.

    So I do think you will find mis and dis information, not necessarily intended by the IG to be there, but given to the IG by the CIA without the IG necessarily having a good method of determining he is being lied to on some of it – other than, perhaps, giving the report to Congress and having Congress, for example, so WTH, we didn’t get those briefings, or having Congress haul Ashcroft in where he might say, WTH, I didn’t do that, etc. The CIA IG isn’t in the same role as a prosecutor who can go getting all kinds of info from other agencies. I’m sure they got lots, but there are limits. For mistatements, Congress needs to be looking into who fibbed to the IG in a report to be given to Congress.

  14. emptywheel says:


    What’s the date of that review of Gitmo prisoners that showed most of them were harmless? Could that explain that June 2003 guideline?

    Serves me right–I know you’ve told me to put it in the timeline and I haven’t yet.

    • Mary says:

      I’m not sure if we have an exact date, but the references would put it in August or Sept 2002 (before the creepy torture field trip the Bushies took to GITMO) and I think some of the GITMO defense lawyers put it more confidently in August, 2002 when they talk about it.

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