Bush Scandals List

194. Torture and Guantanamo

Torture and Guantanamo

  • September 25, 2001, John Yoo at the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) writes a memo to then White House counsel Alberto Gonzales in which he opines that in the war on terror the President’s decisions are "for him alone and are unreviewable."
  • January 9, 2002, John Yoo together with Robert Delahunty assert in a memo to the Pentagon that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to the Taliban and al Qaeda.
  • January 22, 2002, Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General and head of the OLC, communicates this finding to White House counsel Gonzales.
  • January 25, 2002, Gonzales sends a memo (written by David Addington) to George Bush in which he argues that the war on terror "renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."
  • January 26, 2002, Secretary of State Colin Powell writes to Gonzales arguing that the Geneva Conventions should be applied to Taliban and al Qaeda whether or not there is a legal duty to do so.
  • January 27, 2002, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declares that Guantanamo detainees are not prisoners of war, i.e. not covered by the Geneva Conventions.
  • January 29, 2002, Bush agrees with Rumsfeld.
  • February 1, 2002, Attorney General John Ashcroft weighs in and agrees with Yoo, Bybee, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, and Bush that the Geneva Conventions to do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees.
  • February 2, 2002, agreeing with Colin Powell, the State Department’s top lawyer William Taft IV points out that non-observance of the Geneva Conventions could endanger American troops.
  • Febraury 7, 2002, Bush signs an executive order that says the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees and further asserts his authority to suspend compliance with the Conventions in future conflicts.
  • February 26, 2002, it having been decided that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to Taliban and al Qaeda detainees, Jay Bybee further informs the Pentagon that these detainees have no protection against self incrimination since they are outside the purview of US courts.
  • August 1, 2002, Jay Bybee writes to Gonzales his now infamous memo (drafted by John Yoo with the help of then legal counsel to the VP David Addington and then deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan) in which he asserts that "Physical pain amounting to torture must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."
  • October 2002, officers at Guantanamo request permission to use "harsh interrogation techniques" (i.e. torture) on detainees.
  • November 4, 2002, Major General Geoffrey Miller takes command of the prison at Gunatanamo with a mandate to get actionable information from detainees.
  • November 27, 2002, Rumsfeld signs off on harsh interrogation techniques at Guantanamo.
  • January 15, 2003, Rumsfeld looking for greater legal cover both for himself and interrogators rescinds his order and directs Pentagon General Counsel William Haynes II to create a review panel to come up with new interrogation rules. Haynes chooses Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker to head the panel. (Walker’s previous claim to fame was that she had been behind a coverup of sexual abuse scandals at the Air Force Academy.)
  • March-April 2003, Judge Advocate Generals of the Army, Navy, and Air Force protest the dumping of the Geneva Conventions and the well established doctrine of the UCMJ.
  • March 13, 2003, Jay Bybee confirmed as federal judge to the 9th circuit (West Coast) Court of Appeals.
  • March 14, 2003, Yoo delivers a memo (pdf via balkinization) to DOD General Counsel Haynes addressing issues before the Walker panel and is taken as the controlling legal opinion for it. On April 1, 2008, a declassified version of this memo was finally released by the new DOD Acting General Counsel Daniel Del’Orto (who replaced Haynes) as a result of an FOIA filing by the ACLU. The memo stated that in time of war the President’s power as Commander in Chief was unlimited and that Congress could not place any limit on it, that unlawful alien combatants were not covered by the Consitution, criminal statute, or treaty obligation and so had no rights and could be treated in any way the government saw fit, i.e. they could be tortured or even killed, and that those who committed such acts against them were justified by reason of necessity and self-defense.
  • April 4, 2003, the Walker panel accepts the definition of torture outlined in Bybee’s August 2002 memo and okays harsh interrogation techniques.
  • April 16, 2003, Rumsfeld signs off on some of the recommended harsh interrogation techniques.
  • Summer 2003, John Yoo leaves the OLC and returns to UC Berkeley Boalt Hall School of Law.
  • December 2003, things begin to unravel. The new head of the OLC Jack Goldsmith (although he had worked for DOD General Counsel Haynes) informs his former boss that the March 2003 Yoo memo is under review and "should not be relied upon for any purpose."
  • July 14, 2004, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the OLC (acting head) Patrick Philbin in Congressional testimony puts the onus back on the Secretary of Defense saying that harsh interrogation techniques must be conducted "in accordance with the limitations and safeguards specified by the Secretary," and that the President’s Article II powers as Commander in Chief can not be used as a justification.
  • December 2004, General Craddock head of Southern Command appoints Air Force Lieutenant General Randall Schmidt to investigate FBI allegations of torture at Guantanamo. He finds abuses and recommends that Major General Geoffrey Miller be held accountable and admonished, a recommendation which General Craddock who had been Rumsfeld’s senior military assistant rejects.
  • February 4, 2005, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the OLC Daniel Levin writes to DOD General Counsel Haynes reminding him again of both Goldsmith’s opinion and Philbin’s testimony. He informs Haynes that the March 2003 Yoo memo has been formally withdrawn.
  • March 17, 2005, Haynes rescinds the Walker panel report based on the March 2003 Yoo memo and sanctioning harsh interrogation techniques, writing "I determine that the Report of the Working Group on Detainee Interrogations is to be considered a historical document with no standing in policy, practice, or law to guide any activity of the Department of Defense."
  • May 10, 2005, the new acting head of the OLC Steven Bradbury produces two secret legal opinions supporting forceful interrogation methods as long as these do not "shock the conscience". These are supplemented on May 30, 2005 by a third opinion. None have so far been made public.
  • December 30, 2005, Bush signs into law the 2006 Defense Appropriations bill which contains the McCain Detainee Treatment Act which ostensibly limits harsh interrogation techniques. The act is weakened by the Kyl-Levin amendment which allows evidence gained by torture and restricts habeas corpus rights of detainees to challenge their treatment. Bush completely vitiates the provision by appending a signing statement which states that the President will abide by its limitations, if he feels like it.
  • October 17, 2006, Bush signs the Military Commissions Act into law. It immunizes torturers retroactively to November 26, 1997.
  • July 20, 2007, in accordance with the Military Commissions Act, Bush signs an Executive order allowing the CIA to engage in aggressive interrogation techniques but without specifying what they are claims that these will not amount to torture.
  • On April 9, 2008, ABCNews reported that then National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice chaired meetings in 2002 at which Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and CIA Director George Tenet discussed with great specificity what kinds of aggressive interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, should be used against the recently captured terrorist Abu Zubaydah. They considered him to be the No. 3 person in al Qaeda. (He was, in fact, a mentally ill minor functionary with no useful information but lots of delusions.) This report puts the promotion of torture squarely in the White House early on and across the board at the very highest levels of the Administration. In a second ABC story on April 11, 2008, Bush confirmed that he knew and approved of these torture discussions.
  • On April 30, 2008, John P. Elwood, Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) announced in Congressional testimony that the DOJ would share the OLC’s unreleased torture memos but only with the Senate and House Intelligence Committees.
  • On July 11, 2008, a New York Times story cited a soon to be published book “The Dark Side” by Jane Mayer detailing a secret 2007 Red Cross report which concluded that the CIA had engaged in torture and that, as a result, the Bush Administration could be held guilty of war crimes. The CIA conveyed this information both to President Bush and Condoleezza Rice.
  • On October 8, 2008, the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School and the ACLU released emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act concerning the detentions of two US citizens Yaser Hamdi (item 85) and Jose Padilla (item 274) and one legal resident Ali Saleh al Marri (item 85). They were held in naval brigs in Virgina and South Carolina but subjected to treatment and interrogation techniques approved for Guantanamo. Naval officers expressed doubts up the chain of command about the treatment of these prisoners as well as their lack of access to legal counsel, but these were ignored by the Pentagon. In 2002, one expressed concern that Hamdi was being driven mad by his treatment. What is important to remember is that these were US citizens or legal resident held on US soil but, according to the Bush Administration, outside US law.
  • On December 11, 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a report which found that George Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, and other high level officials were directly responsible for detainee abuse at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. This is hardly surprising except in so far as it is an official pronouncement. It belies the standard defense that such abuse was the result of a few low ranking “bad apples”. The report’s findings went essentially uncovered in the media, also not a surprise. (This paragraph applies to the following item as well)

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