Timeline: History Of Harsh Interrogation Techniques

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld i i

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meet with military leaders regarding terrorism on Sept. 17, 2001, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Bush signs a directive authorizing the CIA to kill or capture suspected al-Qaida members and to create detention facilities where suspects can be held and interrogated. Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Getty Images
President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld meet with military leaders regarding terrorism on Sept. 17, 2001, at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. Bush signs a directive authorizing the CIA to kill or capture suspected al-Qaida members and to create detention facilities where suspects can be held and interrogated.

Getty Images
Guantanamo Bay detainees i i

U.S. Military Police guard Taliban and al-Qaida detainees in a holding area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jan. 11, 2002. The prison population will grow to about 775 detainees, most of whom are never charged. Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images
Guantanamo Bay detainees

U.S. Military Police guard Taliban and al-Qaida detainees in a holding area at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Jan. 11, 2002. The prison population will grow to about 775 detainees, most of whom are never charged.

Shane T. McCoy/U.S. Navy/Getty Images
Abu Zubaydah is described as 'a senior terrorist leader' and 'trusted associate of Osama bin Laden.' i i

President Bush describes Abu Zubaydah as "a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden." Zubaydah (shown here in an undated photo) is placed in the CIA's clandestine network of detention sites, and his allegations that he was tortured are later documented by the Red Cross. AP/U.S. Central Command hide caption

itoggle caption AP/U.S. Central Command
Abu Zubaydah is described as 'a senior terrorist leader' and 'trusted associate of Osama bin Laden.'

President Bush describes Abu Zubaydah as "a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden." Zubaydah (shown here in an undated photo) is placed in the CIA's clandestine network of detention sites, and his allegations that he was tortured are later documented by the Red Cross.

AP/U.S. Central Command
A U.S. soldier and his dog watch a detainee at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. i i

In this 2003 photo, Sgt. Michael Smith (left) and his dog, Marco, watch a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In January 2004, U.S. Central Command begins investigations into allegations of abuse against suspected insurgents held at Abu Ghraib. AP/File hide caption

itoggle caption AP/File
A U.S. soldier and his dog watch a detainee at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

In this 2003 photo, Sgt. Michael Smith (left) and his dog, Marco, watch a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. In January 2004, U.S. Central Command begins investigations into allegations of abuse against suspected insurgents held at Abu Ghraib.

AP/File

Facing a long list of pressing issues, President Obama has said he does not want to dwell on the past. But it seems he could not avoid the long, intense public debate over harsh interrogation techniques authorized and carried out on terrorism detainees following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Here is a look at key events leading to President Obama's decision Tuesday to ask his attorney general to determine whether anyone from the Bush administration broke the law.

Sept. 11, 2001: Terrorists attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Sept. 17, 2001: President Bush signs a directive authorizing the CIA to kill or capture suspected al-Qaida members and to create detention facilities where suspects can be held and interrogated.

October 2001: The U.S. prepares a detention camp on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base to house prisoners captured during the war in Afghanistan. Over the next seven years, the prison population will grow to about 775 detainees, most of whom are never charged.

Jan. 9, 2002: Justice Department lawyers John Yoo and Robert Delahunty write a memo arguing that the Geneva Conventions and other laws of war do not apply to U.S. treatment of suspected Taliban or al-Qaida members.

Jan. 25, 2002: White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales says that this view of international law "renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

March 28, 2002: Abu Zubaydah is captured in Pakistan. Described by President Bush as "a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden," Zubaydah is treated for his wounds and placed in the CIA's clandestine network of detention sites. Zubaydah's allegations that he was tortured are later documented by the Red Cross.

Dec. 2, 2002: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approves harsh techniques for interrogating prisoners, including stress positions, nudity, sensory deprivation and threatened attacks by dogs. The following April, he approves further measures, including sleep and food deprivation.

Jan. 16, 2004: The U.S. Central Command announces that it has begun investigating reports of abuse against suspected insurgents in the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. Over the next several months, photographs and videos will surface documenting that inmates were beaten, threatened by attack dogs and sexually abused. Seven soldiers are eventually charged with dereliction of duty, maltreatment, aggravated assault and battery.

August 2004: A military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay names 15 detainees to be tried by a military commission on charges related to terrorism. To date, only three have been convicted. More than 400 Guantanamo prisoners have been released with no charges.

June 29, 2006: The Supreme Court strikes down President Bush's military commissions, saying they were not authorized by federal law nor required by military necessity. The decision comes in the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a former driver for bin Laden. The justices find that the commissions violated Hamdan's rights under the Geneva Conventions.

September 2006: President Bush publicly reveals the existence of "a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency" to interrogate suspects such as Zubaydah. He says that Zubaydah had stopped talking, so the CIA used "an alternative set of procedures" to question him. In the same speech, he asserts that "the United States does not torture."

October and December 2006: Officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross interview 14 "high value" prisoners who have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay from secret CIA prisons. The report, given to CIA Acting General Counsel John Rizzo the following February, finds that the detainees had been subjected to ill treatment that "constituted torture."

Dec. 6, 2007: CIA Director Michael Hayden says the agency destroyed videotapes showing the interrogations of Zubaydah and another detainee, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. The announcement is apparently timed to pre-empt a New York Times article on the issue that is about to be published.

March 8, 2008: President Bush vetoes legislation that would have banned the CIA from using "extreme" interrogation techniques, such as simulated drowning, a practice known as "waterboarding." The legislation would have limited the CIA to practices that are permitted by the U.S. military.

Nov. 22, 2008: A military judge throws out the case against Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad on the grounds that the evidence against him was obtained under coercion.

Jan. 22, 2009: Two days after his inauguration, President Obama signs executive orders to review U.S. detention and interrogation practices, close the Guantanamo prison and forbid "extraordinary rendition," the practice of sending prisoners to other countries to be interrogated using procedures that are prohibited in the United States.

April 16, 2009: President Obama announces his decision to release government memos from 2002-2005 on "harsh" interrogation techniques. "This is a time for reflection, not retribution," Obama says, adding, "at a time of great challenges and disturbing disunity, nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past."

April 21, 2009: President Obama says he is not prepared to rule out prosecutions of some of those responsible for setting the interrogation policy.

Compiled by Corey Flintoff

Sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, NPR, New York Review of Books, Salon.com, International Committee of the Red Cross, historycommons.org

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