Timeline: 2001 to 2010

Sep 11, 2001 - Afghanistan-based terrorist organization al Qaeda attacks the United States. Nearly 3,000 people die.

Sep 14, 2001 - A congressional resolution authorizes U.S. President George W. Bush to use "all necessary and appropriate force" to combat the countries and groups behind terrorism. Vice President Dick Cheney promises that the United States will use "any means at our disposal" to combat terrorism.

Sep 16, 2001 - On CNN's Meet the Press with Tim Russert: Vice President Cheney: "We also have to work, though, sort of the dark side, if you will. We've got to spend time in the shadows in the intelligence world. A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we're going to be successful. That's the world these folks operate in, and so it's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."

Sep 17, 2001 - President Bush gives the CIA the authority to kill, capture, and detain al Qaeda operatives. The CIA lays plans for secret overseas prisons and special interrogations. Read more in "US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites" by Mark Danner in the New York Review of Books.

Oct 24, 2001 - Witnesses reported seeing masked agents take Yemeni microbiology student Jamil Qasim Saeed Mohammed aboard an unidentified jet at the Karachi airport. He was captured in a U.S.-Pakistani operation in Karachi on the grounds of being suspected of giving financial services to al-Qaeda operations. He was rendered to the Jordan General Intelligence Department. He has not been seen since.

Nov 13, 2001 - President Bush issues an executive order declaring that the United States will try any foreigners who commit acts of terrorism or harbor terrorists via military commission, under rules written by the executive branch.

Dec 1, 2001 - The Department of Defense general counsel's office solicits information on detainee "exploitation" from the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA), which advises on counterinterrogation techniques known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape). The SERE program has been used to train military personnel to resist interrogations when captured by enemy forces.

Jan 11, 2002 - The first 20 prisoners from Afghanistan arrive in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Feb 7, 2002 - President Bush issues an executive order denying Taliban and al Qaeda detainees the protections afforded under the Geneva Conventions, saying that the United States needs "new thinking in the law of war." Article 3 of the conventions prohibits "cruel treatment and torture" and the "humiliating and degrading treatment" of detainees.

Feb 19, 2002 - On behalf of British and Australian Guantánamo detainees, the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based NGO, files habeas corpus petitions in the District of Columbia's circuit court. 

Mar 28, 2002 - Abu Zubayda is shot multiple times when attempting to evade CIA and Pakistani intelligence operatives. They identify him as a top al Qaeda operative.

Apr 14, 2002 - A memo criticizing SERE techniques is circulated to JPRA and Department of Defense staffers. For more, read a 2009 Washington Post story "In 2002, Military Agency Warned Against 'Torture' Extreme Duress Could Yield Unreliable Information, It Said." 

May 1, 2002 - The CIA asks senior White House officials, including National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, to consider the possibility of using rough interrogation tactics including waterboarding in interrogations.

May 8, 2002 - José Padilla, who allegedly planned a "dirty bomb" attack, is arrested in Chicago; he is currently serving a 17-year sentence in a supermax prison. He and two other combatants were held incommunicado in a Navy brig for years following their detention. See this Article from Time Magazine in June 2002 and this Article published following his conviction in 2007.

Jul 1, 2002 - Richard Shiffrin, a counsel in the Department of Defense, inquires about SERE techniques -- initially designed to help U.S. soldiers captured abroad resist torture.

Aug 1, 2002 - The "Torture Memo," a U.S. Department of Justice report was filed by Jay Bybee, Assistant Attorney General, OLC, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

Feb 17, 2003 - Abu Omar is kidnapped by the CIA off the streets of Milan and detained in Egypt.

Mar 1, 2003 - U.S. captures Khalid Sheik Mohammed, mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mar 11, 2003 - Al Odah v United States: DC Court of Appeals finds that the Johnson v Eisentrager ruling applies to Guantanamo detainees- they are outside the jurisdiction of U.S. Courts and do not enjoy the protections of the U.S. Constitution including the writ of habeas corpus.

Apr 7, 2004 - Defense Intelligence Agency releases a report on former detainees. Read an analysis of the report by Seton Hall ("The Meaning of 'Battlefield': An Analysis of the Government's Representations of 'Battlefield Capture and 'Recidivism' of the Guantanamo Detainees").

Jun 28, 2004 - Rumsfeld v Padilla: U.S. citizen Jose Padilla was detained on May 8th, 2002 at the Chicago O'Hare airport upon his arrival from Pakistan. He has been kept in an offshore brig near South Carolina ever since. His counsel filed a habeas petition in the District Court of Southern New York. The Supreme Court found that the proper jurisdiction for this case is the District Court of South Carolina and therefore did not review whether or not the President had the authority to detain him.

Jun 28, 2004 - Hamdi v Rumsfeld: Yaser Esam Hamdi, a citizen of both Saudi Arabia and the United States, was captured in Afghanistan by the Northern Alliance and given to the U.S. Military for internment at Guantanamo and then at naval brigs adjacent to Virginia and South Carolina. The Supreme Court holds that U.S. citizenship in no way influences 'enemy combatant' status, that persons detained by the government are entitled to an impartial military commission to determine whether the designation is warranted, that allegations by the Government can be used as credible evidence for the purpose of these commissions, and the role of the courts in this case is to review the procedures of these commissions. The lowers courts are instructed to "pay proper heed both to the matters of national security that might arise in an individual case and to the constitutional limitations safeguarding essential liberties that remain vibrant even in times of security concerns."

Jun 28, 2004 - Rasul v Bush: The Supreme Court determines that Guantanamo Bay is within the plenary and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, even though Cuba retains "ultimate sovereignty". Therefore, the detainees are within the jurisdiction of U.S. Courts and can hear habeas corpus challenges.

Dec 17, 2004 - President Bush signs the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act into law. This law makes sweeping reforms to Homeland Security, Foreign Policy, Presidential Succession, and Intelligence. It created the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to coordinate all U.S. intelligence agency efforts. 

Jan 19, 2005 - Khalid v Bush: District Court of DC finds international law to be applicable only when implemented by Congress; otherwise it is enforced at the discretion of the executive. The President does have the authority to capture and detain aliens abroad. Nonresident noncitizen aliens captured abroad and detained in Guantanamo cannot be issued writs of habeas corpus without legal justification. In addition, on the subject of torture the court finds that "it would be impermissible...for the judiciary to engage in a substantive evaluation of the conditions of their detention."

May 10, 2005 - A second "Torture Memo" is sent by Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

May 30, 2005 -A third "Torture Memo" is sent by Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attorney General, OLC to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel CIA.

Oct 1, 2005 - Muslim Scholar Mustafa Setmariam Nassar, a Spanish citizen, disappears after Pakistani officials hand him to U.S. personnel. In January, the U.S. Embassy in Pakistan had announced a $5 million reward for his capture. Responding to an ACLU request in June 2009, the CIA reports that it can "neither confirm nor deny the existence or nonexistence of records" pertaining to Nassar.

Oct 30, 2005 - President Bush Signs the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005. This act required Department of Defense interrogators to follow the guidelines in the Army Field Manual while conducting interrogations. Text (Page 60).

Nov 8, 2005 - Amendment to Military Appropriations Bill: To establish a national commission on policies and practices on the treatment of detainees since September 11, 2001 sponsored by Senator Carl Levin (MI) not agreed to. Vote. 43 - 55.

Nov 10, 2005 - Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Legal Counsel Steven Bradbury issued two secret memos to the CIA. The first authorized "enhanced" interrogation techniques including dietary manipulation, forced nudity, abdominal slap, and waterboarding. The second authorized the use of the 13 techniques in conjunction with each other. First memo. Second memo

Feb 6, 2006 - Rasul v Rumsfeld: DC District Court dismisses international law claims by Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal, Rhuhel Ahmed, and Jamal Al-Harith because their claims were not brought to the DoD first. The briefing on the applicability of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in Guantanamo was inadequate; the parties were instructed to return with new briefings before a conclusive opinion was written. The plaintiffs, four former Guantanamo detainees from the UK, were forced to shave their religious beards, prayer mats were withheld, and they were forced to watch as a Koran was sullied in a toilet. More on the RFRA: This law, passed in 1993 by Congress, was limited in application to federal statutes by City of Boerne v Flores in 1997. Read the text of the statute.

May 8, 2006 - Rasul v Rumsfeld: DC District Court denies Rumsfeld's motion to claim that he is beyond the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) claim, refuting the claims that prisoners of Guantanamo are outside the jurisdiction of the U.S. for these federal laws and claims for entitled immunity. More on the RFRA: This law, passed in 1993 by Congress, was limited in application to federal statutes by City of Boerne v Flores in 1997. Text of the statute

Jun 9, 2006 - Three Guantanamo prisoners, Yemeni Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, and Saudis Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani are reported to have committed suicide by hanging themselves and stuffing rags in their mouths. Rear Admiral Harry Harris called it "an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." The 1700 page Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) report on the incident was not made public by the Pentagon; a redacted version was made available through the FOIA. The reconstruction of events by the NCIS is incredible. Article by Harper's. Follow-up by Harper's. Interview 1 (on YouTube). Interview 2 (on YouTube).

Jun 29, 2006 - Hamdan v Rumsfeld: Yemeni Salim Ahmed Hamdan was captured by Northern Alliance forces in November 2001. In June 2002 he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. He was charged with conspiracy "to commit...offenses triable by military commission." The Supreme Court finds that the military commission lacks authority because its structure violates the Uniform Military Code of Justice and the Geneva Conventions and that the offense is not grounded in law.

Aug 10, 2006 - Counterterrorism officials foil an Al Qaeda conspiracy by several UK citizens with ties to Pakistan who planned to detonate bombs in several airplanes over the Atlantic using liquid-based explosives. Liquids weighing more than three ounces are banned from all flights.

Sep 1, 2006 - Khalid Sheik Mohammed is moved to the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Oct 17, 2006 - President Bush signs the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Provisions include: "No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights." Military commissions created for the purpose of sentencing detainees are explicitly instructed to consider self-incriminating coerced confessions, hearsay evidence, and secret evidence. Combatants must exhaust the military commissions system before they are permitted to appeal to the Court of Appeals for DC. Courts are stripped of the power to issue writs of habeas corpus for detainees held since September 11, 2001. Read text of the Act.

Nov 1, 2006 - U.S. Army Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan, the dean of the United States Military Academy at West Point, accompanied by three of the most experienced military and F.B.I. interrogators in the country told the makers of 24 that the show promoted unethical and illegal behavior and had adversely affected the training and performance of real American soldiers. "I'd like them to stop," Finnegan said of the show’s producers. "They should do a show where torture backfires." In a separate interview with the reporter, 24 writer lead writer Howard Gordon says that the torture scenes he writes are, "Honest to God, I’d call them improvisations in sadism." 24 has 15 million weekly viewers.

Jan 5, 2007 - UN Special Investigator Manfred Nowak reports that there is "total impunity for torture and ill-treatment" in Jordan.

Feb 20, 2007 - Boumediene v Bush: The U.S. Court of Appeals for DC determines whether the Military Commissions Act of 2006 violates the Suspension Clause of the U.S. Constitution. "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." It finds that Johnson v Eisentrager (1950) determines that the Suspension Clause does not apply to aliens in foreign territory; the MCA is constitutional and therefore strips courts of their jurisdiction over all cases related to Guantanamo detainees.

Aug 19, 2007 - The American Psychological Association ruled that its members are barred from assisting U.S. interrogators in torturing suspects.

Oct 5, 2007 - President Bush defended interrogation techniques at an Oval Office Meeting, claiming that they have been fully disclosed to Congress. Congressional committee members contradict him - the government refused to divulge key classified information to them.

Oct 25, 2007 - Rudolph Giuliani, when asked whether waterboarding is torture by NRCAT board member Linda Gustitus at an Iowa town hall meeting, informed her that "it depends." He then went on to say "sometimes they describe it accurately. Sometimes they exaggerate it. So I'd have to see what they really are doing, not the way some of these liberal newspapers have exaggerated it."

Oct 26, 2007 - John McCain rebuked Giuliani in a phone interview, informing him that "They should know what it is. It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture."

Nov 4, 2007 - Former Nevada National Guard JAG and current law of war professor for Brooklyn and NYU Evan Wallach describes several U.S. cases in which waterboarding is found to be illegal and then states, "This history should be of value to those who seek to understand what the law is -- as well as what it ought to be."

Nov 13, 2007 - U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema pressed the Justice Department to deliver all interrogation tapes for the case of Zacharius Moussaoui. The Justice Department then declared they did not exist. The CIA had destroyed video and audio tapes of interrogations of terror suspects including Abu Zubaydah. When the scandal broke in December 2007, the government blamed Deputy Director of Operations Jose Rodriguez. Letter from U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg to Judge Brinkema notifying her of recently uncovered evidence. Read an analysis.

Jan 11, 2008 - Rasul v Myers: U.S. Court of Appeals for DC determines that detainees are not "persons" for the purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), drawing upon Johnson v Eisentrager. The Court reverses Rasul v Rumsfield and dismisses the RFRA complaint. More on the RFRA: This law, passed in 1993 by Congress, was limited in application to federal statutes by City of Boerne v Flores in 1997. Text of the statute.

Jan 21, 2008 - Former National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell on torture: McConnell refused to answer directly, but he said, "My own definition of torture is something that would cause excruciating pain."

Jan 23, 2008 - President Bush officially nominates Steven Bradbury as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel. The Senate refused to confirm him; Bradbury remained the interim head of the office for the remainder of Bush's term.

Jan 29, 2008 - Attorney General Michael Mukasey informs Senator Patrick Leahy (VT) that "waterboarding is not among those methods" authorized for use in the CIA interrogation program. Copy of the letter

Feb 5, 2008 - National Intelligence Director Mike McConnell on waterboarding: "Waterboarding, taken to its extreme, could be death. You could drown someone.…The question is, is waterboarding a legal technique? And everything I know, based on the appropriate authority to make that judgment, it is a legal technique used in a specific set of circumstances. You have to know the circumstances to be able to make the judgment."

Mar 14, 2008 - Ahmed v Bush: U.S. Court of Appeals for DC rules that the DC District Court retains jurisdiction to seek a "temporary restraining order" under the Military Commissions Act of 2006. Algerian Ahmed Belbacha was intended to be transferred to Algeria where he would have likely been tortured by his own government.

May 1, 2008 - Sudanese TV cameraman for Al Jazeera Sumi al-Hajj was released from Guantanamo without charges after a 480-day fast. His attorney, Clive Stafford-Smith, reported "In particular, the U.S. wants Sami to be an informant against some of his colleagues at Al Jazeera, whom they claim are members of al-Qaida." Op-Ed by Nicholas D. Kristof in the NY Times. From the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Interview with Clive Stafford-Smith.

Jun 12, 2008 - Boumediene v Bush: The Supreme Court rules 5-4 that Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnia-Herzegovinan citizen detained in Guantanamo Bay, reserves a right to petition for habeas corpus. The Military Commissions Act of 2006 unlawfully suspends that right contrary to the Suspension Clause of the Constitution. Military Commissions Act of 2006.

Jun 12, 2008 - Munaf v Geren: The Multinational Force-Iraq has agreed to help detain prisoners at the request of the Iraq Government. The Supreme Court finds that U.S. courts do not have jurisdiction to issue writs of habeas corpus to American-Jordanian citizens held by the MNF-I forces; it is up to Congress and the President to decide whether to transfer suspects to Iraq's custody.

Nov 20, 2008 - Boumediene v Bush: Six citizens of Algeria and Bosnia were captured by authorities in Bosnia-Herzegovina for rendition to the United States, who detained them at Guantanamo. Based on secret evidence, Belkacem Bensayah was denied writ of habeas corpus from the U.S. District Court for DC while the other five men were granted it. The five were released over the following four months.

Dec 30, 2008Ahmed Al Alwi v Bush: DC District Court denies Alwi's habeas corpus petition. Yemeni Alwi, a former Taliban foot soldier, was found to be associated with both the Taliban and Al Qaeda according to classified evidence, and therefore fits the definition of "unlawful enemy combatant." Therefore, he can be detained indefinitely by the military until the war on terror has ended.

Jan 22, 2009 - President Obama signs an Executive Order prohibiting torture. 

Mar 17, 2009 - Spanish prosecutor Javier Zaragoza informs officials at the U.S. Embassy in Madrid that he will suspend the ongoing investigation of Bush Administration officials and their role in torture if the United States begins an internal investigation.

Apr 24, 2009 - Rasul v Myers: The U.S. Court of Appeals for DC reaffirms that Guantanamo detainees are not "persons" for the purpose of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). More on the RFRA: This law, passed in 1993 by Congress, was limited in application to federal statutes by City of Boerne v Flores in 1997. Text of the statute.

Apr 29, 2009 - Spanish investigating judge Baltason Garzón Real opens a judicial investigation based on a criminal complaint from the Association for the Dignity of Prisoners to begin investigation into the role of Bush Administration officials in torturing Guantanamo detainees. Spanish Attorney General Candido Conde-Pumpido is opposed, "If there is a reason to file a complaint against these people, it should be done before local courts with jurisdiction, in other words, in the United States." See coverage on CNN and The Guardian.

May 21, 2009 - Spanish judge Santiago Pedraz announces that he will pursue an investigation into the April 2003 shelling of a Spanish and a Ukranian journalist in their hotel in Baghdad by three U.S. soldiers. Spanish National Court and U.S. Army Investigation Panels recommend that no action be taken against the soldiers.

Jun 1, 2009 - NRCAT Public Witness in front of the White House asking the President to establish a Commission of Inquiry. 35 religious leaders meet with White House staff.

Jul 23, 2009 - The Obama Administration refuses to supply UN human rights investigators with visitations to Guantanamo, interviews with prisoners, meetings with Secretary Clinton, or the locations of former CIA secret prisons.

Aug 24, 2009 -  Eric Holder assigns Assistant U.S. Attorney John Durham to open investigations into a dozen cases of alleged detainee mistreatment by CIA interrogators and contractors. A White House spokesman says, "ultimately, the decisions on who is investigated and who is prosecuted are up to the attorney general. ... The president thinks that Eric Holder, who he appointed as a very independent attorney general, should make those decisions."

Sep 18, 2009 - Former CIA Directors send a letter to President Obama requesting him to close the preliminary torture investigation opened by Eric Holder. They claim that "public disclosure about past intelligence operations can only help Al Qaeda elude U.S. intelligence and plan future operations." Read the letter.

Oct 19, 2009 - Spanish Parliament limits the jurisdiction of the National Court. War crimes are removed from the list of offenses that can be prosecuted with universal jurisdiction. Ongoing investigations that began before the passage of this law are unaffected.

Nov 5, 2009 - 23 CIA agents are convicted in absentia by an Italian Court for the kidnapping of Abu Omar. The five leaders of Military Intelligence and Security Service (SISMI) during the incident that could not be called to account due to state secrecy were acquitted. Three Americans were acquitted on the grounds of diplomatic immunity.

Dec 25, 2009 - Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, a Nigerian engineering student from University College of London, attempted to set fire to a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit. He was subdued by passengers but suffered burns.

Jan 5, 2010 - President Obama announces: "Given the unsettled situation, I've spoken to the Attorney General and we've agreed that we will not be transferring additional detainees back to Yemen at this time." 

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