A guide to Salon’s investigation of torture, American-style

From Abu Ghraib to Abu Zubaydah, everything you need to know about torture during the Bush administration's war on terror.

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A guide to Salon's investigation of torture, American-style

Recent events have pushed torture back onto the front page. In mid-April, the Obama administration released a stunning set of Justice Department memoranda, chock-full of euphemisms and circular logic, drafted by the Bush administration to provide a legal basis for brutal interrogations. A week later, the Senate Armed Services Committee put out the results of a years-long investigation of torture: a crisp, comprehensive narrative that torpedoes the whole “bad apples” excuse and plops the events at Abu Ghraib square in the laps of top Bush officials. Then, on May 4, the conclusions of a still-unreleased internal Justice Department probe were leaked — apparently, a recommendation of professional sanctions for the lawyers who authored those torture memos, but no prosecution. The full report will be completed and released this summer.

The details in the new documents shed fresh light on the origins of American torture during the Bush administration. They show that psychologists acted as a fulcrum in the torture program, seizing on Cold War-era communist tactics soon after 9/11, training interrogators, and providing the gauze of medical precision and safety over the whole process, even though those tactics were known to create a great risk of false confessions.

But as snapshots from America’s torture saga appear above the fold on a daily basis, it is sometimes hard to tell what is old and what is really new. Much of what we are reading lately marries new tidbits with old revelations. Sometimes those revelations are years old.

For years Salon has doggedly tracked some of the main torture themes laid bare by the new Justice Department memos and the Senate investigation. We have assembled a cache of those stories, arranged by theme, to provide context to the flurry of information on torture.



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PROSECUTIONS, ACCOUNTABILITY AND TORTURE COMMISSIONS
Should Congress and the president form a nonpartisan commission to explore torture during the Bush administration? Will anybody ever be prosecuted? Is torture as effective as the techniques employed by trained professional interrogators? In a recent interview with Salon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., predicted that the continuing revelations and ongoing investigations — including one in the Senate Intelligence Committee — will make a commission more probable. “I think ultimately it probably makes it a little bit more likely given the level of activity that has sprung up on this subject,” he said. In the end, Whitehouse predicted, the United States will want a nonpartisan body to conduct a comprehensive review of all of the evidence and make a final proposal for U.S. conduct in the future. “I suspect when all is said and done, it will be logical to have a commission assemble all this and look at it and make recommendations above and beyond the political world.”

Stories

Is torture really over?
Without a hard look at the Bush administration’s torture program, the United States could be condemned to repeat it, no matter what President Obama says.

“You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table”
Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.

How to build a torture commission
Experts are in surprising agreement: Decide later whether to prosecute Bush officials, and keep members of Congress off the panel.

Senate will advance torture commission
Is there a lot America doesn’t know about Bush torture policies? There is, says Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “This is going to be big.”

Sympathy for Charles Graner
No one from the Bush administration has been held accountable for torture. But the guard from Abu Ghraib prison is still behind bars, and his family wants to know why.

Obama’s plans for probing Bush torture
President Bush could pardon officials involved in brutal interrogations — but he may also face a sweeping investigation under the new president.

Would Obama prosecute the Bush administration for torture?
Obama’s brain trust wants to form a commission on torture and call Bush officials as witnesses, but put off prosecutions — if any — till a second term.

Military injustice
A new report on prisoner abuse says the Army has fallen far short in prosecuting the perpetrators.

No justice for all
Army investigators found “probable cause” that a civilian interrogator abused a detainee at Abu Ghraib. Why has the Department of Justice failed to prosecute him — or any of the other 18 civilians suspected of criminal acts?

War Room Posts

Whitehouse: We have responsibility to investigate Bush administration

Specter: Truth commission would just be “fishing expedition”

THE PLAYERS: BUSH, RUMSFELD, ADDINGTON ET AL.
As the Senate Armed Services Committee report puts it, “The fact is that senior officials in the United States government solicited information on how to use aggressive techniques, redefined the law to create the appearance of their legality, and authorized their use against detainees.” Almost every shocking photo from Abu Ghraib, for example, reflects an interrogation technique specifically approved by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in late 2002. That’s no coincidence, since some of the interrogation guidelines for the prison were specifically inspired by Rumsfeld’s memo. Vice President Dick Cheney’s former counsel, David Addington, had personal input on some of the most explosive legal opinions from the Justice Department condoning abuse. And a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Myers, helped quash dissent on torture from across the U.S. military.

Stories

Did Bush’s attorney general hide internal dissent over torture?
In a letter to the Department of Justice, Sens. Durbin and Whitehouse request an update on the status of the Office of Professional Responsibility’s report on torture.

Report: Torture started with Bush
After a two-year investigation, the Senate names names — Bush, Tenet, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington, Rice.

Bush’s top general quashed torture dissent
New evidence shows that despite warnings from across the military, former Gen. Richard Myers shut down legal scrutiny of brutal interrogation tactics.

Did Chertoff lie to Congress about Guantánamo?
He told the Senate that Pentagon interrogation methods were “plain vanilla,” but e-mails reveal his top staff met weekly with FBI officials who said they were torture.

A Miller whitewash?
An Army report found Maj. Gen. Miller did not lie when he told Congress he held no “direct discussions” with top Pentagon officials — even though he met with Rumsfeld aide Stephen Cambone after visiting Abu Ghraib.

What Rumsfeld knew
Interviews with high-ranking military officials shed new light on the role Rumsfeld played in the harsh treatment of a Guantánamo detainee.

War Room Posts

Romney’s man on waterboarding

Ashcroft suggests CIA sought legal approval after torture began

TORTURE TIMELINES
The first step in a criminal investigation is putting together a timeline.

Stories

Torture planning began in 2001, Senate report reveals
Bush officials said they only tortured terrorists after they wouldn’t talk. New evidence shows they planned torture soon after 9/11 — and used it to find links between al-Qaida and Saddam.

Report: Torture started with Bush
After a two-year investigation, the Senate names names — Bush, Tenet, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Gonzales, Addington, Rice.

Bush’s top general quashed torture dissent
New evidence shows that despite warnings from across the military, former Gen. Richard Myers shut down legal scrutiny of brutal interrogation tactics.

A timeline to Bush government torture
Newly public evidence sheds greater light on Bush officials’ efforts to develop brutal interrogation techniques for the war on terror.

Mixed messages on torture
While Bush was defending “tough” interrogation at one press conference, the Army was calling torture useless at another.

War Room Posts

Ashcroft suggests CIA sought legal approval after torture began

THE ROLE OF THE CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY
The CIA first road-tested the Bush administration’s torture tactics with the abuse of suspected al-Qaida operative Abu Zubaydah after his capture on March 28, 2002. The agency also employed some of the harshest tactics against Zubaydah and others, including waterboarding. But just the conditions of incarceration endured by those prisoners at some CIA secret prisons — including some suspects later determined to be innocent — looks a lot like torture.

Stories

Inside the CIA’s notorious “black sites”
A Yemeni man never charged by the U.S. details 19 months of brutality and psychological torture — the first in-depth, first-person account from inside the secret U.S. prisons. A Salon exclusive.

Architecture of detention
Renderings of cells where a prisoner was held as part of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

For the CIA’s eyes only
Was the agency’s destruction of two video recordings of harsh interrogations by the CIA a coverup?

The CIA’s torture teachers
Psychologists helped the CIA exploit a secret military program to develop brutal interrogation tactics — likely with the approval of the Bush White House.

The CIA’s favorite form of torture
If the Bush administration forces the CIA to drop “tough” interrogation techniques like waterboarding, the agency will probably fall back on a brutal method that leaves no physical marks.

The CIA’s latest “ghost detainee”
New details confirm a CIA prisoner disappeared in U.S. custody for months, renewing suspicions the agency could be violating the law and using torture.

The Pentagon’s ghost investigation
Nearly two years ago, a top general urged a probe into illegal “ghost detainees” held at Abu Ghraib prison. But according to the Pentagon, it never happened — and never will.

War Room Posts

Ashcroft suggests CIA sought legal approval after torture began

Bush signs executive order on interrogation practices

THE ROLE OF PSYCHOLOGISTS
In December 2001 or January 2002, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen wrote the first proposal to integrate Cold War communist tactics into American interrogations, according to a recent Senate report. Both Mitchell and Jessen were government psychologists and experts in the Cold War techniques, called SERE tactics. Their paper made its way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It is hard to overstate the role that psychologists played in the design and implementation of the Bush administration’s torture regime. As the Justice Department noted when it approved the CIA’s harsh interrogation program in a memo dated August 1, 2002, “We … understand that a medical expert with SERE experience will be present throughout … and that the procedures be stopped if deemed medically necessary to prevent severe mental or physical harm.” The memo defers to psychologists at least six times in that memo.

Stories

Will psychologists still abet torture?
At their annual convention, psychologists officially condemned some brutal interrogation techniques, but critics decry a resolution they say isn’t stringent enough.

Psychologists to CIA: We condemn torture
In a rebuke to President Bush, the American Psychological Association resolves to condemn brutal CIA and military interrogations.

The CIA’s torture teachers
Psychologists helped the CIA exploit a secret military program to develop brutal interrogation tactics — likely with the approval of the Bush White House.

Psychologists group still rocked by torture debate
In an angry response to Salon, the American Psychological Association defends its policy on participating in terror suspects’ interrogation — as some members still push for change.

Psychological warfare
Angered that their professional organization has adopted a policy condoning psychologists’ participation in “war on terror” interrogations, many psychologists are vowing to stage a battle royal at the APA’s annual meeting.

Torture teachers
An Army document proves that Guantánamo interrogators were taught by instructors from a military school that trains U.S. soldiers how to resist torture.

THE POLITICS OF TORTURE
Where has Congress been on the whole torture debate? Why did the Democrats give the Bush administration a get-out-of-jail-free card in 2006?

Stories

Is torture really over?
Without a hard look at the Bush administration’s torture program, the United States could be condemned to repeat it, no matter what President Obama says.

Senate will advance torture commission
Is there a lot America doesn’t know about Bush torture policies? There is, says Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “This is going to be big.”

What Hillary won’t say about torture
Sen. Clinton gives Salon her most detailed answers yet on torture — but still leaves some wiggle room.

A Senate panel rejects Bush’s secret interrogations
As administration lawyers scramble to find a new legal underpinning for “tough” interrogation techniques, the Senate Intelligence Committee slams a once-secret CIA program and its methods.

Tortured justice
As Democrats scramble to protect detainee rights and their own congressional futures, President Bush is angling for a star-spangled signing ceremony just before the midterm elections. The rush is “very political,” says Sen. Dianne Feinstein — and will likely succeed.

The GOP’s tortured logic
The Republicans who now agree with the president that the War Crimes Act is too vague said something very different 10 years ago.

Bush’s Get Out of Jail card
Military attorneys claim that a White House-backed bill would gut the Geneva Conventions and save alleged torturers from prosecution.

War Room Posts

Whitehouse: We have responsibility to investigate Bush administration

ABU GHRAIB
Salon investigated the prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib extensively, most notably being the first to publish, in 2006, the nearly 300 photos and videos from the Army’s internal investigation.

Stories

“You can’t sweep unlawful activities under the table”
Abu Ghraib investigator Antonio Taguba talks to Salon about why he backs a commission to examine Bush torture policies.

Sympathy for Charles Graner
No one from the Bush administration has been held accountable for torture. But the guard from Abu Ghraib prison is still behind bars, and his family wants to know why.

The Pentagon’s ghost investigation
Nearly two years ago, a top general urged a probe into illegal “ghost detainees” held at Abu Ghraib prison. But according to the Pentagon, it never happened — and never will.

First officer is charged in Abu Ghraib scandal
Former interrogation director Lt. Col. Steven Jordan reacted to ongoing abuse by building a plywood wall to hide it, according to documents obtained by Salon.

No justice for all
Army investigators found “probable cause” that a civilian interrogator abused a detainee at Abu Ghraib. Why has the Department of Justice failed to prosecute him — or any of the other 18 civilians suspected of criminal acts?

“Big Steve” and Abu Ghraib
Salon has uncovered more allegations against a civilian interrogator accused of abuse at the prison. Why has he never been prosecuted?

U.S. agrees to release Abu Ghraib photos
Citing Salon’s publication, government abandons its fight to keep images of abuse secret.

The Abu Ghraib files
279 photographs and 19 videos from the Army’s internal investigation record a harrowing three months of detainee abuse inside the notorious prison — and make clear that many of those responsible have yet to be held accountable.

Mark Benjamin is a national correspondent for Salon based in Washington, D.C. Read his other articles here.

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