Executive branch actions page rev. 17 Apr 2009
Scroll down for information about:
Actions by the Obama administration;
Actions by the George W. Bush administration.
16 Apr 2009: President Obama's statement upon the release of four previously withheld OLC memos purporting to authorize torture by CIA agents during intelligence interrogations. Materials on this page are organized by date, most recent to least recent. For links to the memos themselves, scroll down in the "Bush administration" section to entries for 30 May 2005, 10 May 2005 (two entries), and 1 Aug 2002.
22 Feb 2009: In response to the president's exec orders for review of detainee circumstances and closure of the G'Bay facility, Adm. Patrick Walsh lead an inspection of the facility. He issued a report, "Review of Department Compliance with President's Executive Order on Detainee Conditions of Confinement," stating generally that conditions of confinement in G'Bay are in conformity with Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conv. The report made a number of recommendations, each with its implication concerning the treatment of detainees at G'Bay. The recommendations included that the facility increase the human-to-human contact between and among detainees [to decrease debilitating isolation]; that there be additional action to maintain the firewall between intelligence gathering and health care [to stop the use of sensitive psychological and medical information in the interrogation process]; that all interrogations be video recorded [to make transparent any brutal, cruel, or inhuman treatment during interrogations]; and that transfer issues for detainees deemed non-"enemy combatants" by the government be resolved [to combat hopelessness].
23 Feb 2009. In rebuttal, the Center for Constitution Rights issued its own report, "Current Conditions at Guantanamo; Still in Violation of the Law," calling for the closure of Camps 5 and 6 and Camp Echo.
Force-feeding at G'Bay: Adm. Welsh's report (at p. 56) claims that the military's force-feeding of hunger strikers comports with Common Article 3 (protection of detainees from self-harm) because it follows the U.S. Bureau of Prisons standards. However, testimony by Dr. Scott A. Allen before the Helsinki Commisson on 1 July 2008 raises serious issues about the G'Bay protocol: "The challenge of hunger strikes and the risk of medical complicity in abuse and torture in U.S. detention facilities." Dr. Allen is Ass't Prof. of Medicine (Clinical) at Brown U., where he is Co-Director of The Center for Prisoner and Health Rights. He is a medical advisor to Physicians for Human Rights.
22 Jan. 2009: Pres. Obama signed three executive orders: (1) Review and disposition of individuals detained at the Guantanamo Bay Naval base and closure of detention facilities, ordering closure of the facility within one year; (2) Review of detention policy options for each detainee, including a memo ordering review of the detention of Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri, the only detainee being held on U.S. soil; and (3) Ensuring lawful interrogations, limiting interrogation practices to those described in the Army Field Manual for Detainee Interrogations, with standards set by Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.
George W. Bush administration:
2 Mar 2009: The Obama DoJ released nine previously-secret Bush administration OLC memos. Seven of the memos were issued during the period from 25 Sept 2001 through 27 June 2002. As for the two other memos, one was a cautionary memo dated 6 Oct 2008, supplemented by another, more sweeping notice issued 15 Jan 2009, noting that certain previously issued memos did not reflect the current views of the OLC.
The memos are about topics of inquiry into the power of the executive in the post-9/11 period. These topics include the administration's early thinking about extraordinary rendition, military commissions, and the detention of Jose Padilla as an enemy combatant (here and here).
28 Jan 2008: Members of the Bush administration relied on secret legal memos for policies on detainee treatment, surveillance, and executive power. FOIA lawsuits have unearthed some, but not all, of the pertinent memos on detainee treatment, surveillance, and executive power. ProPublica.org has posted an interactive "Missing Memos" chart with links to memos that are now public and identifying information for those still secret.
9 Oct 2008. A newly reissued Dept. of Defense directive explicitly prohibits several of the more controversial interrogation techniques that have previously been practiced against suspected enemy combatants (e.g., waterboarding; use of dogs; use of SERE techniques). "DoD Intelligence Interrogations, Detainee Debriefings, and Tactical Questioning," DoD Directive 3115.09, October 9, 2008. [Ed. note: Thanks, once again, to the invaluable work Steve Aftergood and the Federation of American Scientists.]
30 May 2008. The Department of Defense has released an revision to its Feb 2008
policy on "detainee operations," defining the class of unlawful enemy combatants and prescribing their treatment. "Detainee Operations," Joint Publication JP 3-63. The policy recognizes lack of humane treatment a war crime under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. The policy allows no exception to the humane treatment requirement, providing that "the stress of combat operations, the need for intelligence, or deep provocation by captured and/or detained personnel does not justify deviation from this obligation,"
20 May 2008. Report from the Inspector General of the Dept. of Justice, "A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq."
May 2008. Vanity Fair article: "The Green Light" by Philippe Sands, setting forth the factual background describing White House and Bush Administration approval of brutal interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay, techniques that demonstrably migrated to Iraq and Abu Ghraib and mirrored the treatment meted out at other U.S. detention facilities around the world.
Correspondence between Sen. Ron Wyden and the Dept. of Justice re: legal interpretation of CIA detention and interrogation program. This interpretation was the basis for Exec. Order 13440 (see below, entry dated 20 July 2007):
8 Aug 2007: Date of Sen. Wyden's initial letter to Ass't AG Steven Bradbury. 27 Sept 2007: DoJ response from Principal Deputy Ass't A.G. Brian A. Benczkowski. 20 Dec 2007: Sen. Wyden's follow-up letter. 6 Mar 2008: DoJ response to follow-up queries. DoJ analysis outlaws some techniques but does not specify whether other aggressive techniques may be used, leaving the CIA with an approved free zone in which to choose interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis, including CIA response to circumstances and suspicions.
29 Jan 2008: Letter from Attny Gen Mukasey to Sen. Leahy about the legality of CIA "enhanced interrogation techniques" in general and waterboarding in particular.
20 July 2007. Executive Order governing interrogation of terrorism suspects by CIA. This Exec Order also lays out the administration's position as to CIA secret detentions.
10 May 2007. Letter from Gen. Petreus to U.S. troops in Iraq, denouncing the use of torture against detainees and noncombatants. "Our values and the laws governing warfare teach us to respect human dignity, maintain our integrity, and do what is right. Adherence to our values distringuishes us from our enemy. ... ."
Sept. 2006: Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogations (FM 2-22.3 ((FM 34-52)): Human Intelligence Collector Operations)
7 July 2006. Memo: Application of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions to the treatment of detainees in the Department of Defense, by Gordon England, Deputy Secty of Defense.
3 July 2006. New Yorker article by Jane Mayer profiling VP Cheney's Chief of Staff David Addington.
2006 Director of National Intelligence: Summary of the High Value Terrorist Detainee Program.
30 May 2005: Forty-page memorandum from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attny Gen, Office of Legal Counsel, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel, CIA, specifying techniques of interrogation that were permissible for the CIA to use in intelligence interrogations. (This memo has been withdrawn.)
10 May 2005: Forty-six page memorandum from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attny Gen, Office of Legal Counsel, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel, CIA, specifying techniques of interrogation that were permissible for the CIA to use in intelligence interrogations. (This memo has also been withdrawn.)
10 May 2005: Twenty-page memorandum from Steven Bradbury, Acting Assistant Attny Gen, Office of Legal Counsel, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel, CIA, specifying techniques of interrogation that were permissible for the CIA to use in intelligence interrogations. (This memo has also been withdrawn.)
30 Dec 2004. DoJ policy memo: Standards applicable under the War Crimes Act. Withdraws the 1 Aug 2002 memo and restates administration position.
4 Aug 2004: Memo from CIA to DoJ, requesting clarification of legal standard for interrogation techniques and warning of possible court review.
7 July 2004. Statement of Alberto Mora, then-General Counsel to the Navy, described in "Annals of the Pentagon: The Memo: How an internal effort to ban the abuse and torture of detainees was thwarted." New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, 27 Feb 2006.
14 March 2003. John Yoo's Dept. of Justice Office of Legal Counsel Memo, prepared for the Dept. of Defense: "Military Interrogation of Alien Unlawful Combatants Held Outside the United States," justifying torture techniques under the president's commander-in-chief authority. Linked here in two parts: Part 1 and Part 2. Yoo's memo to DoD was repudiated 9 months after it was issued.
28 Jan 2003. Memo from CIA to DoJ, requesting legal clarification of certain interrog techniques, and noting that CIA had kept records of the nature and duration of each technique used and who was present.
17 Oct 2002. Written testimony of the Director of CIA before the Joint Inquiry Committee
7 Feb 2002 policy memo: Common Article 3 does not apply to al-Qaeda or Taliban detainees.
1 Aug 2002: Eighteen-page memorandum from Jay Bybee, Assistant Attny Gen, Office of Legal Counsel, to John A. Rizzo, General Counsel, CIA, specifying techniques of interrogation that were permissible. (This memo has been withdrawn.)
Previously, the administration released heavily redacted copy of this memorandum, described in congressional inquiries as Yoo-Bybee II, from DoJ to CIA officials, outlining what specific techniques were permissible under the standards set forth in the 1 Aug 2002 memo to Alberto Gonzales (below).
1 Aug 2002. Memorandum for Alberto Gonzales, Counsel to the President re Standards of Conduct for Interrogation under 18 USC 2340-2340A. Sometimes called "The Bybee Memo" because it was signed by Ass't Attny General Jay Bybee, Office of Legal Counsel, Dept of Justice. Then-Ass't Attny General John Yoo was also instrumental in the drafting of this memo.
25 Jan 2002. Memorandum over Alberto Gonzales' name (later described as having been drafted by David Addington, advisor to Vice-President Cheney) re Application of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War to the Conflict with al Qaeda and the Taliban.