Torture Tapes

The timeline below depicts events related to the CIA’s torture program and the agency’s destruction of 92 CIA tapes depicting torture.

    11/1/2001

    • CIA begins development of 'enhanced interrogation techniques'

      CIA begins development of 'enhanced interrogation techniques'

    3/1/2002

    • CIA begins interrogation using what the FBI calls 'torture techniques'

      CIA begins interrogation using what the FBI calls 'torture techniques'

    3/27/2002

    • Abu Zubaydah captured, taken to CIA 'Cat's Eye' prison in Thailand

      Abu Zubaydah captured after gunfight in Pakistan, taken to CIA 'Cat's Eye' prison in Thailand

    4/13/2002

    • CIA begins videotaping interrogations

      CIA begins videotaping interrogations

    8/1/2002

    • Justice Department issues memos authorizing 'enhanced interrogation techniques'

      Justice Department issues memos authorizing CIA to use 'enhanced interrogation techniques,' including waterboarding

    10/25/2002

    • Senior CIA official warns that tapes are a 'security risk' and should be destroyed

      Senior CIA official warns that tapes are a 'security risk' and should be destroyed

    11/1/2002

    • Al Nashiri captured, taken to CIA 'Cat's Eye' prison in Thailand

      Al Nashiri captured, taken to CIA 'Cat's Eye' prison in Thailand

    11/20/2002

    • CIA prisoner Gul Rahman dies in 'Salt Pit' prison in Afghanistan after being held naked in freezing cell

      CIA prisoner Gul Rahman dies in 'Salt Pit' prison in Afghanistan after being held naked in freezing cell

    12/4/2002

    • CIA/DOD prisoner Habibullah beaten to death at Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan

      CIA/DOD prisoner Habibullah beaten to death at Bagram Collection Point in Afghanistan
    • CIA discontinues videotaping, shuts down Cat's Eye prison, transfers prisoners to Eastern Europe

      CIA discontinues videotaping, shuts down Cat's Eye prison, transfers prisoners to Eastern Europe

    1/9/2003

    • CIA's Office of General Counsel completes review of tapes, concludes they can be destroyed.

      CIA's Office of General Counsel completes 'independent review' of tapes, finds they show 'nothing remarkable,' concludes they can be destroyed. The OGC's report fails to mention that some tapes are blank, others mainly blank, and others broken.

    1/10/2003

    • CIA director George Tenet asks for plans to destroy the tapes

      CIA director George Tenet asks CIA's Counterterrorism Center to 'draft a short paper' about plan to destroy the tapes

    1/1/2003

    • CIA Inspector General initiates review of detention and interrogation practices

      CIA Inspector General initiates review of CIA detention and interrogation practices after learning of Gul Rahman's death at Salt Pit prison.

    2/5/2003

    • CIA General Counsel tells House Intelligence Committee that CIA intends to destroy videotapes

      CIA General Counsel Scott Muller tells House Intelligence Committee that CIA intends to destroy videotapes after Inspector General has viewed them.

    2/10/2003

    • Rep. Jane Harman warns CIA not to destroy the tapes

      Rep. Jane Harman warns CIA not to destroy the tapes, advising that 'the videotapes would be the best proof that the written record is accurate' and that the destruction would 'reflect badly' on the CIA.

    2/22/2003

    • CIA General Counsel meets with White House about Harman letter and proposal to destroy the tapes

      CIA General Counsel Scott Muller meets with White House officials about Harman letter and proposal to destroy the tapes.

    5/9/2003

    • CIA files sworn declaration stating that it did not videotape interrogations of Abu Zubaydah.

      In connection with trial of Zacharias Moussaoui, CIA files sworn declaration stating that it did not videotape interrogations of Abu Zubaydah.

    5/1/2003

    • Inspector General views videotapes

      Inspector General views videotapes.

    9/1/2003

    • Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri secretly transferred to Guantanamo

      Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri secretly transferred to Guantanamo.

    10/7/2003

    • ACLU files first FOIA request for records concerning CIA interrogation program

      ACLU files first FOIA request for records concerning CIA interrogation program.

    11/4/2003

    • CIA/DOD prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi tortured to death at Abu Ghraib prison

      CIA/DOD prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi tortured to death at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

    3/27/2004

    • CIA secretly transfers Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri to Morrocco

      In anticipation of Supreme Court ruling allowing Guantanamo detainees access to courts and lawyers, CIA secretly transfers Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri to Morrocco.

    4/28/2004

    • CBS 60 Minutes broadcasts Abu Ghraib photographs

      CBS 60 Minutes broadcasts Abu Ghraib photographs.

    5/1/2004

    • Inspector General completes his report

      CIA Inspector General completes his report on the CIA's use of "enhanced interrogation techniques." Concludes that the CIA misused the techniques at times and that the CIA used "unauthorized techniques" (such as using a handgun and power drill during an interrogation).

    5/25/2004

    • ACLU files second FOIA request for records concerning CIA interrogation program

      ACLU files second FOIA request for records concerning CIA interrogation program.

    6/2/2004

    • ACLU files lawsuit to enforce FOIA requests

      ACLU files lawsuit to enforce FOIA requests.

    6/28/2004

    • Supreme Court rules in Rasul v. Bush that Guantanamo prisoners must have access to courts and lawyers

      Supreme Court rules in Rasul v. Bush that prisoners held at Guantanamo must have access to courts and lawyers.

    9/15/2004

    • Court orders CIA to 'produce or identify' all records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests

      Court orders CIA to 'produce or identify' all records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests.

    2/2/2005

    • Court reaffirms order requiring CIA to produce or identify records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests

      Court reaffirms order requiring CIA to produce or identify records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests, makes clear that CIA's obligation extends to records collected in the course of the Inspector General's investigation.

    4/15/2005

    • CIA says it has completed its search for records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests

      CIA says it has completed its search for records responsive to ACLU FOIA requests.

    7/1/2005

    • Discussion about destroying tapes resumes with Director of National Intelligence and White House

      Discussion about destroying tapes resumes. Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and White House officials participate in discussion.

    11/2/2005

    11/3/2005

    • Judge in Zacharias Moussaoui trial again asks CIA whether it has videotapes of interrogations

      Judge presiding over trial of Zacharias Moussaoui again asks CIA whether it has videotapes of 'enemy combatant' interrogations.

    11/8/2005

    • New York Times informs CIA that it intends to reveal existence of Inspector General investigation

      New York Times informs CIA that it intends to reveal existence and nature of Inspector General investigation into CIA interrogation program.
    • Director of CIA's Clandestine Service authorizes destruction of tapes, and tapes are destroyed

      Jose Rodriguez, Director of CIA's Clandestine Service, authorizes destruction of tapes, and tapes are destroyed.

    11/9/2005

    • New York Times discloses existence of Inspector General investigation into CIA interrogation program

      New York Times discloses existence and nature of CIA Inspector General investigation into CIA interrogation program.

    11/10/2005

    • CIA leadership agrees 'heat from destroying is nothing compared to...if the tapes ever got into the public domain'

      According to a CIA email, CIA General Counsel John Rizzo learns for the first time that tapes have been destroyed. Rodriguez says he 'will take the heat,' but says that 'the heat from destroying is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain,' and that 'out of context, [the tapes] would make us look terrible; it would be 'devastating' to us.' CIA email says that 'all in the room agreed' with Rodriguez's assessment.

    11/14/2005

    • CIA files second sworn declaration stating that it did not videotape interrogations of Abu Zubaydah

      In connection with trial of Zacharias Moussaoui, CIA files second sworn declaration stating that it did not videotape interrogations of Abu Zubaydah.

    12/6/2007

    • To preempt New York Times story, CIA acknowledges destruction of the tapes

      To preempt New York Times story, CIA acknowledges destruction of the tapes. Says that 'decision to destroy the tapes was made within the CIA itself.' (www.nytimes.com/2007/12/06/washington/06cnd-intel.html)

    12/12/2007

    • ACLU asks federal court to hold CIA in contempt for violating court's 2004 and 2005 orders.

      ACLU asks federal court to hold CIA in contempt for violating court's 2004 and 2005 orders.

    1/2/2008

    • Attorney General appoints prosecutor John Durham to investigate destruction of tapes.

      Attorney General appoints prosecutor John Durham to investigate destruction of tapes.

    7/30/2009

    • Court puts contempt proceedings on hold while prosecutor John Durham's investigation proceeds

      Court puts contempt proceedings on hold while prosecutor John Durham's investigation proceeds.

    11/9/2010

    • Durham concludes investigation, says will not bring charges for destruction of tapes

      Durham concludes investigation, says will not bring charges for destruction of tapes.

    2/15/2011

    • ACLU renews contempt motion

      ACLU renews contempt motion, asks court to impose contempt judgment on CIA as well as specific officials who authorized tapes' destruction.

    8/1/2011

    • Court sanctions CIA and orders it to pay the ACLU's legal fees related to contempt motion

      After a hearing on the ACLU's contempt motion, the Court refused to hold the CIA in contempt but sanctioned the CIA by ordering it to pay the ACLU's legal fees related to the motion.
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    • Broader Context
    • Tapes Timeline
    • ACLU FOIA litigation

In September 2004, a court first ordered the CIA to produce or identify all records pertaining to the treatment of prisoners in its custody in response to an ACLU lawsuit seeking information about the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody abroad. These orders would have included at least 92 interrogation tapes documenting the harsh interrogation of the two prisoners, Abu Zubaydah and Abd Al-Rahim Al-Nashiri.

Despite the orders, the CIA never produced videotapes depicting torture or even acknowledged their existence. Unbeknownst to the public, the tapes were destroyed in November 2005, a year after the court’s first order, although the destruction was not publicly revealed until 2007.

The ACLU moved to hold the CIA in contempt of court for destroying the videotapes, arguing that the agency showed complete disdain for the court and the rule of law itself when it flouted several court orders to produce the videotapes and instead destroyed them.

On August 1, 2011, the court refused to hold the CIA in contempt for the destruction of the tapes, but it sanctioned the CIA by ordering the agency to pay the ACLU’s legal fees in bringing the misconduct to light. The judge also asked the CIA to publish a forthcoming protocol on document-destruction policies, which were developed in response to the ACLU’s litigation, in an effort to prevent similar destruction from occurring again. Because the judge failed to hold the CIA in contempt of court, however, it left unaddressed larger concerns about accountability. The court noted that the ACLU had played an “extraordinary” role in revealing to the public information about the abuse of detainees in U.S. custody.

More about the ACLU’s motion to hold the CIA in contempt of court »
More information about the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit »

 

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