Post-9/11, torture has been official US policy under George Bush - authorized at the highest levels of government. Evidence of its systematic practice continues to surface. First some background.
On September 17, 2001, George Bush signed a secret finding empowering CIA to "Capture, Kill, or Interrogate Al-Queda Leaders." It also authorized establishing a secret global network of facilities to detain and interrogate them without guidelines on proper treatment. Around the same time, Bush approved a secret "high-value target list" of about two dozen names. He also gave CIA free reign to capture, kill and interrogate terrorists not on the list. It was the beginning of events that followed.
On November 13, 2001, the White House issued a Military Order regarding the "Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism." It "determined that an extraordinary emergency exists for national defense purposes, that this emergency constitutes an urgent and compelling government interest and that issuance of this order is necessary to meet the emergency."
On December 28, 2001, Deputy Assistant Attorney Generals, Patrick Philbin and John Yoo, sent a Memorandum to General Counsel, Department of Defense, William Haynes II titled: "Possible Habeas Jurisdiction over Aliens Held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." It said federal courts have no jurisdiction and cannot review Guantanamo detainee mistreatment or mistaken arrest cases. It further stated that international laws don't apply in the "war on terror." This laid the groundwork for abuses in all US torture prisons.
On January 18, 2002, Bush issued a "finding" stating that prisoners suspected of being Al Queda or Taliban members are "enemy combatants" and unprotected by the Third Geneva Convention. They were to be denied all rights and treated "to the extent....consistent with military necessity." Torture was thus authorized. The 2006 Military Commissions Act (aka the "torture authorization act") later created the Geneva-superceded category of "unlawful enemy combatant" to deny them any chance for judicial fairness.
The January 18 memo was preceded by a January 9 one to William Haynes II - co-authored by John Yoo, and Special Council Robert Delahunty. It read in part:
Regarding "international treaties and federal laws on the treatment of individuals detained by the US Armed Forces (in) Afghanistan....the laws of armed conflict (don't) apply to the conditions of detention and the procedures for trial of members of al Queda and the Taliban militia." These treaties "do not protect members of the al Queda organization (or) the Taliban militia."
On January 19, 2002 Donald Rumsfeld sent a memo to the Joint Chiefs titled: "Status of Taliban and al Queda." It stated that these detainees "are not entitled to prisoner of war status for purposes of the Geneva Conventions of 1949." It gave commanders enormous latitude to treat prisoners "to the extent appropriate with military necessity" or essentially as they saw fit.
On January 22, 2002, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee (now a federal judge), issued a Memorandum to Counsel to the President, Alberto Gonzales and William Haynes II. It was titled: "Application of Treaties and Laws to al Queda and Taliban Detainees." It covered the same ground as the Yoo/Delahunty memo plus added misinterpretations of international law with regard to war.
On January 25, 2002, Alberto Gonzales, then issued a sweeping memo to George Bush. In it he called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" and "obsolete" and said the administration could ignore Geneva law in interrogating prisoners henceforth. He also outlined plans to try prisoners in "military commissions" and deny them all protections under international law, including due process, habeas rights, and the right to appeal. In December 2002, Donald Rumsfeld concurred by approving a menu of banned interrogation practices allowing anything short of what would cause organ failure.
On February 7, 2002, the White House issued an Order "outlining treatment of al-Qaida and Taliban detainees." It stated that "none of the provisions of Geneva apply to our conflict with al-Qaida (or Taliban detainees) in Afghanistan 'or elsewhere throughout the world...' " It meant they'd be afforded no protection under international law and could be treated any way authorities wished, including use of torture as was later learned.
A virtual blizzard of similar memos followed covering much the same ground to allow all measures banned under international and US law (including the 1996 War Crimes Act, 1994 Torture Statute and the Torture Act of 2000). The War Crimes Act is especially harsh. It provides up to life in prison or the death penalty for persons convicted of committing war crimes within or outside the US. Torture is a high war crime, the highest after genocide.
Two other memos particularly deserve mention - written by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales, Jay Bybee and David Addington (Cheney's legal counsel). One was for the CIA on August 2, 2002. It argued for letting interrogators use harsh measures amounting to torture. It said federal laws prohibiting these practices don't apply when dealing with Al Queda because of presidential authorization during wartime. It also denied US or international law applies in overseas interrogations. It essentially "legalized" anything in the "war on terror" and authorized lawlessness and supreme presidential power.