Here is a timeline I have created on the recent history of torture by the U.S. Please let me know if I have missed anything important.
9/11/2001: The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
10/7/2001: The U.S. attacks Afghanistan
Late 2001: Donald Rumsfeld instructs military intelligence officers to "Take the gloves off" in interrogating American Taliban recruit John Walker Lindh
Late 2001: CIA developed a new set of interrogation rules, vetted by Justice Department and approved by NSA. Rules allow operators to use "enhanced measures" that cause temporary physical or mental pain upon approval from Washington.
8/2002: Justice Department memo advises White House that torturing is acceptable in the war on terror.
12/2002: 2 Afghans die in U.s. custody, both deaths classified as homicides. Still unsolved.
2003: Maher Arar, Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was rendered to Jordan where he was interrogated and beaten. Jordan turned him over to Syria, where he was beaten, tortured, and kept in a shallow grave for 10 months. Returned to Canada after pressure from Canadian government and activists.
3/6/2003: Department of Defense memo prepared by Bush administration lawyers states that U.S. laws and international treaties banning torture can be ignored because of national security concerns and presidential fiat. That's right, the president can ignore all laws if he desires. And Guantanamo Bay is part of the U.S., not affected by treaties.
4/2003: Creation of List of approved interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo Bay. Includes reversing sleep patterns, exposing prisoners to hot and cold, and sensory assault by loud music and bright lights.
9/2003: Major General Miller of Guantanamo recommends that Abu Ghraib guards "be actively engaged in setting the conditions for successful exploitation of the internees."
11/2003: U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear two appeals about Guantanamo Bay detainees.
11/1/2003: Abu Ghraib guards had definitely started abusing prisoners by this time (Taguba report)
1/31/2004: Taguba starts his investigation of Abu Ghraib MPs.
2/24/2004: White House chief counsel tells ABA that President Bush makes the final decision on a U.S. citizen being designated as an enemy combatant.
4/20/2004: Solicitor General tells Supreme Court that Guantanamo Bay is not part of U.S.
4/27/2004: Photographs from Abu Ghraib are reported by CBS.
5/10/2004: Washington Post reports that CIA employees are being investigated for 2 interrogation-related deaths in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. This article also reports that the CIA would move captives ("ghost detainees") around to hide them from the Red Cross.
5/17/2004: Deputy Solicitor General tells Supreme Court 'they must "trust the executive to make the kind of quintessential military judgments that are involved in things like that." The government's interrogators understand that information obtained through coercion may be unreliable, Clement said, and they know that "the last thing you want to do is torture somebody or try to do something along those lines." When Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that some governments engage in "mild torture" to obtain information, Clement shot back: "Well, our executive doesn't."'