The Obama administration, which said it was "disappointed" with the Italian ruling, has declined to cooperate with the investigations, making it difficult for lawyers in some cases to question witnesses or gather evidence, according to experts involved in the inquiries.
In Lithuania, a criminal investigation of a former intelligence chief who allegedly helped the CIA operate secret prisons is stalled partly because U.S. officials haven't revealed the identities of detainees who were held there.
President Barack Obama's approach, from his earliest days in office, has been that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards."
Although Obama outlawed the harsh interrogation techniques the Bush administration had approved, he's resisted prosecuting individuals who might have practiced them. He also opposed creating a commission to investigate the interrogation methods. His Justice Department, like Bush's, has fought to keep wrongful-imprisonment and torture cases out of court on the grounds that they'd jeopardize national security, as government lawyers successfully argued in the Arar case.
Lawyers say that the Bush and Obama administrations' efforts to maintain executive power have swayed federal courts.
"The government is arguing that the president has a lot of leeway in foreign policy and that Congress ceded a lot of ground when it gave the authority to use military force" in the war on terrorism, said Larry Siems, author of "The Torture Report," an online project of the ACLU. "That seems to be the framework the courts have been ruling under."
In the Obama administration's strongest action on torture to date, Attorney General Eric Holder said in June that a special prosecutor was close to completing a preliminary review into whether there's enough evidence to bring criminal charges against a limited number of CIA officers and contractors. The prosecutor, John Durham, was reviewing whether those individuals had exceeded the interrogation methods the Bush administration approved in fewer than a dozen cases, some of which ended in detainees' deaths.
Schmaler told McClatchy that she had no information on when Durham's review would be made public. However, experts say the inquiry is too narrow in scope and ignores the role of senior Bush administration officials.
"It's not that we don't think they shouldn't be held accountable," Jaffer said of the interrogators. "It just seems indefensible to focus solely on the interrogators when the problems stemmed from leading officials."
Arguing that "accountability for serious violations is neither a priority nor even a preference of the current administration," the Center for Constitutional Rights, a nonprofit group in New York that's represented many detainees, filed a brief in Spanish court in April supporting Spain's authority to proceed with a major criminal investigation into the alleged U.S. torture program.
The case charges that six senior Bush administration officials — including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and David Addington, a former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney — broke international laws by promulgating harsh interrogation tactics.