Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives

30.3.09

Reinforcing claims made over the last few years — by FBI agents, by author Ron Suskind, and by myself — that the supposed senior al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was less significant than he was made out to be, the Washington Post ran a front-page story yesterday, in which, drawing on interviews with “former senior government officials who closely followed [his] interrogations,” Peter Finn and Joby Warrick reminded the world that Zubaydah was not actually a senior al-Qaeda operative and had no information about the inner workings of al-Qaeda.

Moreover, the sources cited by the Post maintained that his torture in secret CIA custody, which began shortly after his capture in March 2002 and transfer to a secret prison in Thailand, and was the first implementation of a torture program for “high-value detainees” that was endorsed at the highest levels of the Bush administration, was so worthless that “not a single significant plot was foiled” as a result of it.

Abu Zubaydah’s story

Clearly following up on the graphic descriptions of torture in Mark Danner’s recent article for the New York Review of Books, analyzing a leaked Red Cross report based on interviews with the 14 “high-value detainees” (including Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed 9/11 mastermind), who were transferred to Guantánamo from secret CIA custody in September 2006, the Post’s article established that Zubaydah, “born in 1971 in Saudi Arabia to a Palestinian father and a Jordanian mother, according to court papers,” traveled to Afghanistan in 1991 to support the mujahideen fighting the Communist government that was clinging to power in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, but was “seriously wounded by shrapnel from a mortar blast in 1992, sustaining head injuries that left him with severe memory problems, which still linger.”

In 1994, while based in Pakistan, Zubaydah began fundraising and coordinating recruits for the Khaldan training camp, in eastern Afghanistan. Although regularly described by the Bush administration as an al-Qaeda training camp, it is clear from numerous sources, including the 9/11 Commission Report, that Khaldan and another camp, Durunta, “were not al-Qaeda facilities,” although there was apparently some contact with Osama bin Laden when it came to exploiting promising recruits.

After his capture, in a house raid in Faisalabad, Pakistan, on March 28, 2002, Zubaydah was flown to a CIA-run “black site” in Thailand, where the FBI began interrogating him using old-school, torture-free methods, which had a proven track record. Within a matter of weeks, however, the FBI agents were shamefully discarded by the administration’s most senior officials, who believed that another major attack was imminent, and that only the use of torture would persuade a significant captured terrorist — as Zubaydah was presumed to be — to talk. The job of interrogating Zubaydah was handed over to the CIA, whose new repertoire of techniques consisted primarily of torture, including waterboarding (a form of controlled drowning), confinement in tiny, coffin-like boxes, extreme violence, prolonged isolation, and the use of sustained nudity and loud music and noise.

And yet, as the Post described it, Zubaydah “was not even an official member of al-Qaeda,” and was, instead, “a “kind of travel agent” for would-be jihadists. A former Justice Department official, who knows his case, explained, “He was the above-ground support. He was the guy keeping the safe house, and that’s not someone who gets to know the details of the plans. To make him the mastermind of anything is ridiculous.” What happened, it transpired, was that “because his name often turned up in intelligence traffic linked to al-Qaeda transactions,” some within the intelligence community presumed that he was a significant figure, whereas the truth was that, although committed to the idea of jihad, he did not share Osama bin Laden’s aims, and “regarded the United States as an enemy principally because of its support of Israel.” The officials explained that he “had strained and limited relations with bin Laden and only vague knowledge before the Sept. 11 attacks that something was brewing.”

Despite this, officials recalled that the pressure for information “from upper levels of the government,” where meetings were held daily to assess the terrorist threat, was “tremendous.” “They couldn’t stand the idea that there wasn’t anything new,” one of the Post’s sources said. “They’d say, ‘You aren’t working hard enough.’ There was both a disbelief in what he was saying and also a desire for retribution — a feeling that ‘He’s going to talk, and if he doesn’t talk, we’ll do whatever.’”

“Whatever” was, of course, the torture program, which “prompted a sudden torrent of names and facts,” although, as the Post’s article makes clear, nothing of value was gained through Zubaydah’s torture. “Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated,” former officials explained, “while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaydah — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced.”

The only useful lead cited — that of Jose Padilla, who had reportedly planned to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in New York — is itself extremely dubious, as deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz admitted in June 2002, shortly after Padilla was seized at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, and before he was declared an “enemy combatant” and imprisoned and tortured for three and a half years on the US mainland, that “there was not an actual plan” to set off a “dirty bomb,” and that his research had not gone much further than surfing the internet. Summing up the results of Zubaydah’s torture, a former intelligence official stated, bluntly, “We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms.”

Ron Suskind’s exposure of the Abu Zubaydah story

None of this was, strictly speaking, news, although the Post is to be congratulated for securing further evidence to back up what was already known. Abu Zubaydah’s relative insignificance and the pointlessness of his torture was first revealed in 2006, in Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine. Far from being “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations and top recruiter,” who would be able to “provide the names of terrorists around the world and which targets they planned to hit” (as TIME magazine — following the government line — described him after his capture), Zubaydah “turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed him to be,” in the words of Barton Gellman, who reviewed Suskind’s book for the Washington Post in 2006. He “appeared to know nothing about terrorist operations,” and was, instead, the “go-to guy for minor logistics — travel for wives and children and the like,” reinforcing what former officials explained to the Post for Sunday’s article.

Suskind described how, through a close scrutiny of his diaries, in which FBI analysts found entries in the voices of three people — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego — which recorded in numbing detail, over the course of ten years, “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said,” Dan Coleman, the FBI’s senior expert on al-Qaeda, told his superiors, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”

Suskind also provided a colorful description of the results of Zubaydah’s torture, when he produced his “torrent” of false leads, explaining that he “confessed” to all manner of supposed plots — against shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Statue of Liberty — and that, as a result, “thousands of uniformed men and women raced in a panic to each target … The United States would torture a mentally disturbed man and then leap, screaming, at every word he uttered.”

In key passages, Suskind explained, how, from early on, President Bush was briefed that Zubaydah was not as significant as had been presumed, a judgment that was “echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President,” but that this did nothing to prevent Bush, just a few weeks after his capture, from portraying Zubaydah as “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” According to Suskind, Bush told CIA director George Tenet, “I said he was important. You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” He added that the President “was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth,” and asked, “Do some of these harsh methods really work?” As Suskind described it, “Interrogators did their best to find out,” introducing the torture techniques whose clinically regulated horrors were exposed so memorably by Mark Danner, and also by Jane Mayer in her book The Dark Side.

The FBI’s Dan Coleman speaks out

Suskind’s book was not the only occasion when Zubaydah’s story was publicized. In December 2007, when the story first broke that the CIA had illegally destroyed videotapes of interrogations including those of Zubaydah, Dan Coleman spoke out again, revisiting the CIA’s introduction of the torture program, after the successes recorded by the FBI, and telling the Washington Post how, when CIA operatives began holding him naked in his cell, “subjecting him to extreme cold and bombarding him with loud rock music,” FBI operatives who witnessed it said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. This guy’s a Muslim. That’s not going to win his confidence. Are you trying to get information out of him or just belittle him?”

Coleman also reiterated his skepticism about Zubaydah’s supposed importance, describing him as a “safehouse keeper” with mental problems, who “claimed to know more about al-Qaeda and its inner workings than he really did,” pointing out that his diaries were “full of flowery and philosophical meanderings, and made little mention of terrorism or al-Qaeda,” and explaining how he and others at the FBI had concluded not only that he had severe mental problems — particularly because of the head injury that he had suffered in 1992 — but also that this explained why he was regarded with suspicion by the al-Qaeda leadership. “They all knew he was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone,” Coleman said. “You think they’re going to tell him anything?”

Abu Zubaydah’s own testimony — and that of Guantánamo prisoner Khalid al-Hubayshi

In my book The Guantánamo Files, and in an article last April, The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah, I also examined Zubaydah’s story, revisiting his tribunal at Guantánamo in 2007, when he stated that he was tortured by the CIA to admit that he worked with Osama bin Laden, but insisted, as Sunday’s Post article confirmed, “I’m not his partner and I’m not a member of al-Qaeda.” He added that his only role was to operate a guest house used by those who were training at Khaldan, and he also confirmed senior officials’ analysis of his relationship with bin Laden, saying, “Bin Laden wanted al-Qaeda to have control of Khaldan, but we refused since we had different ideas.” Further confirming points made in the Post’s article, he explained that he opposed attacks on civilian targets, which brought him into conflict with bin Laden, and although he admitted that he had been an enemy of the US since childhood, because of its support for Israel, pointed out that his enmity was towards the government and the military, and not the American people.

Another source, who confirmed much of what the senior officials — and Zubaydah himself — said, was Khalid al-Hubayshi, a Saudi prisoner released from Guantánamo in 2005, who had spent some time at the Khaldan camp, and knew Zubaydah. Al-Hubayshi told his tribunal in 2004 that, far from being a mastermind, Zubaydah was responsible for “receiving people and financing the camp,” that he once bought him travel tickets, and that he was the man he went to when he needed a replacement passport. He also confirmed that Zubaydah did not have a long-standing relationship with bin Laden. When asked, “When you were with Abu Zubaydah, did you ever see Osama bin Laden?” he replied, “In 1998, Abu Zubaydah and Osama bin Laden didn’t like each other.” He added, “In 2001, I think the relationship was okay,” and explained that bin Laden put pressure on Zubaydah to close Khaldan, essentially because he wanted to run more camps himself.

It would, of course, be difficult to overestimate what a blow Zubaydah’s story is to the Bush administration’s supposed justification for turning its back on its obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture, but the Post’s article is of particular importance for two other reasons.

What will happen to Abu Zubaydah now?

The first of these concerns Zubaydah’s current status. He was noticeably missing from the 27 prisoners charged in the Military Commission trial system at Guantánamo (before Barack Obama suspended the trials on his second day in office), but no previous reports have addressed what may happen to him now. The Post reported that some US officials “are pushing to have him charged now with conspiracy,” but that others, including CIA officials, want him sent to Jordan, where he has been accused of involvement with plots to attack a hotel and Christian holy sites. The Post explained that these officials “fear the consequences of taking a man into court who was waterboarded on largely false assumptions, because of the prospect of interrogation methods being revealed in detail and because of the chance of an acquittal that might set a legal precedent.”

On the other hand, Zubaydah’s lawyers want him to be transferred to a country other than Jordan, perhaps Saudi Arabia, where he has relatives. Law professor Joseph Margulies, one of his attorneys, explained, “The government doesn’t retreat from who KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] is, and neither does KSM. With Zubaydah, it’s different. The government seems finally to understand he is not at all the person they thought he was. But he was tortured. And that’s just a profoundly embarrassing position for the government to be in.”

The “ghost prisoners” captured with Abu Zubaydah

The most extraordinary revelation in the Post’s article, however, concerns Noor al-Deen, a Syrian teenager who was captured with Zubaydah in Pakistan. According to the former officials who spoke to the Post, al-Deen, who, like Zubaydah, suffered gunshot wounds during his capture, “worshiped the older man as a hero.” Former CIA interrogator John Kiriakou explained that al-Deen was terrified, and feared that he was about to be executed. “He was frightened — mostly over what we were going to do with him,” Kiriakou said. “He had come to the conclusion that his life was over.”

Unlike the handful of other men seized with Zubaydah, who ended up being sent to Guantánamo (without extensive stays in secret CIA custody), al-Deen and another man, Omar Ghramesh, were subjected to “extraordinary rendition” and sent to third countries to be interrogated. Aspects of Ghramesh’s story have been known about for several years, via Abdullah Almalki, a joint Syrian-Canadian national, who was seized by Syrian intelligence agents in May 2002, at the request of the Canadian authorities, and imprisoned and tortured for 22 months in the notorious military prison known as the “Palestine Branch,” before being released without charge. In 2006, Almalki was interviewed by Stephen Grey for his book Ghost Plane, and explained that two suspects seized with Zubaydah — Omar Ghramesh and an unnamed teenager — were rendered to the “Palestine Branch” on May 14, 2002, along with Abu Abdul Halim Dalak, a student seized in Pakistan in November 2001. Ghramesh explained that in Pakistan US agents had shown him photos of Abu Zubaydah looking battered and bruised, and had told him, “If you don’t talk, this is what will happen to you.”

Until now, the identity of the “unnamed teenager” was unknown, but it is now apparent that he was Noor al-Deen. The Post explained that the US officials had stated that, “perhaps because of his youth and agitated state,” al-Deen “readily answered US questions,” confirming that Zubaydah “was a well-known functionary with links to al-Qaeda, but he knew little detailed information about the group’s operations.” Nevertheless, his questioning “went on for months,” first in Pakistan, then in Morocco, and then in Syria.

The Post noted that “attempts to firmly establish his current whereabouts were unsuccessful,” but in truth the disappearance of Noor al-Deen — and of Omar Ghramesh and Abu Abdul Halim Dalak — is actually a more important story than that of Abu Zubaydah. I do not state this to play down the significance of Zubaydah’s futile and counter-productive torture, because it remains, I believe, a key element in demolishing the myths that former Bush administration officials — and especially Dick Cheney — are still using in an effort to shield themselves from prosecution, but because these three men are just a few of the hundreds — or thousands — of men whose whereabouts must be accounted for if Barack Obama is to succeed in his mission “to regain America’s moral stature in the world.”

Unlike the prisoners in Guantánamo, who have at least had some kind of opportunity to challenge the basis of their detention, through two significant Supreme Court rulings granting them habeas corpus rights, these men — genuinely, America’s Disappeared — have effectively vanished off the face of the earth, and are about as far from having any rights as it is possible for a human being to be.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

Note: The Washington Post’s article referred to Abu Zubaydah (whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn — or Hussein) as Abu Zubaida.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the use of torture by the CIA, on “high-value detainees,” and in the secret prisons, see: Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man (July 2007), Jane Mayer on the CIA’s “black sites,” condemnation by the Red Cross, and Guantánamo’s “high-value” detainees (including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed) (August 2007), Waterboarding: two questions for Michael Hayden about three “high-value” detainees now in Guantánamo (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now? And What About the Torture? (February 2008), The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts (April 2008), Guantánamo Trials: Another Torture Victim Charged (Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri, July 2008), Secret Prison on Diego Garcia Confirmed: Six “High-Value” Guantánamo Prisoners Held, Plus “Ghost Prisoner” Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (August 2008), Will the Bush administration be held accountable for war crimes? (December 2008), The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One) and The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part Two), 9/11 Commission Director Philip Zelikow Condemns Bush Torture Program, Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah?, CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months before DoJ Approval, Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low (all April 2009), Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison, Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, The “Suicide” Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi: Why The Media Silence?, Two Experts Cast Doubt On Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi’s “Suicide”, Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney On Use Of Torture To Invade Iraq, In the Guardian: Death in Libya, betrayal by the West (in the Guardian here) (all May 2009), Lawrence Wilkerson Nails Cheney’s Iraq Lies Again (And Rumsfeld And The CIA), and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (June 2009). Also see the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

For other stories discussing the use of torture in secret prisons, see: An unreported story from Guantánamo: the tale of Sanad al-Kazimi (August 2007), Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo (September 2008), A History of Music Torture in the “War on Terror” (December 2008), Seven Years of Torture: Binyam Mohamed Tells His Story (March 2009), and also see the extensive Binyam Mohamed archive. And for other stories discussing torture at Guantánamo and/or in “conventional” US prisons in Afghanistan, see: The testimony of Guantánamo detainee Omar Deghayes: includes allegations of previously unreported murders in the US prison at Bagram airbase (August 2007), Guantánamo Transcripts: “Ghost” Prisoners Speak After Five And A Half Years, And “9/11 hijacker” Recants His Tortured Confession (September 2007), The Trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007), Former US interrogator Damien Corsetti recalls the torture of prisoners in Bagram and Abu Ghraib (December 2007), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns “Chaotic” Trials in Case of Teenage Torture Victim (Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (Mohammed El-Gharani, January 2009), Bush Era Ends With Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Forgotten in Guantánamo: British Resident Shaker Aamer (March 2009), and the extensive archive of articles about the Military Commissions.

30 Responses

  1. Frances Madeson says...

    ” He [Noor al-Deen] was frightened — mostly over what we were going to do with him,” Kiriakou said. “He had come to the conclusion that his life was over.”

    Was he wrong?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Frances,
    We just don’t know, do we?
    That’s why I highlighted his story — the “unknown teenager” who, along with Omar Ghramesh and Abu Abdul Halim Dalak, had haunted me since I read about him in Stephen’s book nearly two and a half years ago.
    Where is he? Where are they? What happened to them?
    They didn’t swan off to Crawford — or whatever rock Cheney lives under — when the Bush administration came to an end …

  3. Frances Madeson says...

    Andy,
    When I wrote to Aafia yesterday, I thought how horrible that the pretty card I found to buy for her with buttercups and jonquils was going to decorate a jail cell. Today it would be a comfort to be able to send Noor one, somewhere, anywhere. What’s the zip code for nowhere? What’s the zip code for limbo? Or for that matter, hell?

  4. Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] and A Trail of Broken Lives by Andy Worthington Posted on March 30, 2009 by dandelionsalad by Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk Originally posted at the Future of [...]

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Frances,
    The address of hell is:
    The White House
    1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
    Washington, DC 20500, United States.
    Seriously.
    I’m going to contact some friends in various relevant organizations to update the list of the Disappeared — those we know about, or have, at least, heard of — to be followed up with a publicity campaign, including letters to the President.

  6. Connie L. Nash says...

    This plan of an updated list of the Disappeared and doing a Publicity Campaign may be helpful for some of the disappeared & their families hopefully & may give some weight to the campaign for a Special Prosecutor!!! Keep us posted on this one for sure!!!

  7. Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] in the establishment of a vast offshore prison devoted to coercive intelligence-gathering, or in the direct implementation of torture, under the cover of flawed legal advice which included blatant attempts to redefine its very [...]

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    From Brazil, I have been receiving emails from Murilo Leme, who has recently been translating my weekly columns for the Future of Freedom Foundation into Portuguese, and sending them out to a mailing list.

    Murilo explained that he has been translating my articles and others, because “My personal interest is to become myself aware and make people aware,” and he explained, “Your texts are of paramount importance because they show a reality many Brazilians are not aware of.”

    I asked him if he would send me a paragraph in Portuguese explaining, for the benefit of Portuguese readers who might be searching the Internet, that he has a mailing list and translates articles from English, and he has kindly obliged, sending me the following:

    Fiz algumas traduções para o português de artigos de Andy Worthington, e posso enviá-las a quem interessado. Tenho também uma lista permanente de contatos para os quais envio, por email, traduções de artigos geralmente de cunho político, sempre acompanhados do link e do texto original. Interessados, por favor, em juntarem-se à lista de destinatários, é só mandar nome e endereço de email para Murilo Paes Leme — zqjxkv@gmail.com (a remoção da lista, caso desejada, também é feita por simples solicitação).

  9. Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One) « US and Their Allys War against muslims in the world, indicate of falling US and Zionist Empire,(Inshallah)!!! says...

    [...] the use of specific torture techniques for the CIA to use on the supposed “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah — had never even been glimpsed, although we knew much of what it contained from the reports of [...]

  10. Five Terrible Truths About the CIA Torture Memos « Muslim in Suffer says...

    [...] of specific torture techniques for the CIA to use on the supposed “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah – had never even been glimpsed, although we knew much of what it contained from the reports of Red [...]

  11. the Shackle Report » Blog Archive » tortured policy says...

    [...] Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About [...]

  12. Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] poses even weightier challenges for the former administration: if the use of torture techniques on Abu Zubaydah, the first supposedly significant “high-value detainee” captured by the US (on March 28, 2002), [...]

  13. CIA Torture Began In Afghanistan 8 Months Before DOJ Approval « US and Their Allys War against muslims in the world, indicate of falling US and Zionist Empire,(Inshallah)!!! says...

    [...] that involves controlled drowning, to be used on a specific “high-value detainee,” Abu Zubaydah – that the “bright lines” so carefully delineated by Cheney began to blur [...]

  14. “America’s Disappeared” : Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison « Muslim in Suffer says...

    [...] Cheney (Part Two) (December 2008), Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers (March 2009), Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives (March 2009), Ten Terrible Truths About The CIA Torture Memos (Part One), Ten Terrible Truths About [...]

  15. USA: Tortured Gitmo prisoner found dead-AlterNet « FACT – Freedom Against Censorship Thailand says...

    [...] of controlled drowning) on three “high-value detainees” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — Vanity Fair published an article in which other informed [...]

  16. Guantánamo And The Courts (Part Three): Obama’s Continuing Shame by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] up at Guantánamo, essentially because the house appears to have been tangentially connected to Abu Zubaydah, the supposed “high-value detainee” who, according to the FBI and his lawyers, was no more than [...]

  17. Using Photos of Abu Zubaydah’s Torture to Intimidate and Threaten Other Prisoners « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] meant, among other things, for use in intimidation and torture of other prisoners. Andy Worthington recounts how a prisoner captured with Zubaydah, Omar Gharmesh, reported to another prisoner in Syria’s [...]

  18. Using Photos of Abu Zubaydah’s Torture to Intimidate and Threaten Other Prisoners « Later On says...

    [...] meant, among other things, for use in intimidation and torture of other prisoners. Andy Worthington recounts how a prisoner captured with Zubaydah, Omar Gharmesh, reported to another prisoner in Syria’s [...]

  19. roger hollander says...

    [...] An even more pertinent example is Abu Zubaydah, a supposed high-value detainee, held in secret CIA prisons for four and a half years, for whom the torture program was originally developed. Zubaydah’s case may well be the most shocking in Guantánamo, because, although he was subjected to physical violence and prolonged sleep deprivation, was confined in a small box and was waterboarded 83 times, the CIA eventually concluded that he was not, as George W. Bush claimed after his capture, “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” but was, instead, a “kind of travel agent” for recruits traveling to Afghanistan for military training, who was not a member of al-Qaeda at all. [...]

  20. What Torture Is and Why It’s Illegal and Not “Poor Judgment” | themcglynn.com/theliberal.net says...

    [...] An even more pertinent example is Abu Zubaydah, a supposed high-value detainee, held in secret CIA prisons for four and a half years, for whom the torture program was originally developed. Zubaydah’s case may well be the most shocking in Guantánamo, because, although he was subjected to physical violence and prolonged sleep deprivation, was confined in a small box and was waterboarded 83 times, the CIA eventually concluded that he was not, as George W. Bush claimed after his capture, “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” but was, instead, a “kind of travel agent” for recruits traveling to Afghanistan for military training, who was not a member of al-Qaeda at all. [...]

  21. Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Diary « freedetainees.org says...

    [...] 2002), I reproduce below a transcript of the statements made by the “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah during interviews with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, following [...]

  22. Abu Zubaydah’s Torture Diary by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] 2002), I reproduce below a transcript of the statements made by the “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah during interviews with representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, following [...]

  23. Crapaganda.com » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured For Nothing says...

    [...] Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine was published, which explained, as I described it in an article a year ago, that: Zubaydah “turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed [...]

  24. reboot the republic » Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing says...

    [...] Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine was published, which explained, as I described it in an article a year ago, that: Zubaydah “turned out to be mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure they supposed [...]

  25. USA: Der Folter-Fall Abu Zubaydah « Ticker says...

    [...] By Andy Worthington In the history of the “War on Terror,” few stories are as disturbing as that of Abu Zubaydah.   Seized in Pakistan in March 2002, Zubaydah was initially regarded as a “high-value detainee” of such significance that the Bush administration conceived its torture program specifically for use on him.   But the case against him has steadily unraveled over the years, as officials — first in the Bush administration, and then under President Obama — have conceded that his significance was monstrously overstated, and that he was not a member of al-Qaeda, was not involved in planning any international terrorist attacks, and had no advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks.   With this in mind, it is distressing to note that, last month, in the case of Sufyian Barhoumi, an Algerian seized with Zubaydah, who lost his habeas corpus petition last September, the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. drew on discredited information about Zubaydah to overstate his importance, and to justify Barhoumi’s ongoing detention. The Circuit Court also drew on the diary of a previously unknown associate of Zubaydah’s to present another view of Zubaydah — as the leader of a militia allied with al-Qaeda — to justify Barhoumi’s detention, and, by extension, that of Zubaydah himself, even though there are doubts about the government’s interpretation of the diary, and the whereabouts of the diary’s author are unknown.   On June 22, when a panel of judges led by Judge David S. Tatel upheld Barhoumi’s detention, the ruling was superficially unsurprising. Barhoumi was not only seized in the house raid in Faisalabad, Pakistan on March 28, 2002, that led to the capture Abu Zubaydah, along with other alleged terror suspects, but he had also conceded, in publicly available documents from Guantánamo, that he had attended military training camps in Afghanistan.   This, on its own, may not have been sufficient for Barhoumi’s detention to be upheld, but last September, when his habeas petition was denied, Judge Rosemary Collyer provided another reason. Although she noted that Barhoumi “said that he is not now and has never been a member of al-Qaeda,” and added, “I have no reason not to believe that,” she nevertheless concluded that “he was with an associated force that was engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners and therefore was properly detained.”   At the time, Judge Collyer’s unclassified opinion was not made publicly available (and has still not been made available), and the quotes above are from the court transcript that was eventually unearthed by researchers at ProPublica (PDF). It was not, therefore, until the Circuit Court upheld his detention last month (PDF) that the details of this “associated force” were revealed as a militia that was allegedly maintained by Abu Zubaydah, and it was also revealed that the Circuit Court was relying on a long-discredited opinion of Zubaydah as the leader of a training camp in Afghanistan and an associate of Osama bin Laden.   How the case against Abu Zubaydah collapsed What is troubling about this is the fact that, since Zubaydah’s capture, when Donald Rumsfeld described it as “well established” that he was “a close associate” of Osama bin Laden, “and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization”), the government has steadily backed away from these claims, as accounts have emerged that thoroughly discredit the allegations.   These include devastating statements by Dan Coleman, the FBI’s senior expert on al-Qaeda. Coleman and his FBI colleagues had access to Zubaydah’s diaries, in which they found entries in the voices of three people — a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego — which recorded in numbing detail, over the course of ten years, “what people ate, or wore, or trifling things they said,” and Coleman’s conclusion, which he told his superiors, was, “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”   That was reported in 2006, and in December 2007, Coleman followed up, describing Zubaydah as a “safehouse keeper” who “claimed to know more about al-Qaeda and its inner workings than he really did,” and explaining how he and others at the FBI had concluded not only that he had severe mental problems — particularly because of a head injury that he had suffered in 1992 — but also that this explained why he was regarded with suspicion by the al-Qaeda leadership. “They all knew he was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone,” Coleman said. “You think they’re going to tell him anything?”     This analysis was, essentially, reinforced last March by a Justice Department official who spoke anonymously to the Washington Post. As I reported at the time: [...]

  26. On Bush’s Waterboarding Claims, UK Media Loses Its Moral Compass « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] Coleman’s analysis was, essentially, reinforced by a Justice Department official who told the Washington Post in 2009: [Abu Zubaydah] “was not [...]

  27. Algerian in Guantánamo Loses Habeas Petition for Being in a Guest House with Abu Zubaydah « Eurasia Review says...

    [...] fortunate. A handful of other prisoners seized with Zubaydah, including at least one teenager, were rendered to a torture prison in Syria, never to be seen or heard from [...]

  28. Revolution in Egypt – and the Hypocrisy of the US and the West « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] The West’s hypocrisy in the “War on Terror” also included Tunisia and the brutal regime of President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali (whose fall is leading to hopes that the terrorist stigma attached to his former political opponents might now be exposed for what it was), and, of course, Syria, whose fearsome Mukhabarat (secret police) tortured at least nine CIA “ghost prisoners” in 2001 and 2002, even as Bush’s speechwriters were including the regime in an “axis of evil.” A few of these prisoners — who included teenagers rendered from Pakistan — have resurfaced (most notably, the Canadian citizen Maher Arar), but others remain unaccounted for. [...]

  29. Dick Cheney And The Death Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    [...] (a form of controlled drowning) on three “high-value detainees” — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, and Abdul Rahim al-Nashiri — Vanity Fair published an article in which other informed sources [...]

  30. “High-Value Detainee” Abu Zubaydah Blinded By Bush Administration - OpEd says...

    [...] Confirms FBI’s Doubts. Since then, I have returned to his story repeatedly, in articles including Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives and Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? (in 2009) and Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing, [...]

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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