The pervasive news surrounding the confirmation hearing of John Brennan, Obama’s nominee for CIA director, is paralleled by another, related story that has been largely ignored by the U.S. media. That is the story of the man called Abu Zubaydah, whose alleged torture testimony, obtained by the CIA while Brennan was the head of the agency’s Terrorist Threat Center, built the foundation for the official account of 9/11. This week I spoke to Lee Hamilton, former vice-chairman of the 9/11 Commission, about the serious problems that the government’s new stance on Zubaydah creates for the 9/11 Commission Report.
As stated in my last article on the subject, Zubaydah is at the center of an unraveling of the official account of the 9/11 attacks. His extensive torture at the hands of the CIA during Brennan’s tenure, which included at least 83 water-boarding sessions, hanging the man naked from the ceiling, slamming him against a concrete wall, and other atrocious experimental techniques, was said to produce valuable evidence about al Qaeda. However, the government now claims that Zubaydah was never a member or associate of al Qaeda and therefore he could not have known any of the information that the 9/11 Commission attributed to him.
From the start of our conversation, Hamilton told me that he was having trouble remembering Zubaydah. That was odd considering that an article he and Thomas Kean wrote for the New York Times in 2008, describing how the CIA obstructed the 9/11 investigation, referred several times to Zubaydah specifically. The article claimed that “Beginning in June 2003, we requested all reports of intelligence information on these broad topics that had been gleaned from the interrogations of 118 named individuals, including both Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two senior Qaeda operatives.” Kean and Hamilton further wrote that, “in October 2003, we sent another wave of questions to the C.I.A.’s general counsel. One set posed dozens of specific questions about the reports, including those about Abu Zubaydah.”
Abu Zubaydah, a man once called al-Qaeda’s “chief of operations” appears to be at the center of an unraveling of the official myth behind al Qaeda. After his capture in early 2002, Zubaydah was the first “detainee” known to be tortured. The information allegedly obtained from his torture played a large part in the creation of the official account of 9/11 and in the justification for the continued use of such torture techniques. Yet in September, 2009, the U.S. government admitted that Zubaydah was never a member or associate of al Qaeda at all. These facts raise an alarming number of questions about the veracity of our knowledge about al Qaeda, and the true identity of the people who are said to be behind the 9/11 attacks.
Unlike other alleged al Qaeda leaders, including Khlaid Sheik Mohammed and Rasmi bin Alshibh, Zubaydah has never been charged with a crime. As these other leading suspects await their continually-postponed military trial, Zubaydah is instead being airbrushed out of history. Why would the U.S. government want us to forget Zubaydah, the first and most important al Qaeda operative captured after 9/11?
CIA whisked detainees from Gitmo
By: MATT APUZZO and ADAM GOLDMAN
08/06/10 1:10 PM PDT
WASHINGTON — A white, unmarked Boeing 737 landed in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before dawn on a CIA mission so secretive, many in the nation's war on terrorism were kept in the dark.
Four of the nation's most highly valued terrorist prisoners were aboard.
They arrived at Guantanamo on Sept. 24, 2003, years earlier than the U.S. has ever disclosed. Then, months later, they were just as quietly whisked away before the Supreme Court could give them access to lawyers.
The transfer allowed the U.S. to interrogate the detainees in CIA "black sites" for two more years without allowing them to speak with attorneys or human rights observers or challenge their detention in U.S. courts. Had they remained at the Guantanamo Bay prison for just three more months, they would have been afforded those rights.
US Recants Claims on "High-Value" Detainee Abu Zubaydah
Tuesday 30 March 2010
by: Jason Leopold, t r u t h o u t | Report
(Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)
Editor's Note: This story has been updated.
The Justice Department has quietly recanted nearly every major claim the Bush administration had made about "high-value" detainee Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo prisoner who at one time was said to have planned the 9/11 attacks and was the No. 2 and 3 person in al-Qaeda.
Additionally, Justice has backed away from claims intelligence officials working in the Clinton administration had also leveled against Zubaydah, specifically, that he was directly involved in the planning of the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa.
Zubaydah's name is redacted throughout a 109-page court document the government filed in US District Court in Washington, DC in response to 213 discovery requests Zubaydah's attorneys made in connection with his habeas corpus case, which sought evidence to support, among other Bush administration claims, that Zubaydah was a top al-Qaeda official and close confidant of Osama Bin Laden.
"US 'waterboarding' row rekindled"
BBC, July 13, 2009
Fresh claims have emerged that a key al-Qaeda suspect was waterboarded before the Bush government lawyers issued written authorisation to do so.
A former CIA agent has told the BBC that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded by the CIA in May or June 2002.
The date was provided by former CIA agent John Kiriakou. The practice was sanctioned in written memos by Bush administration lawyers in August 2002.
The CIA says waterboarding did not take place before August 2002.
Officials have refused to tell the BBC when it did occur.
Mr Kiriakou led the CIA team that captured Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan on 28 March 2002, and was the first to speak to the badly injured captive before returning to the US.
There he monitored the internal communications that came in (cable traffic) on Abu Zubaydah's interrogation at a secret CIA prison from the organisation's headquarters in Virginia.
I have previously pointed out that the self-confessed 9/11 "mastermind" Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also falsely confessed to crimes he didn't commit.
However, a second witness - Abu Zubaida - fingered Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the 9/11 mastermind (Zubaida was subsequently severely tortured for many months. But he initially identified KSM even before being tortured).
So we have independent confirmation that KSM was the chief architect of 9/11, right?
Well, the New Yorker notes this week:
Al-Qaeda operative and suspected mole for Jordanian intelligence and the CIA
Khalil Deek is a naturalised US citizen and an extremist connected to both al-Qaeda and Hamas. There were a number of points in his career when he should have been investigated, arrested, or kept in custody, but the investigations inexplicably ended or even failed to get off the ground. For example, the FBI would normally be expected to take a dim view of a plan to blow up LAX, but Deek’s obvious participation in the Millennium Plot does not seem to have excited the authorities much.
Latest Kean statements:
WASHINGTON, Dec. 24 (UPI) -- The chairman of the Sept. 11 commission Monday criticized the CIA, accusing the U.S. spy agency of interfering with the panel's work.
Former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean told CNN the CIA should have turned over tapes of agents interrogating suspected terrorists with "enhanced" techniques, including waterboarding. The CIA earlier this month admitted destroying several tapes and the admission has prompted a series of investigations.
"I'm not a lawyer and I'm not sure if they broke the law or not," Kean said. "But what they did do is, I think, try to impede our investigation, because we asked for legitimate -- anything to do with those detainees, because they were the ones who knew most about the plot of 9/11 and that was our mandate. And we asked the CIA for everything having to do with those and we asked them not on one occasion but three and four and five and six occasions, and those tapes were not made available to us."