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Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah

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Abu Zubaydah is a Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

n citizen, sentenced to death in Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

 and currently held in U.S. custody in Guantanamo Bay
Guantánamo Bay (Cuba)
Guantánamo Bay is a bay located in Guantánamo Province at the southeastern end of Cuba . It is the largest harbor on the south side of the island and is surrounded by steep hills creating an enclave cut off from its immediate hinterland....

, Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...


Not neutral: Arrested in Pakistan in March 2002, he has been in US custody for more than eight years, four-and-a-half of them spent incommunicado in solitary confinement
Solitary confinement
Solitary confinement is a special form of imprisonment in which a prisoner is isolated from any human contact, though often with the exception of members of prison staff. It is sometimes employed as a form of punishment beyond incarceration for a prisoner, and has been cited as an additional...

 in undisclosed locations. He was subjected to the technique of waterboarding
Waterboarding is a form of torture in which water is poured over the face of an immobilized captive, thus causing the individual to experience the sensation of drowning...

 and has been subjected to numerous other interrogation techniques. These techniques, include forced nudity, sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function. Few studies have compared the...

, confinement in small dark boxes, deprivation of solid food, cold temperatures, stress positions
Stress positions
A stress position, also known as a submission position, places the human body in such a way that a great amount of weight is placed on just one or two muscles. For example, a subject may be forced to stand on the balls of his feet, then squat so that his thighs are parallel to the ground...

, and physical assaults. Videotapes of some of his interrogations are believed to be amongst those destroyed by the CIA in 2005
2005 CIA interrogation tapes destruction
The CIA interrogation tapes destruction occurred on November 9, 2005. The videotapes were made by the United States Central Intelligence Agency during interrogations of Al-Qaeda suspects Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in 2002 at a CIA black site prison in Thailand.. 90 tapes were made of...


Abu Zubaydah was transferred to Guantanamo in September 2006 where he and other former CIA detainees are held in Camp 7 where conditions are the most isolating. He has never been charged, despite being accused for years by US authorities.

Biography and his early years in Afghanistan

Born in Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia , commonly known in British English as Saudi Arabia and in Arabic as as-Sa‘ūdiyyah , is the largest state in Western Asia by land area, constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula, and the second-largest in the Arab World...

, Abu Zubaydah moved to the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 as a teenager where he joined in Palestinian demonstrations against the Israelis.

Abu Zubaydah is reported to have studied Computer Science
Computer science
Computer science or computing science is the study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation and of practical techniques for their implementation and application in computer systems...

 in Pune
Pune , is the eighth largest metropolis in India, the second largest in the state of Maharashtra after Mumbai, and the largest city in the Western Ghats. Once the centre of power of the Maratha Empire, it is situated 560 metres above sea level on the Deccan plateau at the confluence of the Mula ...

, India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 prior to his travel to Afghanistan/Pakistan in 1991.

Abu Zubaydah moved to Afghanistan in 1991 to fight alongside the mujahideen in the Afghan civil war. In 1992 Abu Zubaydah was injured from a mortar shell blast which left shrapnel in his head and caused severe memory loss, as well as the loss of his ability to speak for over one year. Abu Zubaydah eventually became involved in the jihad training camp known as the Khalden Camp where he oversaw the flow of recruits into and out of the camp. He obtained passports and paperwork for men transferring to other training camps or home.

The Khalden Camp has been described by the U.S. Government as an al-Qaeda training facility—an assertion that has been utilized as evidence of Abu Zubaydah's, and over 50 other Guatanamo detainees' alleged connection to al-Qaeda. This allegation has been contested, however, by multiple detainees, the 9/11 Commission Report, and Brynjar Lia
Brynjar Lia
Brynjar Lia is a Norwegian historian and research professor at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment where he is head of FFI's research on international terrorism and global jihadism. Lia is viewed as one of Norway's foremost experts on terrorism and is much cited in Norwegian and...

, head of the international terrorism and global jihadism at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment
Norwegian Defence Research Establishment
The Norwegian Defence Research Establishment is a research institute that conducts research and development on behalf of the Norwegian Armed Forces and provides expert advice to political and military defence leaders...

. Abu Zubaydah testified in his Combatant Status Review Tribunal that the Khalden Camp was at such odds with al-Qaeda and Bin Laden that is was closed by the Taliban in 2001, at al-Qaeda's request. This account was corroborated by two other detainees, Noor Uthman Muhammed, who was alleged by the U.S. Government to have been the emir, or leader, of the Khalden Camp, and a close friend of Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi
Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi
-Transcript:Khalid Sulaymanjaydh Al Hubayshi chose to participate in his Combatant Status Review Tribunal.-Administrative Review Board:Starting in 2005 every captive remaining in Guantanamo had an Administrative Review Board convene to make a recommendation as to whether it made sense to hold them...

. In addition, Noor Uthman Muhamed's charge sheet references the closing of the Khalden camp at the request of terrorist leaders. Brynjar Lia
Brynjar Lia
Brynjar Lia is a Norwegian historian and research professor at the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment where he is head of FFI's research on international terrorism and global jihadism. Lia is viewed as one of Norway's foremost experts on terrorism and is much cited in Norwegian and...

 states in his book that there was an ideological conflict between the leaders of the Khalden Camp on one side, and the Taliban and al-Qaeda on the other, and that this led to the closing of the Khalden Camp. Abu Zubaydah, Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi, and Noor Uthman Muhammed confirmed this divide in their CSRT testimony. Of the 57 detainees the U.S. Government claims are associated with the Khalden Camp, 27 have been released, including Abu Zubaydah's good friend Khalid Sulayman Jaydh Al Hubayshi.

On September 12, 2009 Colin Freeze, writing in the Globe and Mail, reported on recent interviews with Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi, a Lebanese
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

 citizen, US resident, and green card holder, who has been held without charge in the USA since 2003.
Elzahabi told the Globe and Mail that Abu Zubaydah had served under him when he was a squad commander during the war against the Soviets. Elzahabi said that after the Soviet ouster Elzahabi worked as an instructor at Khalden.

Early activities

By 1999, the U.S. Government was attempting to run surveillance on Abu Zubaydah. By March 2000, United States officials were reporting that Abu Zubaydah was a "senior bin Laden official", the "former head of Egypt-based Islamic Jihad", a "trusted aide" to bin Laden with "growing power," who had "played a key role in the East Africa embassy attacks." None of these allegations have been corroborated at this point, however.

Internationally Abu Zubaydah was convicted in absentia and sentenced to death by a Jordanian court for his role in plots to bomb U.S. and Israeli targets in Jordan. A senior Middle East security official stated Abu Zubaydah had directed the Jordanian cell and was part of “bin Laden’s inner circle."

In August, 2001 a classified FBI report entitled “Bin Laden determined to strike in U.S.”, which would not become public until much later, stated that the foiled millennium bomber, Ahmed Ressam
Ahmed Ressam
Ahmed Ressam is an Algerian al-Qaeda member who lived in Montreal, Canada.He was convicted of attempting to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport on New Year's Eve 1999, as part of the foiled 2000 millennium attack plots...

, had confessed that Abu Zubaydah had not only encouraged him to blow up the Los Angeles airport, but had facilitated his mission. The report also claims Abu Zubaydah was planning his own attack on the U.S. An unclassified FBI report also stated that Ahmed Ressam attempted to buy a laptop for Abu Zubaydah. Despite all of these supposed connections, when Ahmed Ressam went to trial in December 2001 federal prosecutors did not attempt to link him to Abu Zubaydah, and did not use any of this supposed evidence in its case. He also recanted his confessions after the trial saying he was coerced into giving them.


It is unclear how the Government found Abu Zubaydah. U.S. officials claimed he was tracked down after making a phone call to al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen
The Republic of Yemen , commonly known as Yemen , is a country located in the Middle East, occupying the southwestern to southern end of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the north, the Red Sea to the west, and Oman to the east....

. However, this has been questioned by a CIA official who stated that the U.S. paid $10 million to the Pakistani government, who had in turn bribed the information on his whereabouts from a local driver in Faisalabad
Faisalabad , formerly known as Lyallpur, is the third largest metropolis in Pakistan, the second largest in the province of Punjab after Lahore, and a major industrial center in the heart of Pakistan. Before the foundation of the city in 1880, the area was very thinly populated. The population has...

. Pakistani intelligence discovered that he was traveling in disguise as a burka
A burka is a dress made from felt or karakul . Karakul being quite expensive, burkas were usually sewn from felt treated to look like karakul...

-clad woman. Saudi Arabian officials claimed Abu Zubaydah was captured after intelligence gleaned during an interrogation by their GSS. It was also reported in 2008 that Deuce Martinez
Deuce Martinez
Deuce is an American intelligence officer.He is notable for his role in interrogating "high-value detainees", including: Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi bin Alshibh, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.-CIA career:...

, a CIA analyst, had played an integral role in narrowing down Abu Zubaydah’s supposed hideouts to the 14 targeted by the joint raids.

Whoever was responsible for finding Abu Zubaydah, on March 28, 2002, CIA and FBI agents, in conjunction with Pakistani intelligence services, raided several safe houses in Pakistan searching for him. Abu Zubaydah was apprehended from one of the targeted safe houses in Faisalabad
Faisalabad , formerly known as Lyallpur, is the third largest metropolis in Pakistan, the second largest in the province of Punjab after Lahore, and a major industrial center in the heart of Pakistan. Before the foundation of the city in 1880, the area was very thinly populated. The population has...

, Pakistan. During his apprehension he was shot in the thigh, the testicle, and the stomach with rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle. He was not recognised at first, and simply thrown into a pick-up truck
Pick-Up Truck
"Pick-Up Truck" is a song written and recorded by Belgian acid house musician Praga Khan. It is the third single from Praga's eighth studio album, Soundscraper....

 along with other prisoners by the Pakistani forces, until a senior FBI agent identified him as Abu Zubaydah. He was taken by the FBI to a Pakistani hospital nearby and treated for his wounds, where the attending doctor admitted to John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou
John Kiriakou is a former CIA officer, commentator, and author notable as the first official within the U.S. government to openly admit to the use of waterboarding as an interrogation technique....

, the co-leader of the CIA group that apprehended Abu Zubaydah, he had never before seen a patient survive such severe wounds. The FBI and CIA flew in a doctor from Johns Hopkins University to ensure Abu Zubaydah would not succumb to his wounds during transit out of Pakistan.

His pocket litter
Pocket litter
Pocket litter is a term for material, including notes scribbled on scraps of paper, that accumulates in an individual's pockets. It can include identity cards, transportation tickets, personal photographs, computer files and similar material....

 supposedly contained two bank card
Bank card
A bank card is a plastic card issued by a bank to its clients that may perform one or more of the following services:* ATM card, card used for transactions at automatic teller machines* Debit card, card linked to a bank account and used for making purchases...

s which showed he had access to Saudi and Kuwaiti bank accounts, which was considered rare since most al-Qaeda members used the preferred untraceable hawala
Hawala is an informal value transfer system based on the performance and honor of a huge network of money brokers, which are primarily located in the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and South Asia...

 banking. According to James Risen
James Risen
James Risen is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist for The New York Times who previously worked for the Los Angeles Times. He has written or co-written many articles concerning U.S...

"It is not clear whether an investigation of the cards simply fell through the cracks, or whether they were ignored because no one wanted to know the answers about connections between al Qaeda and important figures in the Middle East -- particularly in Saudi Arabia." One of Risen's sources chalks up the failure to investigate the cards to incompetence rather than foul play: "The cards were sent back to Washington and were never fully exploited. I think nobody ever looked at them because of incompetence." When American investigators finally did get around to looking into the cards, they worked with "a Muslim financier with a questionable past, and with connections to the Afghan Taliban, al Qaeda, and Saudi intelligence." He reported back that "Saudi intelligence officials had seized all of the records related to the card from the Saudi financial institution in question; the records then disappeared. There was no longer any way to trace the money that had gone into the account."

A search of the safehouse turned up his personal 10,000 page diaries, in which he recorded his thoughts in seemingly split personalities of a young boy, old man, and himself.

Abu Zubaydah was turned over to the CIA, and was allegedly transferred to secret CIA-operated prisons
Black site
In military terminology, a black site is a location at which an unacknowledged black project is conducted. Recently, the term has gained notoriety in describing secret prisons operated by the United States Central Intelligence Agency , generally outside of U.S. territory and legal jurisdiction. It...

 in Pakistan, Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Northern Africa, and Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia
Diego Garcia is a tropical, footprint-shaped coral atoll located south of the equator in the central Indian Ocean at 7 degrees, 26 minutes south latitude. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory [BIOT] and is positioned at 72°23' east longitude....

. Historically renditions to countries which commit torture have been illegal, however, a memo written by John Yoo
John Yoo
John Choon Yoo is an American attorney, law professor, and author. As a former official in the United States Department of Justice during the George W...

 and Jay Bybee
Jay Bybee
Jay Scott Bybee is a federal judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He has published numerous articles in law journals and taught law school; his primary interests are in constitutional and administrative law....

 days before Abu Zubaydah's capture, provided legal cover for renditions to places such as Thailand. In March, 2009, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee launched a year-long study on how the CIA operated the secret prisons around the world.

Interrogation of Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah was interrogated by two separate interrogation teams, one from the FBI and one from the CIA.

The torture of Abu Zubaydah

Abu Zubaydah's treatment at the hands of the CIA has been called torture by Ali Soufan
Ali Soufan
Ali H. Soufan is a Lebanese-American former FBI agent who was involved in a number of high-profile anti-terrorism cases both in the United States and around the world...

, the FBI interrogator who witnessed part of Abu Zubaydah's CIA interrogation, multiple U.S. officials including President Obama, and by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The CIA subjected Abu Zubaydah to various forms of increasingly harsh interrogation techniques including temperature extremes, music played at debilitating volumes, and sexual humiliation. Abu Zubaydah was also subjected to beatings, isolation, waterboarding, long-time standing, continuous cramped confinement, and sleep deprivation. During Abu Zubaydah's interrogation President Bush learned he was on painkillers for the wounds he suffered during his capture and was therefore difficult to get information from. President Bush exclaimed to then CIA director George Tenet “[w]ho authorized putting him on pain medication?” It would later be reported that Abu Zubaydah was denied painkillers during his interrogation.

Many of the interrogation techniques used against Abu Zubaydah, including waterboarding, cold cell, long-time standing, and sleep deprivation were previously considered illegal under U.S. and international law and treaties at the time of Abu Zubaydah’s capture. In fact, the United States had prosecuted Japanese military officials after World War II and American soldiers after the Vietnam War for waterboarding. Since 1930, the United States had defined sleep deprivation as an illegal form of torture. Many other techniques developed by the CIA constitute inhuman and degrading treatment and torture under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

At least one detainee claims to have seen pictures of the injuries caused to Abu Zubaydah during his torture.

International Committee of the Red Cross report

The International Committee of the Red Cross concluded a report on the treatment of 14 high-value detainees in February 2007. The report would be made public April 7, 2009. The report is composed of interviews with the detainees, although the ICRC stated "[t]he ICRC wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the fourteen [detainees] adds particular weight to the information provided." The ICRC outlined twelve interrogation techniques suffocation by water (waterboarding), prolonged stress standing position, beatings by use of a collar, beating and kicking, confinement in a box, prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold temperature, prolonged shackling, threats of ill-treatment, forced shaving, and deprivation/restricted provision of solid food. Of the 12 interrogation techniques, only Abu Zubaydah was subjected to all of them.

Abu Zubaydah was the only one of the fourteen detainees to be put into close confinement. This would be corroborated, in part, by one of the Torture Memos written by the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel, which noted "[i]n OMS's view, however, cramped confinement "ha[s] not proved particularly effective" because it provides "a safehaven offering respite from interrogation." In Abu Zubaydah's case, however, this is debatable since the smaller of the close confinement boxes caused his wound to reopen and begin to bleed again. He was placed in two boxes, a 'large' one in which he could stand upright, and a much smaller one, in which he had to crouch down.


Abu Zubaydah was one of three high value detainees to be waterboarded. Originally the Government's position was that Abu Zubaydah had only been waterboarded once. Indeed, John Kiriakou, a CIA officer who had seen the cables regarding Abu Zubaydah's interrogation publicly stated Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded only once for 35 seconds before he started talking. Even before the May 30, 2005 Torture Memo surfaced, Government officials familiar with Abu Zubaydah's detention questioned this account of events. In fact, intelligence sources claimed as early as 2008 that Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded no less than ten times in the span of one week. In reality, Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times within the month of August, 2002, which happens to be the same month waterboarding was approved for use on him. In January 2010, Kiriakou, in a memoir, said "Now we know that Zubaydah was waterboarded eighty-three times in a single month, raising questions about how much useful information he actually supplied."

The May 10, 2005 torture memo stated that no more than 60 applications of water could be conducted in a 30 day period. However, that number applied only to those applications of "ten seconds or more." A U.S. official with knowledge of the interrogation program reported to Fox News that many of the applications lasted "a matter of seconds" and it was these less than ten second applications "that created the huge numbers." He further stated that "[a]ll of those individual pours were scrupulously counted by the CIA, according to the memos, to abide by the procedures set up for the waterboardings."

However, the May 10, 2005 torture memo reported that the Department of Justice, Inspector General report noted that
[T]he waterboard technique… was different from the technique described in the DoJ opinion and used in the SERE training. The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passage; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator… applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique is different from that used in SERE training because it is ‘for real’ and is ‘more poignant and convincing.’” The Inspector General further reported that “OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogator on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a prior reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe.

The Inspector General also noted that the use of waterboarding was discontinued in every armed services branch except the Navy SERE training "because of its dramatic effect on the students who were subjects." The CIA Office of Medical Services contradicted this conclusion, however, stating that “[w]hile SERE trainers believe that trainees are unable to maintain psychological resistance to the waterboard our experience was otherwise. Some subjects unquestionably can withstand a large number of applications, with no immediately discernible cumulative impact beyond their strong aversion to the experience.” The memo also noted that at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Douglas Johnson, Executive Director of the Center for Victims of Torture, testified that some U.S. military personnel who have undergone waterboard training have apparently stated “that it’s taken them 15 years of therapy to get over it", although his claim has not substantiated. Despite the conflicting information the Department of Justice Office of Legal Counsel approved all of the tactics listed above.

Several people who have subjected themselves to controlled waterboarding have stated that it is torture. Conservative Chicago radio host, Erich "Mancow" Muller agreed to be waterboarding so he could "prove it wasn't torture." Instead Muller stated "It is such an odd feeling to have water poured down your nose with your head back... It was instantaneous... and I don't want to say this: absolutely torture."

Malcolm Wrightson Nance, an instructor at the Navy’s SERE school in California testified before congress that waterboarding “is an overwhelming experience that induces horror and triggers frantic survival instincts. As the event unfolded, I was fully conscious of what was happening: I was being tortured.” Nance further testified that waterboarding is “[N]ot simulated anything. It’s slow motion suffocation with enough time to contemplate the inevitability of blackout and expiration.” Richard E. Mezo, who was waterboarded during training to become a Navy flight crewmember described waterboarding as an act that is “indeed torture” which is “real drowning that simulates death.” The experience was so horrific, Mezo stated that “Pulling out my fingernails or even cutting off a finger would have been preferable.” Henri Alleg, who was waterboarded by the French during the Algerian War, wrote that “a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me.”

Abu Zubaydah said of his experience:
I struggled against the straps, trying to breathe, but it was hopeless. I thought I was going to die.
During his waterboarding Abu Zubaydah lost control of his bladder and would later admit to the ICRC that "[s]ince then I still lose control of my urine when under stress."

Some politicians and administration officials, including Richard Armitage, the former Deputy Secretary of State, Mike McConnell, the former National Intelligence Directorate, Tom Ridge, the former Homeland Security Secretary, and former Republican Presidential Candidate John McCain, have also declared it unequivocal torture. Senator John McCain stated “It is not a complicated procedure. It is torture.”

Top U.S. officials approved enhanced interrogation techniques

In the Spring of 2002, immediately following Abu Zubaydah’s capture, top US Government officials including Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, and John Ashcroft discussed at length whether or not the CIA could legally use harsh techniques against Abu Zubaydah. Condoleezza Rice specifically mentioned the SERE program during the meeting stating “I recall being told that U.S. military personnel were subjected to training to certain physical and psychological interrogation techniques…” In addition, in 2002 and 2003, several Democratic congressional leaders were briefed on the proposed “enhanced interrogation techniques.” These congressional leaders included Nancy Pelosi, the future Speaker of the House, and Representative Jane Harman. Congressional officials have stated that the attitude in the briefings ranged from “quiet acquiescence, if not downright support.” The documents show that top U.S. Officials were intimately involved in the discussion and approval of the harsher interrogation techniques used on Abu Zubaydah. Condoleezza Rice ultimately told the CIA the harsher interrogation tactics were acceptable, and Dick Cheney stated "I signed off on it; so did others." During the discussions John Ashcroft is reported as saying “Why are we talking about this in the White House? History will not judge this kindly.”

The torture memos

In 2009, President Obama released four Justice Department memos which outlined the procedures CIA operatives wished to use on Abu Zubaydah. The memos were written at the request of Dick Cheney and the Bush White House and were written under extreme pressure from the Office of the Vice President. In e-mails to former U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg, Jim Comey, former Deputy Attorney General, stated that the Attorney General, Alberto Gonzalez, had informed him he was "under great pressure from the Vice President to complete both [May] memos."

Opposition within the Bush Administration

The memos were opposed by members of the White House and Congress. Within the White House Philip Zelikow, a top advisor to Condoleezza Rice, opposed the new, harsher interrogation techniques. Upon reading the August 1, 2002 memo which justified the torture, Zelikow authored his own memo contesting the Justice Department's conclusions, since he believed they were legally incorrect. The Bush Administration attempted to collect all of the copies of Zelikow's memo and destroy them. In addition, military advisors to the CIA declared the proposed tactics as torture thirteen times within two pages in a memo regarding the techniques. The memo was written one month before the torture memos were drafted and the interrogation techniques were used against Abu Zubaydah.

In Congress, House Representative Jane Harman, who was briefed on the proposed enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002, was the sole member of Congress to object.

Former CIA Inspector General, John Helgerson, drafted a report in 2004 which reportedly condemns not only the legality of the torture memos, but also the effectiveness of the torture techniques used. The report was so appalling it prompted then director of the Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, to repudiate the John Yoo, Jay Bybee, and Stephen Bradbury memos.

In addition, a federal judge in San Francisco has ruled that Jose Padilla
José Padilla
José Padilla is the name of:* José Gualberto Padilla , Puerto Rican poet, politician and advocate of Puerto Rican indepedence.* José Prudencio Padilla , Colombian military leader...

 has standing to sue John Yoo for his detention and torture, due to John Yoo's role in drafting the torture memos. Dick Cheney's order to keep secret from Congress a CIA program recently killed by CIA Director Leon Panetta may also come under legal fire. Under the Intelligence Authorization Act, the office of the President is required to keep the Congress completely informed of the operations of the intelligence community.

August 1, 2002 memo

In August 2002, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel, Jay Bybee and John Yoo drafted the first Torture Memo. Addressed to CIA acting General Counsel John A. Rizzo
John A. Rizzo
John A. Rizzo was a lawyer at the Central Intelligence Agency for 34 years. He was the acting General Counsel or Deputy Counsel of the CIA for the first nine years of the War on Terror, during which the CIA held dozens of detainees in black site prisons around the globe. "Enhanced interrogation...

, the purpose of the memo was to gain approval for harsh interrogation tactics to be used on Abu Zubaydah. Although some believe the harsh tactics were already in effect before the memo granting authority to use them was written, and was used to provide after-the-fact legal support for harsh interrogation techniques. In fact, a Department of Justice report regarding prisoner abuses reportedly stated the preparation of the memos occurred one month after Abu Zubaydah was subjected to the techniques allowed in the August 1, 2002 memo. John Kiriakou stated in July, 2009, that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded in the early summer of 2002, months before the August 1, 2002 memo was written. Alberto Gonzales would later testify before Congress that the opinion was sought after the detention of Abu Zubaydah. Questions by CIA officers over which tactics could be used on Abu Zubaydah had spurred the torture memo’s existence, which is reflected in the language of the memo; "You have asked for this advice in the course of conducting interrogations of Abu Zubaydah." The memo's author, John Yoo, acknowledged the memo was the basis for Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. Yoo even told an interviewer “there was an urgency to decide so that valuable intelligence could be acquired from Abu Zubaydah, before further attacks could occur.” John Yoo would later be harshly criticized by the Department of Justice for failing to cite legal precedent and existing case law when drafting his memos. In particular, the report chastises Yoo for failing to cite Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer
Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, , also commonly referred to as The Steel Seizure Case, was a United States Supreme Court decision that limited the power of the President of the United States to seize private property in the absence of either specifically enumerated authority under Article...

, a seminal case on the powers of the Executive in times of war. In addition, Jack Goldsmith, the former head of the Office of Legal Counsel who withdrew the torture memos before resigning, stated he was "astonished" by the "deeply flawed" and "sloppily reasoned" legal analysis in the memos. David Luban, a law professor at Georgetown Law School, testified before Congress on May 13, 2009 that the memos were "an ethical train wreck" and had been drafted to "reverse engineer" a defense for illegal actions already committed.

The memo contemplated ten techniques the interrogators wanted to use: "(1) attention grasp, (2) walling, (3) facial hold, (4) facial slap (insult slap), (5) cramped confinement, (6) wall standing, (7) stress positions, (8) sleep deprivation, (9) insects placed in a confinement box, and (10) the waterboard.” Many of the techniques were, until then, generally considered illegal. Many other techniques developed by the CIA constituted inhumane and degrading treatment and torture under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

According to a psychological evaluation conducted of Abu Zubaydah upon his capture, the memo alleges that Abu Zubaydah:
  • Quickly rose from very low level mujahedin to third or fourth man in al Qaeda
  • Served as Usama Bin Laden’s senior lieutenant
  • Managed a network of training camps
  • Was instrumental in the training of operatives for al Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist elements inside Pakistan and Afghanistan
  • Acted as the Deputy Camp Commander for al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, personally approving entry and graduation of all trainees during 1999-2000
  • Approved all individuals going in and out of Afghanistan to the training camps from 1996–1999
  • No one went in and out of Peshawar, Pakistan without his knowledge and approval
  • Acted as al Qaeda’s coordinator of external contacts and foreign communications
  • Acted as al Qaeda’s counter-intelligence officer and had been trusted to find spies within the organization
  • Was involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al Qaeda
  • Was a planner for the Millennium plot to attack U.S. and Israeli targets during the Millennium celebrations in Jordan
  • Served as a planner for the Paris Embassy plot in 2001
  • Was one of the planners of 9/11
  • Engaged in planning future terrorist attacks against U.S. interests
  • Wrote al Qaeda’s manual on resistance techniques

May 10, 2005 memo

Another subsequent memo addressed the legality of additional interrogation techniques such as nudity, dietary manipulation, abdominal slap, water dousing, and water flicking. It also expanded on the techniques of walling, stress positions, and sleep deprivation, allowing for an additional stress position and extended sleep deprivation up to 180 consecutive hours. The memo also outlined the amount of waterboarding applications a detainee could be subjected to.
The waterboard can only be used with a given detainee during one 30-day period. During that 30-day period the waterboard can be used no more than 5 days. In any given day that waterboarding occurs interrogators may use no more than two “sessions”, with a “session” defined as the time that the detainee is strapped to the board, and that a session can last no more than 2 hours. During any session no more than six applications of water of 10 seconds or more can be used. The total cumulative time of all water applications in a 24 hour period may not exceed 12 minutes.

May 10, 2005 memo (combined interrogation techniques)

Another memo penned on May 10, 2005 authorized the use of the above outlined individual techniques in conjunction with one another, but stressed the importance of constant vigilance on the part of medical observers to ensure the techniques did not cause "severe physical or mental pain."

May 30, 2005 memo

The final memo mentioned Abu Zubaydah several times and claimed that due to the increased interrogation techniques Zubaydah also "provided significant information on two operatives, [including] Jose Padilla[,] who planned to build and detonate a 'dirty bomb
Dirty bomb
A dirty bomb is a speculative radiological weapon that combines radioactive material with conventional explosives. The purpose of the weapon is to contaminate the area around the explosion with radioactive material, hence the attribute "dirty"....

' in the Washington DC area." This claim is heavily disputed, however, by Ali Soufan the FBI interrogator who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah following his capture, and other intelligence officials. Ali Soufan, when asked by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse during a Congressional hearing if the memo was incorrect, testified that it was. In fact, the memo itself noted that not all of the waterboarding sessions were necessary for Abu Zubaydah, since the on-scene interrogation team determined he had stopped producing actionable intelligence. The memo reads:

This is not to say that the interrogation program has worked perfectly. According to the IG Report, the CIA, at least initially, could not always distinguish detainees who had information but were successfully resisting interrogation from those who did not actually have the information. See IG Report at 83-85. On at least one occasion, this may have resulted in what might be deemed in retrospect to have been the unnecessary use of enhanced techniques. On that occasion, although the on-scene interrogation team judged Abu Zubaydah to be compliant, elements within CIA Headquarters still believed he was withholding information. See id at 84. At the direction of CIA Headquarters interrogators therefore used the waterboard one more time on Zubaydah.

U.S. officials defend interrogation techniques

Dennis C. Blair, President Obama's new director of national intelligence wrote in a memo to his staff in April 2009 that "high value information came from interrogations in which [enhanced interrogation] methods were used." Former Vice-President, Dick Cheney claims there are memos in existence which show the success of the enhanced interrogation techniques. Cheney stated:

I haven't talked about it, but I know specifically of reports that I read, that I saw, that lay out what we learned through the interrogation process and what the consequences were for the country I've now formally asked the CIA to take steps to declassify those memos so we can lay them out there and the American people have a chance to see what we obtained and what we learned and how good the intelligence was.

Additionally, four successive CIA directors echoed these sentiments, with the most recent, Michael V. Hayden, stating that he believed the methods "got the maximum amount of information" from prisoners, specifically Abu Zubaydah. As noted, however, the belief that enhanced interrogation techniques were necessary to get actionable intel from Abu Zubaydah has been heavily contested. John McLaughlin, former acting CIA director, stated in 2006 "I totally disagree with the view that the capture of Abu Zubaydah was unimportant. Abu Zubaydah was woven through all of the intelligence prior to 9/11 that signaled a major attack was coming, and his capture yielded a great deal of important information." In his memoir, former CIA Director
Director of Central Intelligence
The Office of United States Director of Central Intelligence was the head of the United States Central Intelligence Agency, the principal intelligence advisor to the President and the National Security Council, and the coordinator of intelligence activities among and between the various United...

 George Tenet
George Tenet
George John Tenet was the Director of Central Intelligence for the United States Central Intelligence Agency, and is Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University....


A published report in 2006 contended that Abu Zubaydah was mentally unstable and that the administration had overstated his importance. Baloney. Abu Zubaydah had been at the crossroads of many al-Qa'ida operations and was in position to - and did - share critical information with his interrogators. Apparently, the source of the rumor that Abu Zubaydah was unbalanced was his personal diary, in which he adopted various personas. From that shaky perch, some junior Freudians leapt to the conclusion that Zubaydah had multiple personalities. In fact, Agency psychiatrists eventually determined that in his diary he was using a sophisticated literary device to express himself. And, boy, did he express himself.

The changing depiction of Abu Zubaydah

When Abu Zubaydah was captured, the Bush Administration believed he was an unparalleled source of intelligence on al-Qaeda and terrorism plots. Abu Zubaydah was touted as the biggest catch of the War on Terror until the capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Immediately after Abu Zubaydah’s capture the director of the FBI stated Abu Zubaydah’s capture would help deter future attacks. Also, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer stated Abu Zubaydah could provide a treasure-trove of information about al-Qaeda. Donald Rumsfeld echoed these sentiments claiming Abu Zubaydah was “a man who knows of additional attacks”, who has “trained people to do this”, and was a big fish who had a fountain of knowledge.

U.S. government accounts of Abu Zubaydah's importance

After Abu Zubaydah's capture, officials from the U.S. Government spoke out publicly about Abu Zubaydah's supposed role in al-Qaeda. However, as would later be reported in 2009, the U.S. Government's depiction of Abu Zubaydah was overly inflated and he was, as Justice Department Officials stated, "[t]he above ground support... To make him the mastermind of anything is ridiculous", a "personnel clerk", a "logistics chief", and a "travel agent." In fact, the CIA reportedly told Abu Zubaydah during his interrogation that they discovered he was not an al-Qaeda fighter, partner, or even a member.

The allegations included:
  • Abu Zubaydah was "sinister" and "[t]here is evidence that he is a planner and a manager as well. I think he’s a major player.” - Former State Department director of counter-terrorism, Michael Sheehan
  • Abu Zubaydah was “extremely dangerous” and a planner of 9/11. - John B. Bellinger III in a June 2007 briefing on Guantanamo Bay.
  • Abu Zubaydah was a trainer, a recruiter, understood bomb-making, was a forger, a logistician, and someone who made things happen, and made “al-Qaeda function.” - Former CIA station chief, Bob Grenier
  • “I don’t think there’s any doubt but a man named Abu Zubaydah is a close associate of UBL’s, and if not the number two, very close to the number two person in the organization. I think that’s well established.” -Donald Rumsfeld
  • Abu Zubaydah was “a very senior al Qaeda official who has been intimately involved in a range of activities for the al Qaeda.” - Donald Rumsfeld
  • Abu Zubaydah was a “very senior al Qaeda operative.” - Donald Rumsfeld
  • Abu Zubaydah was a “key terrorist recruiter and operational planner and member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.” - White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
  • The capture of Abu Zubaydah was a “very serious blow” to al-Qaeda and that one of al-Qaeda's “many tentacles" was "cut off.” - White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
  • Abu Zubaydah was “one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States.” - Former President George W. Bush
  • Abu Zubaydah was “one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders” who was “spending a lot of time as one of the top operating officials of al Qaeda, plotting and planning murder.” - Former President George W. Bush
  • Abu Zubaydah was “al Qaeda’s chief of operations.” - President George W. Bush
  • “Abu Zubaydah was one of the top three leaders” in al-Qaeda. - President George W. Bush
  • Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation “led to reliable information”, that Abu Zubaydah was a “prolific producer” of information, and that roughly 25 percent of the information on al Qaeda that came from human sources originated from Abu Zubaydah. - Michael Hayden
  • Abu Zubaydah was one of three individuals “best positioned to know about impending terrorist atrocities.” - Michael Hayden
  • Abu Zubaydah is someone who was “carefully trained in techniques of disinformation.” - Richard C. Shelby
  • Nancy Pelosi, the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee would describe Abu Zubaydah as being “very skilled at avoiding interrogation. He is an agent of disinformation.”

Numerous anonymous U.S. officials have also made allegations against Abu Zubaydah in the press, including:
  • “One Abu Zubaydah is worth a ton of guys at Gitmo.”
  • He was a “senior bin Laden official” and the “former head of Egypt-based Islamic Jihad.”
  • He “played a key role in the East Africa embassy attacks.”
  • He was listed as a “trusted aide” to bin Laden with “growing power.”
  • Western officials believed al-Qaeda may have been under the control of Abu Zubaydah.
  • Abu Zubaydah was an aide of bin Laden who ran training camps in Afghanistan and “coordinated terror cells in Europe and North America.”
  • Abu Zubaydah was a “key terrorist recruiter, operational planner, and member of Osama Bin Laden’s inner circle.”
  • Abu Zubaydah was “bin Laden’s CEO”, “a central figure in Al Qaeda”, and a “bin Laden lieutenant.”
  • Abu Zubaydah is Bin Laden’s “travel planner.”
  • Abu Zubaydah is one of bin Laden’s “confidants.”
  • Abu Zubaydah is “one of a handful of men entrusted with running the terrorism network in the event of Osama bin Laden’s death or capture.”
  • Abu Zubaydah was a senior bin Laden lieutenant who was believed “to be organizing al Qaida resources to carry out attacks on American targets.”
  • Abu Zubaydah was the fourth ranking member of al Qaida behind Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and Muhamed Atef.
  • Abu Zubaydah was the “successor as chief of operations for al Qaida” after Muhamed Atef’s death.
  • Abu Zubaydah knows the identities of “thousands” of terrorists that passed through al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan.
  • Abu Zubaydah briefed Richard Reid, the shoe-bomber.
  • Abu Zubaydah was one of bin Laden’s top planners of terrorist operations who knew of al Qaida plots and cells.
  • Abu Zubaydah was captured after he made a cell phone call to al-Qaeda leaders in Yemen.
  • Abu Zubaydah stated al-Qaeda knew how to smuggle a dirty-bomb into the United States. Abu Zubaydah’s information was further proof al-Qaeda was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
  • Abu Zubaydah is the “connection between bin Laden and many of al-Qaida’s operational cells.”
  • Abu Zubaydah is linked to plots to detonate apartment buildings.
  • Abu Zubaydah confirmed the fourth September 11 flight, UA 93, was intended to hit the White House. (His claim is contradicted by Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Ramzi Bin al Shibh though, who stated UA 93 was on its way to the capitol, not the White House.)
  • Osama bin Laden wrote a handwritten note to Abu Zubaydah in December, 2001. The letter allegedly tells Abu Zubaydah to continue fighting the United States if bin Laden passes away.

While Abu Zubaydah would provide important intelligence on the War on Terror, his value as an intel source was greatly inflated, much like his role in the global terror network.

Despite all of these allegations the U.S. Government has not officially charged Abu Zubaydah with any crimes.

Exploitation of Abu Zubaydah's perceived value

President Bush personally used Abu Zubaydah’s perceived “value” as a detainee to justify the use of the CIA's harsher interrogation techniques as well as Abu Zubaydah’s detention in secret CIA prisons around the world.

In a speech in 2006, President Bush claimed that Abu Zubaydah initially revealed useful intelligence, including information that allegedly helped foil a terrorist attack on American soil, but that Abu Zubaydah became uncooperative. It was only then, he reported, that an “alternative set of procedures” was used on Abu Zubaydah in order to gain valuable intelligence and were “safe and lawful.” He also stated that Abu Zubaydah had received training in how to resist interrogation, and thus more aggressive techniques were mandated. These claims directly conflict with the reports of the original F.B.I. agents tasked with interrogating Abu Zubaydah who had been receiving crucial pieces of information from him without the use of harsher techniques, as well as other government officials.

The Iraq War

The U.S. Government used questionable intel from Abu Zubaydah in order to justify the invasion of Iraq. U.S. officials stated that the allegations that Iraq and al-Qaeda were linked in the training of people on chemical weapons came from Abu Zubaydah. The officials noted there was no independent verification of his claims. The U.S. Government included statements made by Abu Zubaydah in regards to al Qaeda’s ability to obtain a dirty bomb in its attempts to show a link between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to a Senate Intelligence Committee report Abu Zubaydah also “indicated that he had heard that an important al Qaeda associate, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, and others had good relationships with Iraqi intelligence.” However, in June, 2003 Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed were reported as stating there was no link between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

In the Senate Armed Services Committee report on the abuses of detainees, it was revealed that pressure from the Bush administration was applied to interrogators to find a link between Iraq and Al-Qaeda. Indeed, Major Paul Burney, a psychiatrist with the United States Army, reported that "while we were [at Guantanamo] a large part of the time we were focused on trying to establish a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq and we were not being successful." He stated that higher-ups for more "frustrated" and applied "more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results."

Additionally, Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, the former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell has stated that:

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002--well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion--its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa'ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney's office that their detainee "was compliant" (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP's office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa'ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, "revealed" such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

The Military Commissions Act

President Bush also asked Congress in a speech in September 2006 to formulate special rules in order to try Abu Zubaydah via military commission in Guantanamo Bay. In fact, in late April 2002 less than one month after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, Justice Department officials stated Abu Zubaydah “is a near-ideal candidate for a tribunal trial.” However, only several months later US Officials acknowledged there was “no rush” to try Abu Zubaydah via military commission. In September 2006, President Bush stated in an interview that if Congress could pass a “good bill” out of the Senate in regards to setting up a military commission system, then Abu Zubaydah “is going to go on trial.” The U.S. Government has yet to try Abu Zubaydah by military commission, article 3 court, or in any other capacity.

The Bush Administration's domestic spying program

In addition to justifying the use of presently illegal torture techniques, the Bush administration used Abu Zubaydah’s capture as justification to accelerate its domestic spying program to allow quick action on the phone numbers and addresses seized during Abu Zubaydah’s capture. Inexplicably the NSA expanded its surveillance beyond the numbers seized during Abu Zubaydah’s capture. The spying program would later be revamped in order to make it theoretically legal.

Growing concerns about Abu Zubaydah's indefinite CIA detention

In 2004 media coverage of Abu Zubaydah began listing him as a “disappeared” prisoner claiming he had no access to the International Red Cross.

In February 2005, U.S. officials claim the CIA was growing uncomfortable keeping Abu Zubaydah in indefinite custody. Less than 18 months later Abu Zubaydah and the other high value detainees who had been in secret CIA custody were transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

After his transfer the CIA denied access to Abu Zubaydah even to the Department of Justice's Inspector General who was investigating the United States' treatment of its detainees.

According to U.S. officials quoted in Ron Suskind’s book, President Bush allegedly told CIA director George Tenet “I said [Abu Zubaydah] was important. You’re not going to let me lose face on this, are you?” Tenet replied “No sir, Mr. President.”

U.S. government admits Abu Zubaydah was never a member of al Qaeda

Top officials in the U.S. government refused to believe Abu Zubaydah was not the operative they believed him to be. The May 30, 2005 Department of Justice memo noted that while on-scene interrogators believed Abu Zubaydah no longer had any information to disclose, CIA Headquarters ordered additional waterboarding. The interrogators believed the waterboarding was "unnecessary." Orders for the additional waterboarding likely came from Dick Cheney directly. Additionally, the Bush White House and CIA officials couldn't believe Abu Zubaydah didn't have additional information. One official stated the pressure from upper levels of government was "tremendous," and that "[t]hey couldn't stand the idea that there wasn't anything new." The official said, "[t]hey'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.'"

However, in September 2009, the United States Government finally admitted, during Abu Zubaydah's habeas corpus petition, that Abu Zubaydah had never been a member of al-Qaeda, nor involved in the attacks on the African embassies in 1998, or the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The motion, filed by the United States Government, states:

Evidence indicating that Petitioner is not a member of al-Qaida or had ideological differences with al-Qaida is not inconsistent with the factual allegations made in the Government's factual return, because the Government has not contended in this proceeding that Petitioner was a member of al-Qaida or otherwise formally identified with al-Qaida. Pg. 35, 36

Respondent [The United States Government] does not contend that Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] was a "member" of al-Qaida in the sense of having sworn a bayat (allegiance) or having otherwise satisfied any formal criteria that either Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] or al-Qaida may have considered necessary for inclusion in al-Qaida. Nor is the Government detaining Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] based on any allegation that Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] views himself as part of al-Qaida as a matter of subjective personal conscience, ideology, or worldview. Pg. 36

The Government has not contended in this proceeding that Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] had any direct role in or advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Pg. 82

For example, for purposes of this proceeding the Government has not contended that Petitioner [Abu Zubaydah] had any personal involvement in planning or executing either the 1998 embassy bombings... or the attacks on September 11, 2001. Pg. 34

Charge sheet discrepancies

In 2005, the U.S. Government charged several detainees at Guantanamo Bay and ordered them to stand trial in Military Commission Tribunals. Of the ten detainees charged, four of them, Binyam Mohamed, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, Sufyian Barhoumi, and Jabrad Said bin Al-Qahtani referenced Abu Zubaydah in their charge sheets. Three of the four detainees, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, Sufyian Barhoumi, and Jabran Said bin Al-Qahtani, had identical 2005 charge sheets and referenced Abu Zubaydah in six different paragraphs. The fourth detainee, Binyam Mohamed, referenced Abu Zubaydah five times.

In 2006, before the U.S. Government could hold a trial of the four detainees in a Military Commission Tribunal, the Supreme Court struck down the Tribunals as unconstitutional in Hamdan v. Bush. The U.S. Government responded by amending the tribunals, although they were forced to recharge Binyam Mohamed, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi, Sufyian Barhoumi, and Jabran Said bin Al-Qahtani in 2008.

The new 2008 charge sheets contained almost identical charges against each of the four detainees, as were found in their 2005 charge sheets. However, Abu Zubaydah’s name was entirely removed from each detainee’s charge sheet. On October 21, 2008, all charges were dropped against the four men. Binyam Mohamed was released from Guantanamo Bay on February 20, 2009 despite his alleged connections to Abu Zubaydah, and thus has been removed from the Department of Defense Military Commissions Page.

In addition, the alleged emir of Khalden Camp, Noor Uthman Muhammed, was charged in 2008 with conspiring with Abu Zubaydah against the United States. However, the charges against Noor Uthman Muhammed were also completely dropped on October 21, 2008. The U.S. Government recharged Noor Uthman Muhammed on December 22, 2008. Abu Zubaydah's name is not found in any of the charges even though he was a facilitator for Noor Uthman Muhammed's Khalden Camp.

Abu Zubaydah’s name is also not mentioned in any other detainee’s charge sheets, not even Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, the admitted mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. The U.S. Government has also failed to charge Abu Zubadyah, even though they have charged other high ranking al-Qaeda members, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, who has been in custody less time than Abu Zubaydah.

In 2009, the U.S. Government recharged two of the men, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi and Jabran Said bin Al-Qahtani. Sufyian Barhoumi has not been recharged. The 2009 charge sheet of al Sharbi reincorporates Abu Zubaydah in three paragraphs, while the 2009 charge sheet of Al-Qahtani reincorporated Abu Zubaydah in four paragraphs. Unlike the 2005 charge sheets, which are archived on the Department of Defense website, Ghassan Abdullah al Sharbi's 2008 Charge Sheet has been removed from his page.

International cases involving Abu Zubaydah

Several individuals being held or tried internationally, who have been connected by the U.S. Government to Abu Zubaydah, have had their charges dropped, been released, or received other relief from their handlers.
Abousofian Abdelrazik

Abousofian Abdelrazik was alleged by the State Department to be closely associated with Abu Zubaydah. In 2008, Canada asked the United Nations to remove Abousfian Abdelrazik from its terrorism watch-list. In June, 2009, Canada agreed to repatriate Abousfian Abdelrazik from Sudan where he has been stranded since 2008.
Mohamed Harkat

Abu Zubaydah supposedly knew Mohamed Harkat
Mohamed Harkat
Born in Algeria, Mohamed Harkat has drawn Canadian media attention as being one of several Muslim-Canadians alleged to have ties to terrorism and imprisoned under security certificates. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service alleges that he entered the country as a sleeper agent for al-Qaeda...

 “since the early 90’s” and claimed Harkat ran a guest house in Pakistan. Mohamed Harkat’s attorney sought access to Abu Zubaydah for testimony relating to Harkat’s trial, but the US refused to respond to his requests.

Originally in Harkat’s Canadian trial, however, Abu Zubaydah’s claims were not part of the charges brought against Harkat. After CIA director Michael Hayden’s public admittance of Zubaydah’s waterboarding, Canadian officials deleted all references to Zubaydah’s statements in its public dossier. A spokesman for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service stated “The CSIS director has stated publicly that torture is morally repugnant and not particularly reliable. CSIS does not knowingly use information which has been obtained through torture.” Mohamed Harkat was released on bail by Canadian authorities.

Ahmed Ressam and the Millennium Plot

In April 2001, Ahmed Ressam was convicted of plotting to detonate a bomb at the Los Angeles International Airport. Ahmed Ressam had previously trained at the Khalden camp before coming to the United States to undertake his mission. Abu Zubaydah admits in his CSRT testimony that he recommended to the leader of Khalden Camp that Ahmed Ressam be allowed to train there. Abu Zubaydah further testified that he facilitated Ahmed Ressam’s travel to the camp as well as to Algeria once Ressam’s training was complete. The U.S. Government alleges, in Abu Zubaydah’s summary of evidence, that Ahmed Ressam identified Abu Zubaydah as the leader of the Khalden camp and an associate of Usama Bin Laden “equal to and not subordinate to UBL.” The U.S. Government further alleges that Ahmed Ressam stated that Abu Zubaydah had “known of Ahmed Ressam’s operation, although not specifically the date and exact target” and that Abu Zubaydah wanted Ressam to acquire “fraudulently-obtained Canadian passports” for himself and five others, in order to facilitate their travel into the United States to “possibly bomb several cities.”

Abu Zubaydah admits he attempted to procure Canadian passports for Ahmed Ressam and other trainees, but not for "terrorist-related activities.”. Abu Zubaydah denies ever having participated in the planning of the Millennium Plot or encouraging Ahmed Ressam to attack American targets or civilians. The U.S. Government has not produced any further evidence of Abu Zubaydah’s alleged role in the Millennium Plot, nor was this connection even mentioned in Ahmed Ressam's criminal trial. In fact, Ressam's confessions were only brought up during his sentencing in an attempt to mitigate the sentence he would receive, and he later recanted them.

Abu Zubaydah's mental health

Some people contest Abu Zubaydah's mental health. Ron Suskind noted in his book, The One Percent Doctrine, that Zubaydah turned out to be mentally ill, keeping a diary "in the voice of three people: Hani 1, Hani 2, and Hani 3" -- a boy, a young man and a middle-aged alter ego. Abu Zubaydah's diaries spanned ten years and recorded in numbing detail "what he ate, or wore, or trifling things [people] said." Dan Coleman, then the FBI's top al-Qaeda analyst, told a senior bureau official, "This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality." According to Suskind, this judgment was "echoed at the top of CIA and was briefed to the President and Vice President." Dan Coleman, the FBI's senior expert on al Qaeda, echoed many of Suskind's sentiments in an interview with the Washington Post. Coleman stated Zubaydah was a "safehouse keeper" with mental problems, who "claimed to know more about al-Qaeda and its inner workings than he really did." Abu Zubaydah's co-counsel, Joseph Margulies, wrote in an OpEd in the LA Times that:

Partly as a result of injuries he suffered while he was fighting the communists in Afghanistan, partly as a result of how those injuries were exacerbated by the CIA and partly as a result of his extended isolation, Abu Zubaydah's mental grasp is slipping away. Today, he suffers blinding headaches and has permanent brain damage. He has an excruciating sensitivity to sounds, hearing what others do not. The slightest noise drives him nearly insane. In the last two years alone, he has experienced about 200 seizures. Already, he cannot picture his mother's face or recall his father's name. Gradually, his past, like his future, eludes him.

Saudi and Pakistani connection allegations

Gerald Posner
Gerald Posner
Gerald Posner is an investigative journalist and author of several books, including Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK which explores the John F...

 in his book "Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9/11" claimed that Abu Zubaydahwas duped by U.S. interrogators masquerading as Saudis and using painkillers and sodium pentathol, sometimes called "truth serum". Zubaydah, he writes, thought he was in a Saudi prison, when in fact he was in Afghanistan. Posner says Zubaydah, "relieved" to find he was being quizzed by people he thought were Saudis, provided them with phone numbers for a senior member of the Saudi royal family who would "tell you what to do." He says the U.S. interrogators were stunned when the numbers were traced to Prince Ahmed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, a nephew of King Fahd
Fahd of Saudi Arabia
Fahd bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, was King of Saudi Arabia from 1982 to 2005...


When the agents accused Zubaydah of lying, he revealed more details of Saudi and Pakistani ties to bin Laden, the author says, and in the space of one week, three of the four persons named by him were dead. Prince Ahmed, 43, died of a heart attack on July 22, 2002. The next day, a car crash killed Saudi Prince Sultan bin Faisal bin Turki al-Saud, 41. A week later, Prince Fahd bin Turki bin Saud al-Kabir, 25, reportedly died "of thirst" while traveling east of Riyadh
Riyadh is the capital and largest city of Saudi Arabia. It is also the capital of Riyadh Province, and belongs to the historical regions of Najd and Al-Yamama. It is situated in the center of the Arabian Peninsula on a large plateau, and is home to 5,254,560 people, and the urban center of a...

. Seven months later, a plane crash "in clear weather," Posner says, killed Pakistani Air Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir
Mushaf Ali Mir
Air Chief Marshal Mushaf Ali Mir was four-star general of the Pakistan Air Force who served as the chief of air staff of the Pakistan Air Force from 20 November 2000 until his death on February 20, 2003 when the PAF Fokker F-27 he was traveling in, crashed near Kohat, Pakistan...

, his wife and several aides in Pakistan.

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