FBI Agent Who Interrogated Abu Zubaydah: The Torture Advocates Are Lying to You

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Thursday, April 23, 2009 at 9:20 am

You know an op-ed’s going to be good when it starts out like this:

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

This is the account of Ali Soufan, a former FBI agent — and superstar — whom Lawrence Wright profiled in a riveting New Yorker piece in 2006. Soufan was part of the original team that interrogated Abu Zubaydah from March to June 2002, “before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August” thanks to the go-ahead from the Office of Legal Counsel’s Jay Bybee and John Yoo. He says that an iterative, rapport-building approach yielded “important actionable intelligence,” including the imminent arrival of Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomber” (that one didn’t work out so well), to the United States; and the role of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed as the architect of the 9/11 attacks. “This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.”

And people like former Vice President Dick Cheney are lying when they say that the torture of Abu Zubaydah was necessary to extract crucial data points:

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

Marcy Wheeler has some questions about another aspect of Soufan’s op-ed. More on that in my next post.

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Comments

5 Comments

Tom Maguire
Comment posted April 24, 2009 @ 7:30 am

The torture advocates are lying? Maybe Soufan is lying, too. He writes:

“It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence. “

However, the Dept of Justice Inspector general report explains that the CIA was in charge of the interrogation essentially from the outset, that they adopted harsh (but redacted) tactics right away, and the FBI agents were recalled in May and June rather than be involved with those interrogations. Per the DoJ IG, one of the two FBI agents described the CIA approach as “borderline torture”, and this was before he left the scene in May or June.

NY Times reporting tells a similar story.

I wonder what the truth is, and whether Soufan misrepresented the facts to thr DoJ IG, or now.


Coleen Rowley
Comment posted May 14, 2009 @ 1:48 pm

I know of several FBI agents who can verify what Soufan is saying. It's a shame he and others have felt they had to keep quiet for 7 years.

It's not really fair for anyone to criticize the poor people who were at the bottom of the totem pole without having yourself been in these sick type of “green light” (group think) turned-on situations. Clearly CIA and DOJ Legal Counsels were also going along with orders from higher up in preparing their “golden shield” memos that they believed would protect the little CIA guys (like Kiriakou) who followed the orders as well as their bosses: Cheney, Bush, Addington, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc.


Coleen Rowley
Comment posted May 14, 2009 @ 8:48 pm

I know of several FBI agents who can verify what Soufan is saying. It's a shame he and others have felt they had to keep quiet for 7 years.

It's not really fair for anyone to criticize the poor people who were at the bottom of the totem pole without having yourself been in these sick type of “green light” (group think) turned-on situations. Clearly CIA and DOJ Legal Counsels were also going along with orders from higher up in preparing their “golden shield” memos that they believed would protect the little CIA guys (like Kiriakou) who followed the orders as well as their bosses: Cheney, Bush, Addington, Rice, Rumsfeld, etc.


1 Boring Old Man » Hannity’s Special…
Pingback posted August 27, 2009 @ 8:41 pm

[...] [REDACTED]. Those revelations, as former Abu Zubaydah interrogator Ali Soufan has testified, came before Abu Zubaydah was [...]


Eyepublius
Comment posted August 30, 2009 @ 1:57 am

Former FBI Agent, Mr. Ali Soufan IS NOT lying in fact he spoke from behind a screen to the Senate… those on the Intell Committees knew what he said was true, and if he had lied, it would be purjury and he'd be in serious trouble… he did not. He broke Zubaydah w/o torture or “enhanced anything,” and that us to KSM… torture was then applied by CIA contractors who had NEVER been interrogators and KSM and Zubaydah both clamed up… that is a fact. The more you torture, the less info you get that is of any real value, and the more resilient the detainee becomes … and besides, once captured, their intel value drops by about 50% since the enemy, just like we would do – changes plans.


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