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FBI Zubaydah Interrogator Calls George Bush a Liar: “No Actionable Intelligence Gained from Using Enhanced Interrogation Techniques”

abu zubaydahAli Soufan, an FBI interrogator who stayed mum for seven years about "the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding" breaks his silence in the NYT today. Along with other CIA and FBI agents, he questioned Zubadayah in June of 2002 before "harsh techniques" were introduced:

Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence. We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber.

That squares with what part of what George Bush said in his 2006 speech defending the use of "new interrogation" techniques:

During questioning, he at first disclosed what he thought was nominal information — and then stopped all cooperation. Well, in fact, the "nominal" information he gave us turned out to be quite important. For example, Zubaydah disclosed Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — or KSM — was the mastermind behind the 9/11 attacks, and used the alias "Muktar." This was a vital piece of the puzzle that helped our intelligence community pursue KSM.

But that’s where the stories diverge. Bush says Zubadayah gave critical information about Padilla’s plans:

Abu Zubaydah also provided information that helped stop a terrorist attack being planned for inside the United States — an attack about which we had no previous information. Zubaydah told us that al Qaeda operatives were planning to launch an attack in the U.S., and provided physical descriptions of the operatives and information on their general location. Based on the information he provided, the operatives were detained — one while traveling to the United States.

Soufan says this isn’t true:

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…. 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.

Bush said that at this point, after Zubadayah gave up information about KSM and Padilla using normal interrogation techniques, he became uncooperative: "We knew that Zubaydah had more information that could save innocent lives, but he stopped talking." According to Jane Mayer, that’s not what happened — the FBI thought they were getting "phenomenal" information. George Tenet was thrilled, until he found out it was an FBI success, not a CIA success. According to Ron Suskind, Tenet was under "extraordinary pressure from Bush to produce breakthrough intelligence from Zubayda, whose capture the President had sold to the country as a major coup."

The CIA team arrived, the FBI people were frozen out, and psychologist James Mitchell took over and the "enhanced interrogation techniques" began. Bush said this was necessary because "it became clear that he had received training on how to resist interrogation." In fact, says Mayer, "what happened next was that Zubayda completely shut down. After the next ten to fifteen days, the FBI agents had to be brought back in, at which point he began talking again." But they were once again expelled by orders from Washington. According to the McClatchy story yesterday, Cheney and Rumsfeld "demanded that the interrogators find evidence of al Qaida-Iraq collaboration."

Bush said the CIA efforts were successful, and that the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques" led to the capture of Ramzi bin al Shibh:

Zubaydah was questioned using these procedures, and soon he began to provide information on key al Qaeda operatives, including information that helped us find and capture more of those responsible for the attacks on September the 11th. For example, Zubaydah identified one of KSM’s accomplices in the 9/11 attacks — a terrorist named Ramzi bin al Shibh. The information Zubaydah provided helped lead to the capture of bin al Shibh.

And that’s where Soufan calls him a liar:

The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods… there was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics.

So somebody’s not telling the truth. And until there’s a formal investigation, we’ll never know whether the President of the United States lied to the American public in the September 2006 speech when he said that the use of torture had produced actionable intelligence. Because people who were there are now calling George Bush a bold-faced liar.

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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