I noticed something about as I’ve been working on some more Hassan Ghul posts. Abu Faraj al-Libbi–whom the ICRC refers to by his real name, Mustafah Faraj al-Azibi–was captured on May 2, 2005. Al-Libbi was (more credibly than usually) alleged to be al Qaeda’s then-number 3 when he was captured. This makes it possible he was the detainee mentioned obliquely and whose name is still redacted in the May 30, 2005 CAT memo (indeed, the name Abu Faraj al-Libbi would be a near fit for the redaction). It’s conceivable, after all, that al-Libbi would not need that much of a discussion in May 2005, and it would make sense to treat al-Libbi among the discussion of Ghul and–especially–KSM and Abu Zubaydah.

Now, this is all just an observation on the timing, one possibility. But if al-Libbi is the second detainee mentioned in the CAT memo, then he can’t be the detainee at question in the May 10, 2005 Combined memo–drafts of the Combined memo far predated the capture of al-Libbi (as did Jim Comey’s discussion of the individual detainee whom Combined really was about), even assuming some deception about his capture date.  

Also, we know that al-Libbi wasn’t waterboarded. He was interviewed for the ICRC report (which counted only three detainees having been waterboarded), though if he described his treatment to them, he asked them not to use his name. Interestingly, though, one of the detainees who was water doused was threatened–to the point of being loaded onto the waterboard table–with waterboarding.

In three cases cold water was also poured over the detainee while he was lying on a plastic sheet raised at the edges by guards to contain the water around his body creating an immersion bath with just the head exposed. In one case a detainee was strapped to a tilting bed and cold water was poured over his body while he was threatened with “water boarding” (although that procedure was not actually carried out on that individual).

We obviously don’t know one way or another. But the possibility that al-Libbi was the second detainee mentioned in the May 30 memo has me rethinking my wildarsed guess that the Combined Memo was written to make it possible to waterboard Detainee 2.



Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel is an American journalist whose reporting specializes in security and civil liberties.