Gul Rahman: Another Case Where Torture (and Homicide) Failed to Elicit the Location of Extremist Leaders

The US government has a long history of refusing to turn over evidence on its torture program, most recently when DOJ refused to cooperate with a Polish inquiry into the black site at which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded 183 times.

So it’s no surprise that they are refusing to turn over the remains of Gul Rahman–the detainee whom the CIA killed in the Salt Pit in 2002–to his family. (h/t Mary) The FBI is also refusing to turn over the autopsy report on Rahman’s death to the AP on account of the probably “pretend” investigation they’re conducting on it.


In addition to reporting that news, the AP reports the excuse the CIA is now giving for having killed Rahman in the first place.

Former CIA officials say Rahman was acting as a conduit between Hekmatyar and al-Qaida. Hekmatyar’s insurgent group is believed to be allied to al-Qaida. The former officials said the CIA had been tracking Rahman’s cell phone at the time of his capture and were hoping the suspected militant would provide information about Hekmatyar’s whereabouts.

But Rahman never cracked under questioning, refusing to help the CIA find Hekmatyar. Former CIA officials described him as one of the toughest detainees to pass through the CIA’s network of secret prisons.

Note the logic of this argument? For some reason, they couldn’t find Hekmatyar by tracking Rahman’s cell phone (Rahman was picked up long before Afghans got more aggressive about hiding their cell phone locations).

But if they couldn’t find Hekmatyar by tracking Rahman’s calls to him, then why were they so sure he knew where Hekmatyar was?

So now they’ve got to explain away his death because he was “one of the toughest detainees to pass through the CIA’s network of secret prisons,” and not because maybe he didn’t know the answer to the question they were asking, the location of Hekmatyar himself.

Of course, there’s a history of using the worst kinds of torture on detainees who don’t know or wouldn’t reveal the whereabouts of others, too. The location of Osama bin Laden, after all, is one of the things that KSM has said he lied about in response to his brutal torture.

And while we’re on the subject of lying, let’s return to what KSM has said he lied about while being tortured during his 2007 Combatant Status Review Tribunal.

… I make up stories just location UBL. Where is he? I don’t know. Then he torture me. Then I said yes, he is in this area of this is al Qaida which I don’t him.

Mind you, in KSM’s case, at least, Ali Soufan believes KSM could have been persuaded to reveal OBL’s location if only real interrogators had interviewed him.

KSM should consider himself lucky, I guess, that the government’s brutal torture in hopes of learning the location of top extremist leaders got slightly safer between the time they killed Rahman and wateboarded him a mere 183 times.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

  1. Jeff Kaye says:

    Mind you, in KSM’s case, at least, Ali Soufan believes KSM could have been persuaded to reveal OBL’s location if only real interrogators had interviewed him.

    “Real interrogators”… like Soufan, no doubt. But Soufan, as Spencer Ackerman pointed out, was involved in some pretty dubious interrogations, to say the least, not to mention the interrogation of Al Qahtani.

    As the 2008 Justice Department inspector-general report – PDF on the role of the FBI in torture describes it:

    Afterward, however, FBI agents participated in numerous interrogations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay that went far beyond the traditional “relationship-building techniques” employed by the bureau.

    One such interrogation involved “Thomas.” [“Thomas” is likely a pseudonym for Soufan.] At Guantanamo Bay, beginning in late July or early August 2002 — very soon after being withdrawn from the Abu Zubaydah interrogation — “Thomas” interrogated Mohammed al-Qatani, who was suspected of being a part of the 9/11 conspiracy and who was detained in Afghanistan after he was unable to enter the U.S. through Orlando in the summer of 2001. “Thomas,” the report reads, “had already obtained confessions from several detainees” at Guantanamo; the commander of the detention facility called him “a national treasure.”

    “Thomas” does not appear to have objected to the interrogation of al-Qatani, whatever his objections to the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah a few months prior. According to the report, “Thomas” recommended the use of non-FBI interrogation techniques on al-Qatani, including moving him “to a more remote location at GTMO so that he would not get social support from the other detainees.” The FBI case agent at Guantanamo, known by the pseudonym “Demeter,” noted to the inspector general that “isolation is not normally employed by law enforcement agencies” but could be “a very effective technique,” and so “Demeter” and “Thomas” received approval from unnamed “senior officials… up their chain of command” for use of the technique.”

    So, Soufan used the kind of techniques on Al Qahtani, or really much more intensive, that others now deride for being used on Bradley Manning.

    Btw, Soufan admitted under oath that the kinds of interrogation he used on Abu Zubaydah would not have met Geneva safeguards. From your liveblogging, EW (though I remember watching it on TV at the time):

    Graham: Waterboarding at 2002 was not clear what law it violated. Difference between law enforcement and intelligence gathering is a different thing. Was your interrogation Common Article 3 compliant, Soufan?

    Soufan: Not after 9/11.

    “Real interrogators”, my ass.

  2. bobschacht says:

    Of course we can’t prosecute torturers because we’re “looking forward, not backward.”

    I’m looking forward, too: I’m looking forward to the time when our Department of Justice once again enforces the Rule of Law equally on all citizens, regardless of rank or station. I am looking forward to the time when, once again, we honor our treaty obligations regarding the prosecution of war crimes. I am looking forward to a president who will protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, even if it means favoring a different branch of government (Congress, or the Courts) over the Executive Branch in a particular matter.

    I am looking forward to the time when Mary’s Wish List comes true (it should be posted here, but for some strange reason the FDL software doesn’t think that Mary has posted any diaries yet.)

    {Sigh} Unfortunately, I don’t expect to see these times any time soon.

    Bob in AZ