CIA Once Again Buries Information on Abu Zubaydah’s Torture

I have long pointed out the close connection between the CIA’s OIG report on torture and the tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. The key dates are:

January 2003: CIA IG begins investigation into detainee interrogation.

February 10, 2003: Jane Harman writes a letter recording CIA Counsel Scott Muller drawing a connection between the torture tapes and the CIA IG investigation.

You discussed the fact that there is videotape of Abu Zubaydah following his capture that will be destroyed after the Inspector General finishes his inquiry

May 2003: CIA IG reviews the torture tapes at black site.

May 2004: CIA IG completes investigation, finding that CIA interrogation techniques are "cruel and inhumane."

May 2004: CIA and White House discuss destroying the tapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation.

November 9, 2005: Most complete report of IG investigation appears, revealing the "cruel and inhumane" conclusion.

Mid-November 2005: Torture tapes destroyed.

While there are surely other reasons why the CIA destroyed the torture tape, one thing the destruction of the tapes did was to eliminate one key piece of evidence that led the CIA’s own IG to conclude that the CIA’s interrogation methods were cruel and inhumane.

Well, over the course of the DOJ’s IG investigation into interrogation techniques, the CIA once again prevented investigators from accessing information–this time in the form of an interview of Abu Zubaydah–that would contribute to a conclusion that interrogation treatment was cruel and inhumane. In a footnote, DOJ’s IG report reveals that it interviewed High-Value Detainees at Gitmo, but that CIA refused to let DOJ’s IG to interview Abu Zubaydah.

When the OIG investigative team was preparing for its trip to GTMO in early 2007, we asked the DOD for permission to interview several detainees, including Zubaydah. The DOD agreed, stating that our interviews would not interfere with their attempts to obtain any intelligence from the detainees, including Zubaydah. However, the CIA Acting General Counsel [John Rizzo] objected to our interviewing Zubaydah. [three lines redacted]

In addition, the CIA Acting General Counsel asserted that the OIG had not persuaded him that the OIG had a "demonstrable and immediate need to interview Zubaydah at that time" given what the Acting General Counsel understood to be OIG’s "investigative mandate." In addition, the CIA Acting General Counsel asserted that Zubaydah could make false allegations against CIA employees. We believe that none of these reasons were persuasive or warranted denying us access to Zubaydah. First, neither the FBI nor the DOD objected to our access to Zubaydah at that time. In addition, neither the FBI nor the DOD stated that an OIG interview would interfere with their interviews of him. Second at GTMO we were given access to other high value detainees. Third, we did have a demonstrable and immediate need to interview Zubaydah at that time, as well as the other detainees who we were given access to, notwithstanding the CIA Acting General Counsel’s position that we had not persuaded him. Finally, the fact that Zubaydah could make false allegations against CIA employees–as could other detainees–was not in our view a legitimate reason to object to our access to him. In sum, we believe that the CIA’s reasons for objecting to OIG access to Zubaydah were unwarranted, and its lack of cooperation hampered our investigation.

For some reason–no doubt, because of what the CIA did to Abu Zubaydah–they remain intent on burying all evidence of the methods used in his interrogation.

The CIA has already admitted they waterboarded Abu Zubaydah. We have many reports that, since Zubaydah was already mentally disabled, those torture sessions netted nothing. So why are they still hiding the details of his torture so intently?

13 replies
  1. dosido says:

    You are a true patriot Marcy.

    Am currently reading about the compartmentalization of the Nazis’ efforts to isolate and destroy an entire population.

    Bureaucrats only knew about their one little responsibility of dismantling the government and writing new laws and implementing them etc.

    I’m thinking about good folks like Monica Goodling as I read it. i’m glad you are here to put many of the pieces into the big outrageous picture it is.

    • Loo Hoo. says:

      Fuzzing it up is a common practice in government. You hide intention and responsibility. You have one person say one thing, and another person the exact opposite. You create a blizzard of paper, so much paper that actual evidence is lost in the glut. And of course, you deny anything and everything you can deny — particularly the obvious. (Denying the obvious is always popular.) You produce noise, distraction and confusion. People rarely think of this as a well-established bureaucratic technique, but it is a tried and true methodology.

      Morris, NYT

  2. dosido says:

    So why are they still hiding the details of his torture so intently?

    because he must have some visible evidence of other methods used on him? Perhaps his fingernails are missing?

  3. WilliamOckham says:

    Wait, wait, don’t tell me.

    Because the details would directly implicate somebody important in conduct that is clearly torture?

    • emptywheel says:

      He is–he has spoken to another HVD at Gitmo (I don’t remember whom). But he wasn’t included in those charged for 9/11 (I asked Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg if she had heard anything about him being charged and she hadn’t), so I’m beginning to wonder whether they’re just not going to charge him.

  4. der1 says:

    The approved options were first applied after the capture in March 2002 of Abu Zubaydah, a senior Qaeda figure. Mr. Rizzo was responsible for the legal advice to the officers holding him in Thailand as they escalated physical and mental pressure.

    But colleagues said Mr. Rizzo insisted on Justice Department approval for actions they knew might be second-guessed.

    The intelligence officers’ conviction that the political and legal winds would shift has proved accurate. A Justice Department memorandum in 2002 declared that nothing short of the pain associated with organ failure constituted illegal torture; the department later withdrew it…..rizzo.html

    Of course Rizzo’s response would be to hide his role in this, eh?

  5. Mary says:

    I can’t get a search function to work on the pdf and don’t have time to read it now, but the few places my eyes lighted are fully of Mueller and his crew being unable to remember.

    No mentions that I could find of KSM’s children and DOJ/FBI’s knowledge/participation, or for el-Masri or Arar etc. NO questioning of Thompson on his sign off to send Arar to Syria? No mention of the FBI trying to send a detainee to Jordan or Egypt to get fried (although that could be what is redacted at the bottom of 128) No mention of coverups of Padilla treatment or the DOJ Nifongesque press conf there. Mentions of Coleman and Cloonan?

    But the biggest hole in all of it that I can see from a quick glance is that no one mentions anyone, throughout the whole of the DOJ, ever looking at any of the allegations and things being done and saying, “hmm, there’s a good possiblity of litigation later about these things, we are ehtically required to advise everyone to keep and hold all documents, recordings, digitized information, notes, etc.”

    And a subtheme that emerges when you look at binalshibh, Higazy, Slahi, etc. is just how much Bush torturers LOVE to threaten the rape and abuse of mothers and female family members and the torture of children. Threaten or arrange.

    There are also references to beatings and rape on video at Abu Ghraib being offered up to FBI, with the FBI guys not wanting to know about it.

    Kudos to Horton (must be in the name) for recognizing (p 136) “even if the FBI was not present during such interrogations, FBI agents would be inherently participating in the process because they would be interviewing detainees who had either recently been subjected to such techniques by the military or who would be subjected to them after the FBI interviews were completed.”

    To bad no one with the “Clean Team” ethics trust feels the same.

    Anyone who finds any white hats amongst Mueller’s upper echelons is working off the new, improved greyscale. Just look at how being so successfully forgetful has worked out for Wainstein. And I very much like the heroisms from Daniel Levin, who (p. 73) said they didn’t have to get FBI agents directly involved in torture because, well, gosh – “other agencies were available to do it.” Plural.


    I guess that should be plural as well.

  6. LS says:

    “Finally, the fact that Zubaydah could make false allegations against CIA employees–as could other detainees–was not in our view a legitimate reason to object to our access to him.”

    Yup, something is up.

  7. whitewidow says:

    Do we know what the other site in Iraq was?

    I know that two contractor whistleblowers, Vance and Ertel, were thrown in Camp Cropper and subjected to physical and mental interrogation techniques. One of them was held for 97 days as a “security risk”. This was after the two men went to the embassy for help. Instead they got a trip to Camp Cropper.

    The other interesting thing, they were periodically sending information about the fraud to an FBI agent in Chicago, because they didn’t trust anyone in Iraq. The FBI agent in Chicago ratted them out.

    I am wondering how many Americans may have been given “the treatment”.

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