April 13, 2002; May 6, 2002, May 20, 2002; May 23, 2002; May 28, 2002; August 4, 2002; August 11, 2002

April 13, 2002; May 6, 2002, May 20, 2002; May 23, 2002; May 28, 2002…

Those are some of the most important dates from  from the log of "all contemporaneous and derivative records" on the destruction of Abu Zubaydah’s (and some time that fall, al-Nashiri’s) interrogation tapes [corrected per Spencer–thx Spencer].

Here’s why they’re important.

April 13, 2002: This is the first date, the CIA claims, for which it has any records. That either suggests they weren’t keeping records right away (in spite of claims that they were meticulously trying to document that they weren’t killing Abu Zubaydah). Or it represents the first date that the CIA got to him. If it’s the latter, it would suggest the FBI had a while–perhaps as many as ten days–working with Abu Zubaydah before the CIA came in.That would be consistent, though, with Ali Soufan’s narrative.

May 6, 2002, May 20, 2002; May 23, 2002; May 28, 2002: Check out how many pages each of these cables from the field (Thailand) back to HQ is. The longest days are:

May 6, 2002: 28 pages

May 20, 2002: 12 pages

May 23, 2002: 13 pages

May 28, 2002: 12 pages

June 12, 2002: 10 pages

August 11, 2002: 11 pages

August 20, 2002: 10 pages

November 17, 2002: 11 pages

November 30, 2002: 11 pages*

December 2, 2002: 11 pages

Most of the rest of the cables are just 2-5 pages long. 

These dates are significant because, with the exception of two August dates, all of the longer reports came when at least one of the FBI interrogators remained on the scene; the longest one came when Ali Soufan was on the scene. 

The CIA’s description of most of the cables from August are fairly standard (part one, part two).  Here’s what they’re willing to tell us about that August 11, 11-page cable:

This is an eleven-page cable from the Field to CIA Headquarters. The cable includes information concerning the strategies for interrogation sessions; the use of interrogation techniques to elicit information on terrorist operations against the U.S.; reactions to the interrogation techniques; raw intelligence; and a status of threat information. The cable also includes CIA organizational information, CIA filing information, locations of CIA facilities, and the names and/or identifying information of personnel engaged in counterterrorism operations.

Like I said, most of these descriptions are pretty standard, with just a little variation. Though we have descriptions only for August cables, not May ones.

From that we can surmise one of several things about those days when the Field sent longer cables. The days with the longer cables might include more raw intelligence. In other words, the interrogations were more productive. Or, those cables (the May cables for which we don’t have descriptions) include details of something else–such as squabbles and turf battles with the FBI interrogators present. Or those dates might be days when James Mitchell, doing his experiments with Abu Zubaydah was gleefully regaling those in HQ (though Soufan said the small box came out but was not yet used before he left, so not the worst of the torture). While we can’t be sure of which it is–either evidence that non-coercive interrogations were more productive than all but two of the harshest interrogations (or something else)–it sure makes it worthwhile for ACLU to demand descriptions for those longer days, particularly for May 6, 2002, when Ali Soufan was probably present. 

Next look at the length of the handwritten logs during the early months of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. 133 pages on April 13, 2002. And another one of 59 on August 4, 2002. These may well be medical logs (or the earlier one could be FBI/CIA notes from before the Mitchell contractors arrived). But again, the longer one comes from the early days, just as CIA begins to track his interrogation.

There’s more of interest from the later periods (such as the October 11, 2002 photo and the many drafts of a timeline–what I could do with a timeline…) I’ll look at those in later posts. Also, see Spencer’s post on this.

* Remember, these later dates may be al-Nashiri, not Abu Zubaydah. Also, note the November 30, 13-page memo, which is one of the few examples of written communication from HQ to the field.

64 replies
  1. Spencer Ackerman says:

    August 4, 2002, three days after the issuance of the OLC memo. 59 page “handwritten log book.” Sent not to HQ but to “Record.”

  2. bobschacht says:

    I’ll bet you have pinpointed the important point with the FBI connection, and your hypothesis that “those cables … include details of something else–such as squabbles and turf battles with the FBI interrogators present.”

    Good work!

    Bob in HI

    • emptywheel says:

      I’m agnostic. That’s why I think ACLU should push for more detail on them. But I find it mighty interesting that the longest of all cables came back before Soufan left.

      Imagine, though, if those squabbles were documented, how quick you could prosecute whomever represnted to OLC that AZ hadn’t cooperated.

      • nadezhda says:

        Even if the cables don’t document squabbles, if they show a flood of raw intel dwindling to a trickle as the torture techniques ratcheted up, it would provide considerable confirmation of Soufan’s assessment that “getting tough” was counterproductive.

  3. emptywheel says:

    I also find the November 30, 2002 date very suspicious, probably for al-Nashiri. Remember he was only waterboarded twice, possibly in one session. I think something went badly wrong, which is why they don’t claim waterboarding worked with him. That’s teh kind of thing that woudl generate a memo from HQ.

  4. Styve says:

    Any idea when the decision was made to have tracheotome surgical kits on hand when waterboarding detainees?

    Great work, EW and SA!!

  5. bobschacht says:

    If the longest cables are earliest, I would guess the early ones are just being overly descriptive because it was “new territory” for them. But when the new report doesn’t differ substantially from the old one, they just cut down on the repetition. That’s the benign explanation.

    Bob in HI

  6. EdwardTeller says:

    This past week’s work by emptywheel is journalism history. Let’s hope next week brings us so much further it overshadows even this one.

    Brava, Marcy!

    Spencer’s stuff is quite good, too.

    • Bluetoe2 says:

      Yeah, Marcy is doing stellar work but with the current Congress and Obama’s DOJ it may well be for naught. Future historians will be greatful but don’t expect contemporary Amerika to be greatful.

    • JClausen says:

      My niece who is employed by Senator Begich knew of you and your work at Progressive Alaska. I had a good conversation about how we firepups hold you in such high esteem. You are making a difference.

  7. MadDog says:

    From pages 111-112 of the DOJ OIG’s report on “A Review of the FBI’s Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq” dated May 2008:

    …Within a few days, CIA personnel assumed control over the interviews, although they asked Gibson and Thomas to observe and assist. Gibson told the OIG that the CIA interrogators said Zubaydah was only providing “throw-away information” and that they needed to diminish his capacity to resist.

    Thomas described for the OIG the techniques that he saw the CIA interrogrators use on Zubaydah after they took control of the interrogation. [Several sentences redacted] Thomas said he raised objections to these techniques to the CIA and told the CIA it was “borderline torture.”42 He stated that Zubaydah was responding to the FBI’s rapport-based approach before the CIA assumed control over the interrogation, but became uncooperative after being subjected to the CIA’s techniques.

    During his interview with the OIG, Gibson did not express as much concern about the techniques used by the CIA as Thomas did. Gibson stated, however, that during the period he was working with the CIA, [the rest of the paragraph – multiple sentences redacted].

    Footnote 42 [redacted in its entirety]

    [redaction continued] Gibson said that the CIA personnel assured him that the procedures being used on Zubayda had been approved “at the highest levels” and that Gibson would not get in any trouble. [the rest of the paragraph – multiple sentences redacted].

    Thomas communicated his concerns about the CIA’s methods to the FBI Counterterrorism Assistant Director Pasquale D’Amuro by telephone. D’Amuro and Thomas told the OIG that D’Amuro ultimately gave the instruction that Thomas and Gibson should come home and not participate in the CIA interrogation. However, Gibson and Thomas provided the OIG differing accounts of the circumstances of their departure from the CIA facility where Zubaydah was being interrogated. Thomas stated that D’Amuro instructed the agents to leave the facility immediately and that he complied.

    However, Gibson said he was not immediately ordered to leave the facility. Gibson said that he remained at the CIA facility until some time in early June 2002, several weeks after Thomas left, and that he continued to work with the CIA and participate in interviewing Zubaydah. Gibson stated that he kept Frahm informed of his activities with the CIA by means of several telephone calls, which Frahm confirmed. Gibson stated the final decision regarding whether the FBI would continue to participate in the Zubaydah interrogations was not made until after Gibson returned to the United States for a meeting about Zubaydah.

    Gibson stated that after he returned to the United States he told D’Amuro that he did not have a “moral objection” to be present for the CIA techniques because the CIA was acting professionally and Gibson himself had undergone comparable harsh interrogation techniques as part of U.S. Army Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training. Gibson said that after a meeting with the CIA, D’Amuro told him that he would not be returning to the Zubaydah interview…

    (My Bold)

    • MadDog says:

      I should note that both Gibson and Thomas are pseudonyms for the FBI agents.

      As I understand it, Thomas is the pseudonym for Ali Soufan, and below is some additional info from his recent testimony at Senator Whitehouse’s Senate hearing May 14th 2009:

      …Immediately after Abu Zubaydah was captured, a fellow FBI agent and I were flown to meet him at an undisclosed location. We were both very familiar with Abu Zubaydah and have successfully interrogated al-Qaeda terrorists. We started interrogating him, supported by CIA officials who were stationed at the location, and within the first hour of the interrogation, using the Informed Interrogation Approach, we gained important actionable intelligence.

      The information was so important that, as I later learned from open sources, it went to CIA Director George Tenet who was so impressed that he initially ordered us to be congratulated. That was apparently quickly withdrawn as soon as Mr. Tenet was told that it was FBI agents, who were responsible. He then immediately ordered a CIA CTC interrogation team to leave DC and head to the location to take over from us.

      During his capture Abu Zubaydah had been injured. After seeing the extent of his injuries, the CIA medical team supporting us decided they were not equipped to treat him and we had to take him to a hospital or he would die. At the hospital, we continued our questioning as much as possible, while taking into account his medical condition and the need to know all information he might have on existing threats.

      We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM’s role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) All this happened before the CTC team arrived.

      A few days after we started questioning Abu Zubaydah, the CTC interrogation team finally arrived from DC with a contractor who was instructing them on how they should conduct the interrogations, and we were removed. Immediately, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, starting with nudity. (The harsher techniques mentioned in the memos were not introduced or even discussed at this point.)

      The new techniques did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking. At that time nudity and low-level sleep deprivation (between 24 and 48 hours) was being used. After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from DC asking why all of sudden no information was being transmitted (when before there had been a steady stream), we again were given control of the interrogation.

      We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence.

      This included the details of Jose Padilla, the so-called “dirty bomber.” To remind you of how important this information was viewed at the time, the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held a press conference from Moscow to discuss the news. Other important actionable intelligence was also gained that remains classified.

      After a few days, the contractor attempted to once again try his untested theory and he started to re-implementing the harsh techniques. He moved this time further along the force continuum, introducing loud noise and then temperature manipulation.

      Throughout this time, my fellow FBI agent and I, along with a top CIA interrogator who was working with us, protested, but we were overruled. I should also note that another colleague, an operational psychologist for the CIA, had left the location because he objected to what was being done.

      Again, however, the technique wasn’t working and Abu Zubaydah wasn’t revealing any information, so we were once again brought back in to interrogate him. We found it harder to reengage him this time, because of how the techniques had affected him, but eventually, we succeeded, and he re-engaged again.

      Once again the contractor insisted on stepping up the notches of his experiment, and this time he requested the authorization to place Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, as the next stage in the force continuum. While everything I saw to this point were nowhere near the severity later listed in the memos, the evolution of the contractor’s theory, along with what I had seen till then, struck me as “borderline torture.”

      As the Department of Justice IG report released last year states, I protested to my superiors in the FBI and refused to be a part of what was happening. The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, a man I deeply respect, agreed passing the message that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out.

      As you can see from this timeline, many of the claims made in the memos about the success of the enhanced techniques are inaccurate. For example, it is untrue to claim Abu Zubaydah wasn’t cooperating before August 1, 2002. The truth is that we got actionable intelligence from him in the first hour of interrogating him.

      In addition, simply by putting together dates cited in the memos with claims made, falsehoods are obvious. For example, it has been claimed that waterboarding got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Jose Padilla. But that doesn’t add up: Waterboarding wasn’t approved until 1 August 2002 (verbally it was authorized around mid July 2002), and Padilla was arrested in May 2002.

      The same goes for KSM’s involvement in 9/11: That was discovered in April 2002, while waterboarding was not introduced until almost three months later. It speaks volumes that the quoted instances of harsh interrogation methods being a success are false.

      Nor can it be said that the harsh techniques were effective, which is why we had to be called back in repeatedly. As we know from the memos, the techniques that were apparently introduced after I left did not appear to work either, which is why the memos granted authorization for harsher techniques. That continued for several months right till waterboarding was introduced, which had to be used 83 times – an indication that Abu Zubaydah had called the interrogator’s bluff knowing the glass ceiling that existed.

      Authoritative CIA, FBI, and military sources have also questioned the claims made by the advocates of the techniques. For example, in one of the recently released Justice Department memos, the author, Stephen Bradbury, acknowledged a (still classified) internal CIA Inspector General report that had found it “difficult to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks.”

      In summary, the Informed Interrogation Approach outlined in the Army Field Manual is the most effective, reliable, and speedy approach we have for interrogating terrorists. It is legal and has worked time and again.

      It was a mistake to abandon it in favor of harsh interrogation methods that are harmful, shameful, slower, unreliable, ineffective, and play directly into the enemy’s handbook. It was a mistake to abandon an approach that was working and naively replace it with an untested method. It was a mistake to abandon an approach that is based on the cumulative wisdom and successful tradition of our military, intelligence, and law enforcement community, in favor of techniques advocated by contractors with no relevant experience.

      The mistake was so costly precisely because the situation was, and remains, too risky to allow someone to experiment with amateurish, Hollywood style interrogation methods- that in reality- taints sources, risks outcomes, ignores the end game, and diminishes our moral high ground in a battle that is impossible to win without first capturing the hearts and minds around the world. It was one of the worst and most harmful decisions made in our efforts against al Qaeda.

      For the last seven years, it was not easy objecting to these methods when they had powerful backers. I stood up then for the same reason I’m willing to take on critics now, because I took an oath swearing to protect this great nation. I could not stand by quietly while our country’s safety was endangered and our moral standing damaged.

      I know you are motivated by the same considerations, and I hope you help ensure that these grave mistakes are never made again.

      Thank you.

        • MadDog says:

          Thanks! I was trying the Google to find that out. As far as I could tell, Ali Soufan was never in the U.S. Army, and therefore couldn’t be the one who claimed SERE experience there.

  8. nadezhda says:

    EW — on a somewhat related topic (i.e. reliability or not of internal CIA-WH communications), have you seen Phil Giraldi’s comments from a week ago on the memos Cheney is asking to be declassified? He hasn’t seen them. But he’s a regular pipe for spook messages. And he claims, not surprisingly, that he’s been told the memos are sanitized spin.

    They were written by the CIA staff tasked with carrying out the interrogations which inevitably had a vested interest in making the program appear to be both effective and legal. Other Agency components, including its Inspector General’s office, opposed the program for various reasons, including its failure to produce any genuine intelligence, so there was hardly any consensus even inside the CIA on the procedure and effectiveness.

    The memos cite several leads developed from the interrogations which may or may not have led to the thwarting of terrorist plots, but they make no attempt to critique the interrogation process itself to determine if the information might have been obtained more conventionally. None of the interrogations of “high value suspects” related to a “smoking gun scenario” where a detainee knew details of an imminent terrorist attack, meaning that the waterboarding was carried out even when there was no pressing need to use that technique. The memos also did not address the issue of the numerous false leads and bogus information derived from confessions under torture that made the entire process questionable.

    The memos were probably produced later than 2002, not contemporaneously with the interrogations, if they were in part to address internal IG opposition. But the memos would have at least in part used contemporaneous documentation, such as the cables you’re talking about, from 2002.

    I’d assume that folks pushing for torture were pretty careful about what they put in the cables. Those who wanted to get approval for successively harsher interrogations methods would have wanted to put their actions and requests in the best possible light. They must have known that at some stage in the future their patrons would need the files papered pretty well to counter their internal opponents and later second guessing of their behavior.

    Also relative to the internal papering of files and documents. Remember that quote from the “senior Bush admin official” (you speculated probably Bellinger) in the WaPo from April 24. The CIA folks didn’t tell the NSC what they knew about the downside of the EITs, even though at least Hayes at DoD had the memo describing the dangers and unreliability of using SERE. The official claimed the NSC folks were told only that the methods were “safe and effective and there was no alternative.”

    As the stuff continues to dribble out, one of the main narratives is going to become the internal bureaucratic gamesmanship by the Torture Proponents — keeping potential dissenters away from the program; misleading by spin and ommission, if not out-and-out lying by commission; manipulating the internal approval process in order to get bureaucratic boxes checked. It’s what Zelikow was describing within the executive branch. And it’s the same pattern for how they handled the Gang(s) in Congress, as Pelosi et al have claimed.

    ADD: And to clarify. Is this discovery in connection with the litigation that is precluding CIA from declassifying and releasing Cheney’s memos? That is, can we assume that the log shows “contemporaneous” and Cheney’s memos are “derivative”?

  9. Bluetoe2 says:

    Now it appears Obama’s DOJ is siding with the Bush DOJ in opposing the SCOTUS reconsidering the Plame/Wilson lawsuit. Has anyone started a countdown when the Obama administration is out of office? For the good of America and the middle class it can’t be soon enough.

  10. MadDog says:

    EW, I want to compliment both you and Spencer for jumping on this latest find!

    Now having said that, I found this ABC News report, dated May 12, 2009 that had already identified Fredo as the source of the “approvals” for Abu Zubaydah’s intial torture regime:

    As President Bush’s top lawyer, Alberto Gonzales pressed counterterror officials to use brutal interrogation techniques on terror suspect Abu Zubaydah in 2002, even when those techniques hindered Zubaydah’s cooperation, a former FBI agent who was present is expected to testify Wednesday before Congress…

    …”We’re the United States, we don’t do this,” Soufan is said to have told the CIA officers. According to the former operative, the CIA officer told Soufan, “It’s coming from Alberto Gonzales.” Gonzales was then White House counsel to President George W. Bush. Later, he would become Attorney General…

  11. ART45 says:


    Your posts suggest strongly our government lies to us.

    You present facts and implicitly ask for conclusions.

    I am ready to grab a pitchfork and a torch, but I need a leader.

    You fire me up.

    Who is the leader?

  12. TheraP says:

    Seizures. Re Abu Zubaida. (from 080819 motion for medical records)

    First I will give a true account of a child I taught for an entire year, during the 70’s at a time when I was teaching young children (before I became a psychologist). The reason I’m referring to this child is because I had known her for many years, even before I became her teacher. Although she often had grand mal seizures in every other grade, never once did she have a seizure in my classroom. I had a full time classroom aide. A very motherly person, who had worked in the ER as a nurse’s aide before coming to work with me. In addition, I ran a classroom where the children had a great deal of autonomy, could move around at will, leave the room to use the bathroom at will, and work together in small groups or individually. It was a caring environment with a lot of individualization. I repeat, this child never had a seizure during an entire school year with me. Although she had them in every other class in that school, which ran from K-6. I left the area after she would have finished 4th grade.

    I realize this is lengthy. But I have always assumed that there was something about the reduced level of stress this child had in my classroom, in addition, perhaps, to the fact that she had known me, a little bit, from previously living near me when she was in preschool, and possibly the reassurance that my classroom aide had ER experience, in addition to being a very motherly person.

    Indeed, it was difficult to get the child to leave school at the end of many school days! She didn’t want to leave. (We had to resort to strategems…)

    The reason I’m making a big deal out of this is that I am certain seizures, like many medical conditions are related to stress. Although not entirely. For that reason, I cannot help but think that someone left in solitary confinement, who has previously been tortured, would have stress-related seizures. Whether or not the seizures were torture-related initially.

    I will carefully read the record. But I feel certain an individual with seizures, for many reasons, should not be in solitary confinement – where, if he has a seizure, who is there to monitor and/or treat the person. This seems inexcusable to me!

    P. 2 – “seizures returned shortly after counsel’s visit” “seizures are brought on by noise and bright lights”

    p. 3 – they started after a head injury due to an explosion in 92-93 (he had to relearn to speak, so we’re talking a head injury in the area above the left ear) “unconscious for hours… till guards come” guards wake him with ammonia (oh, dear lord!)

    [I volunteer at a local medical center – Medical College – often people with seizure disorders come to spend a week, with electrodes on their skulls, to diagnose the source of seizures and for doctors to decide on treatment]

    p. 4 – or maybe it’s migraines… brought on by light and noise “both of which are constant in his cell” (gee, how nice!)

    p. 6 – “torture designed to reduce him to a state of learned helplessness”
    (ah, yes, the experimental conditions, based on Seligman’s theory and methods, which he underwent without consent! = war crime!) “to render him wholly dependent on his captors (who, nevertheless, seem not to be taking sufficient care of him! hmmmm… make him helpless and dependent, but then neglect him via solitary when he has these “episodes”) PROOF THE EXPERIMENTATION OCCURRED via Ashcroft testimony (7/17/08) “weeks if not months before DoJ was commissioned to provide legal memorandums to provide justification and approval for his treatment”

    WAR CRIME! right there on page 6

    moving right along….

  13. LabDancer says:

    Over the course of the first 232 days, there are 540 communications, 538 of those described as “CABLE”, with two described as “HANDWRITTEN LOG BOOK”, and all except two — TWO! — are shown as flowing from “FIELD” to “HQTRS”.

    This isn’t exactly consistent with a complete record of all communications between an agency field operation anxious for guidance and higher-ups responding to that anxiety.

    • nadezhda says:

      FWIW – MadDog @10 has a quote that indicates that at least the FBI interrogators were communicating from the field to their HQ via phone.

      So a one-way paper trail — which contained what the CIA interrogators/contractors wanted on the record — would be plausible. And would be consistent with the pattern of cable communications you’re noting.

    • MadDog says:

      I was busy constructing my comment in # 27 above to also jump on that “one-way” set of communications.

      It just smacks me in the face, and I guess it hit you too! *g*

  14. MadDog says:

    EW, I would like to also throw out this “curiosity” from the the log:

    Note that almost all of the communications are one-way. That is, from the FIELD to HQTRS.

    There is rarely any communication in the other direction. Here’s the list of HQTRS commmunications to the FIELD:

    5/28/02 4 page CABLE from HQTRS to FIELD
    11/30/02 13 page MEMO from HQTRS to FIELD

    1/9/2003 5 page MEMO FOR RECORD from HQTRS to FIELD
    2/3/2002 5 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD
    2/10/2003 8 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD
    5/22/2003 4 page MEMO FOR RECORD from HQTRS to FIELD
    6/17/2003 6 page HANDWRITTEN NOTES from HQTRS to FIELD
    6/18/2003 2 page EMAIL from HQTRS to FIELD
    6/18/2003 5 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD

    12/3/2007 5 page EMAIL from HQTRS to FIELD
    12/10/2007 5 page EMAIL W/MEMO from HQTRS to FIELD
    12/10/2007 2 page EMAIL from HQTRS to FIELD
    12/28/2007 7 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD
    1/7/2008 13 page EMAIL from HQTRS to FIELD

    A couple things jump out at me:

    1) The CIA folks claimed authorization for torture techniques had been approved “at the highest levels”. The only written communication from HQTRS to the FIELD that fits this timing is the one on 5/28/02.

    Where is the written White House record of this “authorization” to the CIA? Did Fredo simply provide verbal “authorization” over the phone to the CIA (and just who at the CIA? George Tenet? Cofer Black at the CTC? John McLaughlin, deputy CIA director? Who???).

    There “apparently” was no further written communication from HQTRS to the FIELD until literally 6 months later on 11/30/02.

    2) 6 months without any written communication from HQTRS to the FIELD should be ringing alarm bells all over! How is it that there is zero written communications from HQTRS to the FIELD on the interrogation of this “High Value Detainee (HVD)” for almost 6 months?

    3) Written communication from HQTRS to the FIELD literally stop on 6/18/2003 and go on hiatus until 12/3/2007. That was almost 4 1/2 years of hiatus!

    WTF? Just what was going on with Abu Zubaydah in that period of time? He wasn’t transferred to DoD custody at GITMO until September 2006.

    • emptywheel says:

      Three things. Didn’t see that HQ to field–thanks. Also note the field to field on May 12, 2002 and some in June.

      Second, yes, it appears they got verbal approval from AGAG. Oops–you’re screwed now, boys.

      Third, From the filings on AZ I posted today, it’s fairly clear his trip to Gitmo in 2006 was his second trip there. So the 2003 date may simply represent when he got to Gitmo the first time.

      • MadDog says:

        …Third, From the filings on AZ I posted today, it’s fairly clear his trip to Gitmo in 2006 was his second trip there. So the 2003 date may simply represent when he got to Gitmo the first time.

        And from your earlier AZ post, this:

        …To date, Petitioner has completed eleven volumes of his diary, each written in a slender, bound notebook. He currently is writing volume 12. He wrote the first six volumes before his March 2002 arrest. Volumes 7 through 9 were drafted while Petitioner was in CIA custody. Volumes 10 and 11 were completed in DoD custody at Guatanamo, after September 2006; only these last two volumes, written after Petitioner was transferred from CIA to DoD custody

        (My Bold)

        Even if AZ had more than one vacation at GITMO (I don’t disagree with this assertion), the CIA still had custody of him until Sept. 2006 when they transferred custody to the DoD.

        And if you go back to today’s log, I would note the “paucity” of any communications, regardless of direction, from either the FIELD or HQTRS after 2003.


        And note that the only communications for the entirety of 2003 are in one direction – from HQTRS to FIELD!

        1/9/2003 5 page MEMO FOR RECORD from HQTRS to FIELD
        2/3/2002 5 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD
        2/10/2003 8 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD
        5/22/2003 4 page MEMO FOR RECORD from HQTRS to FIELD
        6/17/2003 6 page HANDWRITTEN NOTES from HQTRS to FIELD
        6/18/2003 2 page EMAIL from HQTRS to FIELD
        6/18/2003 5 page INTERVIEW REPORT from HQTRS to FIELD

        Ummm…AZ is in CIA’s custody until September 2006 when they transfer custody to DoD at GITMO.

        No, none, nada, zilch, communications occur from the FIELD after 12/4/02.

        The only 2003 communications are from HQTRS.

        No, none, nada, zilch, communications occur at all during calendar years 2004, 2005, and 2006. This is while AZ is still in the CIA’s custody.

        Curiouser and curiouser! Would that be an understatement? *g*

        • R.H. Green says:

          Greetings from late nite catchup. Something that leaps out at me in your comments is that you are showing Interview Reports flowing from Headquarters to Field. Am I reading that right?

  15. JasonLeopold says:

    FYI, the CIA just said it found documents going as far back as April 1, 2002 and extending to June 30, 2003 related to the destruction of the interrogation tapes. I haven’t uploaded the pdf file yet, but I just wrote about it.

  16. TheraP says:

    Abu Zubaida (from 080819 motion for medical records)

    p. 7 – govt refuses med records 8/13/08

    From Argument:

    Estelle V Gamble 429 US 97 (1976) (”An inmate must rely on prison authorities to meet his medical needs; if the authorities fail to do so, those needs will not be met. In the worst cases, such a failure may actually produce physical torture or a lingering death.’”)

    This authority takes on special significance in habeas, where one party is literally held by and at the mercy of the other. And all the more so in this particular habeas;…. has been subjected to the most violent forms of detention and interrogation every sanctioned by the U.S. Government. He is now apparently in serious medical distress.”

    Ok. Very important. Failure to meet medical needs … may actually produce physical torture.

    But that leads me to wonder, since psychological problems are also “medical needs” – and if the authorities fail to meet those medical needs .. would that in itself also be considered mental torture. (I say this in terms of other detainees who may have PTSD for example. Why would they not? Thus, the medical sequelae to torture may themselves be torture if medical needs are not met. To me, solitary confinement, by itself, consists of such a failure. 24 hour light and noise on top of that. Very interesting line of inquiry here – worth further thinking with regard to any other detainees.

    p. 8 –

    “seizures not only imperil his immediate health but severely compromise his ability to participate in his case and prepare his defense. By themselves, the seizures reduce his ability to communicate with counsel and recall events. They also affect his capacity to write and speak.”

    N.B. After his head injury in 92-93, he had to relearn speech! So one has to wonder what other cognitive difficulties he had even when captured! (I have a suspicion he never had neuropsych testing to find out to what degree cognitive impairments due to his head injury were still a factor PRIOR to the torture. I also wonder about all these notebooks he’s filled. Sometimes people with a head injury and seizures have “hypergraphia” – a sort of compulsion to write. Sure would like to see what he writes… especially if someone knew his language and was a psychologist. So, here we have a guy with a head injury, who had to relearn speech, experimented on by a psychologist while he was a prisoner, a psychologist with no experience in interrogation, who could not speak his language and likely had no way of knowing what cognitive impairments were there. Plus, he was experimented on without consent (who would consent to a treatment designed to make him totally helpless anyway?) – which is a Crime Against Humanity, for which persons were indicted and convicted during the Nuremberg Trials.

    Boy would I hate to be this psychologist! He is in big trouble! Every which way! I wonder how many crimes Mary can find here!

    p. 8 – plus what else may the seizures/headaches/migraines indicate? brain damage? brain tumor? (his lawyer is concerned…. ME TOO!)

    Unless somebody stops me, I’m just gonna keep right on going here…

  17. TheraP says:

    Abu Zubaida (from 080819 motion for medical records)

    p. 9 – Main issue: can he speak and write with enough ability to help prepare defense etc?
    (lawyer preoccupied with discovery issues)

    Aside: Frankly, IANAL, but the lawyer’s point here is to try and make sure his client is able to participate meaningfully in preparing for trial. Now, personally, I’m not sure the medical records will provide the answer to that. If I were consulting, I’d say this man not only needs a thorough medical eval, including a hospital type stay where his brain is monitored 24 hours a day in order to determine what brain activity is normal vs abnormal. On top of that I’d say he needs, in his own langauge, a neuropsych eval in order to determine his cognitive functioning. Past history isn’t going to tell us what’s going on now – unless you were able to compare data. Which might be nice, but I kind of doubt they have a neuropsych eval on him. Indeed, the psychologist who tortured him may have been torturing a brain-damaged individual to start (likely).

    Here’s the thing about brain damage. The single most important factor for anyone with brain damage is memory problems! Also concentration. So, now, picture trying to interrogate someone with memory problems!!! I do understand that he did give important info before the torture. Still…. torture is certainly going to impair concentration. Stress does that to you!

    Regardless of his past brain damage, how the heck can this man participate in preparing a defense or in a trial if he is now brain damaged due to whatever? So I’d recommend a work-up in a hospital setting for the seizures or whatever. And neuropsych testing.

  18. Palli says:

    Oh my….thank you, TheraP, you are bringing me to tears
    This medical stuff will be very potent if presented to the American public…

  19. MadDog says:

    …The CIA’s description of most of the cables from August are fairly standard (part one, part two)…

    Another “curiosity” that I want to note “for the record”: *g*

    These Vaughn Indexes do not list any of the communications between the FIELD and HQTRS earlier than August 2002.

    That means that the government was not being “truthful” in documenting via their Vaughn Indexes, all of the government’s communications concerning the interrogation/torture of Abu Zabaydah.

    That means that until today’s production of this latest log, the government “hid” their knowledge of 249 additional documents germane to Judge Hellerstein’s order wrt producing the Vaughn Index.

    And given this latest “oops” production by the government, I think one can safely assume that the latest log again does not identify the entire universe of germane government documents.

    I wonder if Judge Hellerstein has the very same thought?

    • JasonLeopold says:

      Those pre-August indexes is what the CIA is trying to withhold. Hellerstein ordered that the agency turn over the pre-August documents on April 20. Today, the CIA said said it would work with the ACLU on a production schedule related to the pre-August 2002 documents.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        Sorry. I should have been a bit clearer. In addition to the log, the CIA is supposed to turn over vaughn indexes and detailed documents about the contents of the interrogation tapes and the identity of the interrogators. The CIA balked at doing that. And today the agency said it would work out a schedule. That’s separate from the log you discussed. Sorry about that.

  20. Rayne says:

    Convenient that all of the communications dates mentioned fall within the period of time when the White House email backup process consisted of “manually label[ing] and archive[ing] each component’s Exchange .pst (Personal Storage Table) files every day.”

    I wonder if NARA bothered yet to check on the integrity of email records for the period 2001-2002…

  21. TheraP says:

    Abu Zubaida (from 080819 motion for medical records)

    N.B. Footnote on p. 6 – also buttresses torture prior to any legal authorization!

    N.B. A lawyer needs to check on legal stuff on pages 8,9,10 – related to discovery of requested docs.

    According to p. 10, his own medical records are already available to him. (so it’s other stuff maybe they want?) But as I say records won’t tell you about current capacity.

    Starting at page 12, there’a verbatim transcript of the CSRT hearing (appears to be on whether or not he is an enemy combatant – on p. 16) List of charges is read.

    Zubaida speaks English, but states he has difficulty now.

    *Vols 5 & 6 of diary not available (p. 19) (end of unclassified evidence)

    Zubaida has a statement on Defensive Jihad (”every Muslim’s duty to defend if a Muslim country is attacked” = he got involved with that in 94; different from offensive Jihad of Osama bin Ladin) His account of what he did. He disagreed with 9/11, killing of innocents.

    N.B. Inconsistency in the document here. Lawyer states his injury was in 92, but he says he joined up in 94. (?memory problem?)

    pp. 20-23 (his personal statement) Lots of details. Someone with knowledge of this should likely take a look.

    pp 23- summary of what is in diary #4 that pertains to accusations

    N.B. diary entries not in English (translations for court) so he can speak English but it’s not the language he writes in.

    N.B. transcript suggests his English is broken. Questions and Answers from pp 24-33

    p.31. He talks about memory problems making it difficult for him to use guns. Hmmm…. well, he does have these headaches that start in the back of his head. Does he have visual/spacial problems somehow related to the rear part of his brain? that would back up what he’s saying? Again, there needs to be an eval of his brain damage. Just a guess here.

    ??? Is there more than one hearing? As he’s claiming his seizures prevented speaking on his own that day. Yet it would appear he did speak earlier. Or maybe that was written? I’m confused here. Transcript does seem to show detainee spoke (unless this was done on different occaions)

    p. 34 – he states he had seizures after they refused to give him his diary. (this fits with my theory that sometimes stress can cause seizures) We’d need objective evidence of the seizures or whatever. Some kind of testing. Nevertheless it seems the stress is that the diaries would support his contentions against the accusations and not having access to them is stressful and affects his seizures. He feels they broke their promises. He calls that “torture” – and I can understand that being so unable to prove things or have access to his diaries would indeed be very stressful. (see personal thoughts below)

    p. 35 – he complains he’s had no lawyer at the tribunal.

    His language on p. 35 (TOP) seems logical, reasonable, English a bit better, where he’s explaining about having no lawyer.

    BOTTOM – p. 35, when discussing being tortured, his language becomes very disjointed (to my mind) in comparison to just above when discussing no lawyer. I find that persuasive. His becoming disconnected in the way he speaks, when recalling a stressful situation.

    That makes clinical sense.

    p. 36 (top) He’s talking about the confusion of interrogation (from long ago), not knowing what they want from him. Asking him again and again. They sometimes believe him, sometimes not. He doesn’t know what they want or need.

    They ask him if the statements he’s made the day of the hearing are completely voluntary, of his own free will. He says yes.

    This has only all been about whether he’s considered an enemy combatant or not! (the endlessness of this whole thing for any human!!!)

    P. 37. He feels that when they took his writing they took his child. For him, taking away his diaries, his writing, is a worse torture than anything the CIA did to him, he says. It makes him suffer.


    Bottom of page 37, top of page 38. Very tragic. To me. Here’s a man deprived of his liberty. In solitary confinement. They’ve taken away his life. They’ve taken his recorded history. He feels his writing was like a child. Very personal. To me, as a psychologist this makes sense. This has robbed him of his dignity, his privacy, his history. His only sense of autonomy and ownership of some shred of personal dignity. (think of Anne Frank’s diary, for example) These are not his words, but they are my understanding of his words. For him the greatest torture has been to be deprived of this very important part of his identity, I’d say. A reminder of his identity. A way of expressing himself. And it’s been torn from him. That robs a person of their dignity. No question. This is 16, 17 years, he says. Like a child that old. That belonged to him.

    Writing can be very therapeutic. But having it taken away…. Very, very sad.

    The other tragic thing, he doesn’t have socks. His feet are cold. He keeps his prayer cap in his shoe, to keep his foot warm. That tiny detail.

    I feel, especially through these last couple of things an immense compassion for this man. For the tragedy of losing his diaries. I feel I will never forget that about him. It says a lot. The worst torture for him.

    • LabDancer says:

      Well, I saw all these things on the transcript, and had something like the same reaction, but I couldn’t have analyzed and organized it like this. Thanks.

      I also was struck by the mild disconnect between the questions from the panel of senior military officers, presumably all speaking English, or American anyway, and the narrative and responses directly from “detainee”. I got the impression they were speaking ‘to the record’, asking him questions going to their narrow frame of reference, and whenever “detainee” responded within that frame — which he often did, and sometimes quite cogently, at least according to the transcript — the questioner and the entire panel sort of shrugged it off — as if [I’m showing my projection here] knowing what’d he gone through with the torture, they really didn’t want to get involved one way or the other.

      The prayer cap as a toe-cozy — that’s something I’m going to have trouble forgetting.

      • LabDancer says:

        Also, it strikes me that the driftnet definition of “enemy combatant” that arguably caught AZ even on his own version of events then, no longer fits, given the Obama admin has abandoned ship on that term, per the Bates opinion fearless leader posted on earlier. Now though, at least on AZ’s own version so far as the unclassified material shows, there’s no doubt he does not. Perhaps his case is representative of why the Obamites are sticking with commissions: admissible hearsay in one extremely uncomfortable case.

        • LabDancer says:

          This may seem a bit lame, so I’m sorry: but I was a lot more impressed with how AZ spoke up for himself in the 2007 hearing than Glen Beck did on the View.

  22. TheraP says:

    If there’s one thing I think we as advocates for the humanity of this man could plead for, it is that he should be able to have his diaries. To keep them. To write privately. This is therapeutic. He’s being held all these years. Was tortured. Has medical problems. Has never been convicted of anything, but has suffered punishment, the worst of which is the sense of his own identity being taken away with the diaries. The importance of letting him write in his diaries – to himself, while kept in solitary confinement, and to keep for his own what he writes. Every person should at least be allowed that. Some sense of privacy and dignity, authenticity, acknowledgment of his thoughts and feelings.

  23. JasonLeopold says:

    Here’s the document I was telling you about in which the CIA, while backtracking on its rationale for withholding torture tape docs from the ACLU, said it now has torture tape documents from April 1, 2002 through June 30, 2003

    • TheraP says:

      Somebody over at TPM today, in a comment, suggest that there should be a bounty for these tapes that are “destroyed” – and you know, I thought that was pretty creative idea!

      Bounties got detainees! Maybe bounties could get us tapes of their torture! (not that I’d want to see that – on that I’d pass for sure!)

  24. TheraP says:

    Thanks to all for all the kind words. I’m glad to have contributed to the cause. I’m gonna take a look at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights tomorrow. I bet there’s got to be something about a right to privacy or something.

    Humane treatment.

    • Rayne says:

      Believe you’ll find Articles 3 and 5 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights state no human shall be deprived of personal security or subjected to degrading treatment.

      Unfortunately, although the U.S. voted in favor of this Declaration, it’s not a treaty per se; it does not appear to have any mechanism by which it should be self-executing by the U.S.

      • TheraP says:

        Yes, I realize that. It has moral suasion. That’s the only ticket I’m looking at there. I did a blog on it related to torture a few months back. And the preamble states that “contempt for human rights” is one thing that’s led to “atrocities”. So it’s good lead in to this topic, that’s all. Just tying together threads across many blogs of mine.

        Here’s a link that blog – just for the record:


        I’m planning on writing something up for here at Oxdown (re this document). Since I threw out a lot of theories as I was reading. And I’d like to track down some evidence and just pull things together a bit better here.

        It would be nice if a neurologist could weigh in a bit. Then again, we’d really need good testing to know more. But I’m mostly intrigued by his head wound from ‘92. The loss of ability to speak at that time – which suggests temporal lobe involvement. And the fact that any head injury, depending upon the source, can have such wide-ranging effects. The brain can heal itself in amazing ways. But also there are so many subtle losses a person can have. And epilepsy can be a result long after the injury. Plus, with temporal lobe involvement there is a potential for many personality changes, including the hypergraphia he may or may not have. (But the diaries stem from that time – from the time of his head wound. It would appear.)

  25. cinnamonape says:

    According to Froomkin, Kiriakou says that the applications were approved repeatedly from Headquarters…every act was approved by cable. And as I recall the waterboarding and other techniques were delayed by a couple of days before interrogation (presumably giving cover to the actual CIA interrogators who could say they were not involved in waterboarding or even “present” at their application).

    Thus we might see a lot of cable traffic on days when Jessen and Mitchell were at work…followed a day or two later with the interrogation. Or there might be higher traffic if there was a medical “event”.

    Also how does this stack up with the “authorities” that gave guidelines on how much waterboarding could be applied. Didn’t Yoo say it could only be applied 5 times in a calendar month? I imagine that some torture techniques like the “stress box”, or the sensory deprivation or overloading might be a turn on-turn off sort of instruction.

    Furthermore, as the techniques went on Jessen-Mitchell may have been given less specific instructions.

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