The Government Makes No Claim Abu Zubaydah Had Knowledge of Impending Terrorist Plans

There’s one more really incendiary passage from the government’s response to Abu Zubaydah’s request for more information in his habeas petition (see here, here, and here for more on this document). In response to a request for evidence indicating that Abu Zubaydah had no knowledge of pending terrorist attacks when he was captured in 2002, the government responds that they have not contended, in this proceeding, that he did have such knowledge.

The Government also has not contended in this proceeding that at the time of his capture, Petitioner had knowledge of any specific impending terrorist operations other than his own thwarted plans. Accordingly, there is no reason or basis to compel the Government to search for information indicating that Petitioner had no knowledge of such impending terrorist operations, as Petitioner requests in his Request No. 66.

Now, let’s be clear what this statement is not: it’s not an admission that the government knows AZ didn’t know of any pending terrorist attacks. By limiting their statement to AZ’s habeas petition–to their legal claim at the moment describing why they’re detaining him–they also limit their admission. That is, they may now believe that AZ didn’t know about any further terrorist attacks. Or they may still believe that AZ had knowledge of pending attacks, but can’t use that claim because they either have no untainted evidence to support it or doing so would too quickly rely on AZ’s tortured statements.

So while this is not a full admission that AZ didn’t know of any pending terrorist attacks, it is a pretty good sign that the government either can’t or doesn’t want to defend that claim.

Compare the caution about making such a claim with the claims made in another legal document submitted last year, the very first passage in Jay Bybee’s first response to the OPR report (Bybee submitted this on May 4, 2009, so a full month after the government submitted Abu Zubaydah’s factual return, though there’s no reason to believe Bybee would have known the content of the factual return).

Six months after the September 11,2001 attacks, United States forces captured top al Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah. Because Zubaydah had assumed the role of chief military planner for al Qaeda, he possessed critical imminent threat information. In particular, the Central Intelligence Agency (“CIA”) determined that Zubaydah had information about a “second wave” of devastating attacks targeting, among other things, the tallest building in Los Angeles.

According to Jay Bybee–the guy who signed off on AZ’s torture–AZ “possessed” critical intelligence. He states this with no caveats.

There’s a reason Bybee still clings to the claim (or clung to it last May–his second response softened this claim somewhat). That’s because the claim that AZ had intelligence on upcoming attacks was the very first assumption OLC laid out in the Bybee Two memo after it stated that if the facts proved to be different, the advice might be different, too.

Our advice is based upon the following facts, which  you have provided to us. We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts. If these facts were to change, this advice would not necessarily apply. Zubayda is currently being held by the United States. The interrogation team is certain that he has additional information that he refuses to divulge. Specifically, he is withholding information regarding terrorist networks in the United States or in Saudi Arabia and information regarding plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas.

That is, the entire authorization to torture AZ–and therefore the entire authorization for the torture program more generally–depended on the veracity of claims that the CIA would only torture people who, they knew, had intelligence about upcoming attacks.

But, as it turns out, the government won’t make that claim in an environment in which they’d have to provide proof to back up the claim. Somehow, CIA’s certitude (and with it Jay Bybee’s) has become a claim that cannot be supported in a legal proceeding.

This is important not just because it means the entire torture program rests on dubious claims. But because it raises questions about why the CIA was so sure AZ had intelligence about further attacks. Was there, ever, specific intelligence about further attacks, which the CIA just assumed AZ knew about because they totally misunderstood who he was? Did the belief that AZ had knowledge about further attacks come as a result of his torture (or that of Ibn Sheikh al-Libi or Binyam Mohammed or someone else)? Or was it even more tenuous than that, chatter about actual weddings collected in Cheney’s illegal wiretap program that caused them to panic? Or was it simply a desire to sow fear in August 2002, just in time to roll out the new “Iraq War” product after the August recess; so by torturing AZ they could fearmonger about attacks on banks and bridges and subways he had invented to stop the torture?

For some reason, in summer 2002 CIA told DOJ that it was certain that AZ had intelligence about follow-up attacks. We really deserve to know what the basis for their certainty was. Because at this point, the government refuses to make that claim in a forum in which they’d actually have to provide proof to support their certainty.

71 replies
  1. orionATL says:

    “That is, the entire authorization to torture AZ–and therefore the entire authorization for the torture program more generally–depended on the veracity of claims that the CIA would only torture people who, they knew, had intelligence about upcoming attacks.”

    doesn’t this involve circular reasoning (or rationalizing)?

    how would the gov’t know with legal certainty that any but a very few (who had been previoulsy identified by sympathizers/colleagues) had knowledge of an upcoming terrorists attack without first torturering them?

    certainly this would likely be the case for those many detainees/torturees were hoovered up en masse in 2001-2002, e.g., the 27 detainees from the camp where az hung-out for a time?

    even ksm was identified only after his attack on ny city.

  2. orionATL says:

    it’s time for a program evaluation question.

    how many planned attacks on the u.s. ( or its intetests outside the country) were prevented by torturing a detainee?

    • behindthefall says:

      Would the answer matter? That is, what number would make it defensible to torture? 1? 5? 1000?

    • BoxTurtle says:

      See, that’s the debate that BushCo wants to have. If you go there, it’s an implicit acceptance that torture is acceptable and legal under some circumstances. All they have to do is find one bit of actionable intelligence obtained under duress and everything is forgiven. ANd even if there was nothing, well, they were wrong BUT they THOUGHT there was actionable intelligence and therefor torture is acceptable and they should be forgiven.

      Torture is illegal under US law, no exceptions. Torture is illegal under international law. Torture is banned under the Geneva Convention. Evidence obtained under duress is inadmissable under US law, no exceptions.

      The only time torture is legal is between consenting adults in private.

      Boxturtle (Or as part of a paid transaction in Nevada)

    • barryeisler says:

      I understand why it might make sense to evaluate the Bush/Cheney program on Bush/Cheney’s terms (though I agree with BoxTurtle’s caveat, and therefore like to phrase this argument, “Even if torture weren’t illegal, and it is…”). But as part of such an evaluation, we also have to rephrase your question, changing “prevented” to “invented”:

      “How many planned attacks on the u.s. ( or its intetests outside the country) were *invented* by torturing a detainee?”

      Even aside from torture’s illegality, it’s incoherent to trumpet a benefit without acknowledging what the benefit cost (costs that here include jihadist recruitment and incitement). One of the bizarre aspects of modern “conservatism” is its denial that costs even exist — for torture and otherwise. For the “deficits don’t matter” crowd, cost doesn’t matter, because everything comes for free.

        • barryeisler says:

          Yes — thanks for the perfect example. And however many such instances we know of, imagine how many we don’t.

          Did anyone here ever see Marathon Man? Where Lawrence Olivier is about to torture Dustin Hoffman with dental instruments, asking only, “Is it safe? Is it safe?” Hoffman keeps saying, truthfully, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” When it becomes clear this won’t work, Hoffman switches to, “Right, okay, it *is* safe, it’s so safe you can’t even believe how safe it is!” And when that doesn’t do the trick, switches to, “No, it’s not safe, it’s very dangerous.” Who wouldn’t do the same? On safety, Saddam/AQ ties, or anything else.

  3. JTMinIA says:

    >> “We also understand that you do not have any facts in your possession contrary to the facts outlined here, and this opinion is limited to these facts.”

    IANAL, but how could anyone write that? Seriously. “We understand that you don’t have anything that you’re not telling us.” Who would ever say that other than a complete and worthless toad?

    I could buy “We ASSUME that you don’t have anything that you’re not telling us” or some such waffle, but to flat-out affirm that you’re not being lied to by people who have – by any reasonable analysis – motivation to lie is just so dumb it makes blood shoot out of my eyes.

      • JTMinIA says:

        It’s standard to make statements for which you cannot possibly know the true-value? Great.

        (Not AT you. I understand that you have no reason to believe that you are not describing things as there actually are, tee hee, and I understand that you had no role in causing things to be as they are, tee hee.)

        • bmaz says:

          Well, lawyers put those clauses in to protect themselves, so that an opinion is not seen as authorizing things, or applying to situations, it was not intended to.

          • emptywheel says:

            Unless you’re Steven Bradbury, in which case you write a letter saying, “anything you want to stick into Appendix M? Okay with me. But here, let me write a bunch of cautions and caveats that you’ll never see.”

    • emptywheel says:

      I’ve always thought it was pretty good indication that Yoo et al knew they were being lied to.

      After all, they had to have been very attuned to the pressure on this coming from FBI.

      • BoxTurtle says:

        I don’t think Yoo was lied to. I think he told THEM what they had to say in order for him to give him what they wanted.

        Then he wrote what he had to in order to cover himself. Yoo is evil.

        Boxturtle (At least as I understand the word)

  4. MadDog says:

    PapaDick Cheney’s predicate for torture: I know they know! So therefore, it’s legal to torture them!”

    John “Bobblehead” Yoo can’t nod hard enough.

    • Rayne says:

      I really think it’s more like Deadeye said, “They know. They will know.”

      And then the bobbleheads bob-bob-bobbled along.

  5. phred says:

    And here at last we get back to the logical fallacy underpinning our horrendous torture regime. Outside of fiction writers, no one is omniscient.

    If the torturers know that a prisoner knows a particular fact, then they do not need to torture the prisoner to obtain that fact.

    But the torturers cannot know whether an individual knows a particular piece of information, without knowing that fact themselves first. So inevitably they will torture an innocent (or at the very least ignorant) person.

    Everyone agrees (even the Rethugs last I checked) that torturing innocent people (and probably ignorant people) is an indefensibly immoral act. Bybee will cling to his false premise with his dying breath. To do otherwise would be to admit that he is a monster.

    As for PapaDick, he is proud of being a monster and I would bet that he would happily go on TV to crow about torturing even the innocent, just to be sure.

    Monstrous bastards, each and every one of them.

    • bmaz says:

      The important difference is not a citizen and that Zubaydah will never be tried in an Article III court. Those are pretty important distinctions….

      • fatster says:

        Thanks for that clarification, bmaz. Implications for non-citizens similarly treated seem pretty dire indeed when viewed from the perspective of the Padilla case.

  6. TheOrA says:

    Is this AZ’s 2nd habeas proceeding?

    IANALorJ, but I think my question is I don’t care why the government is claiming to hold my client now. What I want to know is what was the basis for picking up my client 8 years ago? Were those valid and legal reasons for detaining him? And why did it take 8 years to get him before a habeas proceeding?

    If they had no legal basis for holding him then, they have no basis for holding him now despite whatever evidence they’ve since acquired or the whole fooking system is nothing pile of minority report thought crime garbage.

    Here I’m going to detain you for 8 years until I can drum up enough evidence to make it highly likely that you can be convicted of some crime.

    Or more accurately, I’m going to detain you, some of your little friends, torture the crap out of them so you can spill the beans on each other (whether truthful or not), but since I can’t use that evidence in court, I’ll hold you a while longer to see if I can drum up enough clean evidence to hold you on some technicality and then maybe sometime in the future we’ll charge you with something and then put you on trial. But only maybe. Maybe the administrations will switch and we can get back to torturing you for giggles.

    I understand the judiciary tends to give the benefit of the doubt to other branches of the government, but come on. My five year could detect the malarkey and unfairness of that setup.

    Does the judiciary buy this or tell them they’ve got their head up their arse? Nevermind. Rhetorical question.

  7. orionATL says:

    boxturtle @8

    it’s important that those who oppose the use of torture not be afraid to ask questions about whether the american torture program succeeded on its own terms.

    i’d be willing to bet not a single serious incident of terrorism was stopped by torture. not one. prove me wrong, cia!

    but suppose there was one or three or five serious attacks prevented, that is info that should be made available to all of us, no “sources and methods” hocus pocus.

    will some knowledgeable person point out to me attacks by al-q prevented by torture. i’m not sure there’s been a single one since sept 2001.

    but more to the point of my evaluation comment above is that that was cia/doj’s position – a detainee could not be tortured UNLESS he/she had knowledge of an impending attack.

    torture is indeed illegal in the u.s. and internationally and torturers should have been forced to abide by those laws and become interrogators instead.

    but that is not what happened.

  8. orionATL says:

    theora @16

    not to worry. i do that all the time.

    your format will return.

    in fact it already has.

  9. orionATL says:

    jtminia @17

    we are the national security apparatus of the u. s. govmint.

    we MAKE things happen.

    that includes MAKING things true.

    what truth values you want?

    how many?

    where you want them delivered?

  10. JasonLeopold says:

    My understanding and read of the that passage as it deals specifically with his habeas case is that “his own thwarted plans” deals with what he wrote in his diaries about something that may relate to a plot in Afghanistan, which the government will not even disclose and opposes being disclosed. The “thwarted plans” were already thwarted at the time of his capture. Your close read of this is incredibly helpful to me so thank you for that.

    With regard to what the CIA believed about what AZ knew about a second wave of attacks, about two weeks after John Yoo started work on the the memo, Newsweek published a story by Hosenball dated April 27, 2002 titled “How Good is Abu Zubaydah’s Information?”

    The article goes on to discuss what US intel got from AZ as a result of that early interrogation after he was captured regarding a “second wave.”

    Because Zubaydah’s information appeared to be supported by intelligence from other sources, the Administration last week issued two domestic terrorism warnings. One concerned possible attacks on banks or financial institutions in the Northeastern United States. That warning appears to fit with repeated statements by Al Qaeda leaders about the need to attack the U.S. economy, a mission that Osama bin Laden himself touted in a recently discovered home video. Another tip from Zubaydah warned that Al Qaeda operatives could be planning attacks on U.S. supermarkets and shopping malls. Some U.S. intelligence analysts for months have been quietly warning officials of potential suicide bombings at malls, where federal security experts say anti-terrorism precautions are lax to non-existent. These analysts believe the possibility of suicide attacks on U.S. shopping malls has only been increased by the recent standoff between Israel and the Palestinians, and Abu Zubaydah’s information has bolstered their arguments.

    U.S. officials say that a third piece of information from Abu Zubaydah, about Al Qaeda’s interest in obtaining or manufacturing a crude atomic device known as a “dirty bomb,” also matches up with earlier U.S. intelligence.

    Now, some people who worked at FBI HQ who I spoke and were aware of the interrogation sessions having been briefed on it said this article suggested to them that AZ was already undergoing “enhanced interrogation” because AZ didn’t know anything about these “pending” attacks, which we know was based on bogus info. Have not been able to get Ali Soufan to discuss this. At the same time, some people on the NSC, CIA side said they believe that AZ obtained this info while he was allegedly moving known terrorists out of Afghanistan after the invasion. But one thing both sides seem to be in agreement about is that his first six volumes of diaries, which the government’s justification for detaining him is based on, do not mention anything about a second wave of attacks. Hopefully, we will get the opportunity to read those eventually and find out what it does say.

    • emptywheel says:

      I think we can outline what that plot (or those plots) were. My read is it was intended to be an IED attack set off using Casio watches. There’s one guy they name in the doc you pulled out who would have been involved. And the allegation is that two of the guys at the safe house were working on explosives, one who was experienced, the other who was just learning.

      But again, those would have been IED attacks against military targets in Afghanistan.

      • emptywheel says:

        Or, in other words, AZ was planning to do in Afghanistan, against military targets, what the Hutaree militia was planning to do about 40 miles from me here in MI, only AZ is the one that gets called a terrorist by the press.

      • bobschacht says:

        I think we can outline what that plot (or those plots) were.

        Your theory is a lot less mind-blowing than mine.
        Mine was that just suppose one of the AQ advisors was a financier (OBL had important connections in a wealthy Saudi family, right?) Now, suppose one of them looked into what was happening in US and International Financial services, and noticed the phenomenal growth in credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities, and wondered what would happen if they slowly bought up several billion $$ of collateralized debt obligations, and then call them in all at once ? Would that be enough to trigger a run on the market?

        Oh, but you’ll say AQ-friendly Saudi banker types (a) don’t have enough money to do that, (b) it would hurt their own accounts….


        Bob in AZ

    • WilliamOckham says:

      Your comment is an excellent reminder that all of this stuff that is now so secret that revealing would endanger American lives was being leaked left and right back in 2002. It’s always useful to go back to the news magazines and big newspapers from then to check on what the govt was leaking back then.

      • JasonLeopold says:

        Thanks much. I’ve been going through all of the early stories from 2002 and there is quite a bit of info that clearly was leaked and reading it in the context of what we have now, with these documents, and what we’re not being told as you point out is quite interesting.

  11. maryo2 says:

    I think the significance of the “imminent threat” wording is that it is the cover for the “Commander-in-Chief” defense (i.e that they can do anything they want in a time of war with no Congressional oversight) which is the cover for the torture program.

    Take away imminent threat, then C-i-C defense (with no oversight)is limited. If C-i-C defense is limited, then there is no cover for the torture program.

    These missing documents and slippery wording for torture techniques are the ones that lead to Bush. Not Cheney. Bush. Cheney didn’t sign shit. He orchestrated the imminent threat defense and avoidance of Congressional oversight. He had the team B that would tell manufacture the imminent threats, but he is not the person that is most exposed at all three levels of the torture scheme.

    • alabama says:

      Your point goes to the heart of everything posted here on the subject of torture. The torture here described took place because Bush wanted it to happen, and he wanted it to happen because it gave him pleasure. The man really is a known torturer. Had he been otherwise, his underlings–and Cheney is most certainly one of these–could not have proceeded as they did. This is not, you will agree, to absolve them of their crimes; it is to remind us of the heart of the problem, namely Bush and his lust for torture.

      No one much disagrees with this fact (so far as I can tell), but it always slips out of sight and away from the ongoing discussion. So much so, that to bring it up at all is to feel as if obsessed by the wrong thing, the lesser thing. But it isn’t wrong, and it isn’t less. It goes to the heart of the whole affair.

      But why bother to make a point if it loses its purchase every time?

      Well, torture, as we all know, is a form of sexual gratification. Perhaps we are hesitant to dwell on something that lacks, or seems to lack, the grander resonance of investigative journalism and legal vigilance at their best. In this respect, the obvious fact that a known torturer took an available opportunity to gratify his cravings–and enable, indeed require, others with similar cravings to do the same–would not seem to offer much food for thought, or for a zealous scrutiny of records obstinately withheld. And then, of course, Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury are “getatable” in ways that Bush will never be. It can feel downright stupid to dwell on the impossible goal–focussing on the heart of the matter–when the real possibility of a lesser redress lies at hand. I grant all of this, and have done so more than once, but I still worry about our letting ourselves lose sight of Bush the torturer.

      More precisely, I worry that we don’t work hard enough at asking ourselves why and how we have ever tolerated this man. For tolerate him we do, and we always will. But why?

      How can we deny that he met, and still meets, needs of our own that we don’t wish to, or feel the need to, examine at every level? Not just on the ethical level. Torture being in essence a sexual act, and all of us being actors in sexuality, it follows that we cannot quickly disown the actions of someone like Bush. Though I hope I’m not much of a torturer, I can certainly see that the impulse surfaces on occasion, sometimes even fiercely so; and unless I can accept this part of my being, I will never be prepared to address the abomination of Bush as an accepted public figure–one among many of his ilk, and some in positions of real authority.

      (Not, however, Obama. We won’t begin to understand the ferocity of his detractors if we don’t accept the fact of their sexuality, regrettably twisted. His errors, of which there are many, are not the willful expression of a perverted sexual craving. I challenge anyone to argue otherwise, and I take this point very seriously, if only because it holds out the promise that Obama may continue to grow as a capable leader.)

      One by one these discussions, which do now and then occur (your own post among them), add up to something of consequence. The pressures on the Vatican count for something, as do the pressures on the CIA. And if there’s transparency of any kind to be gained, the kind that we’ve learned from Dr. Freud is not among the least instructive.

      • maryo2 says:

        On the previous thread someone called it “sadistic domination.” Bush is into sadistic domination, and Cheney fed the pornographic (and homo-erotic) torture to Bush to keep him amped up like an addict while Cheney and friends made a lot of money.

        • bmaz says:

          You know, I understand that it feels good to say this kind of stuff – maybe it is even true – but we do not know that, there is no factual foundation for it, and it is not productive to the discussion.

          • alabama says:

            You’re wrong about this, bmaz, at least where Bush is concerned. There’s a literature on the subject, and the literature is factual (we can even go there if you’d like)… And who would ever say that “it feels good to say this kind of stuff” ( discuss the topic of sadism in this context)? A sadist, perhaps?

            I’d argue that you’re doing the comfortable thing–that you’re steering the conversation back to what you’re good at, to what I call “the grander resonance of investigative journalism and legal vigilance at their best”. For this we are certainly grateful, but in what way is it “not productive to the discussion” to avoid discussing the torturers-in-chief as driven people who clearly profit from the fact that their drives are shared, in a measure yet to be determined, by the body politic of which we are all members?

            I think Mary’s right, and that we need to discuss this. The glaring fact that we don’t discuss it at all–and that you yourself would gladly never discuss it–merely weakens the force of the discussion. Or to borrow (once again) your own excellent words, your censure is “not productive”.

              • alabama says:

                bmaz, I have my doubts about your use of the words “simply”, “impertinent”,”salacious”, “serve”, “useful”, “purpose”, “root” and “discussion”, but apart from all that, I’m sure we agree on what you say.

                I might add that I find Mary’s command of the English language altogether admirable.

                • JTMinIA says:

                  You know that Building 7 had boxes and boxes of the wings that Bush pulled off flies when he was a kid, right? /s

                  • alabama says:

                    You’re getting a little ahead of me, JTMinIA. I prefer to work backwards (or so it seems). You know, all those coffins lined up by the hundreds in the death-row cemeteries of Texas, right?

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            I believe it was a psychiatrist commentator who gave that characterization of what was done to some prisoners. The proposition was that “learned helplessness” and other phrases were euphemisms, some Orwellian, that redefined what we did as not torture, although it still was. What is not clear are individual positions and motivations, though Cheney clearly ran the show for most of the Bush presidency and seems to have taken the lead in making torture official policy.

  12. JasonLeopold says:

    Marcy, thank you also for answering my two questions in yesterday’s post as well regarding intel failure/Ressam. I really appreciate it.

    This is where I think the Richard Clarke warnings about AZ, which the Bush administration appears to have paid little attention to prior to 9/11, appears to have landed on the radar after 9/11 and may be, perhaps, why CIA (and administration officials) thought he was a top guy and believed he had info about a second wave of attacks.

    From the 9/11 Commission report, on May 29, 2001 Clarke sent an email to Condi Rice and Stephen Hadley, “Stopping Abu Zubaydah’s attacks”

    On May 29 [2001], Clarke suggested that Rice ask DCI Tenet what more the United States could do to stop Abu Zubaydah from launching “a series of major terrorist attacks,” probably on Israeli targets, but possibly on U.S. facilities. Clarke wrote to Rice and her deputy, Stephen Hadley, “When these attacks occur, as they likely will, we will wonder what more we could have done to stop them.”

    • JasonLeopold says:

      I should say that I don’t want my comment to appear as if the CIA/intel community/Bush officials get a pass because what they believed and why they think they needed to torture. Just suggesting what the thinking was at the time. And this is where the reliance on info from Jordan, which Marcy discussed a couple of days ago, is of interest to me too.

      • emptywheel says:

        Right, you’ve got Ressam, and you’ve got Jordan by that point. It’s not entirely clear whether Ressam was responding to interest in AZ’s name or whether his initial claims about AZ have any merit (though it is clear that Ressam didn’t know much about the Afghan training landscape he was describing).

        And as to Jordan? I keep coming back to AZ’s Palestinian identity, alone of these top guys. Is it surprising that Jordanian torture would elicit information about the one Palestinian at the center of Afghan terrorist networks?

  13. orionATL says:

    barryeisler @28

    thanks for the thoughtful comment.

    i’ll store away for future use the business about modern conservatism and the cost side of cost/benefit.

    (and you were right to put “conservatism” in quotes. these folks are no more traditional conservatives than i’m the queen of england. they are radicals – and very destructive radicals at that.)

  14. orionATL says:

    on why the cia focused on zubaydah:

    after reading about zubaydah at wikip,

    i came away with the impression that it was fbiguy ali soufan’s early interrogation of azub

    that resulted in the nsc/cia taking over the azub interrogation and turning it into a long-running series of torture sessions.

    ali soufan and his interrogation partner learned from az that kahlid shk mohammed was the mastermind of the attack on the wtc. this info was transmitted back to washington.

    two weeks later the cia goons show up and begin roughing-up az. az refuses to co-operate with cia.

    read all about it

    in “the interrogation of abu zubaydah”, a stand-alone entry in wikip.

  15. JasonLeopold says:

    You know, I think it’s worth noting that after the factual return in the AZ habeas case was filed by the government, the CIA continued to maintain he was a major source of intel about AQ, but they changed their wording very slightly on who he was.

    The June 16 news story “CIA Mistaken on ‘High-Value’ Detainee, Document Shows” suggests that Abu Zubaida was an unimportant terrorist figure before his capture in 2002. That is wrong. Mr. Zubaida was a major terrorist facilitator with extensive knowledge of al-Qaeda. During questioning, Mr. Zubaida provided valuable information, including a detailed road map to al-Qaeda operatives that greatly expanded our understanding of the terrorist group and helped take other terrorists off the streets. Had your reporters asked, we would have made those points.



    Central Intelligence Agency

    • emptywheel says:

      Nice catch. And actually probably a fair description of who he was.

      But that’s even more tenuous about any claim that he WAS al Qaeda than the factual return is.

  16. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Having important knowledge the government wants – and feels it can only obtain by torture – is a claim of “exigent circumstances”, which are explicitly not a valid defense that would justify torture.

  17. MadDog says:

    OT – Via DOJ:

    Women from Colorado and Pennsylvania Charged with Terrorism Violations in Superseding Indictment

    A superseding indictment unsealed this afternoon in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania charges Jamie Paulin Ramirez, a U.S. citizen and former resident of Colorado, and Colleen R. LaRose, aka “Fatima LaRose,” aka “JihadJane,” a resident of Pennsylvania, with conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists. The superseding indictment adds Ramirez as a defendant to what was previously an indictment charging only LaRose…

    …The superseding indictment charges Ramirez, age 31, with one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists, which carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The charges against LaRose remain unchanged, and carry a maximum potential sentence of life in prison and a $1 million fine.

    Ramirez was arrested this afternoon in Philadelphia after voluntarily flying to the United States from abroad…

  18. wavpeac says:

    The efficacy of torture cannot factually be proven. We need to stay away from this discussion and debate. It’s impossible to prove that something WOULD have occurred if we had not tortured. It’s impossible to PROVE that torture prevented anything even if information was validated and used while preventing a terrorist attack…because we cannot prove that another means might have been just as effective. This is the same argument I have with parents about corporal punishment.

    What we CAN do is discuss the very real negative consequences of torture. This is the strongest position from which to debate this issue. It has negative effects on those who torture. It has negative effects on those who hear of it. It has negative effects because information gained in this manner must be verified carefully and this is time consuming. It has negative effects on the person tortured so as to render them incapable of further information gathering past the point of damage. It results in a dead end. (at least in regard to the badly damaged minds of those who were tortured extensively). It weakens the integrity of our nation as whole in regard to our ability to follow laws and encourage others to do the same.

    It doesn’t matter if it works or not…it matters in regard to a factual discussion regarding what it costs.

  19. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Sowing fear was a defining characteristic of the Cheney regime. It used it throughout its administration of government, from personnel management to making war, though it used it most notably in connection with making war, “protecting” national security, and other aspects of what that administration claimed were exclusively executive branch prerogatives.

    Getting results was another biggie. The entire administration, its chances for re-election, its arguments for unlimited powers (which also shielded Cheney’s usurpation of authority) and massive retaliation – making war against entire peoples and one of the world’s great religions – hinged on trotting out examples of why such steps were necessary.

    The pressure to produce results that matched what the OVP wanted was intense. Failure was not an option; failure to produce them because the facts manifestly did not support them was a career limiting act.

  20. JasonLeopold says:

    Don’t think this changes anything substantive in the passage quote about whether govt knew AZ did not know of pending attacks, but just thought I would check since there is this additional line on page 101 of the pdf in the govt’s filing and wondering if it means anything from a legal standpoint or if it’s just reasserting what had already been stated:

    “The Government has not contended in this proceeding that, at the time Petitioner was apprehended, Petitioner had knowledge of specific terrorist operations being planned or executed by persons or groups other than Petitioner and his group. Evidence suggesting that Petitioner lacked knowledge of plans by other persons or groups would not undermine the Government’s allegations about Petitioner’s own thwarted plans, or any other allegations against Petitioner.”

    • emptywheel says:

      Just reasserting the same point, IMO. It’s trying to say that whether or not he could force them to admit that he didn’t know of other attacks, they can still hold him bc he planned an IED attack himself.

  21. bmaz says:

    No, in his order Wednesday, section III(B), pages 36-41. Look at how many critical little facts came from statements Bush Administration people had made in 2002-2004 and the infamous “White Paper” etc.

    It was a throw away analogy I made in some regards, but ironic how stuff they let out tooting their own horns is later ground that is so secret it cannot be litigated or discussed.

  22. cherrypalm says:

    Note this quote from the FT, March 9, from Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller a former head of MI5:
    “Nothing – not even the saving of lives – justifies torturing people,” she said.
    I don’t recall anything as simple and unambiguous from any senior politician or senior member of the intelligence/security services here in the U.S.

  23. orionATL says:

    alabama @ 63

    without weighing in on the merits,

    i feel bound to say that i admire the way you have determinedly defended your thesis, including effectively employing good humor,
    in the presence of our bouncer and the occasional sycophant.

    in my view there is room for lots of discussion about the motivations to torture beyond those related to “national security”.

    torture is, after all, a general response across human society and human history.

    if it has a sexual component, that should surprise no one.

    whether it does or not i don’t know, but i am willing to bet up to $10.00 that bush, Chaney and others in the white house watched some of those torture tapes with whatever motive in their hearts.

    i think the problem here is that a website trying to do a serious, thorough analysis of the torture some american officials authorized in the name of our country’s security,

    might lose some of its (the website’s) credibility among big-time media if it came to be were viewed as supporting “eccentric ” views of torture.

  24. brel1 says:

    Marcy, please write another book and explain all this information in simpler terms. I am lost. But I think it would make a good book in its totality. Guess there is not an ending yet.

  25. alabama says:

    orionATL @ 64: Thank you for the very kind words, which also extend, I trust, to Mary’s superb post @23, the one that prompted me to break my silence as a loyal lurker on this site.

    A word about “serious, thorough analysis”, “torture authorized (by) some american officials”, and “‘eccentric’ views of torture” (always accepting and respecting the spirit and the letter of the scare quotes surrounding the word “eccentric”). Or more exactly, a word about your point that the website “might lose its credibility with the big-time media”, and for the reasons you suggest.

    Our problem, or my problem, is one of denial: no one with a conscience can have a good conscience about torture. Torture happens, we let it happen, and thereby become a party to the process itself. And then what? Well, we can think about it, but if our thoughts don’t address the troubling, almost unthinkable, fact of our complicity, then our thoughts can only wander all over the place without an anchor, without the promise of finding clarity, which is the one real goal of all thought. And I wouldn’t want this site to become a refuge from the seeking of that goal. This, I would say, is the very definition of “big-time media”–a msssive, inescapable flight from the toil of finding clarity about one’s role in the scheme of things. For we have a role, and the role is never simple, never especially clean.

    There would be no literature of any kind, no civilization and no law, if the hardest questions were avoided for the best of reasons. This is why Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus, and all the works that followed. And this is why Victor Hugo–the greatest opponent of the death penalty–wrote Napoleon le petit, living in exile on the Isle of Guernsey.

    I send you this post from Paris, where I’ve been living since 2005.

  26. alinaustex says:

    Your thesis is sound and resonates clearly – maybe someday we will have the proof positive to say for history your take on the bushcheney need to torture was an addiction . Maybe the recovered media that the bushie thought destroyed will actually have ‘moving images ” that will prove your thesis.
    Meanwhile the “Young Eagles ” are having to reimburse the RNCC for that two grands they spent at the ‘sado-dominitrix” strip club in West Hollywood . I myself would say your thesis and the “Young Eagles ” are both cut out of the same addictive cloth over there in GOP/neocon ville
    Alabama thank you for your comments here -and your thesis…

  27. orionATL says:

    alabama @67

    my appreciaion and admiration for speaking out do extend to maryo2.

    i appreciate the substantial intellect and the intellectual courage it takes to address issues our society would rather ignore.

    i also accept the truth of your comment about intellectual courage and literature.

    you have the pleasure of enjoying the city of light in the spring?

    quelle bon chance*

    *(about all i remember from college french) :-)

  28. wavpeac says:

    Let me just say that I reside in Omaha Ne where a huge scandal erupted regarding allegations that the RNC operated a large child pornography ring. It had to do with missing and murdered boys, sexual abuse, and a credit union. Search Franklin Credit Union…and you will find a host of incredible allegations…but there are some facts…that cannot be denied and should have been followed up on. This case includes the death of the private investigator in a plane crash on the night he flew his plane to collect photographic evidence of some of these abuses. It makes me wonder about Guckert Gannon, it makes me wonder about the 4 suicides (all kids associated with the story who told their stories). It makes me wonder about Hunter Thompson who was linked…to this story. (reporter) and also the death of a federal prosecutor (mysteriously drowned).

    I don’t deny that there could be a sexual element to all of this. But it’s impossible to prove the allegation. I think the Franklin Credit Union case…in light of Guckert Gannon…in light of the fact that Bush’s head of child pornography was indicted on soliciting a minor…in light of the fact that Bush Sr was implicated in the FRanklin credit union case along is MORE than a coincidence…if you add torture…and torture of young boys.

    I wish someone of some stature would look through the Franklin Credit union material. Some of it is bogus…but I worked in the Psych hospital where two of these kids were taken and there was a suicide of another child implicated just months before I went to work there. Another interesting note…Michael Jackson made a 5 hour trip to Omaha while performing in Kansas City. He only stayed for a short time…but he stayed at the Franklin Mansion…before all of this porno ring stuff broke out. He made a special trip to Omaha…and stayed for 5 hrs…and left. Also interesting is that Franklin moved quickly through the ranks of the RNC, was a black man…(from Omaha NE???) who sang at the national convention for Bush. Come on?? I think there IS something here…and have believed it for a long time.

    • jdmckay0 says:

      Michael Jackson made a 5 hour trip to Omaha while performing in Kansas City. He only stayed for a short time…but he stayed at the Franklin Mansion…before all of this porno ring stuff broke out.

      Now that u mention it, I always thought the term:

      Mutual of Omaha

      … was damn suggestive, if you know what I mean. (sic!!!)

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