“Remember, an FBI agent [like Ali Soufan] always keeps his notes.” Why Won’t Obama Admin Release Them?

As Ali Soufan has been making the rounds rebutting Jose Rodriguez’ self-serving lies, he has said something, repeatedly, that hasn’t gotten a lot of attention.

Soufan has notes that prove Rodriguez is lying.

He actually first mentioned them publicly (AFAIK) in his book, Black Banners.

In early 2008, in a conference room that is referred to as a sensitive compartmented information facility (SCIF), I gave a classified briefing on Abu Zubaydah to staffers of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. The staffers present were shocked. What I told them contradicted everything they had been told by Bush administration and CIA officials.

When the discussion turned to whether I could prove everything I was saying, I told them, “Remember, an FBI agent always keep his notes.” Locked in a secure safe in the FBI New York office are my hand-written notes of everything that happened with Abu Zubaydah [redacted] (434-435; my emphasis)

He mentions them again later in the book, almost begging someone to go get them.

It was apparent from the [torture] memos that the introduction of EITs was based on lies. The proof resides in my notes–locked, as noted earlier, in FBI vaults. (526)

Soufan repeated this emphasis on his notes in a piece explaining why Jose Rodriguez’ lies might help Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri in his military commission.

Nonetheless, the government has my investigative notes, as well as daily reports, and the inspector general also found instances where Rodriguez’s team went far beyond what they had approval for and the legal guidelines set forth by the George W. Bush administration, including holding a drill to Nashiri’s head. [my emphasis]

And in the Q&A with Amy Davidson, Soufan again mentions that documentary proof that Rodriguez is lying.

The claim about waterboarding leading to unmasking of K.S.M. as the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks is similarly false. We got that information in April, 2002, before the contractors hired by the C.I.A. Counterterrorism Center even arrived at the site. One by one, the successes claimed by E.I.T. proponents have been shown to be false.

I went before the Senate Judiciary Committee and under oath recounted what happened. And, as I note in “The Black Banners,” I sent daily reports from the secret interrogation location, to Washington, recording what happened, which the U.S. Government has in its possession.


The tapes also contained our interrogations, done with traditional techniques. The tapes would have shown under which circumstances Abu Zubaydah coöperated and when he stopped coöperating. But while the tapes were destroyed, our daily reports from the location are luckily safe and still in the government’s possession. [my empahsis]

Notes, notes, notes and daily reports, daily reports, daily reports.

You think maybe this guy wants us to know that there is documentary proof, as yet unreleased, that Rodriguez’ book is based on a pack of lies? You think maybe he’d like these notes released before Rodriguez makes a mint off these lies?

The thing is, Soufan’s repeated mention of his notes have not entirely escaped all attention. Back in January, Jason Leopold actually FOIAed the notes. DOJ responded that because the notes pertain to a third party–Abu Zubaydah–Leopold would have to get that third party’s permission to win their release. But AZ is stuck behind a wall of legal obstruction, in which Gitmo censors say such a waiver does not constitute proper legal mail pertaining to AZ’s habeas petition (which is the only kind of legal representation he’s supposed to get), and therefore AZ’s lawyers can’t get him the waiver so he can sign it. Leopold is left appealing the decision on public interest grounds.

So journalists keep reporting that Soufan has these notes that prove Rodriguez’ lies (and, probably, that Rodriguez’ torturers did far more than legally approved in the Bybee memo, including, at a minimum, use a coffin to simulate live burial, the only thing John Yoo said was illegal). While the repeated reporting on these notes has not yet reached a clamor, clearly they are newsworthy (and for some legally suspect reason, subjected to a higher degree of privacy than Rodriguez’ lies are).

Ali Soufan says there is documentary evidence that proves Rodriguez’ entire PR campaign is based on lies. So why won’t the Administration release that evidence?

Why is the Administration obstructing release of evidence that Rodriguez is lying?

13 replies
  1. Jason Leopold says:

    I cannot be certain but I also believe Soufan discussed his notes in his 9/11 testimony, which remains classified. I filed a FOIA for that too. Moreover, the SSCI has his notes (I received confirmation on that from a SSCI staffer) and have used them to draft their report on the HVD EIT program.

  2. emptywheel says:

    @Jason Leopold: Yeah, and when I was doing 9/11 Commission research at the archives in May 2009, I was told they were going to be imminently released.

    You know. 3 years ago.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    I don’t know the judicial procedure for obtaining testimony from a material witness held in prison, but there must be one, right? If so, why allow the government to hide behind “He’s not allowed mail so you can’t ask for his consent” like this? Isn’t this just so utterly obvious an effort to frustrate the legitimate public interest and the goals of FOIA that a judge (well, at least some judges with integrity, like Judge Forrest) would not put up with such an obvious shell game? What judicial vehicle exists to obtain the courts’ assistance in obtaining Abu Zubaydah’s mere consent to the release of files that his name is in? Think he’d object? Of course not, it’s a blatant travesty of a mockery of a sham. Blatant. Don’t these scumbags have any shame? And while I admire those with the perseverance to try to get this information, I don’t understand taking such a disdainful and mocking “no” for an answer here.

  4. Jason Leopold says:

    @emptywheel: Speaking of AZ and FOIA and such, I literally just got my mail and there was a letter from the CIA in response to my Mandatory Declassification Review request related to volumes 7, 8 and 9 of his diaries, written while he was in CIA custody. It’s a Glomar. They won’t acknowledge the existence of the diaries and therefore won’t bother to do an MDR review. Unbelievable. The government has already acknowledged the diaries exist in court filings and turned over those volumes to his habeas counsel.

  5. lysias says:

    Former CIA official Glenn Carle on p. 297 of his book The Interrogator:

    I learned something else important and must be explicit: The contention that enhanced interrogation techniques [sic] provided critical intelligence and saved many lives is flat wrong. Close review of most specific claims of critical intelligence obtained from rendition, detention, and enhanced interrogation techniques shows that, in almost every case, the “intelligence” obtained was faulty and subsequently discredited or suspect, or of secondary importance. The after-action assessments have mostly, albeit very quietly, found that we obtained little of critical benefit.

    Since Carle, after his stint as an interrogator, served his last years in the CIA as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Transnational Threats, he was in a position to know what intelligence the torture provided.

  6. MadDog says:

    I’m guessing Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes won’t have a much publicized response interview with Ali Soufan.

    Nor will Ali Soufan likely get immediate access to the WaPo Op-Ed pages or to CNN’s Op-Ed website as has been both the cases with Jose Rodriguez.

    It just goes to show how much influence Jose Rodriguez publisher and top Dick Cheney political operative Mary Matalin holds not only within the CBS corporate empire where she is employed, but within the entire top MSM corporate hierarchy.

  7. emptywheel says:

    @Jason Leopold: And approved filings from his lawyers stating as such. That’s well worth an appeal bc it’s obviously an abuse of the Glomar process.

  8. MadDog says:

    @emptywheel: Yeah, I watched that on the CBS website at the time of the 60 Minutes Rodriguez interview. At the time, I was wondering whether CBS would do a follow-up interview with Soufan to allow him to debunk Rodriguez’s claims.

    I’ve since stopped holding my breath. *g*

  9. Mike says:

    60 Minutes refused to cover Soufan’s extremely credible allegation that the CIA obstructed the USS Cole investigation. The obvious link being that the same people who obstructed a key al Qaeda investigation before 9/11 were advocates of the torture program. Are you kidding me?

    I haven’t seen a single interview with Richard Blee. Why is that? One would think he owes the public an explanation for Alec Station withholding information about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar especially considering his comments during the July 10, 2001 briefing with Rice. I have no idea why US journalists don’t feel ashamed of the way they turned their backs on the victims of 9/11 by refusing to find out why US officials obstructed al Qaeda investigations before 9/11.

  10. lysias says:

    @Mike: Sibel Edmonds’s new book Classified Woman details a lot of evidence about how information that could have prevented 9/11 was blocked within the FBI as well in the months before 9/11.

  11. MIke says:

    @lysias I read Frields’ (I think he was the SAC of the Washington field office at the time) 9/11 Commission MFR and it wasn’t an impressive explanation to say the least. Also there is the enduring mystery of ULBU IOS Dina Corsi who supposedly took it upon herself to determine that the al-Hazmi/al-Mihdhar search was a wall issue and thus should be handled by the intel side FBI. This is complete nonsense. She went out of her way to keep the information from the criminal side FBI agents. What really exposes her conduct is the fact that she did not give the intel side search a high priority. That alone demonstrates that the wall was a fake roadblock that was nothing but an excuse to keep the information from the criminal agents.

    I should note that Corsi is currently a section chief somewhere in the FBI intel world. Personally I would think she would want to explain to the murdered victims’ families why she thought it was appropriate to withhold information about al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. When I think of people jumping out a 110 story building to avoid being burned to death or passing out from smoke inhalation for some reason it does not lead me to feel any sympathy for “wall confusion” or whatever sort of garbage excuse Corsi and her FBI apologists put forth.

    Again 60 Minutes completely betrayed the victims of 9/11 by refusing to find out why standard procedure was not followed in the lead up to 9/11. I get why some al Qaeda terrorists want to kill Americans. What is harder to understand is the conduct of some FBI agents, some US government officials and some journalists who have so far failed to explain why it made any sense to obstruct al Qaeda investigations when “the system was blinking red.”

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