Ali Soufan Claims He Had Success with Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Too

While I’ve been taking my sweet time getting around to the ACLU document dump from Friday, Adam Serwer has been picking up the slack. Check out these posts on the FBI’s approach to torture here and here.

One of the things included in the document dump is a re-release of DOJ’s IG Report on torture, with some new disclosures. Of particular interest are details about Ali Soufan’s (recall the IG Report refers to him by the pseudonym Thomas) brief participation in the interrogation of Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

According to the, [sic] Assistant Chief for the FBI’s Counterterrorism Operational Response Team (CTORS), he and several agents, including Thomas, traveled to a CIA-controlled facility to conduct a joint interview of Binalshibh [redacted] with the CIA. The Assistant Chief said that the detainees were manacled to the ceiling and subjected to blaring music around the clock. He said the FBI agents worked with the CIA in developing questions for Binalshibh, but were denied direct access to him for 4 or 5 days, until Thomas was given 45 minutes with him. Thomas stated that Binalshibh was naked and chained to the floor when Thomas was given access to him. Thomas told the OIG that he obtained valuable actionable intelligence in a short time but that the CIA quickly shut down the interview. According to the notes of FBI General Counsel Valerie Caproni, Deputy Assistant Director T.J. Harrington told her that the FBI agents who went to the CIA site saw Binalshibh [redacted].

I’m interested in this revelation for two reasons. First, if Soufan’s claims are correct then it shows that the FBI repeatedly got intelligence the CIA was unable to get–and that the CIA, on at least two occasions, shut down the FBI access when they were succeeding.

But I’m also interested because the National Archives has been in the process of declassifying Soufan’s interview with the 9/11 Commission since April. Some agency appears to be sitting on it.

Among the thing Soufan said in that interview is that the FBI’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed expert was unable to interview KSM. But I wonder how many more details like this were in his interview?

Intimidating the Defense Attorneys

It was bad enough that the Bush Administration did away with attorney-client privilege via their warrantless wiretap program. Now the Obama Administration appears to be trying to intimidate lawyers defending Gitmo detainees by threatening them with prosecution for trying to ascertain the identities of those involved in abusing their clients.

The Justice Department recently questioned military defense attorneys at Guantanamo Bay about whether photographs of CIA personnel, including covert officers, were unlawfully provided to detainees charged with organizing the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

Investigators are looking into allegations that laws protecting classified information were breached when three lawyers showed their clients the photographs, the sources said. The lawyers were apparently attempting to identify CIA officers and contractors involved in the agency’s interrogation of al-Qaeda suspects in facilities outside the United States, where the agency employed harsh techniques.

If detainees at the U.S. military prison in Cuba are tried, either in federal court or by a military commission, defense lawyers are expected to attempt to call CIA personnel to testify.

This seems akin to me with the practice of refusing to tell defense attorneys what was done to their clients, including withholding Abu Zubaydah’s own diary.

But for a more informed take on what’s going on, check out this Bill Leonard post (remember, he used to head ISOO, the organization in charge of the federal security classification and after the AIPAC defendants won the right to call him to testify, the government case against the defendants fell apart). 

With the above as background, it is useful to look at the facts as reported in the WaPost article and assess exactly what the government is trying to do with the critical national security tool of classification. First of all, the classified nature of an intelligence officer’s cover is not sacrosanct. For example, earlier this year Andrew Warren was identified as the CIA Station Chief in Algeria when he was charged with drugging and sexually assaulting two women.

The ready disclosure by the government of Warren’s identity brings up an important provision of Executive Order 12958, as amended, which governs the classification of national security information and which is thus instrumental in investigating any alleged illegal disclosure of classified information. Section 1.7(a) of the order states that "In no case shall information be classified in order to: (1) conceal violations of law…". Read more

Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s Lawyers Can’t Know about the Torture that Drove Him Crazy

bmaz and I have both covered the government’s Kafkaesque refusal to give Abu Zubaydah–who reportedly has very serious memory issues–his own diary back, thereby making it impossible for him to catalog just what was done to him by James Mitchell’s torturers.

Well, from a Gitmo judge’s ruling last week, it appears there’s a concerted effort to prevent defense attorneys from learning what happened to their clients while being interrogated. (h/t fatster)

Bin al Shibh, 37, is one of five men charged in a complex death penalty prosecution by military commission currently under review by the Obama administration. He allegedly helped organize the Hamburg, Germany, cell of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers before the suicide mission that killed 2,974 people in New York, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania.

But his lawyers say he suffers a "delusional disorder,” and hallucinations in his cell at Guantánamo may leave him neither sane enough to act as his own attorney nor to stand trial. Prison camp doctors treat him with psychotropic drugs.

Army Col. Stephen Henley, the military judge on the case, has scheduled a competency hearing for mid-September.

Meantime, the judge ruled on Aug. 6 that "evidence of specific techniques employed by various governmental agencies to interrogate the accused is . . . not essential to a fair resolution of the incompetence determination hearing in this case.” The Miami Herald obtained a copy of the ruling Monday.

According to the Red Cross, bin al-Shibh was exposed to water dousing, stress positions, food deprivation, and forced shaving. For the entire month of February 2005, he was "restrained on a bed, unable to move … and subjected to cold air conditioning." Of course, that also suggests that his intense interrogation lasted much longer than it did for Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (per the same Red Cross report), since that means he was subjected to intense treatment more than two years after he was captured.

But we (and more importantly, bin al-Shibh’s lawyers) can’t have the details of that treatment because if they learned why he was mentally unfit to stand trial, then it might make it clear that it was torture. And if it did, then bin al-Shibh wouldn’t be the only one standing trial.

Was Ramzi Bin al-Shibh the Second Al Qaeda Detainee?

We now know that Harriet Miers apparently knew about the torture tape destruction, though she counseled against it. And we know who–purportedly–ordered their destruction: Jose Rodriguez, then Deputy Director of CIA for Clandestine Operations. But you know what we don’t yet know?

The identity of the second top Al Qaeda figure whose torture tapes were destroyed. Update: now we do: from the NYT,

The tapes, which showed severe interrogation methods against two operatives from Al Qaeda, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri,

(h/t rfw) Which, since it’s coming from a reliable journalist (Lichtblau) I guess means the rest of this bloviating is pointless.

I’m going to make a wild-arsed guess the second detainee was Ramzi bin al-Shibh.

I say that, first of all, because the destruction of the tapes almost certainly was obstruction of justice for Moussaoui. ABC confirms that the tapes were destroyed in November 2005.

In 2002, the CIA videotaped the interrogations of two terror suspects, including top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. The tapes showed what the CIA calls "enhanced interrogation techniques," methods which critics call torture.

In February 2003, the CIA says it told the leaders of congressional intelligence committees about the tapes and that it planned to destroy them.

On Nov. 2, 2005, the Washington Post detailed the CIA’s secret prison program known as "black sites." It was November 2005 that the CIA destroyed the tapes. [my emphasis]

If it was November, it pretty much had to be obstruction of justice in Moussaoui’s case, because odds are very high they destroyed the tapes after Leonie Brinkema inquired whether the government had any tapes from the Al Qaeda detainees. From my timeline:

November 1, 2005: Dana Priest reveals the use of black sites in Europe.

November 3, 2005: Brinkema inquires whether govt has video or audio tapes of interrogations.


November 14, 2005: Govt tells Brinkema it has no audio or video tapes.

In other words, there were only two days in November when they could have destroyed the tapes without it being clear obstruction of justice. Frankly, the only way they could have told the truth on the 14th is if they had already destroyed the tapes. And as good as Priest’s article was, I just don’t think that was enough to lead to the destruction of the tapes.

Now look at these earlier data points from the timeine:

January 2003: Leonie Brinkema grants Moussaoui right to interview Ramzi Bin-al-Shibh by video.


September 10, 2003: Government refuses to let Moussaoui question Al Qaeda witnesses. Read more