More Proof That Harsh Detainee Treatment Does No Good
In fact, waterboarding and rough interrogation actually hurts our efforts to remain safe, because it results in false leads. The CIA’s first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, told tales under extreme conditions that we thought would lead us to discover al Qaeda plots.
In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida’s tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida — chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates — was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.
Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had misjudged Abu Zubaida. President George W. Bush had publicly described him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations,” and other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. None of that was accurate, the new evidence showed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a confidential report that showed that Abu Zubaida’s treatment amounted to torture. This would be a problem in any attempt to prosecute him. Furthermore, Abu Zubaida was seriously wounded from shrapnel in a mortar blast in 1992 which resulted in head injuries that caused severe memory problems. Not good if you’re looking for a witness. But BushCo. put pressure on intel to come up with new information, pressing for harsher methods if that’s what it took to move things forward. So, Abu Zubaida was, among other things waterboarded, a technique previously regarded as criminal.
Abu Zubaida’s revelations triggered a series of alerts and sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms. The interrogations led directly to the arrest of Jose Padilla, the man Abu Zubaida identified as heading an effort to explode a radiological “dirty bomb” in an American city. Padilla was held in a naval brig for 3 1/2 years on the allegation but was never charged in any such plot. Every other lead ultimately dissolved into smoke and shadow, according to high-ranking former U.S. officials with access to classified reports.
“We spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms,” one former intelligence official said.
As recently as two weeks ago, former VP Cheney claimed that enhanced interrogation stopped “a great many” 9/11-type attacks, but saying he couldn’t say more without violating classified information. However, in spite of repeated requests by the Senate Intelligence Committee, the CIA has yet to provide any evidence that waterboarding and other torture methods used on Abu Zubaida have provided any specific leads.Click here for reuse options!
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