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Ex-CIA agent Zubaydah waterboarded before DoJ memos approved

Alex Constantine - July 27, 2009

Posted by Desta Bishu
Ethiopian Review
July 26th, 2009

A former U.S. intelligence agent said in a report published Monday that terror suspect Abu Zubaydah was subjected to simulated drowning months before the Bush administration’s Department of Justice had written memos approving the use of waterboarding.

The claim strikes a serious blow to repeated Bush administration arguments that no laws were broken in the torture of prisoners because legal guidelines had been closely followed.

Former Central Intelligence Agency officer John Kiriakou, speaking with BBC’s Panorama, said that internal communications detailed Zubaydah’s torture beginning “at the very end of May or the very beginning of June 2002.”

Bush administration lawyers did not issue memorandum supportive of torture — a war crime under the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war — until August of that year.

Kiriakou said that President Bush had personally given written authorization for Zubaydah’s torture.

The “official” story of Zubaydah’s imprisonment, as presented in a timeline released by the Senate Intelligence Committee and summarized by the Washington Post. According to this version, Abu Zubaydah was subjected only to traditional interrogation methods until an August 1 memo from Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee gave a green light for the use of waterboarding and other aggressive techniques. The CIA asked the Office of Legal Counsel to furnish an opinion on the so-called “harsh interrogation techniques” in May, 2002.

On the other, there is a far more incriminating narrative that has been pieced together by various observers over the last several years. In this version, harsher methods were being applied to Abu Zubaydah as early as mid-April, and by mid-May he had been subjected to virtually every aggressive technique short of waterboarding.

This second version appears to be supported by a number of external facts. One is that in 2005, the CIA destroyed all videotapes of Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation from prior to August 1, even though taping had begun in April.

There were also two peculiar episodes of heightened security alerts in the US in April and May, which were said at the time to have been based on information obtained from Abu Zubaydah. These vague and ultimately implausible threats gave a strong impression that Abu Zubaydah might have been inventing al Qaeda plots simply to satisfy his interrogators.

“President George W Bush’s administration have steadily maintained that they did not break the law because they received legal advice which determined that waterboarding and other harsh techniques were not torture,” noted the BBC.

It was previously believed that former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice was the first high-ranking Bush administration official to approve the torture of a terror war prisoner.

When it was revealed that the CIA destroyed tapes which showed the torture of Abu Zubaydah, then director Michael Hayden protested criticism, claiming the program fell in-line with legal guidance at the time.

“What matters here is that it was done in line with the law,” he said, adding that the CIA’s interrogation program has “helped disrupt terrorist operations and save lives.”

The interrogations have been carried out with “careful supervision” and were “built on a solid foundation of legal review,” he said. “If the story of these tapes is told fairly it will underscore those facts.”


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