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Torture of Al-Qaeda Suspect Described in 2002 Cables Sent by CIA Director Gina Haspel

Torture of Al-Qaeda Suspect Described in 2002 Cables Sent by CIA Director Gina Haspel

Sunday, 12 August, 2018 - 07:15
Gina Haspel, now the CIA director, testified during her nomination hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on May 9. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post)
Washington- Karen DeYoung
The torture of a suspected al-Qaeda terrorist, including waterboarding, is described in meticulous detail in newly-declassified cables that CIA Director Gina Haspel sent to agency headquarters in late 2002, when she headed a secret US detention facility in Thailand.

The suspect, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, was believed to have been involved in planning the USS Cole bombing in Yemen in 2000, and the CIA was convinced that he knew about other attacks being planned.

Nashiri’s treatment during interrogation — forced nudity, shackling, being slammed against walls, being confined in a small box and mock executions, as well as waterboarding — has been previously mentioned in broad terms in official reports, hearings, court cases and news reports.

But many specifics about what happened to Nashiri during his several-week stay at the Thailand facility, while Haspel was briefly in charge, have not been made public. They are contained in 11 cables obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, a private research institute, which plans to release them early Friday.

CIA spokesman Timothy L. Barrett said the agency had no comment on the heavily redacted documents or their declassification.

In dry, unemotional reports, the cables graphically describe interrogators’ often violent attempts to glean information about possible future attacks against the United States from Nashiri, as he continued to say he had none.

On the 12th day of his detention, one cable to the home office reported, “interrogation escalated rapidly from subject being aggressively debriefed by interrogators . . . to multiple applications of the walling technique, and ultimately, multiple applications of the watering technique.”

The interrogators, it later said, “covered subject’s head with the hood and left him on the water board, moaning, shaking and asking God to help him repeatedly.” When they returned, they “adjusted subjects head restraint while telling him that all he had to do was tell them everything. Subject said he would.”

Nashiri was one of three detainees in the period after Sept. 11, 2001, who was waterboarded by the CIA; the technique, long considered torture, was deemed lawful by the Justice Department at the time.

Nashiri’s detention, both in Thailand and after his transfer in December 2002 to a second clandestine CIA site in Poland, was briefly described by the Senate Intelligence Committee in a 700-page report on the detention program released in late 2014.

The report quoted a CIA interrogator as saying that Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national who had been captured in October 2002 in the United Arab Emirates, had overall provided “no actionable information.” He was later transferred to the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he remains.

Haspel, a career clandestine officer and the first woman to lead the CIA, came under sharp questioning during her Senate confirmation hearing in May about the agency’s interrogation program, which has since been discredited, and her role in it.

Although she did not completely repudiate the past, she acknowledged in a letter to Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), the ranking Democrat on the Intelligence Committee, that “with the benefit of hindsight,” the enhanced interrogation program “is not one the CIA should have undertaken.”

It “did damage to our officers and our standing in the world,” Haspel wrote in a separate statement, and she told senators that she would be guided in the future by her “moral compass.” The committee, which had access to the cables, which were classified, conducted much of its questioning of her — and its final 10-to-5 vote in her favor — behind closed doors. The full Senate confirmed her as CIA director, 54 to 45.

Although anticipation in the committee’s public sessions was high about her role in the enhanced interrogations, it lost some steam after media outlets were forced to correct inaccurate reports saying she had been involved in the interrogation of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein. The al-Qaeda suspect, better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Zubaida, had been waterboarded at the Thailand facility 83 times. But his subjection to that treatment had taken place before Haspel arrived.

(The Washington Post)

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