Today’s Must Read
By Paul Kiel – December 18, 2007, 9:54AM
Abu Zubaydah was:
A) A high-ranking Al Qaeda operative who largely confounded U.S. interrogators with his literary and tactical genius until they submitted him to waterboarding and other forms of torture. After that, he provided key information that likely preempted future attacks.
B) A low-ranking and mentally ill Al Qaeda operative who provided valuable information under gentle questioning, but whose confessions made under torture were useless. Much of the threat information he provided was "crap."
A is the CIA’s version (and the President’s). B is the FBI’s. And in today’s Washington Post, Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus walk through the competing profiles. Zubaydah, remember, was one of the two detainees whose interrogations appeared on the destroyed CIA tapes.
It’s clear off the bat that the version of events provided by John Kiriakou, the former CIA agent who launched something like a PR blitz last week, is not quite right. In his telling, Zubaydah held out until waterboarded; after only 35 seconds of that, he gave in and "from that day on, he answered every question."
By contrast, both CIA and FBI agents tell the Post that he provided valuable information before he was waterboarded. And there wasn’t just one session: "Instead, [other former and current officials] said, harsh tactics used on him at a secret detention facility in Thailand went on for weeks or, depending on the account, even months."
Retired FBI agent Daniel Coleman, "who led an examination of documents after Abu Zubaida’s capture in early 2002 and worked on the case," responded that Zubaydah was talking before he was waterboarded, but the CIA agents couldn’t believe that he knew so little.