Monday, February 15, 2010

Zubaydah Thanked His Interrogators for Waterboarding Him

And essentially made it clear that it was both effective and necessary, telling the CIA interrogators that "You must do this to all the brothers."


This past Valentine's Day....


Former VP Cheney's ABC This Week:


KARL: But you believe they should have had the option of everything up to and including waterboarding?

CHENEY: I think you ought to have all of those capabilities on the table. Now, President Obama has taken them off the table. He announced when he came in last year that they would never use anything other than the U.S. Army manual, which doesn’t include those techniques. I think that’s a mistake.




From VP Biden's appearance on CBS' Face the Nation:



Schieffer: "Can you Mr. Vice President envision a time where waterboarding can ever be used on anyone?"

Biden: "No, no, it's not effective"

Schieffer: "It's not effective?"

Biden: "It's not effective"


Abu Zubaydah disagrees with Joe Biden. He is living proof that waterboarding worked. Not only that, but he endorsed waterboarding with a personal stamp of approval.



Last April, I posted an excerpt from Ron Kessler's The Terrorist Watch, regarding the chapter detailing Abu Zubaydah:

Abu Zubaydah mentioned that KSM used the moniker “Mukhtar,” which allowed analysts to comb through previously collected intelligence and develop leads that eventually led to his capture.

Soon after that, Abu Zubaydah stopped cooperating.


When Zubaydah gave up KSM, he did so unwittingly (detailed in my link to the excerpt from Kessler's book) while in his hospital bed, recovering from injury sustained in his capture. As he regained his health, he grew resistant to questioning.

Propelled by fear that another attack was in the works, the CIA began developing coercive interrogation techniques- water-boarding high value terrorists or subjecting them to ear-splitting music or to icy temperatures and forcing them to stand for hours.

“We weren’t getting very much from him at all,” Grenier says. “And that’s when we began the process of putting together a properly focused interrogation process. It was refined a good deal subsequently, but he was the test.”

Before the interrogation procedures were employed, the Justice Department reviewed them and determined that they were legally permissible. After a few months, the CIA began using some of the techniques on Abu Zubaydah. As the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and other detained terrorists progressed, the agency briefed the chairs, ranking members, and majority and minority staff directors of the House and Senate intelligence committees on the details of the procedures used.




Marc Thiessen has an important new book out, Courting Disaster that clears up some of the mystique and mythologizing about the CIA program that has successfully kept America safe since 9/11. Former CIA Director Hayden writes (thanks Missy!):



I opposed the release of the Office of Legal Council memos on the CIA interrogation program last April. I opposed the release of additional memos and the report of the CIA inspector general on the interrogation program last August. But whatever their release did to reveal American secrets to our enemies, it did inject something into the public debate on this program that had been sorely missing—facts.

Thiessen has taken these documents, as well as his own extensive interviews and research, and created for the first time a public account of a program previously hidden from public view. Prior to this, some opponents of the program could create whatever image they wanted to create to support the argument of the moment. And those who were in government at the time were near powerless to correct the record. No longer.

There will still be those who remain adamantly opposed to the interrogation effort, but now they must be opposed to the program as it was, not as they imagined or feared or—dare I say, for some—expected it to be.


I'm about 300 pages into the book. A book that Thiessen describes as one that he should not have been able to write and we should not have been able to read. Obama's declassification of internal documents and media leaks have made this book possible, out of the necessity of setting the record straight. Because it isn't such things as Guantanamo and so-called "torture" that has made America "less safe" and created more terrorists; but rather, the wild, irresponsible distortions and fabrications.

America's image abroad wasn't damaged by President Bush, but by his political opponents.


By Thiessen's account,



the first terrorist to be subjected to enhanced techniques, Zubaydah, told his interrogators something stunning. According to the Justice Department memos released by the Obama administration, Zubaydah explained that “brothers who are captured and interrogated are permitted by Allah to provide information when they believe they have reached the limit of their ability to withhold it in the face of psychological and physical hardship.” In other words, the terrorists are called by their religious ideology to resist as far as they can — and once they have done so, they are free to tell everything they know.

Several senior officials told me that, after undergoing waterboarding, Zubaydah actually thanked his interrogators and said, “You must do this for all the brothers.” The enhanced interrogation techniques were a relief for Zubaydah, they said, because they lifted a moral burden from his shoulders — the responsibility to continue resisting.

The importance of this revelation cannot be overstated: Zubaydah had given the CIA the secret code for breaking al-Qaeda detainees. CIA officials now understood that the job of the interrogator was to give the captured terrorist something to resist, so he could do his duty to Allah and then feel liberated to speak. So they developed techniques that would allow terrorists to resist safely, without any lasting harm. Indeed, they specifically designed techniques to give the terrorists the false perception that what they were enduring was far worse than what was actually taking place.


Much of the power of waterboarding and the other approved enhanced interrogation techniques was psychological. Such as the belief that drowning was taking place, as was the case of waterboarding; or that one was getting shoved hard ("walling") by hitting a flexible, false wall that made a loud sound to give the illusion that what was happening was worse than it actually was. As Thiessen puts it in an interview he did on the Dennis Prager Show, "Most of the techniques are psychological tricks, for the most part. They didn't depend upon physical pain to get the people to cooperate." They were like mentalist/magic tricks whose effectiveness, once revealed, loses their power.

This is why, since President Obama (selectively) released the OLC "torture" memos (more properly identified as "how not to torture" memos) last April, a couple of things have occurred:

1)It's basically provided al Qaeda with valuable intell information. Now they know what to train specifically against (were the CIA program still in operation).

2)It's made the enhanced interrogation techniques described in detail in the declassified documents obsolete.

Waterboarding (performed on only 3 terrorists in the program) is now pretty much useless as a psychological tool; making Obama's EO banning its use rather redundant (especially since waterboarding had been suspended already, under the Bush Administration). It's just gratuitous PR that "Obama banned torture" (Bush and Cheney were against torture, too). What he did was ban the tools that provided the CIA with valuable intell that would not have been gained through standard interrogation procedures. KSM, especially, was described by one official as "superhuman" in his resistance to traditional interrogation. It was clear that he had received extensive training in counter-interrogation. And he was smart: He figured out exactly how long his interrogators were allowed to pour the water shortly after only being waterboarded a few times, and would count off on his hand the number of seconds that would elapse, "1...2....3..."

Under the Obama Administration, the business of intelligence-gathering has taken a back seat in favor of prosecuting terrorists or simply killing them rather than capturing.





Thiessen's entire Prager interview is excellent, and you can listen to it here.

Cross-posted at Flopping Aces

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3 Comments:

Blogger Chuck said...

I think my biggest issue with Biden saying this is the fact that he said it. I am not against water-boarding but I also not necessarily against not using it. What I am against is:

-Telegraphing to the terrorists what you will be doing. Let's just tell them our entire strategy

-It simply seems like appeasement. I think they are refusing to do it because of their kinder gentler approach to terrorism. Bill Clinton proved this didn't work

-He is lying. It has been shown that we got information form it and he knows it, so he is therefore lying.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010 5:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All significant, actionable intel from Zubaydah (KSM's identity, Jose Padilla intel, etc.) was extracted by Ali Soufan, an FBI agent, using LEGAL and smarter interrogation methods. Zubaydah shut down when tortured by an inexperienced contractor hired by the CIA named James Mitchell playing around with sophomoric theories of "learned helplessness"- any objective expert will tell you "enhanced interrogation" does not work...let alone ethics and American principles.

Monday, March 08, 2010 12:56:00 PM  
Blogger The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Hey Anon,

You're repeating what was claimed before the release of the OLC memos- back when the CIA could not speak out in defense of itself. Thiessen's account trumps the Soufan narrative, which is outdated talking points and wrong. Thiessen's book is pretty detailed on what Soufan was able to get from Zubaydah, and what he wasn't able to get.

Might want to check out this interview/debate, as well

Monday, March 08, 2010 1:29:00 PM  

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