The Post and Abu Zubaydah Part II: Ali Soufan Exposed. By Marc Thiessen
NRO, Sunday, July 19, 2009
On March 29, the Washington Post published a front-page story called “Detainee’s Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots,” in which staff reporters Joby Warrick and Peter Finn declared that “not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions.”
Although they don’t call it that, Warrick and Finn have published what amounts to a full retraction on the front page of the Post this morning.
They write: “Although Abu Zubaydah was not a member of al Qaeda and had limited relations with bin Laden, he was a font of information on the membership of the terrorist group because of his long standing ties with [Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed and North African jihadists” (emphasis added). He became this “font of information” after the use of enhanced interrogation techniques.Moreover, they acknowledge that Zubaydah provided information that led to the capture of al-Qaeda terrorist Jose Padilla only after enhanced interrogation techniques were employed. (Padilla was captured as he arrived in Chicago on a mission from Khalid Shiekh Mohammed, or KSM, to carry out terrorist attacks in the U.S.)
This contradicts the assertions of FBI agent Ali Soufan, who claims that he got the information about Padilla from Zubaydah before enhanced interrogation techniques were applied by the CIA. Writing in the New York Times in April of this year, Soufan wrote: “Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned [Zubaydah] from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence. We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber.”
This last statement, it turns out, is a flat lie. According to today’s Post, Zubaydah did give up the information about KSM before enhanced interrogations began. Then a CIA team took over and began implementing enhanced interrogation techniques, including forced nudity and sleep deprivation. After this, the Post reports today: “Agency officials decided to let the FBI back into the interrogations, but on the condition that forced nudity and sleep deprivation be allowed to continue. . . . Under FBI questioning, Abu Zubaydah indentified an operative he knew as Abdullah al-Mujahir, the alias, he said, of an American citizen with a Latino name. An investigation involving multiple agencies identified the suspect as Jose Padilla, the al Qaeda operative later convicted of providing material support for terrorism. ‘In two different bits, after sleep deprivation, is when Abu Zubaydah gave clues about who Padilla might be.’”
In other words, contrary to Soufan’s assertion in the Times, he only got the information that led to Padilla after the CIA began to implement enhanced interrogation techniques.
Padilla is often dismissed as the man behind a fanciful “dirty bomb” plot, and the Post notes today that he was convicted of “material support for terrorism.” In fact Padilla was a protégé of al-Qaeda’s third in command, Mohammed Atef, who had been sent to America by KSM to carry out a much more sinister and realistic attack on America — a plot to simultaneously blow up apartment buildings using natural gas. He trained for this mission in al-Qaeda camps, and was given $10,000 by KSM and his right-hand man, Ammar al-Baluchi, to carry it out. The night before his departure for America, KSM, Ammar, and KSM’s nephew and 9/11 plotter Ramzi bin al Shibh hosted a farewell dinner for Padilla and his accomplice.
The reason he was convicted of “material support for terrorism” is because the Justice Department could not prosecute him for the full panoply of his crimes without allowing Padilla to call KSM, Ammar, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh as witnesses — thus risking the exposure of highly classified information. They chose to pursue lesser charges rather than expose sources and methods. But the full extent of Padilla’s activities was laid out in a speech by Deputy Attorney General James Comey in June 2004.
The bottom line is that today’s story in the Post proves that: 1) the original Post assertion that “not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions” is flat wrong — the Padilla plot was broken up because of the CIA’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques; and 2) Ali Soufan’s assertion that he got this information before the implementation of enhanced interrogation techniques is false.