Abu Zubaydah, the High-Value Terrorist Who Wasn’t

Friday, April 09, 2010
Abu Zubaydah

Labeled the first “high-value” detainee by the Bush administration, Abu Zubaydah was described as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations and top recruiter” and “a senior terrorist leader and a trusted associate of Osama bin Laden” who supposedly was going to “provide the names of terrorists around the world and which targets they planned to hit” after being interrogated and tortured. But various published accounts have drawn into question how valuable—or even mentally stable—Zubaydah really is.

Ron Suskind’s book The One Percent Doctrine resulted in one characterization of Zubaydah as “mentally ill and nothing like the pivotal figure” the CIA assumed him to be. Instead of knowing about pivotal al-Qaeda operations, the Saudi-born Palestinian was really the “go-to guy for minor logistics—travel for wives and children and the like.”
Also, FBI analysts reportedly determined from reading Zubaydah’s diaries that he may have multiple personality disorder. Dan Coleman, the FBI’s senior expert on al-Qaeda, was quoted as saying: “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality.”
Zubaydah suffered a severe head injury in 1992 while fighting Communists in Afghanistan that affected his long- and short-term memory, according to his defense attorney working to free the detainee from Guantánamo Bay. He was captured in Pakistan on March 28, 2002, and interrogated at secret prisons before being transferred to Guantánamo.
In the hands of the CIA, Zubaydeh was subjected to various torture techniques, all of which were videotaped. However, the CIA destroyed 90 tapes of these sessions, including 12 that involved waterboarding. Although the CIA alleged that he provided valuable information, others, including Zubaydeh himself, claim that he told his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear so that they would stop torturing him.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing (by Andy Worthington, Future of Freedom Foundation)
FBI, CIA Debate Significance of Terror Suspect (by Dan Eggen and Walter Pincus, Washington Post)
Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots (by Peter Finn and Joby Warrick, Washington Post)
Anatomy of a Raid (by Tim McGirk, Massimo Calabresi, Elaine Shannon, Mark Thompson, Adam Zagorin, Bruce Crumley, Syed Talat Hussain and Rahimullah Yusufzai, Time)
Abu Zubaydeh (Wikipedia)


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