As you'll soon discover, the story orbits around the mysterious death of a torture prison detainee, a Libyan national by the name of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi.
Beginning with a column posted on May 10th by British journalist Andy Worthington, I'm merely going to present the story to you in the sequence that it was brought to the English-speaking world. As you finally read the quoted text from Newsweek’s May 25th printed issue, pay special attention to how it has evolved in those two weeks since Worthington first presented it; how a limited set of details have been isolated to bring the story to conclusion, while others have been conveniently left behind. And especially note the political purposes this limited interpretation now serves.
From Worthington’s post we begin:
This news resolves, in the grimmest way possible, questions that have long been asked about the whereabouts of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, perhaps the most famous of “America’s Disappeared” — prisoners seized in the “War on Terror,” who were rendered not to Guantánamo but to secret prisons run by the CIA or to the custody of governments in third countries — often their own — where, it was presumed, they would never be seen or heard from again.
The emir of the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan, al-Libi was one of hundreds of prisoners seized by Pakistani forces in December 2001, crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Most of these men ended up in Guantánamo after being handed over (or sold) to US forces by their Pakistani allies, but al-Libi was, notoriously, rendered to Egypt by the CIA to be tortured on behalf of the US government.
Four months later, on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell made the same claim in his notorious speech to the UN Security Council, in an attempt to drum up support for the invasion. “I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these [chemical and biological] weapons to al-Qaeda,” Powell said, adding, “Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story.”
After which Worthington indicates that:
Al-Libi recanted his story in February 2004, when he was returned to the CIA’s custody, and explained, as Newsweek described it, that he told his debriefers that “he initially told his interrogators that he ‘knew nothing’ about ties between Baghdad and Osama bin Laden and he ‘had difficulty even coming up with a story’ about a relationship between the two.” The Newsweek report reported, “his answers displeased his interrogators — who then apparently subjected him to a mock burial. As al-Libi recounted, he was stuffed into a box less than 20 inches high. When the box was opened 17 hours later, al-Libi said he was given one final opportunity to ‘tell the truth.’ He was knocked to the floor and ‘punched for 15 minutes.’ It was only then that, al-Libi said, he made up the story about Iraqi weapons training.”
The Timing Is Weird
Two days later, on May 12th, the international news wire finally picked up the story, as evidenced by reports in both the AP and Newsweek's online magazine. Neither of these sources cites Worthington's post directly, but each offer readers (undoubtedly encountering this story for the first time) approximately the same details, with the following additions, supposedly developments in the two days since the story broke.
As Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball indicate:
Human-rights workers and Libyan dissidents tell NEWSWEEK they have independently confirmed the report from sources inside Libya and demanded an immediate independent investigation into the circumstances of his death. Libi, who once served as emir of the Khalden training camp in Afghanistan, had recently been identified by defense lawyers in the U.S. as a prime potential witness in any upcoming trials of top terror suspects, either in revamped military commissions or in U.S. federal courts. Brent Mickum, a U.S. lawyer who represents Abu Zubaydah, another high-value CIA detainee who is alleged to have worked closely with Libi, says he had recently begun efforts through intermediaries to arrange to talk to Libi. "The timing of this is weird," Mickum says.
As the AP release correctly observed: