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Zubaydah's Torture, Detention Subject of Senate Intelligence Inquiry

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The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has launched an investigation into Abu Zubaydah, the "high-value" detainee captured in March 2002 that the Bush administration wrongly claimed was one of the planners of 9/11 and a top al-Qaeda operative, according to several Capitol Hill sources.

The investigation of Zubaydah, who was tortured at a secret black site prison in Thailand, will be conducted alongside the committee's ongoing probe of the Bush administration's interrogation and detention policies. Zubdaydah has been detained at Guantanamo since 2006.

The panel will scrutinize thousands of pages of highly classified documents related to Zubaydah's detention and torture to determine, among other things, whether the "enhanced interrogation techniques" he was subjected to was accurately reflected in CIA cable traffic sent back to Langley, whether he ever provided actionable intelligence to his torturers, and how the CIA and other government agencies came to rely on flawed intelligence that led the Bush administration to classify him as the No. 3 person in al-Qaeda and its first high-value detainee, Hill sources said.

As previously reported by Truthout, in his habeas corpus case, the Justice Department does not rely upon any statements Zubaydah made to his torturers after he was captured in Pakistan in March 2002 nor does the agency cite Bush-era claims about Zubaydah to justify why he should continue to be detained.

Zubaydah's attorney, Brent Mickum, said in an interview that he briefed the Intelligence Committee last year about his client.

"It was a very partisan group," Mickum said about the briefing. "Republicans had their agenda and they were not very interested in hearing the facts of the case. I told them what my views were on the case. I'm delighted [the committee] has decided to take a hard look at the case now."

The committee also intends to probe the torture and detention policies of other high-value detainees. The Hill sources said they did not know the identity of those detainees. The committee is expected to finish its investigation later this summer and may issue a declassified report on its findings.

Second Taping System

Meanwhile, highly placed intelligence sources directly knowledgeable about Zubaydah's torture said some of the interrogation sessions captured on at least 90 videotapes between April and August 2002 showed Zubaydah being subjected to torture methods not approved by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC).

Specifically, these sources said, Zubaydah was subjected to repeated sessions of "water dousing," a method that at the time interrogators used it on Zubaydah was described as spraying him with extremely cold water from a hose while he was naked and shackled by chains attached to a ceiling in the cell he was kept in at the black site prison.

The sources requested anonymity in order to discuss issues related to Zubaydah's torture that remain classified.

The OLC did not approve the use of water dousing as an interrogation technique until August 2004. Use of the method is believed to have played a part in the November 2002 death of Gul Rahman, a detainee who was held at an Afghanistan prison known as The Salt Pit and died of hypothermia hours after being doused with water and left in a cold prison cell.

Other videotapes showed Zubaydah being subjected to extended hours of sleep deprivation before the interrogation method was approved by OLC, which one current and three former CIA officials said was part of a larger experiment to determine how long a detainee could endure the technique.

In a blog post Friday, Marcy Wheeler reported that newly released documents related to the destruction of the torture tapes "provides more background on how Abu Zubaydah got subjected to extended sleep deprivation long before it was approved."

"After consulting with the [National Security Council] and [Department of Justice], [the counterterrorism center] [redacted] originally approved 24-48 hours of sleep deprivation," according to a passage in the documents Wheeler highlighted. The documents were turned over to the ACLU n response to a Freedom of Information Act request

"In April 2002 [the counterterrorism center] [redacted] learned that due to a misunderstanding, that time frame had been exceeded...However, [the counterterrorism center] [redacted] advised that since the process did not have adverse medical effects or result in hallucinations (thereby disrupting profoundly Abu Zubaydah's senses or personality) it was within legal parameters."

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Jason Leopold is Deputy Managing Editor of and the founding editor of the online investigative news magazine The Public Record, He is the author of the National Bestseller, "News Junkie," a memoir. Visit (more...)
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