FBI agents opt out of harsh ter­ror­ism in­ter­ro­ga­tions

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

An FBI agent as­signed in 2002 to help ob­tain intelligence from a top al Qaeda oper­a­tive chal­lenged the in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques used on the ter­ror­ism sus­pect by the CIA, tak­ing what a gov­ern­ment re­port on May 20 de­scribed as his “strong con­cerns” to se­nior of­fi­cials in the bureau’s coun­tert­er­ror­ism di­vi­sion.

The uniden­ti­fied agent was one of two the FBI de­ployed to ques­tion Abu Zubay­dah, a high-rank­ing al Qaeda mem­ber and close as­so­ci­ate of Osama bin Laden who was wounded and cap­tured in March 2002 in Pak­istan, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by the Jus­tice De­part­ment’s Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral.

The agents had con­ducted the ini­tial in­ter­views, as­sisted in Zubay­dah’s care and de­vel­oped what the 370-page re­port called “rap­port with him” when the CIA ar­rived and “as­sumed con­trol of the in­ter­ro­ga­tion.” The re­port said the FBI agents ob­served the CIA use of “clas­si­fied tech­niques that un­doubt­edly would not be per­mit­ted un­der FBI in­ter­view poli­cies.”

The CIA has since ac­knowl­edged that Zubay­dah was sub­jected to an in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­nique known as “wa­ter­board­ing,” or sim­u­lated drown­ing.

In­spec­tor Gen­eral Glenn A. Fine said in the re­port that the vast ma­jor­ity of FBI agents de­ployed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guan­tanamo Bay as part of the war on ter­ror­ism opted not to par­tic­i­pate in the more ag­gres­sive and con­tro­ver­sial in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques of de­tainees used by the CIA and the U.S. mil­i­tary. He also said the un­named agent’s re­port to his su­per­vi­sors led to dis­cus­sions at FBI head­quar­ters in Wash­ing­ton — which in­cluded the Jus­tice De­part­ment and the CIA.

“Ul­ti­mately, th­ese dis­cus­sions re­sulted in the de­ter­mi­na­tion by FBI Di­rec­tor Robert Mueller in ap- prox­i­mately Au­gust 2002 that the FBI would not par­tic­i­pate in joint in­ter­ro­ga­tions of de­tainees with other agen­cies in which harsh or ex­treme tech­niques not al­lowed by the FBI would be em­ployed,” Mr. Fine said.

“Most FBI agents ad­hered to the FBI’s tra­di­tional in­ter­view strate­gies in the mil­i­tary zones and avoided par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ag­gres­sive or ques­tion­able in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques that the mil­i­tary em­ployed,” he said. “We found no in­stances in which an FBI agent par­tic­i­pated in clear detainee abuse of the kind that some mil­i­tary in­ter­roga­tors used.”

In Septem­ber 2006, Pres­i­dent Bush iden­ti­fied Zubay­dah as “a se­nior ter­ror­ist leader” who had given U.S. au­thor­i­ties sig­nif­i­cant in­for­ma­tion about al Qaeda, but when he re­fused to re­spond to fur­ther ques­tion­ing, “the CIA used an al­ter­na­tive set of pro­ce­dures.”

CIA Di­rec­tor Michael V. Hay­den has iden­ti­fied Zubay­dah as one of three al Qaeda sus­pects who were sub­jected to wa­ter­board­ing. The oth­ers were Khalid Shaikh Mo­hammed, sus­pected mas­ter­mind of the Sept. 11 at­tacks, and Abd alRahim al-Nashiri, named in the bomb­ing of the USS Cole in Ye­men in 2000.

“We be­lieve the FBI should be cred­ited for its con­duct and pro­fes­sion­al­ism in detainee in­ter­ro­ga­tions in the mil­i­tary zones and in gen­er­ally avoid­ing par­tic­i­pa­tion in detainee abuse,” Mr. Fine said.

Sen. Pa­trick J. Leahy, Ver­mont Demo­crat and chair­man of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, said while FBI agents ap­pear to have ad­hered to a clear pol­icy in the treat­ment of de­tainees at Guan­tanamo Bay, Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Mueller should have been “more forth­com­ing” when the com­mit­tee ques­tioned him about the in­ter­ro­ga­tions in May 2004.

“Had he done so, he might have helped paved the way for Congress to in­ves­ti­gate al­le­ga­tions of abuse sooner,” Mr. Leahy said.

An­thony D. Romero, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, said the re­port shows that of­fi­cials at the high­est lev­els of gov­ern­ment knew of the abuse of pris­on­ers in U.S. mil­i­tary cus­tody over­seas as early as 2002 but did noth­ing about it.

“Top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials in the De­fense De­part­ment, CIA and even as high as the White House turned a blind eye to tor­ture and abuse and failed to act ag­gres­sively to end it,” Mr. Romero said.

The FBI said that it was “grat­i­fied” by the IG’s re­port, adding that it would con­tinue to em­ploy “the same non-co­er­cive, rap­port-based in­ter­view tech­niques to de­tainees en­coun­tered in mil­i­tary zones that we em­ploy ev­ery day in ev­ery as­pect of our mis­sion, whether in the U.S. or abroad.”

The IG’s re­port, which took three years to com­plete, said 200 FBI agents in Guan­tanamo Bay, 50 in Afghanistan and 70 in Iraq said they saw or heard of mil­i­tary in­ter­roga­tors us­ing harsh tech­niques. The meth­ods in­cluded sleep de­pri­va­tion; pro­longed “short-shack­ling,” in which a detainee’s hands are shack­led close to his feet; growl- ing mil­i­tary dogs for in­tim­i­da­tion; twist­ing back a detainee’s thumbs; us­ing a fe­male in­ter­roga­tor to touch or pro­voke a detainee in a sex­ual man­ner; and wrap­ping a detainee’s head in duct tape.

The re­port also noted that FBI agents as­signed at Guan­tanamo Bay in Cuba be­gan rais­ing con­cerns to FBI head­quar­ters in late 2002 re­gard­ing the harsh in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques by the U.S. mil­i­tary. It said those con­cerns fo­cused on the treat­ment of an­other al Qaeda ter­ror­ist sus­pect, Muham­mad Al-Qah­tani.

Af­ter his cap­ture and trans­fer to Guan­tanamo Bay, the re­port said, Al-Qah­tani re­sisted FBI at­tempts to in­ter­view him, prompt­ing the U.S. mil­i­tary to take con­trol of his in­ter­ro­ga­tion. FBI agents ini­tially be­came con­cerned when the mil­i­tary an­nounced a plan to keep Al-Qah­tani awake dur­ing con­tin­u­ous 20hour in­ter­views daily for an in­def­i­nite pe­riod, the re­port said.

The agents later ob­served mil­i­tary in­ter­roga­tors us­ing in­creas­ingly harsh and de­mean­ing tech­niques, such as men­ac­ing Al-Qah­tani with a snarling dog dur­ing his in­ter­ro­ga­tion, the re­port said. It said the FBI ad­vo­cated a long-term rap­port-based strat­egy and that the mil­i­tary in­sisted on a more ag­gres­sive approach.

Mr. Fine said U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials ul­ti­mately de­cided what in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques would be used at Guan­tanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq be­cause they were De­fense De­part­ment sites. The re­port said sev­eral se­nior Jus­tice De­part­ment of­fi­cials raised con­cerns about the U.S. mil­i­tary’s detainee prac­tices with the Na­tional Se­cu­rity Coun­cil in 2003, but did not re­call that any changes were made.

In Septem­ber 2006, the U.S. Army iden­ti­fied sev­eral pro­hib­ited in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques, in­clud­ing wa­ter­board­ing, beat­ings, sex­ual acts, use of mil­i­tary dogs, and de­pri­va­tion of food or wa­ter.

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“We found no in­stances in which an FBI agent par­tic­i­pated in clear detainee abuse of the kind that some mil­i­tary in­ter­roga­tors used,” In­spec­tor Gen­eral Glenn A. Fine says.

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