Wik­iLeaks bol­sters ar­gu­ment for Gitmo

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

Wik­iLeaks founder Ju­lian As­sange’s on­go­ing re­lease of the Guan­tanamo Bay prison files, and large num­bers of clas­si­fied State Depart­ment ca­bles, at­tempts to ex­pose what he calls Amer­i­can corruption.

But sup­port­ers of the Ge­orge W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s global war on terrorism say the nearly 800 Guan­tanamo files show that “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions of hun­dreds of cap­tured op­er­a­tives at se­cret over­seas pris­ons and at the Cuban prison amounted to one of the most suc­cess­ful in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tions in his­tory.

Be­fore the in­ter­ro­ga­tions, the U.S. knew lit­tle about al Qaeda in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the Sept. 11, 2001, ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Years later, the CIA and mil­i­tary had ac­cu­mu­lated a large data­base of on­go­ing plots and the iden­ti­ties of ter­ror­ists, the Wik­iLeaks files show.

“The Wik­iLeaks doc­u­ments pro­vide still ad­di­tional ev­i­dence that in­tel­li­gence gained from CIA de­tainees not only helped lead us to Osama bin Laden, it helped us dis­rupt a num­ber of fol­low-on at­tacks that had been set in mo­tion af­ter 9/11,” said Marc Thiessen, a for­mer Bush speech­writer.

“With­out this pro­gram, we would not have gone nearly 10 years with­out an­other cat­a­strophic at­tack on the home­land. This is quite pos­si­bly the most im­por­tant, and most suc­cess­ful, in­tel­li­gence pro­gram in mod­ern times. But in­stead of medals, the peo­ple be­hind this pro­gram have been given sub­poe­nas.”

He was re­fer­ring to At­tor­ney Gen­eral Eric H. Holder Jr.’s launch of a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of CIA of­fi­cers who con­ducted the “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions, some of which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has dubbed “tor­ture.”

The killing of Osama bin Laden un­der­scores the value of the vast in­tel­li­gence data­base. The trea­sure trove of in­for­ma­tion in­cludes the iden­ti­ties of ter­ror­ists op­er­at­ing abroad, plots to kill civil­ians and de­tails on how al Qaeda used a net­work of couri­ers for clan­des­tine com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Pub­lic dis­clo­sure of the in­ter­ro­ga­tion wind­fall be­gan in April by the anti-se­crecy web­site Wik­iLeaks, which ob­tained hun­dreds of clas­si­fied U.S. re­ports on de­tainees writ­ten by Joint Task Force Guan­tanamo, the mil­i­tary unit in charge of the prison at U.S. Naval Base Guan­tanamo Bay, Cuba.

As of May 19, Wik­iLeaks had re­leased 765 of 779 Gitmo files.

The files show that pris­oner Abu Fara­jal al-Libi, al Qaeda’s No. 3 and a close aide to bin Laden, first dis­closed the ter­ror­ist mas­ter’s spe­cial courier to the CIA. It was the agency’s abil­ity to find and track the mes­sen­ger that ul­ti­mately led a team of Navy SEALs to bin Laden’s com­pound in Ab­bot­tabad, Pak­istan, where he was killed early on May 2.

Sup­port­ers of send­ing ter­ror­ist sus­pects to Guan­tanamo Bay — which the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has vowed to shut­ter, though its ini­tial dead­line has come and gone — for tri­als at mil­i­tary com­mis­sions say the prison pro­vided a sin­gle col­lec­tion point to as­sess and cross­check in­tel­li­gence on an en­emy the United States knew lit­tle about.

“We learned a tremen­dous amount about the op­er­a­tion, not only in Afghanistan but the or­ga­ni­za­tional struc­ture and how they were op­er­at­ing out­side the sial of tech­niques, which also in­cluded stress po­si­tions, slap­ping, shak­ing and dous­ing cap­tives with cold wa­ter.

“In July 2003, [al Libi] re­ceived a letter from [bin Laden’s] des­ig­nated courier, Maulawi Abd al-Khaliq Jan, re­quest­ing de­tainee take on the re­spon­si­bil­ity of col­lect­ing do­na­tions, or­ga­niz­ing travel and dis­tribut­ing funds to fam­i­lies in Pak­istan,” the doc­u­ment stated.

“[Bin Laden] stated de­tainee would be the of­fi­cial mes­sen­ger be­tween [bin Laden] and oth­ers in Pak­istan. In mid-2003, de­tainee moved his fam­ily to Ab­bot­tabad, PK, and worked be­tween Ab­bot­tabad and Pe­shawar.”

U.S. of­fi­cials said the name pro­vided to in­ter­roga­tors was false. But the in­tel­li­gence added to the other bits of data that helped the U.S. learn how bin Laden planned to di­rect al Qaeda from Pak­istan, the real name of his spe­cial courier and show that other rank­ing al Qaeda op­er­a­tives pro­vided a first-ever look in­side the al Qaeda killing ma­chine.

Ramzi Bin al-Shibh re­vealed how op­er­a­tives gained visas to en­ter the West, of­ten by gain­ing ac­cep­tance to an ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tute. If they were de­nied visas at U.S. em­bassies in the Mid­dle East, they would try to gain en­trance to Europe and ap­ply from there.

A ter­ror­ist iden­ti­fied as Ham­bali, the leader of the al Qaeda-funded Is­lamiyah net­work in South Asia, pro­vided ex­ten­sive in­for­ma­tion on his ter­ror­ist con­tacts in In­done­sia. Re­spon­si­ble for the 2002 Bali bomb­ing that killed more than 200, Ham­bali dis­closed the ex­is­tence of the “In­fraq Fis­abil­lah” fund used to fi­nance travel by ter­ror­ists to and from Pak­istan for train­ing.

Abu Zubay­dah, an­other high-rank­ing bin Laden aide, pro­vided a wealth of in­forma-

A de­clas­si­fied CIA re­port on Sept. 11 mas­ter­mind Khalid Shaikh Mo­hammed re­veals that he dis­closed the iden­ti­ties of sev­eral op­er­a­tives and the sta­tus of a num­ber of planned at­tacks. One plan called for com­man­deer­ing com­mer­cial air­lin­ers at Lon­don’s Heathrow Air­port. Authorities broke up the plot. Mo­hammed was one of three al Qaeda lead­ers wa­ter­boarded by the CIA. The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion called it part of “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has la­beled it “tor­ture.”

im­me­di­ate com­bat area, for ex­am­ple in Europe,” said re­tired Brig. Gen. Thomas L. Hem­ing­way, the Pen­tagon’s top legal ad­viser to the com­mis­sions’ of­fice dur­ing Guan­tanamo’s early days.

Gen. Hem­ing­way re­called a case when the mil­i­tary com­mand in Afghanistan was look­ing for a se­nior Tal­iban com­man­der. In­ter­roga­tors found a de­tainee who knew the suspect. The de­tainee drew a di­a­gram of his com­pound. Aerial sur­veil­lance lo­cated the home and led to the com­man­der’s cap­ture.

“There was a lot of ac­tion­able in­tel­li­gence that was de­vel­oped down there for a long time,” Gen. Hem­ing­way said.

Hunt for bin Laden

In the hunt for bin Laden, the files show al-Libi pro­vided crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion. The CIA used so-called en­hanced-in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques on al-Libi but did not sub­ject him to water­board­ing — the most con­tro­ver- the con­nec­tion of the group to Ab­bot­tabad, where the courier moved around 2006.

The courier, who even­tu­ally led the U.S. to the com­pound un­wit­tingly, was killed in the raid. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has not iden­ti­fied that per­son’s name.

Other plots

An ear­lier de­clas­si­fied CIA re­port on Sept. 11 mas­ter­mind Khalid Shaikh Mo­hammed re­veals that he dis­closed the iden­ti­ties of sev­eral op­er­a­tives and the sta­tus of a num­ber of planned at­tacks.

One plan called for com­man­deer­ing com­mer­cial air­lin­ers at Lon­don’s Heathrow Air­port. Authorities broke up the plot.

Mo­hammed was one of three al Qaeda lead­ers wa­ter­boarded by the CIA. The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion called it part of “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tions. The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has la­beled it “tor­ture.”

The leaked de­tainee files tion on al Qaeda’s abil­ity to forge doc­u­ments used to gain ac­cess to the West. Zubay­dah, for ex­am­ple, forged med­i­cal files to show that a ter­ror­ist had been tor­tured. The sup­posed vic­tims then used the phony med­i­cal his­tory to gain po­lit­i­cal asy­lum in Europe or the United States.

“De­tainee has in­ti­mate knowl­edge of al Qaeda’s use of a doc­u­ment com­mit­tee for forg­ing doc­u­ments such as iden­ti­fi­ca­tion cards, visas, and pass­ports,” the Zubay­dah file states, adding, “De­tainee has pro­vided a wealth of in­for­ma­tion on ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tions. He has pro­vided in­tel­li­gence on their op­er­a­tions and lead­er­ship. De­tainee con­tin­ues to be a valu­able source of in­tel­li­gence for op­er­a­tions still oc­curr ing to­day.”

Mo­hammed Ab­dah alNashiri, an­other close bin Laden aide, op­er­ated a sep­a­rate al Qaeda op­er­a­tion in Ye­men that re­ceived aid from Ye­meni se­cu­rity forces. The rev­e­la­tion showed that, as in Pak­istan, a U.S. ally sup­pos­edly work­ing with the West ac­tu­ally was help­ing the en­emy.

One of three al Qaeda cap­tives wa­ter­boarded, Nashiri pro­vided the names of a num­ber of op­er­a­tives still in the field.

Broad con­sen­sus

It is not just Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion sup­port­ers who say in­ter­ro­ga­tions of ter­ror­ist sus­pects at Gitmo and other venues worked.

Asked on NBC News whether en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tions, in­clud­ing water­board­ing, pro­duced in­for­ma­tion that helped find bin Laden, CIA Di­rec­tor Leon E. Panetta said: “In the in­tel­li­gence busi­ness, you work from a lot of sources of in­for­ma­tion, and that was true here.”

Mr. Panetta said: “We had a mul­ti­ple se­ries of sources that pro­vided in­for­ma­tion with re­gards to the sit­u­a­tion. Clearly, some of it came from de­tainees and the in­ter­ro­ga­tion of de­tainees, but we also had in­for­ma­tion from other sources as well.”

Asked whether he would deny that water­board­ing pro­duced crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion on bin Laden, Mr. Panetta an­swered said he would not.

“No, I think some of the de­tainees clearly were, you know, they used these en­hanced in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques against some of these de­tainees,” he said.

“But I’m also say­ing that, you know, the de­bate about whether we would have got­ten the same in­for­ma­tion through other ap­proaches I think is al­ways go­ing be an open ques­tion.”

Mr. Panetta op­posed Mr. Holder’s de­ci­sion to open a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the CIA in­ter­roga­tors.

The de­bate over the use of “en­hanced” in­ter­ro­ga­tion tech­niques has raged on Capi­tol Hill since Mr. Bush ini­ti­ated the tac­tics, the most fa­mous of which was water­board­ing, and said Geneva Con­ven­tion rules ap­ply only to sign­ing par­ties and thus not to state­less ter­ror­ists in the wake of the Sept. 11 at­tacks.

Even though lead­ers from both par­ties were briefed on the prac­tices as early as 2002, lead­ing Democrats de­rided their use as re­ports of se­cret pris­ons emerged around 2006.

In 2007, Mr. Bush signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der pro­hibit­ing cruel and in­hu­mane treat­ment, hu­mil­i­a­tion or den­i­gra­tion of prisoners’ re­li­gious be­liefs. Af­ter tak­ing of­fice in 2009, Mr. Obama dubbed some of the tech­niques tor­ture, closed the se­cret prison sys­tem and said the ad­min­is­tra­tion would abide by the Geneva Con­ven­tions.

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