That excellent news source ProPublica has published internal CIA cables that outline the torture that was done to Abu Zubaydah when he was picked up following the 9/11 attacks. The article describes in detail what he was subjected to as well as his own account of his reactions during the process, and it makes for sickening reading. To make it worse, the person who oversaw this barbarous treatment is Gina Haspel, who has just been named by Donald Trump to be deputy head of the CIA.
For 20 days in 2002, the CIA interrogated Abu Zubaydah at a secret “black site” prison in Thailand, believing him to be a top al-Qaida operative with information about impending attacks on the United States.
Through recently released cables obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union and Zubayadah’s own account to his lawyers, which has also been recently declassified, a chilling picture has emerged of just what transpired on those days and who oversaw it. According to John Kirakou, a former CIA counterterrorism official, the “chief of base” personally managing the operation was Gina Haspel. President Donald Trump recently named Haspel to the number two spot at the CIA.
The details are disgusting and reveal a level of inhumanity that should put the lie to any claim that the US acts more honorably than other nations in the way it treats its prisoners. One can only imagine what the reaction would be in the US if (say) North Korea or Iran treated someone they captured whom they considered a US spy even a fraction as badly as the way Zubaydah was treated. No one reading this can have any illusions that US behavior is superior to that of many of the nations it criticizes.
During the days when he was tortured, Abu Zubaydah was kept in what was essentially a coffin.
A “confinement box” was built especially for Zubayadah: 85 inches long, 30 inches wide and 20 inches deep. He was told it would be “his new home.”
Zubayadah describes being placed into the box for the first time, still shackled, and supplied with a bucket for his waste.
In addition to being waterboarded, he was subjected to a practice known as ‘walling’, which consisted of slamming him against a plywood wall. After the walling, he would be placed in an even smaller confinement box that was 21 inches wide, 2.5 feet deep and 2.5 feet high, so that he had to remained crouched.
ProPublica has another article going into more detail about Haspel’s role in torture.
Haspel was sent by the chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism section, Jose Rodriquez, the “handpicked warden of the first secret prison the CIA created to handle al-Qaida detainees,” according to a little-noticed recent article in Reader Supported News by John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism officer. In his memoir, “Hard Measures,” Rodriquez refers to a “female chief of base” in Thailand but does not name her.
Kirakou provided more details about her central role. “It was Haspel who oversaw the staff,” at the Thai prison, including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the two psychologists who “designed the torture techniques and who actually carried out torture on the prisoners,” he wrote.
Kiriakou pleaded guilty in 2012 to releasing classified information about waterboarding and the torture of detainees, and served 23 months in prison.
The CIA officials in Thailand understood that the methods they were using could kill Zubaydah and said that should that happen, they would cremate his body. If he survived questioning, Haspel sought assurances that “the subject will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”
So far, that promise has been kept. Zubaydah is currently incarcerated at Guantanamo. His lawyers filed a court action in 2008 seeking his release, but the federal judges overseeing the case have failed to issue any substantive rulings.
Note that none of the people responsible for torture has been prosecuted but Kiriakou was punished for revealing some of this information. Kiriakou is unapologetic about what he did and has said that he would do it again. Presidents Bush and Obama have played disgraceful roles in carrying out these war crimes and punishing whistleblowers who exposed their own criminality and that of those who served under them. It is they who should have gone to prison for presiding over, condoning, and covering up torture.
They have kept the door wide open for an even more callous and brutal person like Trump, someone who seems to actively enjoy the thought of inflicting torture, to do even worse things, if that is even possible.