The browser or device you are using is out of date. It has known security flaws and a limited feature set. You will not see all the features of some websites. Please update your browser. A list of the most popular browsers can be found below.
Abu Zubaydah, 1995
while detained in Pakistan
In Volume 2 of his diaries, Abu Zubaydah wrote that he suffered a shrapnel wound to his head, which left a small hole in his skull, while performing ablutions on a mountain in Gardez, Afghanistan. He temporarily lost his sight and hearing and the ability to move his body. He also lost part of his memory, the ability to speak and write for about seven months. He wrote in an entry that reading his “memoirs help(ed) me memory (sic) to recall everything.”
At the interrogation, Abu Zubaydah contorted his fingers to make it appear that the beating “will leave me in a state of nervous shock … I opened my right hand keeping two of my fingers twisted, and said, ‘I cannot control them.’” The officer “became more scared, left the room and lighted a cigarette hoping that the smoking will calm down his anger.”
But he returned about 15 minutes later and started beating Abu Zubaydah again.
“I am not going to let you go even if you die, where is the house?” he said.
“I only answered with a few words trying to show that my nervous (sic) had an impact on my tongue … But he started beating me again more forcefully while I was shouting at them in English, ‘you animals!” Abu Zubaydah wrote.
The officer left the room while a soldier continued to beat Abu Zubaydah. He was then taken to a prison at Qura Qabrastan. The officer, Abu Zubaydah wrote in his diary, “ordered that I should be tied up to the high bars so I can’t sit down or sleep during the night, and in fact that was what happened.”
“Hours passed by and I was feeling the pain in the bottom of my foot (The location of the beating). I also felt the pain in the calf, and the thigh, because of standing a long time … And I started to realize their intention, they must be trying to make me reach a nervous breakdown so I will confess with everything I know at the time of interrogation … I relied on my determination and rested against the bars and tried to sleep, and I really slept while standing, and when the pain increased in one foot, I woke up and leaned on the other foot so I could sleep.”
The technique the Pakistanis used on Abu Zubaydah was a stress position, one of 10 “enhanced interrogation methods” the CIA used on him. Almost immediately after his capture, according to declassified documents released several years ago, top Bush administration officials discussed using an “alternative” set of interrogation methods “because the CIA believed that Abu Zubaydah was withholding imminent-threat information during the initial interrogation sessions.”
The CIA prepared a psychological assessment of Abu Zubaydah in July 2002, based heavily on his six volumes of diaries, that focused on how to break down a man the CIA then believed was the No. 3 person in Al-Qaeda’s hierarchy.
His diaries provide clues to how he may have hoped to respond to physical pain inflicted by his CIA interrogators — although what actually transpired in the course of his “enhanced interrogation” by U.S. operatives remains unknown.
During his interrogation in Pakistan, after a night of half-sleeping in a stress position, Abu Zubaydah once again faced the interrogator with the “big mustache,” who questioned him about the fake passport seals. Abu Zubaydah was returned to the prison cell, where, he said, he spent more than two days “standing on my feet, almost torn down.” But “God gave me help because as long as I am thinking of (the brothers who are outside the prison, I don’t feel the pain, but when I stop thinking of them, then I think of pain).”
Another day, Abu Zubaydah was taken by bus along with his Yemeni companion to an office he calls “The Special Branch.” There, he watched the interrogation of a young man he believed might have been a Pakistani who plotted a failed assassination attempt on Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. It’s unclear why Abu Zubaydah was present at the session. He wrote that he was forced to “sit in some place, and from the opening of the door we were revealed to — or we can see at the same time — a veiled person.”
He said after the man responded to the interrogator’s questions, he and his companion were quickly taken back to the bus and returned to the prison. Abu Zubaydah was then hooded, tied up and interrogated again by the “huge man with the big mustache.” The room, Abu Zubaydah wrote, was crowded and he could hear English words coming from near the vicinity of the “huge man.”
“The huge man started with a question which I was expecting … He said, ‘What do you know about the House of Martyrs?’ He spoke the words ‘House of Martyrs’ in Arabic, and the rest in English.”
Abu Zubaydah responded, he said, “In a very cool manner, ‘I heard about it.’”
The officer used his baton and smashed Abu Zubaydah “on the upper calf, just in the back of my left knee.”
“I said angrily, ‘What happened?’”
He was asked another question, “What do you know about the (prince of the House of Martyrs)?”
“I said angrily, ‘I don’t know him.’” The officer smashed Abu Zubaydah on the back of his calf again.
After repeated blows he said, “If the interrogation will continue in this manner, then go ahead and writing down all the answers that are appropriate for you, then I will sign, and everything will be over.” As the beating continued, Abu Zubaydah started giving false names to his questioners. He denied that he was the “prince” of the House of Martyrs. When asked about his affiliation, he denied that he was the emir of the Khaldan training camp.
“I am a sick man, and I am still taking medications … for my memory case, do you think that anyone is going to rely on me to run a camp,” he said.
After his capture by the United States, Abu Zubaydah’s interrogations became more intense. In “The Black Banners” Soufan, one of two agents who first interrogated Abu Zubaydah at that CIA black-site prison, suggested the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were an experiment. It’s a word that he uses more than a dozen times in his book to describe the techniques first used on Abu Zubaydah.
Soufan interrogated Abu Zubaydah using traditional rapport-building techniques that, Soufan said, resulted in cooperation. It was only after two psychologists under contract to the CIA took over the interrogation in the weeks after Abu Zubaydah’s capture and used abusive methods that he began to clam up. Soufan left the black site, according to an interview he gave “60 Minutes” after the publication of his book in 2011, when one of the psychologists introduced a box to be used during Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation session that resembled a coffin.
The effectiveness of the CIA’s interrogation of Abu Zubaydah is questioned in a 6,000-page report prepared by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, which spent four years investigating the CIA’s so-called rendition, detention and interrogation program. According to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who chaired the panel, the report “uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight.” Abu Zubaydah figures prominently in the report, the executive summary of which Al Jazeera is seeking from the Justice Department under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.
It is uncertain whether being held by the CIA was Abu Zubaydah’s first experience of American intelligence operatives during interrogations. He wrote that some questioning took place while he was hooded. He said at one point he heard “… some people leaving the room quietly, and I later learned that they were Americans who came to watch the interrogation with the one who is supposed to be the prince of the House of Martyrs.”
Former CIA operations officer Marc Sageman, who was based in Islamabad in the late 1980s, is now a forensic psychiatrist and reviewed Abu Zubaydah’s diaries for Al Jazeera. He believes the Americans Abu Zubaydah referred to were FBI agents who were in Pakistan hunting for Ramzi Yousef’s fellow conspirators. The FBI would not respond to questions about that possibility.
Abu Zubaydah wrote that he later learned that eight of his brothers, whom the police had arrested and whom he identifies by name, “were Mujahedeen and the others were employed by the relief agencies … They were arrested because one of them was accused of supporting Yusif Ramzi financially.” Abu Zubaydah wrote that they were eventually freed after paying the Pakistanis a bribe of more than half a million rupees.
After the “Americans” left the room, Abu Zubaydah’s hood was removed. He contorted his fingers again to make it appear as if he had a nervous breakdown. He refused to eat for three days after being returned to his prison cell. He was allowed to make a phone call, which he used to call his brothers at the House of Exile guesthouse and warned them that they should leave because they may be arrested.
The Pakistanis brought Abu Zubaydah before a judge, and he was charged with being “one of those Arab Mujahideen who has been left behind with no residency permit.” He waved his U.N. refugee card, but the judge ruled that he should be deported. He was taken to a central jail, where he was detained for three months.
But the U.N. came to his rescue. He wrote, “The United infidel nations started its job by contacting the ministry of the interior to establish my right for residency as it was stated before, so I was expecting to stay for two months in the prison …” Abu Zubaydah said an Italian and a Pakistani official from the U.N. visited him during that time and asked him about the other Arabs detained in the prison. He lied to them too, saying, “I am scared from them; they are fundamentalists.”
“Good! Be aware (sic) of them!” one of the U.N. officials said.
“I said, ‘I hate terrorism,’” Abu Zubaydah continued.
The U.N. official, “Mister Ferlando,” said after he left, “You look like a terrorist, but I know you well (apparently he meant my beard) … I said to myself, ‘Only if you knew!'”
Upon his release, Abu Zubaydah wrote that he and the brothers moved to a new guesthouse, away from the police, and he began “to steer the show one more time regarding … Khaldun affairs.”