tapes after all…

Posted on Tuesday 17 August 2010

Terrorist tapes found under CIA desk
The Associated Press

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — The CIA has tapes of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison. Discovered under a desk, the recordings could provide an unparalleled look at how foreign governments aided the U.S. in holding and questioning suspected terrorists.

The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only remaining recordings made within the clandestine prison system. The tapes depict Binalshibh’s interrogation sessions at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat in 2002, several current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recordings remain a closely guarded secret.

When the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two other al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005, officials believed they had wiped away all of the agency’s interrogation footage. But in 2007, a staffer discovered a box tucked under a desk in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and pulled out the Binalshibh tapes.

A Justice Department prosecutor who is already investigating whether destroying the Zubaydah and al-Nashiri tapes was illegal is now also probing why the Binalshibh tapes were never disclosed. Twice, the government told a federal judge they did not exist…
Not everyone is still interested in the fate of our detainees, but emptywheel is [me too]:

… I look forward to learning whether this particular box of torture tapes once belonged to Jose Rodriguez, who when the tapes were discovered had just retired as head of Clandestine Services but who was head of CTC when the tapes were made, or whether someone else is a Judy Miller-style packrat.

Now, elsewhere in the AP story they make it clear that–as I have suspected–the tapes first revealed to Leonie Brinkema in 2007 were of Ramzi bin al-Shibh. That’s particularly significant because Brinkema had specifically given Zacarias Moussaoui permission to question al-Shibh in January 2003. So when the government told Brinkema they had no tapes (the AP says that since Morocco maintained control of the prison at which al-Shibh was held, CIA claimed it wasn’t “part” of the CIA program), they were denying evidence she had permitted to Moussaoui by name.

And this discovery has implications not just for Moussaoui, and for al-Shibh himself (the AP suggests the tapes may show that al-Shibh’s mental state declined very quickly after he was taken into custody; he had a pending competence assessment order in military commissions that–when al-Shibh was slotted for civilian trial–was thus negated), but also for Binyam Mohamed.

Mohamed, after all, has long claimed that the worst torture he suffered–the scalpels to his genitals–occurred while in that same Morocco prison in roughly the same time frame (though Mohamed was in Morocco longer). Mohamed made it clear the British were feeding questions to the US to ask while in Morocco (in interrogations, remember, they claim they weren’t running). Subsequently, documents showed that a member of MI5 visited Morocco while Mohamed was there. So Mohamed’s evidence refutes US claims that they – and their ally the UK – weren’t in charge of the interrogations. But at the same time, the videos may provide video evidence of the kind of treatment used in Morocco.

Update: All you timeline aficianados should check out this cool timeline/map of where Ramzi bin al-Shibh was when.
Recall that Jose Rodriguez was head of the CTC during the "torture" era and was the guy who destroyed the CIA tapes. Likewise, if you look over the timeline, you’ll see that al-Shibh was moved around the world to prevent him being given a lawyer. But the main point of finding these tapes is to document that "enhanced interrogation" was, indeed, "torture."

Likewise, recall that there is the strong implication is that one of the main goals of the torture program was to get somebody to connect al Qaeda to Iraq to justify our invasion. During the run-up to the war, al-Shibh was in Morocco [until 2 weeks before the Invasion of Iraq]. So the tapes would likely show what he was being asked about. By the time he was captured, we know that the trajectory for the invasion was already set, but I magine they were still looking for something solid to hang it on.

So there are two items on the agenda. First, were they torturing people to justify invading Iraq? And, further, was the "torture" actually "torture?" There’s really not much question about either, but the proof is lacking…

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