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Al Qaeda Lawyer vs. Marc Thiessen

12:25 PM, Feb 20, 2010 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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The Huffington Post has published a piece explaining how awful it supposedly is that Marc Thiessen, author of Courting Disaster (full disclosure: I reviewed a draft at Thiessen’s request), has been hired by the Washington Post to write a column.  The Huffington Post’s chief witness against Thiessen is attorney Brent Mickum, of Hollingsworth LLP, “who is one of the attorneys serving in Abu Zubaydah's defense.”   

Thiessen’s book deals with the controversial interrogations of Zubaydah. And this obviously “angers” al Qaeda attorney Mickum. You see, according to Mickum he isn’t an al Qaeda attorney at all because Abu Zubaydah isn’t really an al Qaeda member:

"Abu Zubaydah, categorically, was not affiliated with al Qaeda," Mickum said. "He was never a top leader of al Qaeda because he was never a member and he openly disagreed with the militaristic policies of al Qaeda. The camp he is alleged to have been involved with was closed in 2000 -- two years before his capture -- because the emir who oversaw it refused to allow it to fall under the control of al Qaeda. Thus, he is not, and never was, the man that the Bush administration made him out to be -- someone who orchestrated terrorist attacks."

This is absolute nonsense. And I’ve debunked it before, see here, here and here.

Here are just some of the sources that contradict Mickum’s claim that Zubaydah “was not affiliated with al Qaeda”:

(1) The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report repeatedly details Zubaydah’s role inside al Qaeda’s operations, calling him a “longtime ally of Bin Ladin” and an “al Qaeda lieutenant.”  

(2) George Tenet discusses Zubaydah’s al Qaeda role (calling him a “notorious” al Qaeda operative) at length in his book, At the Center of the Storm. Tenet explains that information from Zubaydah was used to track down Ramzi Binalshibh, al Qaeda’s point man for the 9/11 attack, months after Zubaydah himself was captured. Tenet describes the information the CIA got from Zubaydah (during his interrogations and by examining his computer and other materials) as the “mother lode.”

(3) Ali Soufan, who was one of the FBI agents who questioned Zubaydah early on, has testified that the FBI’s questioning led Zubaydah to identify Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. This is important because Soufan is a critic of the enhanced interrogation program that Thiessen defends. I won’t wade into the Thiessen-Soufan debate here, but it is worth noting that this critical information could only be known by a well-placed al Qaeda member.

(4) Declassified CIA documents released by the Obama administration report that Zubaydah was a key source on al Qaeda’s operations once he was taken into custody. (See, for example: “Detainee Reporting Pivotal for the War Against Al-Qa’ida,” June 3, 2005.)

(5) A 2004 Department of Defense memo titled, “Summary of Jose Padilla’s Activities with Al Qaeda,” details Zubaydah’s role in convicted al Qaeda terrorist Jose Padilla’s post-9/11 plotting.

(6) Convicted terrorist Ahmed Ressam testified that he conspired with Zubaydah and others to launch an attack against the LAX Airport. The August 6, 2001 Presidential Daily Briefing warning of bin Laden’s determination to strike American targets relied on Ressam’s testimony with respect to Zubaydah’s role in that plotting.

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