Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and National Clandestine Service, has made quite a splash in the past couple of days. Building on arguments in his new book, Hard Measures, Rodriguez has dealt with all of the most controversial aspects of the CIA’s response to 9/11 in his television appearances and op-eds. In particular, Rodriguez has offered a spirited defense of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) used on senior al Qaeda operatives.
And, as Marc Thiessen points out in a column for the Washington Post, Rodriguez’s book directly contradicts a claim made by former House speaker Nancy Pelosi – that she was not briefed on the use of waterboarding on top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah in 2002. Rodriguez says she was. Thiessen concludes, rightly, that the evidence bearing on this dispute (in particular, a cable summarizing the briefing) should be declassified as that is the only way to settle the conflicting accounts.
That’s not all that should be declassified. In his own column for the Washington Post, Rodriguez claims that the EITs used on an al Qaeda detainee are what led to crucial intelligence on Osama bin Laden’s courier. That intelligence, when compiled with other evidence, provided the first steps to locating bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
All of the pertinent files dealing with Rodriguez’s Washington Post op-ed, or at least the key ones, should be declassified as his testimony directly contradicts what the Obama administration and top Democrats on the Hill have claimed.
Here are the key paragraphs from Rodriguez’s op-ed:
In 2004, an al-Qaeda terrorist was captured trying to communicate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization’s operations in Iraq. That captured terrorist was taken to a secret CIA prison — or “black site” — where, initially, he was uncooperative. After being subjected to some “enhanced interrogation techniques” — techniques authorized by officials at the most senior levels of the U.S. government and that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel confirmed were consistent with U.S. law — the detainee became compliant. He was not one of the three al-Qaeda operatives who underwent waterboarding, the harshest of the hard measures.
Once this terrorist decided that non-cooperation was a non-starter, he told us many things — including that bin Laden had given up communicating via telephone, radio or Internet, and depended solely on a single courier who went by “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” …
Rodriguez does not name the al Qaeda detainee in question, but his description matches a terrorist named Hassan Ghul.
Shortly after bin Laden was killed in May 2011, Reuters cited “multiple U.S. intelligence officials” who said the “real breakthrough that led to bin Laden came from” Ghul. Two U.S. officials acknowledged that Ghul wasn’t waterboarded, according to Reuters, but “he may well have been subjected to other coercive CIA tactics, possibly including stress positions, sleep deprivation and being slammed into a wall.” It was Ghul who “prompted” CIA officials to focus on Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti after other detainees had offered only “tantalizing hints” for years.
Ghul was not the first al Qaeda detainee to discuss Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, but the specifics of what Ghul said about al Kuwaiti are what made CIA officials key in on him. Indeed, leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) documents connect Ghul to a who’s who of al Qaeda operatives. It is therefore easy to see why Ghul would know important details about bin Laden’s operation.
Leaked Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF-GTMO) files