Abu Zubaydah and Iran
11:55 AM, Jun 13, 2012 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
At the Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz has a piece about Jose Rodriguez, the former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Rodriguez warns that the CIA is “out of the business” of interrogating senior al Qaeda terrorists and this will eventually lead to a hole in America’s counterterrorism efforts, if it hasn’t already. Time will tell if Rodriguez is right. The Obama administration is betting that he isn’t, and that by killing select al Qaeda leaders in drone strikes the terrorist threat is fully neutralized. There are significant problems with the Obama administration’s approach, even absent the prickly debate over interrogations.
Putting that debate to the side, there are interesting nuggets in Rodriguez’s recent book, Hard Measures, concerning top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah’s ties to Iran.
Zubaydah was the first detainee subjected to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques in 2002. Attorneys for Zubaydah and others have endorsed a story, told by Zubaydah himself during his tribunal session at Guantanamo, that he wasn’t really a senior al Qaeda operative. Rodriguez blasts this argument, and rightfully so.
Zubaydah had a wealth of knowledge about al Qaeda’s inner-workings, including details about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s role in masterminding the 9/11 attacks. There is no way Zubaydah could have known such things without being allowed into Osama bin Laden’s inner sanctum. In addition, a mountain of evidence ties Zubaydah to al Qaeda’s operations and international plotting well before the 9/11 attacks. (I have previously debunked the canard about Zubaydah not being a senior al Qaeda leader on several occasions. See, for example, here, here, and here.)
In March 2002, the CIA and others were closing in on Zubaydah. They had narrowed the search to sixteen locations in Pakistan – a somewhat daunting range of possible hideouts. Rodriguez explains (emphasis added):
Other ties between Zubaydah and Iran can be found in declassified and leaked documents. But, to my knowledge, reports of Zubaydah himself planning to relocate to Iran in 2002 were not previously available to the public.
In addition, Rodriguez reports (emphasis added):
Zubaydah’s attorneys recently pressed the U.S. government to try him before a military commission. By all means, if Zubaydah is eventually tried, his videotapes and other documents should be used against him. Even better, these materials should be declassified and released to the public, so we can see them for ourselves. We can then see what Zubaydah had to say about Iran, too.
Rodriguez’s revelations about Zubaydah’s ties to Iran, including his putative plan to move there, are not surprising. Zubaydah helped other top al Qaeda operatives and associates relocate to Iran after the 9/11 attacks.
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