Monday, April 27, 2009

A Profile In Courage

If you read only one piece about the issue of torture you must read this piece by Mike Isikoff writing in Newsweek:

Only weeks later, this clash of cultures played out in the heated dispute over how to handle Abu Zubaydah. A Palestinian who is believed to have served as logistics chief for Afghan terrorist-training camps, Abu Zubaydah was captured after a bloody gunfight. He was transferred from Pakistan to Thailand, where Soufan and Gaudin immediately sought to gain his trust by nursing his wounds. (Soufan would not comment on the location of the interrogation; sources, who like others interviewed for this story didn't want to be named discussing sensitive information, have placed him in Thailand at this time. An FBI spokesman says Gaudin, who is still in the bureau, would not comment on his role in the Abu Zubaydah interrogations.) "We kept him alive," Soufan says. "It wasn't easy, he couldn't drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips." Gaudin, for his part, cleaned Abu Zubaydah's buttocks. During this time, Soufan and Gaudin also began the questioning; it became a "mental poker game." At first, Abu Zubaydah even denied his identity, insisting that his name was "Daoud."

But Soufan had poured through the bureau's intelligence files and stunned Abu Zubaydah when he called him "Hani"—the nickname that his mother used for him. Soufan also showed him photos of a number of terror suspects who were high on the bureau's priority list. Abu Zubaydah looked at one of them and said, "That's Mukhtar."

Now it was Soufan who was stunned. The FBI had been trying to determine the identity of a mysterious "Mukhtar," whom bin Laden kept referring to on a tape he made after 9/11. Now Soufan knew: Mukhtar was the man in the photo, terror fugitive Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and, as Abu Zubaydah blurted out, " the one behind 9/11."

As the sessions continued, Soufan engaged Abu Zubaydah in long discussions about his world view, which included a tinge of socialism. After Abu Zubaydah railed one day about the influence of American imperialist corporations, he asked Soufan to get him a Coca-Cola—a request that prompted the two of them to laugh. Soon enough, Abu Zubaydah offered up more information—about the bizarre plans of a jihadist from Puerto Rico to set off a "dirty bomb" inside the country. This information led to Padilla's arrest in Chicago by the FBI in early May.

Give Ali Soufan and his FBI compatriots a medal. They deserve it.

No comments: