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Context of 'Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003: CIA Official Intimidates Al-Nashiri with Handgun, Power Drill'

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At the request of CIA Director George Tenet, the White House orders the FBI to hand Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, a captured al-Qaeda operative being held in Afghanistan (see December 19, 2001), over to the CIA. One day before the transfer, a CIA officer enters al-Libi’s cell, interrupting an interrogation being conducted by FBI agent Russel Fincher, and tells al-Libi: “You’re going to Cairo, you know. Before you get there I’m going to find your mother and I’m going to f_ck her.” Soon after, al-Libi is flown to Egypt. [Newsweek, 6/21/2004; Washington Post, 6/27/2004; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 121] The CIA officer will later be identified as “Albert,” a former FBI translator. [Mayer, 2008, pp. 106] Presumably, this is the same former FBI translator named “Albert” who will later threaten al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a gun and drill during interrogations (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003 and Late December 2002 or Early January 2003). [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, will later say: “He’s carried off to Egypt, who torture him. And we know that he’s going to be tortured. Anyone who’s worked on Egypt, has worked on other countries in the Middle East, knows that. Egyptians torture him, and he provides a lot of information.” [PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006]
Provides Mix of Valid, False Information - It is unclear whether al-Libi is interrogated solely by Egyptian officials, or by a combination of Egyptian and CIA interrogators. Al-Libi is subjected to a series of increasingly harsh techniques, including at least one, waterboarding, that is considered torture (see Mid-March 2002). Reputedly, he is finally broken after being waterboarded and then forced to stand naked in a cold cell overnight where he is repeatedly doused with cold water by his captors. Al-Libi is said to provide his Egyptian interrogators with valuable intelligence about an alleged plot to blow up the US Embassy in Yemen with a truck bomb, and the location of Abu Zubaida, who will be captured in March 2002 (see Mid-May 2002 and After). However, in order to avoid harsh treatment he will also provide false information to the Egyptians, alleging that Iraq trained al-Qaeda members in bomb making and poisons and gases. Officials will later determine that al-Libi has no knowledge of such training or weapons, and fabricates the statements out of fear and a desire to avoid further torture. Sources will later confirm that al-Libi did not try to deliberately mislead his captors; rather, he told them what he thought they wanted to hear. [ABC News, 11/18/2005; New York Times, 12/9/2005]
Using Allegations in White House Statements - Both President Bush (see October 7, 2002) and Secretary of State Colin Powell (see February 5, 2003) will include these allegations in major speeches.
Shifting Responsibility for Interrogations to CIA from FBI - The FBI has thus far taken the lead in interrogations of terrorist suspects, because its agents are the ones with most experience. The CIA’s apparent success with al-Libi contributes to the shift of interrogations from the bureau to the CIA. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] Such methods as making death threats, advocated by the CIA, are opposed by the FBI, which is used to limiting its questioning techniques so the results from interrogations can be used in court. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] “We don’t believe in coercion,” a senior FBI official says. [Guardian, 9/13/2004]

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Russell Fincher, George J. Tenet, Vincent Cannistraro, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Shortly after his arrest in the United Arab Emirates in early October 2002 (see Early October 2002), al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is taken to an unknown location and tortured. He is waterboarded, which is a technique simulating drowning that is widely regarded as torture. He is only one of about three high-ranking detainees waterboarded, according to media reports (see May 2002-2003). [Associated Press, 12/11/2007] Much will later be written about the torture and interrogation of other top al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Zubaida, but next to nothing is publicly known about what happens to al-Nashiri in the months after his arrest. However, in late 2007 it will be reported that at least some of his interrogations were videotaped by the CIA (see Spring-Late 2002) and his waterboarding was videotaped. [Washington Post, 12/18/2007] But these videotapes will later be destroyed in controversial circumstances (see November 2005). The waterboarding likely takes place in Thailand, because the videotape of al-Nashiri’s torture will be destroyed there in 2005 (see November 2005). [Newsweek, 6/28/2008]

Entity Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

CIA interrogators use stress positions that will later be described as “potentially injurious” on detained al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Al-Nashiri is required to kneel on the floor and lean back, and on one occasion he does this a CIA officer reportedly pushes him backwards. On another occasion, an unnamed person has to intervene after somebody else expresses concern that al-Nashiri’s arms might be dislocated from his shoulders. At this time the interrogators are attempting to put al-Nashiri into a standing stress position; he is reportedly lifted off the floor by his arms while they are bound behind his back with a belt. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 43 pdf file] The timing of these events is unknown, although other similar abuse of al-Nashiri takes place around December 2002 (see Late December 2002 or Early January 2003 and Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). At this time al-Nashiri is apparently being held at a CIA base in Poland. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

CIA employees who have been applying “enhanced interrogation techniques” to al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri decide that he is now “compliant.” The techniques, including waterboarding, have been used on al-Nashiri for around a month (see (November 2002)). At this point, the agency regards him to be ready to be “debriefed”—a CIA term for part of an interrogation conducted by a more knowledgeable officer who does not use the enhanced techniques, or not to such an extent. Following this decision, the Counterterrorist Center at CIA headquarters sends out a senior operations officer to question al-Nashiri. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 36, 41 pdf file] This officer will later become known to the public as “Albert.” [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Al-Nashiri is currently being held at CIA black site in Poland (see December 5, 2002).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, “Albert”, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Counterterrorist Center

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A CIA official known as a “debriefer” attempts to intimidate al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a handgun and a power drill. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file] The official, who will later become known as “Albert,” had come to interrogate al-Nashiri at an agency black site in Poland after al-Nashiri had been tortured (see (November 2002)), but recently decided that al-Nashiri was still withholding information (see Mid-December 2002). [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Mayer, 2008, pp. 225; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert gets approval for the plan to use the gun from his supervisor, known only as “Mike,” although Mike does not clear the plan with CIA headquarters. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert takes an unloaded semi-automatic handgun into al-Nashiri’s cell. He racks it once or twice, simulating the loading of a bullet into the chamber, close to al-Nashiri’s ear. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file] After again receiving consent from Mike, around the same day Albert takes a power drill into the cell. While al-Nashiri is naked and hooded, he revs the drill to frighten al-Nashiri, but does not touch him with it. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] This abuse will be reported to CIA headquarters (see January 2003), but the Justice Department will decline to prosecute Albert (see September 11, 2003), and the result of the CIA inspector general’s investigation of the matter is unknown (see October 29, 2003).

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Central Intelligence Agency, “Mike”, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A CIA officer who is interrogating al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri threatens to harm al-Nashiri’s mother and family. The officer tells al-Nashiri that if he does not talk, “We could get your mother in here,” and, “We can bring your family in here.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file] At this time al-Nashiri is apparently being held at a CIA base in Poland. The officer will later become known as “Albert.” [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert, who also threatens al-Nashiri with a gun and power drill around the same time (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003), apparently wants al-Nashiri to infer, for what the CIA’s inspector general will call “psychological reasons,” that he may not be a US official. Instead, al-Nashiri is to believe that he comes from an Arabic country. Al-Nashiri would infer this because of Albert’s Arab accent. According to the inspector general, this is because it is “widely believed in Middle East circles” that interrogation by officials of this Arabic country involves “sexually abusing female relatives in front of the detainee.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42-43 pdf file] The name of the Arabic country is not known, although Albert is of Egyptian descent. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] Albert will admit not identifying himself as a US official to al-Nashiri, but say that he neither claimed to be an official of this Arabic country nor threatened his family. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42-43 pdf file]

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Two or more CIA officers who have arrived for temporary duty at an agency black site in Poland where al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is being held discover that unauthorized interrogation techniques have been used against him. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] These techniques include the use of a handgun and power drill to frighten al-Nashiri (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). They were applied by an officer later referred to as “Albert,” with the approval of his supervisor, “Mike.” The newly arrived officers report the use of the techniques to CIA headquarters, which informs the agency’s inspector general. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010]

Entity Tags: “Mike”, “Albert”, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A CIA officer known only as “Albert” who threatened detained al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a gun and drill (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003) is recalled to the US. The recall follows the reporting of the incidents at an agency black site in Poland to CIA headquarters by officers newly arrived at the black site (see January 2003). In addition, the agency’s inspector general has just learned of them (see January 2003). [Washington Post, 8/23/2009] Albert will later be reprimanded for his actions (see (After October 29, 2003)).

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The Justice Department’s criminal division decides not to prosecute a CIA officer, known only as “Albert,” who intimidated al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a handgun and power drill during interrogations. The use of the gun and drill took place around late 2002 (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003), but was not authorised by CIA headquarters. As there will be no prosecution, the department returns the matter to the CIA. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] The CIA’s inspector general will issue a report on the incidents the next month, but its conclusion is unknown (see October 29, 2003).

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Central Intelligence Agency, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Criminal Division (DoJ), “Albert”

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The CIA’s inspector general, John Helgerson, issues a report on the use of a handgun and power drill to intimidate al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri during an interrogation. A CIA officer known only as “Albert” threatened al-Nashiri with the gun and drill at a CIA black site in Poland around late 2002 (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file; Associated Press, 9/7/2010] The incidents have already been referred to the Justice Department, which has declined to prosecute (see September 11, 2003). What conclusions Helgerson comes to in the report are unknown. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 42 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (CIA), Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, “Albert”, John Helgerson, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

A CIA officer known only as “Albert” is reprimanded by the agency for threatening detained al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a gun and drill. The incidents took place at a CIA black site in Poland in December 2002 or January 2003 (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003) and Albert’s actions were approved by his supervisor, “Mike,” who is also reprimanded. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010] The timing of the reprimand is unknown, although it may follow the completion of a report into the matter by the CIA’s inspector general (see October 29, 2003). Both Mike and Albert leave the agency, although Albert will later be rehired as a contractor (see 2003 and Before 2008).

Entity Tags: “Albert”, Central Intelligence Agency, “Mike”

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The CIA rehires a former officer who previously threatened al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri with a gun and drill during interrogations (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003 and Late December 2002 or Early January 2003). The officer, a former FBI translator known as “Albert,” is to train other CIA officers at a facility in northern Virginia to handle different scenarios they might face in the field. He continues with the training until 2008 at the latest. However, according to an anonymous US official, he will still be working as an intelligence contractor in 2010. Albert’s rehiring will be revealed by the Associated Press in September 2010. According to the Associated Press, human rights critics say Albert’s return as a contractor raises questions about how the intelligence community deals with those who used unauthorized interrogation methods. “The notion that an individual involved in one of the more notorious episodes of the CIA’s interrogation program is still employed directly or indirectly by the US government is scandalous,” Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, will comment. [Associated Press, 9/7/2010]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, American Civil Liberties Union, “Albert”, Ben Wizner

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Attorney General Eric Holder announces he has appointed a federal prosecutor from Connecticut, John Durham, as a special prosecutor to investigate whether CIA interrogators broke any federal laws. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009]
Decision Stems from CIA IG Report - The investigation is preliminary in nature, and will decide whether a full investigation is warranted. Holder bases his decision in part on a just-released 2004 report on torture by the CIA’s inspector general (see August 24, 2009) and a Justice Department recommendation that there should be an investigation of about a dozen cases of possible abuse and torture from Iraq and Afghanistan (see First Half of August 2009). According to the conclusion of the CIA report: “The enhanced interrogation techniques used by the agency under the CTC [Counterterrorist Center] program are inconsistent with the public policy positions that the United States has taken regarding human rights. Unauthorized, improvised, inhumane, and undocumented detention and interrogation techniques were used.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] The review is also prompted by a report by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) into memoranda drafted by the department’s Office of Legal Counsel related to “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The OPR report recommends the department re-examine previous decisions not to prosecute in some cases related to the interrogation of certain detainees. The aim of the preliminary review is to find whether federal offenses were committed in some detainee interrogations. [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009] According to the Washington Post, the review will focus on “a very small number of cases,” including one in which a CIA officer named Zirbel caused Afghan prisoner Gul Rahman to freeze to death at the Salt Pit prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002) and the intimidation of al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri by a CIA officer named “Albert” using a handgun and drill (see Between December 28, 2002 and January 1, 2003). These cases and the others were previously referred by the CIA inspector general to the Justice Department for examination, but the department decided not to prosecute (see (August 2004) and Mid-October 2005). [Washington Post, 9/19/2009; Associated Press, 9/7/2010]
Durham a Veteran Prosecutor - Durham has been investigating the CIA’s destruction of videotapes of interrogations that may have documented instances of torture (see January 2, 2008). Although Durham has a low public profile, he is a veteran of numerous high-level prosecutions, including cases against Boston-area organized crime figures, corrupt FBI agents, and former Governor John Rowland (R-CT). Durham is considered apolitical, and has worked closely with the Justice Department under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Connecticut defense lawyer Hugh Keefe calls him “the go-to guy for Justice whenever they get a hot case.” Former Connecticut prosecutor Mark Califano calls Durham’s approach to investigations “clinical,” and says he has “very rarely” concluded a case without bringing criminal charges. “He likes to make cases when there is evidence there,” Califano says. “You’ve got to balance whether that kind of information exists.… You can’t move forward if you don’t have the evidence.” [US Department of Justice, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009; Washington Post, 8/25/2009] Boston prosecutors and defense attorneys have characterized Durham as “honest” and “tenacious.” Warren Bamford, who heads Boston’s FBI office, said Durham “kind of has blinders on in the sense that he doesn’t worry about the politics and all the other stuff that might be swirling around, and I think that’s really what makes him so successful.” [Boston Globe, 1/7/2008] In a statement, Holder says, “Mr. Durham, who is a career prosecutor with the Department of Justice and who has assembled a strong investigative team of experienced professionals, will recommend to me whether there is sufficient predication for a full investigation into whether the law was violated in connection with the interrogation of certain detainees.” [Think Progress, 8/24/2009]
Senator: Durham a 'First-Rate' Choice - Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) is enthusiastic about the choice of Durham. He says he has worked with Durham before, while Whitehouse was US Attorney for Rhode Island, and calls the prosecutor “very professional” and “a first-rate choice,” adding that Durham has “a very good grounding in this because he has been doing the investigation into the destruction of the torture tapes.” [MSNBC, 8/25/2009]
No Acknowledged 'Break' with White House - Holder notes that he will be criticized for undermining the CIA, and may be going against abjurations by President Obama to “move forward” instead of focusing on past transgressions, but says the facts left him little choice. “As attorney general, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the law,” he says in a statement. “Given all of the information currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of action for me to take.… I have concluded that the information known to me warrants opening a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated in connection with the interrogation of specific detainees at overseas locations.” White House officials say Holder’s decision does not mark a break between the White House and the Justice Department on their policies toward interrogations. Deputy press secretary Bill Burton tells reporters that “ultimately, the decisions on who is investigated and who is prosecuted are up to the attorney general.… The president thinks that Eric Holder, who he appointed as a very independent attorney general, should make those decisions.” [New York Times, 8/24/2009; Washington Post, 8/24/2009; MSNBC, 8/25/2009] Justice Department spokespersons refuse to say who will, and who will not, be investigated. [TPM Muckraker, 8/25/2009]

Entity Tags: Mark Califano, John Durham, Warren Bamford, Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Hugh Keefe, Obama administration, Eric Holder, Barack Obama, Bush administration (43), Matthew Zirbel, Central Intelligence Agency, “Albert”, Bill Burton, US Department of Justice, Sheldon Whitehouse

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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