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Context of 'June 5, 2002: Al-Qaeda Operative Omar Al-Faruq Arrested, Heavily Interrogated'

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MILF forces on parade in Camp Abubakar, February 1999.MILF forces on parade in Camp Abubakar, February 1999. [Source: Romeo Gacad / AFP / Getty Images]The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a large Philippine militant group, sets up a major training camp with al-Qaeda help. According to Philippine investigators, a sprawling complex and set of camps known as Camp Abubakar is built this year in a remote part of the southern island of Mindanao. One camp within the complex called Camp Palestine trains Arabs exclusively. Another is Camp Hodeibia, and is used by Jemaah Islamiyah, the al-Qaeda-linked group based in Indonesia. [Ressa, 2003] Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is said to send al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq with one other al-Qaeda camp instructor to help recruit and train in these camps. Al-Faruq will remain the head of al-Qaeda’s operations in Southeast Asia until his capture in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). [Time, 9/15/2002; CNN, 10/28/2002] Philipppine officials will claim that over the next few years Camp Abubakar continues to grow and over twenty other MILF camps are used and supported by al-Qaeda operatives (see February 1999). The Philippine military will raze Camp Abubakar during a brief offensive against the MILF in 2000, but the camp will be quickly rebuilt and still be used to train foreign militants. [Ressa, 2003] The Philippine government has had a series of negotiations, cease fires, and peace treaties with the MILF. The MILF has generally denied ties to al-Qaeda, but in 1999 the head of the MILF will say his group had received non-military aid from bin Laden (see February 1999). In 2003, President Bush will pledge $30 million to MILF regions of the Philippines to promote a new peace treaty with the group. [Asia Times, 10/30/2003]

Entity Tags: Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiyah, Omar al-Faruq

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Omar al-Faruq.Omar al-Faruq. [Source: Getty Images]On June 5, 2002, Omar al-Faruq, a top al-Qaeda senior operative in Southeast Asia, is captured in the town of Bogor, Indonesia, by Indonesian agents after receiving a tip from the CIA. Curiously, later in the year, A.C. Manulang, the recently retired head of the Indonesian intelligence agency, will suggest that al-Faruq was actually a CIA mole assigned to infiltrate Islamic radical groups. Manulang will claim that the bombings that took place in Indonesia were actually the work of anti-Islamic intelligence agencies. [Tempo, 9/19/2002] In any case, al-Faruq is flown to the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan where is subjected to months of intense interrogations. “It is likely, experts say, that… al-Faruq [was] left naked most of the time, his hands and feet bound. [He] may also have been hooked up to sensors, then asked questions to which interrogators knew the answers, so they could gauge his truthfulness,” the New York Times will later report. One Western intelligence official will tell the newspaper that al-Faruq’s interrogation was “not quite torture, but about as close as you can get.” For three months he is provided with very little food, subjected to sleep and light deprivation, prolonged isolation and temperatures ranging from 100 degrees to 10 degrees. On September 9, 2002, he reportedly breaks down and begins freely confessing all he knows (see September-October 2002). He provides information about “plans to drive explosives-laden trucks into American diplomatic centers [and] detailed information about people involved in those operations and other plots, writing out lengthy descriptions.” [New York Times, 3/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Omar al-Faruq

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Al Haramain logo.Al Haramain logo. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]In June 2002, al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq was captured by the US and interrogated with techniques described as close to torture (see June 5, 2002). On September 9, 2002, he reportedly breaks down and immediately begins spilling secrets in great detail. He confesses that he is al-Qaeda’s senior representative in Southeast Asia. He says that al-Qaeda leaders Abu Zubaida and Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi had ordered him to “plan large-scale attacks against US interests in Indonesia, Malaysia, [the] Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Cambodia.” In particular, he had a plan to launch truck bomb attacks on US embassies in Southeast Asia around the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The US issues a code orange alert, and the attacks never happen. He also says that much of the money for al-Qaeda’s operations in the region comes from the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a charity closely linked to the Saudi government. Al-Faruq’s confessions are immediately leaked to Time magazine, which publishes a story about them on September 15. US investigators tell Time that Al Haramain is a “significant” source of funding for al-Qaeda linked groups in the region and they also say they are investigating possible links between al-Qaeda and top al-Haramain officials in Saudi Arabia. [Time, 9/15/2002] However, Al Haramain offices are not shut down in Southeast Asia or elsewhere. Early the next month, a car bomb and a backpack bomb hit two discotheques in Bali, Indonesia, killing over 200 people (see October 12, 2002). The London Times reports later in the month that $74,000 was sent to Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in the region. The money was spent to buy the explosives for the bombing from the Indonesian military. Furthermore, Jemaah Islamiyah was mainly funded by money from Al Haramain. [London Times, 10/20/2002] However, Al Haramain still is not shut down. In late 2003, it is announced that the charity’s Indonesian branch is shutting down, but in fact it secretly changes locations and stays open. All Al Haramain branches worldwide will finally be shut down in 2004 (see March 2002-September 2004). [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 38-41]

Entity Tags: Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Omar al-Faruq, Abu Bakar Bashir, Abu Zubaida, Jemaah Islamiyah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

US officials hold a secret meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and strongly urge her to allow the US to rendition Abu Bakar Bashir out of the country. Bashir is a radical Islamist imam alleged to be the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), al-Qaeda’s main Southeast Asian affiliate. US ambassador to Indonesia Ralph Boyce, National Security Council official Karen Brooks, and a CIA official meet with Megawati at her home in Jakarta. The interpreter is an American named Fred Burks, who will later reveal details of the meeting during an Indonesian trial. Burks claims the CIA official tells Megawati that Bashir was responsible for a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Indonesia in 2000 and asks to rendition him. Megawati had allowed the US to rendition two suspects earlier in the year, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni (see June 5, 2002 and Early January-January 9, 2002). But neither of them are Indonesian citizens, whereas Bashir is. Megawati rejects the request, saying Bashir is too popular to simply disappear without repercussions. (Megawati’s Vice President Hamzah Haz describes himself as “very close” to Bashir, and shortly after this meeting he says publicly, “If you want to arrest Abu Bakar Bashir, you will have to deal with me first” (see July 23, 2001-October 20, 2004).) Burks claims that Megawati says: “I can’t render somebody like him. People will find out.” Boyce will later claim that the US did press forcefully for Indonesia to arrest Bashir because the CIA had just learned from interrogating al-Faruq that Bashir was the head of a terrorist network that was about to attack Indonesia. However, he will deny the US wanted to rendition him. Boyce will later call the meeting the centerpiece of a month-long series of meetings with Indonesian officials in an attempt to prevent a terrorist attack in Indonesia. [BBC, 1/3/2005; Boston Globe, 3/2/2005] However, the Bali bombings take place one month later, killing over 200 (see October 12, 2002). In 2005, Bashir will be acquitted of charges that he was involved in any terrorist acts and set free after serving a year in prison on minor charges (see March 3, 2005).

Entity Tags: Megawati Sukarnoputri, Fred Burks, Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Bakar Bashir, Hamzah Haz, Karen Brooks, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, Omar al-Faruq, Jemaah Islamiyah, Ralph Boyce

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004.Ralph Boyce meeting with Megawati Sukarnoputri in September 2004. [Source: Reuters / Corbis]Ralph Boyce, the US ambassador to Indonesia, warns Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri and her top advisers that a group linked to al-Qaeda is planning an attack in Indonesia. The warning does not specify when and where an attack might occur, but it is the latest of several warnings based on the interrogations of al-Qaeda operative Omar al-Faruq and Mohammed Mansour Jabarah (see June 5, 2002 and August 21, 2002). Boyce gives Megawati until October 24 to take action. He says that if Indonesia does not take action by then, the US is going to order all but the most essential US diplomats out of the country as a public warning that Indonesia is a safe haven for terrorists. An unnamed US official will later tell the New York Times: “We told them: ‘Wrap it up. Block it. Demonstrate that you are serious about eliminating the threat against us.’” Boyce publicly warns that the US is considering withdrawing non-essential personnel just hours before two bombs explode in Bali on October 12 (see October 12, 2002). As part of an effort to convince Megawati of the threat, the US allows Indonesian intelligence and police officials to interview al-Faruq, who is in US custody and being held in a secret location. Their interrogation of al-Faruq is still taking place when the Bali bombings occur. [Australian Financial Review, 10/14/2002; New York Times, 10/16/2002]

Entity Tags: Ralph Boyce, Megawati Sukarnoputri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The US military responds to recent media stories about the torture and abuse of suspected al-Qaeda detainees in Afghanistan by denying that any such treatment takes place. Recent articles in the Washington Post have claimed that detainees held at Bagram Air Force Base were subjected to “stress and duress” techniques (see December 26, 2002). These techniques include “stress positions,” where detainees are shackled or strapped into painful positions and kept there for hours, and sleep deprivation. US military spokesman Major Steve Clutter denies the allegations. “The article was false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram; there is a facility run by the US Army,” he says (see October 2001). “However, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that persons under control of the US Army have been mistreated. The United States Army is treating enemy combatants under government control, humanely, and in conditions that are generally better than they were experiencing before we placed them under our control” (see December 2001 and After, Late 2002, January 2002, March 15, 2002, April-May 2002, April-May 2002, Late May 2002, June 4, 2002-early August 2002, June 5, 2002, July 2002, August 22, 2002, November 30-December 3, 2002, Late 2002-February 2004, Late 2002 - March 15, 2004, December 2002, December 2002, December 1, 2002, December 5-9, 2002, December 8, 2002-March 2003, and December 10, 2002). Clutter also denies that detainees have been subjected to “rendition”—being turned over to foreign governments who routinely torture prisoners. Instead, he says, most prisoners held at Bagram were released after being interrogated in a process overseen by the International Committee of the Red Cross. “I would like to point out that persons under US government control who come to Bagram are not automatically deemed to be terrorists or enemy combatants,” Clutter says. “When they arrive, they go through an interview process to determine whether they are enemy combatants or have information that can help us prevent terrorist attacks against Americans or attacks against US forces. If they are deemed to be enemy combatants or pose a danger, they become detainees. If they are not, they are ultimately released.” [Agence France-Presse, 12/29/2002]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Central Intelligence Agency, International Committee of the Red Cross, Stephen Clutter, US Department of Defense

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Omar al-Faruq.Omar al-Faruq. [Source: Public domain]In a meeting with Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri, President Bush falsely promises to let Hambali stand trial in Indonesia. Hambali, an Indonesian citizen wanted for a string of attacks in Indonesia, including the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002), was recently arrested in Thailand and taken in US custody (see August 12, 2003). White House communications director Dan Bartlett tells reporters that Bush has “committed to work with [the Indonesian authorities] at an appropriate time, that he would work to make sure that Hambali was handed over.” An Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman adds: “Absolutely, Bush promised to hand over Hambali to Indonesia for trial. The only condition is that the process of interrogation (by US agents) has to be completed. Bush said that still needed more time.” The US has been sharing some information from Hambali’s interrogation with Indonesian authorities, but does not allow them to question him directly, allegedly for fear of information leaks. [Associated Press, 10/24/2003] In 2002, the US did allow Indonesian investigators to directly interrogate another Indonesian in US custody, Omar al-Faruq. Ironically, it appears that extensive details of al-Faruq’s interrogation were leaked to the media, but by US officials, not Indonesian ones (see June 5, 2002). The US will not allow Indonesian officials to directly interrogate Hambali during a 2005 trial of his alleged close associate Abu Bakar Bashir, allowing Bashir to go free (see March 3, 2005). In late 2005, Hank Crumpton, a senior State Department official visiting Indonesia, again makes the promise that the US will eventually turn Hambali over to the Indonesian government. [New York Times, 10/19/2005] But in 2006, the US transfers Hambali to the Guantanamo prison with the intention of eventually trying him before a military tribunal (see September 2-3, 2006).

Entity Tags: Hambali, Dan Bartlett, George W. Bush, Hank Crumpton, Megawati Sukarnoputri

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Bakar Bashir.Abu Bakar Bashir. [Source: US National Counterterrorism Center]Abu Bakar Bashir, allegedly the spiritual leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, al-Qaeda’s main affiliate in Southeast Asia, is acquitted of most charges in a trial in Indonesia. Bashir, a well-known radical imam, had been accused of involvement in the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002) and 2003 Marriott Hotel bombing (see August 5, 2003). However, he is only convicted of one charge of criminal conspiracy, because the judges say he knew the bombers and his words may have encouraged them. Bashir is sentenced to 30 months in prison, but is released after serving only one year due to good behavior. In late 2006, the Indonesian supreme court will void his one conviction altogther. [New York Times, 3/4/2005; Associated Press, 12/26/2006] The New York Times will later report: “Legal observers here said the case against Mr. Bashir was weak. The strongest evidence linking him to the Bali terrorist attacks was never heard by the five-judge panel because of a decision by the Bush administration that the Indonesian government would not be allowed to interview two senior al-Qaeda operatives, Riudan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, and Omar al-Faruq.” The CIA has been holding Hambali and al-Faruq in secret prisons since 2003 and 2002 respectively (see August 12, 2003 and June 5, 2002). [New York Times, 6/14/2006] One Indonesian counterterrorism official says: “We need[ed] Hambali very much. We [fought] to get access to him, but we have failed.” An unnamed Australian official complains that the US was hypocritical in pressing Indonesia to prosecute Bashir and then doing nothing to help convict him. [New York Times, 3/4/2005] Al-Faruq allegedly told the CIA that Bashir had provided logistical and financial support for several terrorist attacks, but he was also interrogated by techniques considered close to torture. The US allowed Indonesian officials to directly interrogate al-Faruq in 2002, but then prohibited any later access to him (see June 5, 2002). And shortly after Hambali’s arrest in 2003, President Bush promised to allow Hambali to be tried in Indonesia, but then failed to even give Indonesians any access to him (see October 23, 2003).

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Omar al-Faruq, Hambali, Abu Bakar Bashir

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Bagram escapees, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, Omar al-Faruq, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi.The Bagram escapees, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, Omar al-Faruq, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi. [Source: Ahmad Masood / Reuters]Four al-Qaeda operatives escape the high-security US-controlled prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The four men—Omar al-Faruq, Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi (a.k.a. Mahmoud Ahmad Muhammad)—were all being held in a remote cell for troublesome prisoners. They allegedly pick the lock on their cell, take off their bright orange uniforms, walk through the prison under the cover of darkness, and then crawl over a faulty wall to where a getaway car is waiting for them. One US official later says: “It is embarrassing and amazing at the same time. It was a disaster.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The Independent will later comment: “The escape was so remarkable that serious doubts have been raised over whether it can possibly have happened the way it is described. At the very least, analysts have suggested, the four escapees must have had help on the inside, in order to know about the gap in the fence, and to find their way there so easily through a maze of buildings.” [Independent, 9/27/2006] Al-Faruq is considered an important al-Qaeda leader who served as a link between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia until he was captured in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). Al-Kahtani is also considered an important al-Qaeda operative, but not on the same level as al-Faruq. Both of them were scheduled to be transported to Guantanamo.
Deliberately Let Go? - In late 2005, former Bagram prisoner Moazzam Begg will claim that he heard in Bagram that US intelligence officers had proposed staging an escape to release a detainee who would act as a double agent against al-Qaeda. US officials strongly deny that that happened with this escape.
US Hides Identities of Some Escapees - The US soon releases pictures of the four escapees, but strangely does not identify which escapees match which prisoners. Furthermore, as the New York Times will later note, “For reasons they have not explained, the military authorities gave different names for [al-Faruq and al-Kahtani] in announcing the escape.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The fact that al-Faruq was one of the escapees only comes out during a November 2005 US military trial of a sergeant who had been accused of mistreating him in 2002.
Fates of Escapees - Al-Faruq will later release a video on the Internet boasting of his role in the escape. He will be killed in Iraq in 2006 (see September 25, 2006). [New York Times, 9/26/2006] Al-Kahtani will be recaptured by US forces in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2006. He is a Saudi and will be extradited to Saudi Arabia in May 2007. [Agence France-Presse, 5/7/2007] Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi will have what the New York Times later will call a “meteoric ascent within the leadership of al-Qaeda” in the three years after his escape. He will become very popular within Islamist militant circles for his propaganda videos. In 2008, Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst, will say of him: “He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within [al-Qaeda], and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement.” As of 2008, he and Abdullah Hashimi apparently remain free. [New York Times, 4/4/2008]

Entity Tags: Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi, Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Jarret Brachman, Abdullah Hashimi, Omar al-Faruq, Moazzam Begg

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

Karen Greenberg, the executive director of the Center on Law and Security at the New York University School of Law, asks when the Obama administration intends on closing down the detention facility at Bagram Air Force Base (see October 2001). The facility has been the site of repeated torture and brutalization of prisoners (see January 2002, March 15, 2002, April-May 2002, Late May 2002, June 4, 2002-early August 2002, June 5, 2002, July 2002, August 22, 2002, Late 2002-February 2004, Late 2002 - March 15, 2004, December 2002, December 2002, December 1, 2002, December 5-9, 2002, December 8, 2002-March 2003, December 26, 2002, Beginning 2003, February 2003, Spring 2003, October 2004, and May 20, 2005). Greenberg calls it a “far grimmer and more important American detention facility” than Guantanamo.
Little Information on Prisoners - Greenberg is unable to elicit specific information about how many prisoners are currently incarcerated at Bagram, who they are, where they are from, how they are classified—prisoners of war, enemy combatants, “ghost” detainees—how they are being treated, what human rights organizations have access to them, or what, if any, legal proceedings they have been put through. “It turns out that we can say very little with precision or confidence about that prison facility or even the exact number of prisoners there,” she writes. “News sources had often reported approximately 500-600 prisoners in custody at Bagram, but an accurate count is not available. A federal judge recently asked for ‘the number of detainees held at Bagram Air Base; the number of Bagram detainees who were captured outside Afghanistan; and the number of Bagram detainees who are Afghan citizens,’ but the information the Obama administration offered the court in response remains classified and redacted from the public record. We don’t even know the exact size of the prison or much about the conditions there, although they have been described as more spartan and far cruder than Guantanamo’s in its worst days. The International Committee of the Red Cross has visited the prison, but it remains unclear whether they were able to inspect all of it. A confidential Red Cross report from 2008 supposedly highlighted overcrowding, the use of extreme isolation as a punishment technique, and various violations of the Geneva Convention.”
Plans to Expand Facility - Greenberg says that the government is planning a large expansion of the Bagram facility, which is envisioned as holding up to 1,100 prisoners. She recommends:
bullet The administration stop being secretive about Bagram and release complete information on the prisoners being held there, or at the very least admit why some information cannot be released. “Otherwise, the suspicion will always arise that such withheld information might be part of a cover-up of government incompetence or illegality.”
bullet The reclassification of all detainees as “prisoners of war” who are protected under the Geneva Conventions. “Currently, they are classified as enemy combatants, as are the prisoners at Guantanamo, and so, in the perverse universe of the Bush administration, free from any of the constraints of international law. The idea that the conventions are too ‘rigid’ for our moment and need to be put aside for this new extra-legal category has always been false and pernicious, primarily paving the way for the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’”
bullet The rejection of the idea of “ghost prisoners” at Bagram or anywhere else. “The International Committee of the Red Cross must be granted access to all of the prisons or prison areas at Bagram, while conditions of detention there should be brought into accordance with humane treatment and standards.”
bullet The re-establishment of a presumption of innocence. “The belief that there is a categorical difference between guilt and innocence, which went by the wayside in the last seven years, must be restored. All too often, the military brass still assumes that if you were rounded up by US forces, you are, by definition, guilty. It’s time to change this attitude and return to legal standards of guilt.”
Greenberg concludes: “In the Bush years, we taught the world a series of harmful lessons: Americans can be as cruel as others. Americans can turn their backs on law and reciprocity among nations as efficiently as any tribally organized dictatorship. Americans, relying on fear and the human impulse toward vengeance, can dehumanize other human beings with a fervor equal to that of others on this planet. It’s time for a change. It’s time, in fact, to face the first and last legacy of Bush detention era, our prison at Bagram Air Base, and deal with it.” [TomDispatch (.com), 3/5/2009]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Geneva Conventions, Obama administration, Karen Greenberg

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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