US: Guantanamo Detainee Is Allowed to Describe Torture

Poland is investigating Abu Zubaydah's treatment at secret CIA site
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 18, 2021 2:30 PM CDT
US Says Guantanamo Detainee Can Write Letter About Torture
This photo provided by US Central Command, shows Abu Zubaydah, date and location unknown.   (U.S. Central Command via AP, File)

The Biden administration says it will allow a Guantanamo Bay detainee to provide information to Polish officials about his torture in CIA custody following the 9/11 attacks. The decision from the Biden administration was included in a letter government lawyers filed Friday with the Supreme Court. The administration said it will allow the detainee, Abu Zubaydah, to send a declaration that could be given to Polish officials investigating his treatment in a secret CIA facility there. The government said detainees' communications normally are limited to family. But the government noted that a court case in the United States involving Zubaydah already includes a public but redacted declaration from him describing his treatment in CIA custody.

Any declaration written for Polish officials would be subject to a “security review,” the government said, but it "would not prevent him from describing his treatment while in CIA custody." Information in the letter "that could prejudice the security interests of the United States" could still be redacted, the government said. Zubaydah was thought to be a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda when he was captured in Pakistan in 2002, and the government still says he was “an associate and longtime terrorist ally of Osama bin Laden," the AP reports.

But Zubaydah’s lawyers say the CIA was mistaken in believing he was a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda. The Biden administration's court filing follows arguments the Supreme Court heard earlier this month in a case involving a request by Zubaydah and his lawyer to question two former CIA contractors about Zubaydah's detention in Poland. The Biden administration, like the Trump administration before it, has opposed the questioning. The fact that Zubaydah was held at so-called CIA black sites in both Thailand and Poland has been widely reported. The US government has also allowed the disclosure of information about how he was treated.

But the government, citing national security concerns, has stopped short of acknowledging the locations of the black sites set up after 9/11 to gather intelligence about terrorist plots against Americans. Zubaydah spent four years at CIA black sites before being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006. According to a 2014 Senate report on the CIA program, Zubaydah was waterboarded more than 80 times and spent over 11 days in a coffin-size confinement box. The extreme interrogation techniques used as part of the program are now widely viewed as torture. The high court is expected to rule in the case in coming months. (Read more Abu Zubaydah stories.)

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