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Monday, December 31, 2001

Incident: Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi gives bad intelligence

In late 2001 or early 2002, the CIA will rendition Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi to Egypt. While there, he will provide "information" that will form the basis for Secretary of State Colin Powell's address to the United Nations Security Council on 6 February 2003 justifying the invasion of Iraq.

At this address, Powell refers to al-Libi and states:

I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to al Qaeda. Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story. I will relate it to you now as he, himself, described it.

This senior al Qaeda terrorist was responsible for one of al Qaeda's training camps in Afghanistan...

He says bin Laden and his top deputy in Afghanistan, deceased al Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef, did not believe that al Qaeda labs in Afghanistan were capable enough to manufacture these chemical or biological agents. They needed to go somewhere else. They had to look outside of Afghanistan for help. Where did they go? Where did they look? They went to Iraq.

The support that (inaudible) describes included Iraq offering chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000. He says that a militant known as Abu Abdula Al-Iraqi (ph) had been sent to Iraq several times between 1997and 2000 for help in acquiring poisons and gases. Abdula Al- Iraqi (ph) characterized the relationship he forged with Iraqi officials as successful.

However on 01 August 2004, the Washington Post will report that Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi later changed his story, and will imply that he might have been subjected to "enhanced interrogation methods".

In February 2005, an article in The New Yorker will be much more explicit. In response to the allegation that al-Libi lied to interrogators, Dan Coleman, a retired FBI agent, will be quoted as saying:

I could have told them that.

He [al-Libi] ran a training camp. He wouldn't have had anything to do with Iraq. Administration officials were always pushing us to come up with links, but there weren't any. The reason they got bad information is that they beat it out of him. You never get good information from someone that way.

The issue of the misleading intelligence will all but disappear until 05 November 2005, when Senator Levin (D-Michigan) will share declassified portions of a Defense Intelligence Agency document (labelled DITSUM No. 044-02, written February 2002) with the New York Times. The NYT will report that the document voiced doubts about the credibility of al-Libi's claims.

The New York Times states

In outlining reasons for its skepticism, the D.I.A. report noted that Mr. Libi's claims lacked specific details about the Iraqis involved, the illicit weapons used and the location where the training was to have taken place.

"It is possible he does not know any further details; it is more likely this individual is intentionally misleading the debriefers," the February 2002 report said. "Ibn al-Shaykh has been undergoing debriefs for several weeks and may be describing scenarios to the debriefers that he knows will retain their interest."

The article also states that another classified CIA assessment written around the same time states "the source was not in a position to know if any training had taken place", which compares well with Dan Coleman's criticisms above.

The Novermber article does not speculate if al-Libi's motive for misleading the interrogators was because he was being tortured, noting only that "The D.I.A. document gave no indication of ... what interrogation methods were used on him".

In December 2005, the New York Times will write another article, this time addressing the torture aspect of al-Libi's deception. They will quote anonymous current and former government officials saying that al-Libi fabricated his statements to escape harsh treatment meted out to him in Egypt at the US's behest.

(Note: The prisoner is variously referred to as Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and Ibn al-Shaykh.)

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

Incident: Ahmed Agiza renditioned to Egypt

Today, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery will be transported from Bromma airport, Stockholm, to Egypt. On 27 April 2004, Ahmed Agiza will be convicted and sentenced to 15 years for terrorism. During the trial, Agiza will allege that he was tortured. According to a HRW Report into renditions to Egypt, the trial of Agiza was patently unfair.
  • A prison doctor was assigned to inspect him, who confirmed that he had sustained physical injuries while in prison. However, his request that he be examined by an independent forensics expert, who could determine if he had been tortured, was denied.
  • Agiza admitted that he had been a member of al-Jihad al-Islami, but insisted that he did not support the use of violent means to achieve the goal of an Islamic state, and that his views had appeared in the London-based pan-Arab press at the time. `Agiza claimed that he left the group over the question of violence, and that other members of the group left with him. In order to establish that he had indeed left the organisation, and that his views were in fact non-violent, `Agiza's defense team wanted to call to the stand journalists who had interviewed him over the years. The court refused every defence request to allow witnesses to give testimony that contested the government's charges.
It was also claimed during a December 10, 2004, radio broadcast of Ekot Programme (transcript on file with Human Rights Watch) that he was left chained and blindfolded for 10 days, during which he was forced to urinate and defecate on himself. He also alleged that he was made to lick food off the prison floor.

According to a summary of the parents' testimony following a 23 January 2002 visit:

[`Agiza] seemed pale, weak, seemingly in shock and near breakdown. His eyes, cheeks, and feet were allegedly swollen, with his nose larger than usual and bloodied. He told [sic] that he had been tied and hung upside down while transported to the prison, and then being constantly blindfolded and subjected to advanced methods of interrogation, including electric shocks. He said he was told the guarantees provided to the Swedish government were worthless.

According to a summary of the parents' testimony following a 16 April 2003 visit:

He allegedly whispered to his mother that he had been further tortured by electric shocks after the January visit, and held in solitary confinement for about ten days. His arms and legs were tied behind his back and he could not relieve himself. He said he had told the Swedish Ambassador about the torture, and that prison officers had urged him to decline further visits from the Ambassador. He stated that officers had told him his wife would be returned soon, and they threatened to assault her and his mother sexually. He said he remained in solitary confinement, in a cell measuring two square meters, without windows, heat or light and that, while not tied, he could only visit the toilet once every 24 hours, which caused him kidney problems.

Agiza before his detention.

Incident: Muhammad al-Zery renditioned to Egypt

Today, Ahmed Agiza and Muhammad al-Zery will be transported from Bromma airport, Stockholm, to Egypt. al-Zery will be released in October 2003.

A confidential Swedish government memorandum detailing the men's first visit by embassy officials includes allegations from the men that they were repeatedly beaten by prison guards, denied necessary medication, blindfolded during interrogations, and were threatened with reprisals against family members if they did not cooperate with the interrogations and provide the information. This memo is on file with HRW.

A description of Ahmed Agiza's alleged abuse can be found here.

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Incident: al-Hajj detained, threatened

This month an al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Muhyideed al-Hajj will be detained by US forces on the Afghan-Pakistani border while on assignment. He will then be transferred to GTMO.

In four year's time, notes from his lawyer's visit will be reported upon in the media. According to the reports, the US will attempt to coerce Hajj into being their spy, threatening the life of his family (wife and five year old) if he does not cooperate.

Al-Hajj's picture is shown on a poster during a protest by his colleagues at Al Jazeera. See Don't Bomb Us, a blog by Al Jazeera staffers.