Guantánamo

Parole board declares never-charged Abu Zubaydah a forever prisoner

This screengrab of the Guantánamo captive Abu Zubaydah was taken from a video interview he made sometime between the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and his March 28, 2002 capture by U.S. intelligence agents in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
This screengrab of the Guantánamo captive Abu Zubaydah was taken from a video interview he made sometime between the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and his March 28, 2002 capture by U.S. intelligence agents in Faisalabad, Pakistan. MIAMI HERALD SCREENGRAB

The Guantánamo parole board has rejected a plea for release by the war-on-terror captive known as Abu Zubaydah, the guinea pig in the CIA’s post- 9/11 interrogation program.

In doing so, the Periodic Review Board declared 28 of the detention center’s last 60 captives as indefinite detainees, or forever prisoners in the war on terror. In each instance it rejected the bid for freedom of all of the former Black Site prisoners who went before the parole-style board from Guantánamo’s clandestine Camp 7.

Two so-called low-value detainees, long-time military-held prisoners still await decisions of the board. The other 30 captives at the prison in Cuba include 20 men who are approved for release with security assurances that satisfy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and 10 men charged with war crimes at military commissions.

The decision raised to 28 the number of Guantánamo ‘forever prisoners.’

“Regardless of his claim that he was not a formal member of al-Qaida,” the board wrote in its brief decision, the Palestinian prisoner whose real name is Zayn al Abdeen Mohammed al Hussein had “past involvement in terrorist activity to include probably serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted facilitators.”

It also cited his long-term service as a “fundraiser for extremist causes.” The decision, dated Sept. 22, was just released on Thursday.

Abu Zubaydah, 45, was critically wounded and captured in Pakistan in 2002. He was subjected to some of the most aggressive enhanced interrogation techniques used by the CIA in the agency’s bid to break prisoners and get them to spill al-Qaida secrets.

CIA agents subjected him to 83 rounds of waterboarding, sleep deprivation, nudity and confinement in a coffin-sized box — techniques that, the so-called 2014 Senate Torture Report said, did not turn up more intelligence than the FBI got through about two months of traditional interrogations.

The Senate Intelligence Committee’s 2014 Rendition, Detention and Interrogation Program Report also said that, soon after his capture, CIA officers concluded that Abu Zubaydah “should remain incommunicado for the remainder of his life.”

A federal task force set up by President Barack Obama in 2009 to review the cases of all Guantánamo captives recommended that Abu Zubaydah be considered for trial in federal court or by military commission. He has never been charged with a crime, and his name was not among those listed on the chief prosecutor’s August 2014 potential target list, which was released in recent war court litigation.

Click here to see the Miami Herald Periodic Review Board Guide.

At a hearing on his case in August, a U.S. military officer assigned to help the Palestinian make his case for release told the panel that Abu Zubaydah hoped to be “reunited with his family and begin the process of recovering from injuries he sustained during his capture.”

The unnamed officer said the captive had “no desire or intent to harm the United States or any other country, and he has repeatedly said that the Islamic State is out of control and has gone too far.”

“He has some seed money that could be used to start a business after he is reintegrated into society and is living a peaceful life,” the officer said in the brief unclassified portion of the hearing by video teleconference between Guantánamo’s Camp Justice and a conference room near the Pentagon.

The board’s three-paragraph announcement of its rejection of Abu Zubaydah’s bid for freedom called the captive particularly susceptible “to recruitment by extremists due to his continued feeling of an obligation to defend and support oppressed Muslims.”

It also “noted” that it had been presented with “no information” of any country that might take him in and “sufficiently mitigate his threat” but welcomed that kind of information for “future reviews,” the first of which would review his file six months after his rejection.

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

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