Guantánamo

Lawyers postpone Guantánamo testimony from CIA’s first ‘Black Site’ prisoner

This image of 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 image of 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 file

Lawyers on Wednesday postponed until May the war court testimony of forever prisoner Abu Zubaydah, the guinea pig in the CIA’s post- 9/11 interrogation program.

He has never been charged with a crime and never been allowed to speak in public.

At issue is a claim by accused 9/11 plot deputy Ramzi bin al Shibh that someone is intentionally disrupting his sleep at the clandestine Camp 7 prison. Bin al Shibh, 44, blames the CIA or troops doing its bidding for noises and vibrations that interfere with his ability to prepare for his death-penalty trial, which has no start date.

But Bin al Shibh attorney James Harrington announced in court Wednesday that both of Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers — one a civilian, the other a Navy commander — were sick and unable to travel to Guantánamo to represent in his Sept. 11 war crimes case appearance. They should be fit and ready by the May 10-19 pretrial hearings, Harrington said.

Defense lawyers say Zubaydah is being called as a trusted Camp 7 block leader to describe his interactions with and on behalf of bin al Shibh. Zubaydah, 46, whose real name is Zayn al Abideen al Hussein, was a prized early capture in the war on terror and was the first captive to be waterboarded, 83 times in a single month, among other experimental CIA “enhanced interrogation techniques.”

Bin al Shibh says the CIA has been messing with his mind since his Sept. 11, 2002 capture in Pakistan, a complaint prosecutors dismiss.

But psychologist James Mitchell, an architect of the Black Site interrogation program, wrote in his recent memoirs that the vibrations were real in at least one Black Site. “I thought about giving him a special tinfoil hat to make it all go away,” he wrote in his “Enhanced Interrogation, Inside the Minds and Motives of the Islamic Terrorists Trying To Destroy America.”

Then he and his CIA contract partner Bruce Jessen each lay down on bin al Shibh’s cell bed.

“The vibration was there, and it was not something you could ignore. It made me feel like the room was spinning,” Mitchell wrote. “I could imagine that after a while it might make a person nauseous. It would certainly keep me awake, but oddly enough, you couldn’t feel it anyplace else in the cell.”

Mitchell and Jessen were CIA contractors who designed and implemented some interrogation tactics used on “high-value” captives — waterboarding them, slamming them into walls, depriving them of sleep, withholding food, manipulating their diet, shackling them in stress positions, forcing them to be nude, hooded or listening to loud noises as well as confining them to a dark coffin-like box.

But Mitchell in his book blamed the vibrating bed at the Black Site on “an engineering problem localized to that cell.” He wrote that he couldn’t explain more for security reasons about “the cell or how it was affixed inside the building.” But, he said, the vibrations “happened only when a large piece of equipment situated near by was running.”

Last year, before Mitchell’s book came out, bin al Shibh testified that it happens at Guantánamo, too.

READ MORE: Accused plotter testifies he was drugged for protesting noises, vibrations

Carol Rosenberg: 305-376-3179, @carolrosenberg

  Comments