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Terrorist Tapes Found Under CIA Desk

Associated Press

August 17, 2010

WASHINGTON (AP) – The CIA has tapes of 9/11 plotter Ramzi Binalshibh being interrogated in a secret overseas prison. Discovered under a desk, the recordings could provide an unparalleled look at how foreign governments aided the U.S. in holding and questioning suspected terrorists.

The two videotapes and one audiotape are believed to be the only remaining recordings made within the clandestine prison system.

The tapes depict Binalshibh’s interrogation sessions at a Moroccan-run facility the CIA used near Rabat in 2002, several current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recordings remain a closely guarded secret.

When the CIA destroyed its cache of 92 videos of two other al-Qaida operatives, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri, being waterboarded in 2005, officials believed they had wiped away all of the agency’s interrogation footage. But in 2007, a staffer discovered a box tucked under a desk in the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center and pulled out the Binalshibh tapes.

A Justice Department prosecutor who is already investigating whether destroying the Zubaydah and al-Nashiri tapes was illegal is now also probing why the Binalshibh tapes were never disclosed. Twice, the government told a federal judge they did not exist.

The tapes could complicate U.S. efforts to prosecute Binalshibh, 38, who has been described as a “key facilitator” in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. If the tapes surfaced at trial, they could clearly reveal Morocco’s role in the counterterrorism program known as Greystone, which authorized the CIA to hold terrorists in secret prisons and shuttle them to other countries.

More significantly to his defense, the tapes also could provide evidence of Binalshibh’s mental state within the first months of his capture. In court documents, defense lawyers have been asking for medical records to see whether Binalshibh’s years in CIA custody made him mentally unstable. He is being treated for schizophrenia with a potent cocktail of anti-psychotic medications.

With military commissions on hold while the Obama administration figures out what to do with suspected terrorists, Binalshibh has never had a hearing on whether he is mentally fit to stand trial.

“If those tapes exist, they would be extremely relevant,” said Thomas A. Durkin, Binalshibh’s civilian lawyer.

The CIA first publicly hinted at the existence of the Binalshibh tapes in 2007 in a letter to U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema in Virginia. The government twice denied having such tapes, and recanted once they were discovered. But the government blacked out Binalshibh’s name from a public copy of the letter.

At the time, the CIA played down the significance, saying the videos were not taken as part of the CIA’s detention program and did not show CIA interrogations.

That’s true, but only because of the unusual nature of the Moroccan prison, which was largely financed by the CIA but run by Moroccans, the former officials said. The CIA could move detainees in and out, and oversee the interrogations, but officially, Morocco had control.

CIA spokesman George Little would not discuss the Moroccan facility except to say agency officials “continue to cooperate with inquiries into past counterterrorism practices.”

Moroccan government officials did not respond to questions about Binalshibh and his time in Morocco. The country has never acknowledged the existence of the detention center.

Morocco has a troubled history of prison abuse and human rights violations. A government-created commission identified decades of torture, forced disappearances, poor prison conditions and sexual violence. And this year’s State Department report on Morocco notes continued accusations of torture by security forces.

But current and former U.S. officials say no harsh interrogation methods, like the simulated drowning tactic called waterboarding, were used in Morocco. In the CIA’s secret network of undisclosed “black prisons,” Morocco was just way station of sorts, a place to hold detainees for a few months at a time.

“The tapes record a guy sitting in a room just answering questions,” according to a U.S. official familiar with the program.

That would make them quite different from the 92 interrogation videos of Zubaydah and al-Nashiri being subjected to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation tactics.

Binalshibh was captured Sept. 11, 2002, and interrogated for days at a CIA facility in Afghanistan. Almost immediately, two former CIA officials said, Binalshibh exhibited mental instability that would worsen over time.

When FBI agents finally had a chance to interview Binalshibh, they found him lethargic but unharmed.

“He had a certain toughness about him, like he didn’t care,” said Raymond Holcomb, a retired FBI agent who spent five days alongside the CIA with Binalshibh in Afghanistan and wrote about it in a forthcoming book, “Endless Enemies: Inside FBI Counterterrorism.”

Though Binalshibh was uncooperative during his early interrogations, his interviews formed the foundation for parts of the 9/11 commission report. One official said he also provided intelligence about a plot to crash aircraft into London’s Heathrow Airport.

Binalshibh spent five months in Morocco in late 2002 and early 2003, the first of three trips through the facility during his years in CIA custody.

Since his incarceration was established at Guantanamo Bay in 2006, Binalshibh has appeared increasingly erratic. Court records show him acting out, breaking cameras in his cell and smearing them with feces.

He has experienced delusions, believing the CIA was intentionally shaking his bed and cell, according to court records and interviews. He has imagined tingling sensations like things were crawling all over him and developed a nervous tic, obsessively scratching himself.

Nine years after his capture, there is no indication when Binalshibh and other admitted 9/11 terrorists will face military or civilian trials.

Binalshibh and other accused 9/11 conspirators have openly admitted their roles, praising the attacks. Binalshibh and the others have asked to plead guilty, a move that would head off any trial and almost certainly guarantee the videotapes never get played in any court.

(Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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  • Thinker_max50

    darsavmo

    over 3 years ago

    11344 Comments

    What else is being stored under employees desks? I think better security protocals are needed at the CIA...

  • 048_max50

    rionbird

    over 3 years ago

    1154 Comments

    I think the one who "forgot" the tapes under the desk was the one who leaked the tapes ....... disgruntled employees can reap havoc

  • John_groh_max50

    wiseass0282

    over 3 years ago

    10986 Comments

    Wonder who the guy was who forgot the tapes under his desk ?

  • 1979_max50

    Robocop33

    over 3 years ago

    14600 Comments

    As someone who was entrusted with some of our nations most highly classified top secrets I have a very hard time wrapping my mind around someone who releases this type of information to the media! I was threatened with prison or confinement to a mental institution for life if I even revealed the code words to projects, much less the actual info! What the hell is wrong with people now? Keep your mouth shut and use the information to protect the USA, not to try and bring it down. Frankly 'we' did not hold the CIA in high esteem because of their many bungles but fortunately many other Intelligence gathering groups were fine and even worked together. The CIA and FBI are in my opinion a bunch of clowns trying to gain political power and one-upmanship.

  • Imagesca4xarl3gatekeeper911_max50

    RAMBO_911

    over 3 years ago

    68990 Comments

  • Img_0103_max50

    LAWMANTUKES

    over 3 years ago

    6950 Comments

    What..!!!!...??????

  • Anonymous-killer-whale-232189_1__max50

    Whalewatcher

    over 3 years ago

    10910 Comments

    The CIA can't even keep an accurate inventory of their own property. Our tax dollars at work ......

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50

    Sheriff_1

    over 3 years ago

    8026 Comments

    Typical government stupidity. Now how many other cases are in jeopardy

  • Native_clip_art_4_049_max50

    Sheriff_1

    over 3 years ago

    8026 Comments

    Typical government stupidity. Now how many other cases are in jeopardy

  • Uss_rhode_island_max50

    Bubblehead69

    over 3 years ago

    84 Comments

    To bad this POS hasn't been dealt with yet. But rev I totally agree...God bless America.

  • Sfa_iv_max50

    revCCBeasley

    over 3 years ago

    2944 Comments

    Nothing to say here but GOD Bless America.

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