Police state : torture fabricates ‘evidence’


Richard Moore

    "They took him to Morocco to be tortured," said Clive A.
    Stafford Smith, the lawyer for the suspect, Binyan
    Mohammed. "He signed a confession saying whatever they
    wanted to hear, which is that he worked with Jose Padilla
    to do the dirty bomb plot. He says that's absolute
    nonsense, and he doesn't know Jose Padilla."


Also see below:  
Shift on Suspect Is Linked to Role of Qaeda Figures 

 Go to Original 

 Torture Claims 'Forced US to Cut Terror Charges' 
By Jamie Wilson 
The Guardian UK 

Friday 25 November 2005 
Dirty bomb evidence came from al-Qaida leaders. 

CIA worried case would expose prison network. 

The Bush administration decided not to charge Jose Padilla
with planning to detonate a radioactive "dirty bomb" in a
US city because the evidence against him was extracted
using torture on members of al-Qaida, it was claimed

Mr. Padilla, a US citizen who had been held for more than
three years as an "enemy combatant" in a military prison
in North Carolina, was indicted on Tuesday on the lesser
charges of supporting terrorism abroad. After his arrest
in 2002 the Brooklyn-born Muslim convert was also accused
by the administration of planning to blow up apartment
blocks in New York using natural gas.

The administration had used his case as evidence of the
continued threat posed by al-Qaida inside America.

Yesterday's New York Times, quoting unnamed current and
former government officials, said the main evidence of Mr.
Padilla's involvement in the plots against US cities had
come from two captured al-Qaida leaders, Khalid Sheikh
Mohammed, believed to be the mastermind of the September
11 attacks, and Abu Zubaydah, a leading al-Qaida
recruiter. But the officials told the newspaper Mr.
Padilla could not be charged with the bomb plots because
neither of the al-Qaida leaders could be used as witnesses
as they had been subjected to harsh questioning and could
open up charges from defense lawyers that their earlier
statements resulted from torture. Officials also feared
that their testimony could expose classified information
about the CIA prison system in which the men were thought
to be held.

The CIA has never publicly acknowledged it is detaining
Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Zubaydah. It is not known where they
are being held. But it was reported last month the CIA was
using secret detention centers in eastern Europe, possibly
in Poland and Romania, for interrogations, thus beyond the
reach of US law.

Internal reviews by the CIA have raised questions about
the treatment and credibility of the two men. The New York
Times said one review, completed in spring last year by
the CIA inspector general, found that in the first months
after his capture Mr. Mohammed had suffered excessive use
of "water boarding", a technique involving near drowning
which entails the detainee being strapped to a board and
then submerged.

Announcing the charges against Mr. Padilla on Tuesday, the
attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, repeatedly refused to
answer questions on why none of the allegations involving
attacks on the US had been included. "I am not going to
talk about previous accusations and allegations that are
outside the indictment," he said. However, the New York
Times said the officials had emphasized that the
government was not backing off its initial assertions
about the seriousness of Mr. Padilla's actions.

Mr. Padilla was arrested at O'Hare airport in Chicago in
2002 after returning from Pakistan. President George Bush
declared him an enemy combatant, and the administration
resisted calls to charge and try him in civilian courts.
His case became a cause célèbre, with human rights groups
claiming it was an extreme example of how civil liberties
had been brushed aside in pursuit of the war on terror.

Mr. Padilla was handed over last week to the justice
department for civilian proceedings, avoiding a
potentially embarrassing supreme court showdown over how
long the US government could hold one of its citizens in
military custody without charges.

Torture has become an emotive issue around the world since
prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib in Iraq was uncovered. A new
law sponsored by Senator John McCain, a former Republican
presidential candidate and a war hero who was tortured in
Vietnam, would ban inhumane treatment and oblige all US
agencies to abide by international law on torture. The
draft law was approved by 90 votes to nine in the Senate
earlier this month, but the House of Representatives has
yet to give its support and Dick Cheney has launched an
aggressive effort to modify the legislation to allow the
CIA to be exempted - causing the Washington Post to label
him "Vice President for Torture" in an editorial.


 Shift on Suspect Is Linked to Role of Qaeda Figures 
By Douglas Jehl and Eric Lichtblau 
The New York Times 

Thursday 24 November 2005 

Washington - The Bush administration decided to charge
Jose Padilla with less serious crimes because it was
unwilling to allow testimony from two senior members of Al
Qaeda who had been subjected to harsh questioning, current
and former government officials said Wednesday.

The two senior members were the main sources linking Mr.
Padilla to a plot to bomb targets in the United States,
the officials said.

The Qaeda members were Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, believed to
be the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and Abu
Zubaydah, a top recruiter, who gave their accounts to
American questioners in 2002 and 2003. The two continue to
be held in secret prisons by the Central Intelligence
Agency, whose internal reviews have raised questions about
their treatment and credibility, the officials said.

One review, completed in spring 2004 by the CIA inspector
general, found that Mr. Mohammed had been subjected to
excessive use of a technique involving near drowning in
the first months after his capture, American intelligence
officials said.

Another review, completed in April 2003 by American
intelligence agencies shortly after Mr. Mohammed's
capture, assessed the quality of his information from
initial questioning as "Precious Truths, Surrounded by a
Bodyguard of Lies."

Accusations about plots to set off a "dirty bomb" and use
natural gas lines to bomb American apartment buildings had
featured prominently in past administration statements
about Mr. Padilla, an American who had been held in
military custody for more than three years after his
arrest in May 2002.

But they were not mentioned in his criminal indictment on
lesser charges of support to terrorism that were made
public on Tuesday. The decision not to charge him
criminally in connection with the more far-ranging bomb
plots was prompted by the conclusion that Mr. Mohammed and
Mr. Zubaydah could almost certainly not be used as
witnesses, because that could expose classified
information and could open up charges from defense lawyers
that their earlier statements were a result of torture,
officials said.

Without that testimony, officials said, it would be nearly
impossible for the United States to prove the charges.
Moreover, part of the bombing accusations hinged on
incriminating statements that officials say Mr. Padilla
made after he was in military custody - and had been
denied access to a lawyer.

"There's no way you could use what he said in military
custody against him," a former senior government official

The officials spoke a day after Attorney General Alberto
R. Gonzales repeatedly refused to address questions a news
conference about why the government had not brought
criminal charges related to the most serious accusations.
The officials, from several agencies, sought to emphasize
that the government was not backing off its initial
assertions about the seriousness of Mr. Padilla's actions.

The officials were granted anonymity, saying to be
identified by name would subject them to reprisals for
addressing questions that Mr. Gonzales had declined to

In an interview on Wednesday, a British lawyer for another
man accused by the United States of working as Mr.
Padilla's accomplice in the bomb plot also accused
American officials of working to extract a confession. The
lawyer said the United States had transferred the man to
Morocco from Pakistan, where he was captured in 2002, in
an effort to have him to sign a confession implicating
himself and Mr. Padilla.

"They took him to Morocco to be tortured," said Clive A.
Stafford Smith, the lawyer for the suspect, Binyan
Mohammed. "He signed a confession saying whatever they
wanted to hear, which is that he worked with Jose Padilla
to do the dirty bomb plot. He says that's absolute
nonsense, and he doesn't know Jose Padilla."

Officials said the administration had weighed the lesser
criminal charges against Mr. Padilla for months before its
announcement as a way of extricating itself from the
politically, and possibly legally, difficult position of
imprisoning an American as an enemy combatant.

Mr. Padilla was an unindicted co-conspirator in a case
last year in Miami in which several men were charged with
operating a "North American support cell" to support jihad
causes overseas, the case in which Mr. Padilla has been
ultimately charged.

Officials said they had considered bringing criminal
charges against Mr. Padilla in the case and releasing him
from military custody as early as last spring, after
intercepted communications pointed to his role in the
cell. But officials faced time pressures in bringing the
criminal case, and when the Florida judge delayed
proceedings against the men already charged, the
administration decided to hold off charging Mr. Padilla.

The bigger factor driving the decision on whether to
continue holding Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant was the
question of how federal appeals courts would rule on
whether President Bush had the authority to hold him and
Americans like him as enemy combatants without charges.

Mr. Padilla's case has languished in the federal appeals
system for years, in part because of jurisdictional
questions. In September, the United States Court of
Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a strong affirmation of
the administration position, said Mr. Padilla was being
held legally. With that precedent in hand, administration
officials said they believed it was not worth the risk of
having the Supreme Court overturn the lower court.

"If we'd lost the Fourth Circuit," the former senior
official said, "we would not have let Padilla go
criminally. We would have insisted on going to the Supreme
Court" to affirm the right to hold combatants.

It was Mr. Zubaydah, who was captured in March 2002, who
provided his questioners with the information about a plan
to use a radiological weapon often called a "dirty bomb"
that led to Mr. Padilla's arrest in Chicago less than two
months later, the officials said.

It was Mr. Mohammed, who was captured in March 2003, who
linked Mr. Padilla to a plot to use natural gas lines to
bomb American apartment buildings, the officials said.

In the interviews on Wednesday, American officials from
several agencies said they still regarded those
accusations as serious, particularly the one described by
Mr. Mohammed. Officials said they were deeply concerned
about reports that Mr. Padilla, trained by a Qaeda bomb
maker who is at large, might seek to rig an explosive to
the natural gas system of an apartment building in New
York, officials said.

They said any effort to introduce testimony by Mr.
Mohammed and Mr. Zubaydah against Mr. Padilla could have
opened the way for defense lawyers to expose details about
their detention and interrogation in secret jails that the
Central Intelligence Agency has worked hard to keep out of
public light.

The fact that the evidence against Mr. Padilla in
connection with the bombing plot depended so directly on
prisoners from Al Qaeda meant that the obstacles to bring
charges against him were even higher than those that
prosecutors have confronted in their case against Zacarias
Moussaoui, who has pleaded guilty to his role in the Sept.
11 hijackings.

Where prosecutors were able to bypass allowing Mr.
Moussaoui to confront his accusers directly, the evidence
that Mr. Zubaydah and Mr. Mohammed could potentially have
brought against Mr. Padilla was widely seen as far more
central to the bombing case against him, and prosecutors
apparently thought that it would be nearly impossible to
bring a criminal case based on that evidence as a result.

The CIA has not acknowledged that it holds Mr. Mohammed
and Mr. Zubaydah, and the locations of their prisons
remain unknown. The two were identified in the report
completed in 2004 by the Sept. 11 commission as being
among a small group of so-called high-value terror
suspects held at undisclosed sites overseas. The CIA has
in custody two dozen to three dozen such prisoners, and
more than 100 others have been transferred by the agency
from one foreign country to another, a process called
rendition, officials have said.

The United States has never publicly identified Mr.
Mohammed and Mr. Zubaydah as having provided the critical
information against Mr. Padilla. A seven-page statement
that the Justice Department declassified in June 2004
identified the two main witnesses only as "senior Al Qaeda
detainee No. 1" and "senior Al Qaeda detainee No. 2."

But the statement provided detailed information about the
interactions of Mr. Zubaydah and Mr. Mohammed with Mr.
Padilla in Pakistan and Afghanistan after Sept. 11, and
the current and former officials said the unnamed
detainees were in fact those two senior Qaeda officials.

The fact that the CIA inspector general's report
criticized as excessive the use of interrogation
techniques on Mr. Mohammed had not previously been
disclosed. A spokesman for the CIA declined on Wednesday
to comment on any inspector general's report describing

A senior American official said, "There has been no reason
to doubt that the accusations against Padilla in relation
to the bombing plot were genuine."

The official said the administration had determined that
concerns about subjecting Mr. Mohammed and Mr. Zubaydah to
cross-examination by defense lawyers would be



"Apocalypse Now and the Brave New World"

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