Guantanamo prisoner said he was drowned in water; Officers omitted it from the memo

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba — A prisoner accused of plotting the 2000 al-Qaeda bombing of the battleship USS Cole in 2000 told federal interrogators years later that he was taken away by the CIA , said an interpreter this week. But that detail was omitted from the official account of the interrogations that prosecutors want to use at his death penalty trial as evidence that he confessed.

At stake in the hearings is whether the military judge will accept a 34-page memo written by agents who interrogated prisoner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at Guantánamo Bay for three days in early 2007. the interrogation is considered critical evidence of the trial. Defense attorneys say he is tainted with torture and want him expelled.

“He talked about waterboarding,” John J. Elkaliouby, who worked for the FBI as an Arabic linguist from 1994 to 2015, said in court Thursday. “He said, ‘I was drowned by the CIA.’ , and I told the whole team about it.”

Mr. Elkaliouby was called as a prosecution witness to describe the mood and atmosphere during the interrogation, which he said was friendly, calm and “to the delight of Mr. Nashiri”, who was chained at the ankles. Officers served tea and pastries, and the prisoner said he had been tortured.

The linguist cast the reveal as a surprise. “I didn’t expect that, to be honest.”

Testimony this week expanded on the stories that emerged in the 9/11 case about how military prosecutors constructed death penalty cases against men who were tortured while in secret detention in prisons. abroad managed by the CIA, then transferred to Guantánamo Bay in 2006 for trial by order of President George W. Bush.

The CIA played a covert role at Guantánamo in the detention and interrogation of the men by FBI and Navy agents, including taking notes from the interrogations, Elkaliouby said. The CIA demanded that the interrogators write down their accounts of what they learned on the agency’s computers, which were classified.

Before interrogations began in early 2007, federal agents were instructed to omit allegations of torture and abuse from what were colloquially known as “clean team memos” – and to write to a separate report instead.

Defense attorneys said they received copies of these separate accounts among the classified documents prosecutors gave them during this pre-trial phase. But it’s impossible to know how the defendants raised the charges because there are no tapes or transcripts of those interrogations.

Seventeen American sailors were killed in the suicide bombing of the Cole during a refueling stop in Aden, Yemen on October 12, 2000. Although Mr. Nashiri was captured two years later and handed over in the United States, he was not charged until 2011. The case has been mired in preliminary hearings for more than a decade as defense attorneys struggle to obtain and use information about his torture to disqualify evidence.

They also argued that Mr. Nashiri, who is now 57 and was diagnosed by US military doctors as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, emerged from CIA custody in a state of “ learned helplessness,” essentially trained to tell his American captors what he believed they wanted to hear.

He was taken to Thailand in 2002 by psychologists who worked as CIA contractors and suffered rectal abuse and the threat of an electric drill and a gun during interrogations by police officers. the CIA. For a time in late 2003 and early 2004, he was hidden at Guantánamo Bay in a CIA black site near prison facilities but out of reach of lawyers and the International Red Cross.

This site is known as Camp Echo 2, and is where Mr. Nashiri was held in 2004 and again in 2007 for interrogations that prosecutors believe are essential to their case.

Earlier Thursday, Bernard E. DeLury Jr., a retired Naval Reserve captain who is now a New Jersey Superior Court judge, testified for prosecutors that on March 14, 2007, Mr. Nashiri was “alert” , “present” and not in distress at a hearing to reconsider his status as an enemy combatant.

Judge DeLury presided over the two-hour Combatant Status Review Tribunal, or CSRT, during which, he said, he had “no doubt in my mind” that the prisoner’s participation was conscious and voluntary.

The process prohibited prisoners from having a lawyer, but Mr Nashiri was assigned a naval officer to act as a “personal representative”, speak on his behalf and help him respond to the allegations which, according to the military, were enough to hold him as, essentially, a prisoner of the war on terrorism.

A defense attorney, Captain Brian L. Mizer of the Navy, asked Judge DeLury if he knew that Mr. Nashiri had told his representative, who was called Lieutenant Commander X in court, that he was “afraid of being executed and dismembered”. to his CSRT”

Judge DeLury replied, “If he had told me that, I certainly would have explored that with him.”