Abu Zubaydah “suffered an injury during capture” — he “sustained a wound during capture which is being treated”, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jay Bybee, wrote in a memo dated 1 August 2002, yet authorization was given to torture him anyway. One torture contemplated — but apparently not used — was placing one of more insects, which Abu Zubayda would have been told were stinging insects, into a confinement box with him: “you have informed us that he appears to have a fear of insects”, according to an analysis of the Bybee memo by Jason Leopold.
This report continued: “Leopold has reported that “According to Zubaydah’s account to the International Committee of the Red Cross he was subjected to brutal methods. ‘Two black wooden boxes were brought into the room outside my cell. One was tall, slightly higher than me and narrow’, Zubaydah told an ICRC representative, according to the organization’s report. ‘Measuring perhaps in area [3 1/2 by 2 1/2 feet by 6 1/2 feet high]. The other was shorter, perhaps only [3 1/2 feet] in height. I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck, they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room. I was also repeatedly slapped in the face … I was then put into the tall black box for what I think was about one and a half to two hours. The box was totally black on the inside as well as the outside…. They put a cloth or cover over the outside of the box to cut out the light and restrict my air supply. It was difficult to breathe. When I was let out of the box I saw that one of the walls of the room had been covered with plywood sheeting. From now on it was against this wall that I was then smashed with the towel around my neck. I think that the plywood was put there to provide some absorption of the impact of my body. The interrogators realized that smashing me against the hard wall would probably quickly result in physical injury’. … Leopold reported that “In July 2002, a meeting was convened at the White House, where former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, Justice Department attorney John Yoo, Vice President Dick Cheney, Cheney’s attorney David Addington, and unknown CIA officials discussed whether the CIA could interrogate Zubaydah more aggressively in order to get him to respond. It was at this July 2002 meeting that Yoo, Gonzales and Addington gave the CIA the green light to use a wide variety of techniques, including waterboarding, on Zubaydah and other detainees at several secret prisons to ‘break’ them and force them to cooperate with interrogators, according to an account published in Newsweek in late December 2003. Additionally, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his legal counsel, William Haynes, solicited input from military psychologists about developing harsh methods that interrogators could use against detainees who were being held at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba … John B. Bellinger, the legal adviser to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, said he recalled participating in meetings with Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in July 2002 about an Army and Air Force survival training program called Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE), SERE was meant to prepare U.S. soldiers for abuse they might suffer if captured by an outlaw regime. But it was reverse engineered and used against detainees. According to Bybee’s memo under this new ‘phase’ of interrogation, Zubaydah would only have contact with a new ‘interrogation specialist’ and a psychologist who specialized in the military’s SERE program, ‘who has been involved with the interrogations since they began … This phase will likely last no more than several days but could last up to thirty days,” Bybee’s memo says”. Leopold also wrote that “In his book The One Percent Doctrine, author Ron Suskind reported that President George W. Bush had become obsessed with Zubaydah and the information he might have about pending terrorist plots against the United States. ‘Bush was fixated on how to get Zubaydah to tell us the truth’, Suskind wrote. Bush questioned one CIA briefer, ‘Do some of these harsh methods really work?’ … According to Suskind, Zubaydah’s captors soon discovered that their prisoner was mentally ill and knew nothing about terrorist operations or impending plots. That realization was ‘echoed at the top of CIA and was, of course, briefed to the President and Vice President’, Suskind wrote. Still, in public statements, President Bush portrayed Zubaydah as ‘one of the top operatives plotting and planning death and destruction on the United States’ and added: ‘So, the CIA used an alternative set of procedures’ to get Zubaydah to talk. The President did not want to ‘lose face’, because he had stated Zubaydah’s importance publicly, Suskind wrote”. Jason Leopold’s report is published in full here.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney said that these “interrogation techniques” should be considered a success.