The first use of waterboarding and other harsh treatment against suspected Al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials over objections from his interrogators, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Citing unnamed former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum, the newspaper said the harsh interrogation techniques had been ordered despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew.
Former president George W. Bush had publicly described Zubaidah, who was captured in 2002, as Al-Qaeda’s chief of operations while other top officials called him a “trusted associate” of Osama bin Laden and a major figure in the planning of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The especially brutal interrogation tactics against Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at CIA headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, the paper said.
According to The Times, Zubaydah provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs.
Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the paper said.