Catching up with Abu Zubaida.

You’ll remember the name Abu Zubaida. That’s the guy President Bush bragged about capturing back in 2002, describing him as “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” Zubaida denied it, saying that he had nothing to do with al-Qaeda. So we held him at a CIA black operations site and tortured him in order to get him to give up the location of Osama bin Laden. We waterboarded him 83 times and brought him to the edge of death on four occasions. And now it turns out—oops!—that he’s not “al-Qaeda’s chief of operations.” He’s just some dude, a Pakastani guy with nothing to do with al-Qaeda, just a fixer for radical Muslim tourists. Where is he now? Guantanamo. The man has broken no laws, committed no act of war, and there has never been any evidence against him…and yet we’ve held him for seven years, with no apparent plan to release him.

What ever happened to that “shining city on a hill”?

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

9 replies on “Catching up with Abu Zubaida.”

  1. While I was concerned with the legal policy surrounding the case you highlighted yesterday, this one’s different. Much like the claims about WMDs in Iraq, this time around the larger question is how the CIA came to this conclusion in the first place. There’s a process by which organizations are studied, and there are plenty of ways a mix-up like this could have happened which, while not great, would at least be forgivable. There are also ways it could have happened that would be warning signs of incompetence. Hopefully there will be a substantial investigation carried out by the House and Senate Select Intelligence Committees to figure out how we mapped AQ’s leadership and why we were so mistaken about where Abu Zubaida figured into it.

  2. “The idea that Zubaydah was not a top al Qaeda terrorist is utter nonsense. Zubaydah’s “accomplishments” include: running the Khalden training camp (which graduated many al Qaeda terrorists, including at least three 9/11 hijackers), most likely recruiting one of the 9/11 hijackers for al Qaeda, managing the relocation of al Qaeda from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996, orchestrating al Qaeda’s millennium plots against Jordan and the U.S., working with other senior al Qaeda terrorists in post 9/11 plotting against the American Homeland, relocating al Qaeda terrorists to Iran after 9/11, fundraising for al Qaeda, managing al Qaeda sleeper cells, etc.”

  3. Hey, that’s great, the Weekly Standard says that Zubaydah is Mr. Big! Too bad George Bush had him tortured and destroyed the possibility of trial and getting at the truth. Worst. President. Ever.

  4. Based on this Post article, I don’t see enough information to say that he had “nothing to do with al Queda.” It says he was a ‘fixer,’ which is far too vague to characterize him as ‘just some dude.’

    This isn’t to say that I’m defending the waterboarding, etc.

  5. Jack, what part of “tourist fixer” don’t you understand? He’s the kind of guy who works with the consulate to expedite the replacement of a tourist’s lost passport. Or helps a tourist who finds out his travelers cheque’s aren’t being accepted at the local coffee shop. He probably even tells people where the hot night clubs are and which neighborhoods to avoid.

    He’s just a fixer, dude. All about tourists, nothing to do with al-Qaeda.

  6. It hadn’t occurred to me before, but I’m guessing that maybe many people (including Jack) aren’t familiar with fixers. At VQR most of our correspondents work with fixers when they’re in country—the fixers help keep them out of jail, smooth over misunderstandings, help make sure that our reporters don’t get ripped off, etc. In any sufficiently exotic country you’ll find dozens or hundreds of people working as fixers within specific niches. Some cater to journalists, some to adventure travelers, some to wealthy tourists, some to Christian missionaries, etc. Zubaida apparently catered to Muslims. That doesn’t make him a criminal, just a regular guy making a living in the same way as thousands of other people.

  7. Well, if that was a War on Tourism, that whole fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here was a *massive failure* wrt DC.

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