Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Libyan Militant Agreed To False Iraq-Al Qaeda Link To Stop Torture

The AP story about the suicide of Libyan militant al-Fakheri, aka al-Libi (left), made essential points about Bush administration policies whose repercussions affect us today:

A Libyan militant whose false information about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda was used by the Bush administration as part of its justification for war in Iraq has died in a prison in Libya, a Libyan newspaper reported. The militant, Ali Mohammed Abdel-Aziz al-Fakheri, known by his nom de guerre, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, hanged himself late last week, the newspaper, Oea, said. There was no official confirmation of his death from Libyan officials or state-run news media. Mr. Libi was captured in Pakistan in 2001 and later sent by the C.I.A. to Egypt, where he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques. It later emerged that he had fabricated his stories about Iraq to try to avoid harsh treatment by his Egyptian captors. Human Rights Watch, based in New York, said the United States handed him over to Libya in late 2005 or early 2006, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

First, we have the disgraceful policy of "extraordinary rendition" in which detainees in CIA custody were sent to countries that practice torture. Second, there are the Bush administration's false premises for the invasion of Iraq, in this case the discredited Iraq-Al Qaeda connection. Finally, we have the unreliability of using torture to extract information. Al-Libi was an example of those who agree with their torturers in order to stop the pain. Juan Cole of Informed Comment called the al-Libi case "eloquent testimony against torture."

Human Rights Watch reported in September 2006 about a speech that President Bush gave  defending "alternative procedures." Knowing that the information from al-Libi was tainted, Bush said nothing about it, even though Colin Powell used it in his speech on Iraq to the U.N.:

In his speech, President Bush claimed that useful information has been obtained using such “alternative” techniques, but he pointedly omitted mentioning the information obtained from Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, one of the first top suspects placed in CIA detention. Al-Libi was excluded from President Bush’s long narrative of successful detainee captures because under “enhanced interrogation” al-Libi reportedly told interrogators that Iraq had provided chemical and biological weapons training to al Qaeda. This information – which turned out to be entirely wrong – was used in Secretary of State Colin Powell’s speech to the United Nations to justify war with Iraq. Sources later told ABC News that al-Libi “had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.”

At a Pentagon briefing this morning for the release of the Army’s new field manual on interrogation, Lieutenant General John F. Kimmons, the Army’s Deputy Chief of Intelligence, put the matter succinctly: “No good intelligence comes from abusive interrogation practices.”

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