Detention & Guantanamo

Abu Zubaydah's Lawyer Wants Him Charged

By Benjamin Wittes
Thursday, March 29, 2012, 7:23 AM

Amanda Jacobsen, a lawyer for Abu Zubaydah, has this oped in the Washington Post complaining that her client--and the government officials responsible for his detention and interrogation--have never faced charges: "We must ask why no charges have been brought against U.S. officials. But we must also ask why charges have never been brought against Abu Zubaida — and what is really known about my client."

Jacobsen's answer is not quite that Abu Zubaydah is innocent, but it's pretty close:

U.S. officials have said that Abu Zubaida was a senior al-Qaeda terrorist. They claimed that he was the “No. 3 man” in al-Qaeda, its chief of operationswho worked directly with Osama bin Laden. They said that he was personally involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and every other major al-Qaeda operation and knew the details of future attack plans.

But all of these assertions were wrong.

To the contrary, the government has explicitly conceded in Abu Zubaida’s habeas corpus case that he was never a member of al-Qaeda and had no knowledge of al-Qaeda operations. These allegations are not the basis on which the government requests that Abu Zubaida continue to be detained.

While the media continue to parrot the early mischaracterizations, the U.S. government has quietly airbrushed every reference to him out of the charge sheets of other detainees.

Later in the piece, she writes:


We must ask: If Abu Zubaida is a terrorist, why does the government refuse to charge him and bring him to justice?

The reason is: The government got it wrong. U.S. officials made hyperbolic assertions about Abu Zubaida and relied on these false allegations in their efforts to justify his rendition, secret detention and torture, as well as the torture of many others — acts that Europe, at least, admits are grave legal violations. By U.S. government reports, Abu Zubaida was waterboarded 83 times in one month. And despite court orders to preserve evidence, the government destroyed 90 videotapes of his torture and interrogations.People assume that the government has not prosecuted Abu Zubaida because he was tortured. But the government has admitted to waterboarding two other men, Khalid Sheik Mohammed and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, both of whom face criminal prosecution.