Abu Zubaydah


Abu Zubaydah : biography

March 12, 1971 –
[T]he waterboard technique… was different from the technique described in the DOJ opinion and used in the SERE training. The difference was in the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DOJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passage; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the Agency interrogator… applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the Agency’s use of the technique is different from that used in SERE training because it is ‘for real’ and is ‘more poignant and convincing.’” The Inspector General further reported that “OMS contends that the expertise of the SERE psychologist/interrogator on the waterboard was probably misrepresented at the time, as the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent Agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe." 

The Inspector General of DOJ in its 2004 report on interrogations noted that the use of waterboarding was discontinued in every armed services branch except the Navy SERE training "because of its dramatic effect on the students who were subjects." The CIA Office of Medical Services contradicted this conclusion, saying that “[w]hile SERE trainers believe that trainees are unable to maintain psychological resistance to the waterboard our experience was otherwise. Some subjects unquestionably can withstand a large number of applications, with no immediately discernible cumulative impact beyond their strong aversion to the experience.”

International Committee of the Red Cross report

In February 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross concluded a report on the treatment of "14 high-value detainees," who had been held by the CIA and, after September 2006, by the military at Guantanamo. The Red Cross customarily keeps such reports confidential in order to have continued access to prisoners and provide them service, as well as to try to negotiate with officials regarding care. The report was not made public until April 7, 2009., ACLU, April 4, 2007 The report is composed of interviews with the detainees.

The ICRC said, "The ICRC wishes to underscore that the consistency of the detailed allegations provided separately by each of the fourteen [detainees] adds particular weight to the information provided." The ICRC described the twelve interrogation techniques covered in the OLC memos to the CIA: suffocation by water (waterboarding), prolonged stress standing position, beatings by use of a collar, beating and kicking, confinement in a box, prolonged nudity, sleep deprivation, exposure to cold temperature, prolonged shackling, threats of ill-treatment, forced shaving, and deprivation/restricted provision of solid food. Zubaydah was the only detainee of the 14 interviewed who had been subjected to all 12 of the interrogation techniques.

He was also the only one of the 14 detainees to be put into close confinement. This was corroborated, in part, by one of the 2005 Torture Memos written by the Office of Legal Counsel, DOJ, which noted "[i]n OMS’s view, however, cramped confinement "ha[s] not proved particularly effective" because it provides "a safehaven offering respite from interrogation."], "Memorandum for John A. Rizzo, Senior Deputy General Counsel, Central Intelligence Agency Re: Application of United States Obligations Under Article 16 of the Convention Against Torture to Certain Techniques that May Be Used in the Interrogation of High Value al Qaeda Detainees"], Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel, May 30, 2005

Zubaydah said of his experience with waterboarding: