Abu Zubaydah : biography
Military Commissions Act (2006)
President Bush referred to Abu Zubaydah in a speech to Congress September 2006 requesting a bill to authorize military commissions, following the US Supreme Court ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (2006) that held the tribunals as formulated by the executive branch were unconstitutional. Congress rapidly passed legislation that was signed by the president., Christian Science Monitor, September 15, 2006
Less than one month after Abu Zubaydah’s capture, Justice Department officials said Abu Zubaydah was "a near-ideal candidate for a tribunal trial.”. New York Times, April 21, 2002 Several months later in 2002, US officials said there was “no rush” to try Abu Zubaydah via military commission., The Miami Herald, December 26, 2002
The U.S. Government has not yet charged Abu Zubaydah.
Domestic spying program
According to reporting in 2005, the Bush administration used Abu Zubaydah’s capture as justification to accelerate development of its domestic spying program to allow quick action on the phone numbers and addresses seized., International Herald Tribune, December 17, 2005 The NSA expanded its surveillance beyond the numbers seized during Zubaydah’s capture., League of Women Voters, 1 October 2006 The spying program was later revamped in order to make it comply to legal opinion.
Growing concerns about Abu Zubaydah’s indefinite CIA detention
In 2004 media coverage of Abu Zubaydah began listing him as a “disappeared” prisoner, claiming he had no access to the International Red Cross.. International Herald Tribune, October 12, 2004 In February 2005, the CIA was reported as uncomfortable keeping Abu Zubaydah in indefinite custody.Douglas Jehl, David Johnston, and Neil A. Lewis , International Herald Tribune, February 16, 2005 Less than 18 months later, Abu Zubaydah and the thirteen other high-value detainees who had been in secret CIA custody were transferred to the Guantanamo Bay detention camp., Washington Post, 20 June 2006, accessed 20 January 2013
After his transfer, the CIA denied access to Abu Zubaydah. In 2008, the Office of the Inspector General, Department of Justice, complained that it had been prevented from seeing him, although it was conducting a study of the US treatment of its detainees., US News & World Report, 20 May 2008
U.S. government admits Abu Zubaydah was never a member of al Qaeda
Top officials in the U.S. government refused to believe Abu Zubaydah was not the operative they believed him to be. The May 30, 2005 Department of Justice memo noted that while on-scene interrogators believed Abu Zubaydah no longer had any information to disclose, CIA Headquarters ordered additional waterboarding. The interrogators believed the waterboarding was "unnecessary." Orders for the additional waterboarding likely came from Dick Cheney directly. Additionally, the Bush White House and CIA officials couldn’t believe Abu Zubaydah didn’t have additional information. One official stated the pressure from upper levels of government was "tremendous," and that "[t]hey couldn’t stand the idea that there wasn’t anything new." The official said, "[t]hey’d say, ‘You aren’t working hard enough.’ There was both a disbelief in what he was saying and also a desire for retribution – a feeling that ‘He’s going to talk, and if he doesn’t talk, we’ll do whatever.’"
But, in September 2009, the Obama administration acknowledged during Abu Zubaydah’s habeas corpus petition, that Abu Zubaydah had never been a member of al-Qaeda, nor involved in the attacks on the African embassies in 1998, nor the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001. The motion, filed by the United States Government, states:
Evidence indicating that Petitioner is not a member of al-Qaida or had ideological differences with al-Qaida is not inconsistent with the factual allegations made in the Government’s factual return, because the Government has not contended in this proceeding that Petitioner was a member of al-Qaida or otherwise formally identified with al-Qaida. Pg. 35, 36