Thursday, May 31, 2012

Out of Hitchcock: The Story of Hesham Abu Zubaydah

Jason Leopold was interviewed on RT's The Alyona Show on May 30, talking about his big Truthout investigation published the other day. The story is pure Americana, circa 21st century, as the courts, immigration, the FBI, Army CID, and even a problematic ex-wife all descend upon a man who just happened to be the brother of one of the three or four most famous "terrorists" known, Abu Zubaydah. An innocent man persistently hounded by police agents is something out of an Alfred Hitchcock movie, but here it really happened.

The word "terrorists" above is in quotes, because one, no charges have ever been filed against Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammed Husein, who sits rotting in solitary confinement in Guantanamo these past six years. (His lawyers have demanded the government charge him.) And two, it is not clear that whatever actions Abu Zubaydah took, they were not merely the actions of a person involved in a civil war, undeserving of the nebulous label of "terrorism," which is more of a political label than it is anything else.

And why at this point can anyone be so uncertain about who this man actually is? (And it is a piquant irony in Jason's article that Zubaydah's own brother cannot say exactly who the man is the government holds called Abu Zubaydah, that he really doesn't recognized him.) Well, for one thing, the government has reneged on its accusations that he was a high Al Qaeda figure, and offered zero explanation for why they thought that, or why they changed their minds. Then, there is the little matter of the horrendous torture of Zubaydah and many, many others, throwing real doubt on the veracity of whatever supposed revelations came from such criminal abuse.

Zubaydah was the first of the CIA torture victims to be waterboarded, and not once, but 83 times. He was the "high-value detainee" for which John Yoo and Jay Bybee wrote a legal memo to the CIA redefining torture and the legal understanding of "pain" so the CIA could put, for instance, Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, or deprive him of sleep, or repeatedly slap him, or waterboard him, etc.

Jason Leopold's article is not about the Abu Zubayah we "know." It is about his brother, Hesham. Watch the two videos below, both the Alyona interview and one of Jason Leopold interviewing Abu Zubaydah's brother himself (originally posted with the Truthout article). Besides the inherent human interest of such a story, there is much to ponder from what is revealed: about how informants are recruited by the FBI via pressure, false promises or blackmail; how the full story about what the government saying and what it was really doing in the "war on terror"; on the lies and secrets still withheld from the American people about 9/11, and much more.

(An important related side story about how the FBI tried to get Hesham Abu Zubaydah to drop his permission to let Jason Leopold have access through FOIA to his FBI files is something Jason wrote up separately, and is a disturbing story in and off itself.)

From the beginning of Jason's Truthout story, "From Hopeful Immigrant to FBI Informant - the Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah"
Hesham opened the envelope at the bar, expecting a green card. Instead it was a subpoena from a federal prosecutor, which would force him to testify--against his brother.

He thought about fleeing to Norway or Poland with his wife and daughter. But it would be much easier to cross the border into Canada in his Cadillac Escalade and avoid the hassle of airport security and the possibility that his name would pop up on the no-fly list.

Hesham Abu Zubaidah speaking to Truthout in November 2011 at his home in Florida. (Photo: Lance Page / Truthout)
In Canada, he could start over again. Raise farm animals or something. Change his name. Never look back. Hesham had played this fantasy out in his head dozens of times since he had quit working as an informant for the FBI.

"This is what you wanted from me all along, isn't it?" Hesham asked the FBI agent who handed him the envelope. "You guys used me."

When he'd been living in Portland, Oregon, Hesham had agreed to infiltrate mosques and spy on other Muslims because his FBI handler led him to believe she could help him obtain a green card. She didn't, and he cut off contact with the agency when he moved to a small town in Florida. But they had found him again.

[Click here to read the rest]

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