In 2006, President Bush proudly described the “alternative set of procedures” used on detainee Abu Zubaydah to extract “information that could save innocent lives.” “I can say the procedures were tough, and they were safe, and lawful, and necessary,” Bush said.
During today’s judiciary subcommittee hearing on torture, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned former FBI interrogator Ali Soufan, who led a successful interrogation of Abu Zubaydah. Whitehouse read a portion of Bush’s speech describing Zubaydah’s interrogation, and asked Soufan whether it was an “accurate” depiction. Soufan said it appeared Bush had been told “half-truths,” and agreed with Whitehouse that he then repeated these “half-truths”:
WHITEHOUSE: Does that statement accurately reflect the interrogation of Abu Zubydah?
SOUFAN: Well, the environment that he’s talking about, yes, it reflects, you know, he was injured, he required medical care. But I think the president — my own personal opinion here, based on my recollection — he was told probably half-truth.
WHITEHOUSE: And repeated half-truth obviously. The statement as presented does not conform to what you know to be the case from your experience on hand.
SOUFAN: Yes. Yes sir. Yes sir.
Whitehouse also read a portion of the May, 2005 OLC memo that claimed that Zubaydah “identified Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as the mastermind of the Sep. 11 attacks” only “once enhanced techniques were employed.” Whitehouse asked Soufan if this was accurate:
WHITEHOUSE: From your position at the actual interrogation of Abu Zubaydah you know that statement not to be true?
SOUFAN: Yes sir.
Indeed, Soufan and his team nursed extracted valuable information from Zubaydah — including, most importantly, the identify of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — while nursing him back to health. “We were able to get the information about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a couple of days,” Soufan told Newsweek. “We didn’t have to do any of this [torture]. We could have done this the right way.”