Figure in Torture Report Pushes for Gitmo Release

     WASHINGTON (CN) — A Guantanamo Bay detainee whom the CIA tortured with little intelligence to show for it fought Thursday for release from the prison camp, after 13 years in custody without a charge.
     Hambali, whom the government also knows as Riduan Isamuddin, holds the ignominious distinction of being one of the CIA’s most frequently cited examples of the effectiveness of torture.
     The CIA has attributed Hambali’s capture in 2003 to information obtained through the torture of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
     But the so-called Senate Torture Report contradicts that claim. “CIA records indicate that the intelligence that led to Hambali’s capture in Thailand was based on signals intelligence, a CIA source, and Thai investigative activities,” not on information obtained from enhanced interrogations, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found.
     Hambali is featured prominently in the heavily redacted summary of the committee’s report, which notes that he faced “enhanced interrogation techniques,” even though the CIA had previously assessed him as cooperative.
     Another passage of the report contradicts U.S. intelligence that Hambali helped al-Qaida with a supposed plot to fly a hijacked airliner into California’s tallest building.
     The CIA says information Hambali provided during enhanced interrogations helped it thwart that attack, but the Senate found that Hambali recanted most of what he told interrogators.
     Hambali later admitted to fabricating statements because he was under stress, according to the report.
     A footnote buried on page 254 of the report says interrogators believed Hambali’s role in al-Qaida terrorist activity “was more limited than the CIA had assessed prior to his capture and that al-Qaida members did not consider Hambali ‘capable of leading an effort to plan, orchestrate and execute complicated operations on his own.'”
     This undercuts the CIA’s claim that Hambali remained capable of directing the California plot at the time of his arrest, making Mohammed’s information a key factor in disrupting the plot.
     Hambali was captured in Thailand in 2003 along with Mohid Farik bin Amin and Bashir bin Lap, two Malaysians accused of conspiring with Hambali. The CIA held all three prior to their arrival at Guantanamo in 2006.
     Linked to two of the 9/11 hijackers, and to the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, Hambali is among the 15 remaining high-value suspects that the United States keeps in maximum-security confinement at the Guantanamo detention center’s Camp 7.
     Every detainee there was once held in the CIA’s secret prison system.
     U.S. authorities say Hambali had been the operational mastermind of a terror group called Jemaah Islamiyah, which formed in the 1990s to establish an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.
     A wave of bombings the group carried out in Indonesia included the 2002 attacks in Bali that killed 202 people, mostly tourists.
     Though Hambali’s arrest drew media attention hailing the capture of Asia’s most-wanted man, the U.S. government has not been able to mount a case against any of the three.
     In addition to helping orchestrate the Bali blasts, Hambali is accused of serving as an interface between Jemaah Islamiya and al-Qaida.
     “He schemed with senior al-Qaida leaders regarding post 9/11 attacks against U.S. interests, including attacks inside the United States,” according to Hambali’s unclassified government profile, which an anonymous female voice read during Thursday’s short hearing, shown in a closed-circuit feed at the Pentagon.
     Hambali appeared before the Periodic Review Board Thursday morning without an attorney, wearing a short-sleeve white shirt, and with a graying goatee. A cowlick on the top back of his head sent a patch of his short, dark hair springing upward. He could be seen in the video feed wearing glasses, and reading intently as he followed along with the proceedings.
     Two anonymous military representatives, who are tasked with providing mitigating information that counters the government’s narrative of the detainees, offered a short unclassified statement on his behalf.
     They describe Hambali as always smiling, respectful, energetic and enthusiastic about the parole board process.
     Hambali has kept himself busy by learning English and Arabic, and held classes to teach the latter to other detainees, the statement says.
     “He went so far as to have homework and tests for them,” one of the representatives told the board. “His father and uncles were all teachers, so it came naturally for him.”
     Hambali eagerly attended prison programs and enjoys watching Planet Life and Blue Planet. He also has an affinity for the “Great Courses” DVDs, they said.
     Hambali told them he has no ill-will toward the United States.
     The government, however, disagrees.
     “We judge that ID-10019 remains steadfast in his support for extremist causes and his hatred for the U.S.,” his government profile says, referring to the detainee by his internment serial number. “He most likely would look for ways to reconnect with his Indonesian and Malaysian cohorts or attract a new set of followers if he were transferred from Guantanamo Bay.”
     U.S. officials believe that Hambali’s younger brother, Rusman Gunawan, has emerged as part of the Islamic State group’s Indonesian network.
     The Guantanamo Periodic Review Board will issue a decision on his release within the next few months.

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