Cole bombing suspect says he confessed under torture [Archives:2007/1038/Front Page]

April 2 2007

March 31 (AP) ) A Saudi citizen of Yemeni decent held by U.S. military at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said he confessed to several terrorist attacks and plots only because he was tortured, according to a transcript of a March 14 hearing released on Friday by the Pentagon.

Abdul Rahim Al-Nashiri, 42, said his U.S. captors began torturing him as soon as he was arrested in the United Arab Emirates in November 2002; the torture stopped, he said, when he was transferred from secret CIA custody to Guantanamo last September along with 13 other “high value” detainees.

“From the time I was arrested, they tortured me,” Al-Nashiri said through an interpreter in response to the tribunal officers' questions. “One time, they would torture me one way, and another time, they would torture me in a different way.”

According to the transcript, Al-Nashiri said he “invented” some information just to “make people happy” during his interrogations. One such statement was that Osama Bin Laden, whom he had met numerous times, had procured a nuclear weapon.

“They were extremely happy because of this news,” he said, according to the transcript.

In an unclassified summary of the evidence against him, military officials said Al-Nashiri was an experienced terrorist operative with significant military and explosives training. They maintain that he played an important role in the USS Cole bombing, which killed 17 U.S. sailors as the ship refueled in Aden port.

The evidence summary also links Al-Nashiri to the bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 that killed at least 224 people, and allege that he's suspected of masterminding the October 2002 attack on the French oil tanker Limburg, also in Yemen.

Al-Nashiri, who was sentenced to death in absentia in Sana'a in 2004 for his role in the USS Cole attack, denied those accusations during his hearing and said he made up the claim that Bin Laden had a nuclear bomb.

He also said he made up Al-Qaeda plans to bomb U.S. ships in the Gulf and a plan to hijack a plane and crash it into a ship.

He says he knew virtually all of the players known to be involved in the Cole bombing and other Al-Qaeda plots. He added that he visited Bin Laden often, and that the Al-Qaeda leader had given him as much as $500,000 over the years for personal expenses and business deals.

“But I'm not responsible if they take the money and go fight or do something else” related to terrorism, Al-Nashiri told the military hearing officers.

When asked if he considers himself a “U.S. enemy combatant,” he replied that he isn't an enemy of the United States, although he criticized U.S. foreign policy.

“If you think that anyone who wants the U.S. to get out of the Gulf is your enemy, then you'll find about 10 million people in Saudi Arabia that have that same opinion,” Al-Nashiri said, according to the transcript.

Without commenting on Al-Nashiri's specific claims, CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said Friday, “The United States does not conduct or condone torture. The agency's terrorist interrogation program has been implemented lawfully, with great care and close review, and has produced vital information that has helped disrupt plots and save lives.”

Numerous human rights reports recently have emphasized that the CIA uses controversial interrogation techniques that go beyond those used by the military following the Sept. 11 attacks, including water boarding (which simulates the sensation of drowning), exposure to extreme temperatures and prolonged forced standing. Detainees who believe they've been in secret CIA detention facilities have reported serious abuses there.