Friday, August 28, 2009

Abu Zubaydah - His Job Is To Lie

Via Complex Terrain Lab (CT Lab) -

NEFA Foundation posted several newly declassified, redacted US intelligence reports (linked at the top of its home page) related to the interrogations of senior al-Qaeda members such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. A 2002 psychological assessment of Abu Zubaydah stands out for its surreal qualities. Initially, it reads like a typical CV of a white collar professional, complete with "action verbs":
"Served as senior Usama bin Laden lieutenant and played key role in the movement and training of operatives..."

"Directed the start-up of a Bin Laden cell in Jordan that was disrupted in Amman in 1999..."

"Managed a network of training camps, safehouses, and mujahedin-related offices in Peshawar..."
And then shifts into an assessment of personality traits that reads like a job recommendation or annual performance appraisal:
"Subject is a highly self-directed individual who prizes his independence... He is intellectually curious, skeptical...possesses excellent self-discipline and readily sets aside his own interests to meet his responsibilities."

"Subject has excellent social skills and social [redacted]..."
To be fair, it is a formal psychological assessment and is intended to describe Zubaydah, not analyze him. However, it is a fascinating peek at the kind of intelligence counterterrorism officials had at their disposal soon after September 11th.

Perhaps the most telling passage describes Zubaydah's (and by extension al-Qaeda's) approach to interrogations:
"Subject recognizes that his duty as a solldier/warrior/mujahid is to delay, mislead, and lie to protect what is most critical to the success of his cause. He assumes that we understand this. Thus, he is not likely to be intimidated or weakened by being 'caught' in lies. His job is to lie."

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