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7 September 2006

See related "High Value Detainee Biographies:"

[Released 6 September 2006, 5 pages.]


Summary of the High Value Terrorist Detainee Program

Since 911, we have been engaged in a struggle against an elusive enemy; terrorists work in the shadows, relying on secrecy and the element of surprise to maximize the impact of their attacks. Timely and accurate intelligence is crucial to success in the War on Terrorism. One of the key tools in this war has been the information we have gleaned from the terrorists themselves. Detainees who have been in the inner circle of al-Qa'ida, occupying some of the most important positions in that organization, hold information that simply cannot be obtained from any other source.

A Program with Safeguards and Oversight

In March 2002, the CIA and our Coalition partners captured Abu Zubaydah -- a terrorist leader and trainer and a key associate of Usama Bin Ladin. A dedicated terrorist, Abu Zubaydah was wounded in the capture operation and likely would have died had it not been for the medical attention arranged by the CIA. During initial interrogation, Abu Zubaydah gave some information that he probably viewed as nominal. Some was important, however, including that Khalid Shaykh Mohammad (KSM) was the 9/11 mastermind and used the moniker "Mukhtar." This identification allowed us to comb previously collected intelligence for both names, opening up new leads to this terrorist plotter -- leads that eventually resulted in his capture. It was clear to his interrogators that Abu Zubaydah possessed a great deal of information about al-Qa'ida; however, he soon stopped all cooperation. Over the ensuing months, the CIA designed a new interrogation program that would be safe, effective, and legal.

CIA's interrogation program is designed to ensure that intelligence is collected in a manner that does not violate the US Constitution, any US statute, or US treaty obligations.

Multiple safeguards have been built into the program to assure its professionalism. All those involved in the questioning of detainees are carefully chosen and screened for demonstrated professional judgment and maturity, the average age of officers interrogating detainees is 43. Once selected, they must complete more than 250 hours of specialized training before they are allowed to come face-to-face with a terrorist. Additional fieldwork under the direct supervision of an experienced officer is required before they can direct an interrogation.

Another key to the success of CIA's program is the involvement of CIA's substantive terrorism experts, who work together with the full spectrum of CIA's operations officers. In addition to interrogators, detainees are questioned by subject matter experts with years of experience studying and tracking al-Qa'ida members and plots whose expertise contributed to the capture of the detainees. These debriefers are also carefully selected and trained before being permitted to come face-to-face with a detainee. Their expertise helps to maintain a fast pace of questions and answers: they know the detainee's history and what information he should know; they can direct the questions to obtain the most critical information a detainee possesses; and they can quickly verify the truthfulness of a response.

Proven Effectiveness

Captured al-Qa'ida training manuals indicate that al-Qa'ida operatives receive counter-interrogation training; detainees in CIA's program have provided valuable information despite their effort to apply this training, Detainees have provided lead information that has aided the US and its allies in capturing al Qa'ida operatives who pose a serious threat.

Terrorists taken off the street with the help of detainee reporting include some who were involved in casing targets in the US:

1. US Government and Tourist Sites: In 2003 and 2004, an individual was tasked by al-Qa'ida to case important US Government and tourist targets within the United States. He is in the custody of a foreign state.

2. Iyman Faris and the Brooklyn Bridge: In 2003, a senior al-Qa'ida plotter described an Ohio based truck driver who had taken operational tasking from al-Qa'ida and who the FBI identified as Iyman Faris. Faris was located and acknowledged discussing the destruction of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Faris ultimately pled guilty to providing material support to al-Qa'ida and is now in a federal corrections facility.

3. Financial Institutions: KSM and other detainees provided key leads to an elusive operative who had been tasked prior to 9/11 to case financial buildings in major cities along the East Coast. He is in the custody of a foreign state.

Other Operatives for Attacks Against the US and Its Allies. Detainees have provided names approximately 86 individuals -- many of whom we had never heard of before -- that al-Qa'ida has deemed suitable for Western operations. We have shared these names broadly within the US intelligence and law enforcement communities and with key partners overseas. Nearly half these individuals have been removed from the battlefield by the US and its allies.

The detention of terrorists disrupts -- at least temporarily -- the plots they were involved in, saving the lives not only of Americans but also of countless of men, women, and children around the globe:

1. The West Coast Airliner Plot: In mid-2002, thanks to leads from a variety of detainees, the US disrupted a plot by 9/11 mastermind KSM to attack targets on the West Coast of the United States using hijacked airplanes.

2. The 2004 UK Urban Targets Plot: In mid-2004, the US and its counterterrorism partners disrupted a plot that involved attacking urban targets in the United Kingdom with explosive devices. Some of the key leads to these plotters came from detainees.

3. The 2003 Karachi Plot: In the spring of 2003, the US and a partner detained key al-Qa'ida operatives who were in the advanced stages of plotting an attack against several targets in Karachi, Pakistan that would have killed hundreds of innocent men, women, and children.

4. The Heathrow Airport Plot: In 2003, the US and several partners -- acting on information from several detainees -- disrupted a plot to attack Heathrow Airport using hijacked commercial airliners. KSM and his network were behind the planning for this attack.

5. The 2002 Arabian Gulf Shipping Plot: in late 2002 and early 2003, the work of the US and partner nations to detain two senior al-Qa'ida operatives thwarted these operatives' plot to attack ships in the Arabian Gulf.

6. The Straits of Hormuz Plot: One of the Arabian Gulf shipping plotters was also working on a plot to attack ships transiting the Straits of Hormuz. His detention disrupted this plot.

7. The Tall Buildings Plot. Working with information from detainees, the US disrupted a plot to blow up tall buildings in the United States. KSM later described how he had directed operatives to ensure the buildings were high enough to prevent the people trapped above from escaping out of the windows, thus ensuring their deaths from smoke inhalation.

8. Camp Lemonier Plot: In early 2004, shortly after his capture, al-Qa'ida facilitator Gouled Hassan Dourad revealed that in mid-2003 al-Qa'ida East Africa cell leader Abu Talha al-Sudani sent him from Mogadishu to Djibouti to case the US Marine base at Camp Lemonier, as part of a plot to send suicide bombers with a truck bomb into the base. His information -- including identifying operatives associated with the plot -- helped us to enhance the security at the camp.

In the years since 9/11, successive detainees have helped us and our allies gauge our progress in the fight against al-Qa'ida by providing updated information on the changing structure and health of the organization. They also have given the US and its CT partners context to understand new threat information as it becomes available -- insights that illuminate activity we and our allies see in reporting on current threats and plotting. In addition, detainees have provided us locational information on al-Qa'ida managers and operatives.