Richard Moore

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Date: Tue, 23 Oct 2001 00:34:46 -0400

Silence of 4 Terror Probe Suspects Poses Dilemma
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By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer

Sunday, October 21, 2001; Page A06
FBI and Justice Department investigators are increasingly frustrated by
the silence of jailed suspected associates of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda
network, and some are beginning to that say that traditional civil
liberties may have to be cast aside if they are to extract information
about the Sept. 11 attacks and terrorist plans.

More than 150 people rounded up by law enforcement officials in the
aftermath of the attacks remain in custody, but attention has focused on
four suspects held in New York who the FBI believes are withholding
valuable information.

FBI agents have offered the suspects the prospect of lighter sentences,
money, jobs, and a new identity and life in the United States for them
and their family members, but they have not succeeded in getting
information from them, according to law enforcement sources.
"We're into this thing for 35 days and nobody is talking," a senior FBI
official said, adding that "frustration has begun to appear."

Said one experienced FBI agent involved in the investigation: "We are
known for humanitarian treatment, so basically we are stuck. . . .
Usually there is some incentive, some angle to play, what you can do for
them. But it could get to that spot where we could go to pressure . . .
where we won't have a choice, and we are probably getting there."
Among the alternative strategies under discussion are using drugs or
pressure tactics, such as those employed occasionally by Israeli
interrogators, to extract information. Another idea is extraditing the
suspects to allied countries where security services sometimes employ
threats to family members or resort to torture.

Under U.S. law, interrogators in criminal cases can lie to suspects, but
information obtained by physical pressure, inhumane treatment or torture
cannot be used in a trial. In addition, the government interrogators who
used such tactics could be sued by the victim or charged with battery by
the government.

The four key suspects, held in New York's Metropolitan Correctional
Center, are Zacarias Moussaoui, a French Moroccan detained in August
initially in Minnesota after he sought lessons on how to fly commercial
jetliners but not how to take off or land them; Mohammed Jaweed Azmath
and Ayub Ali Khan, Indians traveling with false passports who were
detained the day after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks with
box cutters, hair dye and $5,000 in cash; and Nabil Almarabh, a former
Boston cabdriver with alleged links to al Qaeda.

Questioning of "the two with the box cutters and others have left us
wondering what's the next phase," the FBI official said.
One former senior FBI official with a background in counterterrorism
said recently, "You can't torture, you can't give drugs now, and there
is logic, reason and humanity to back that." But, he added, "you could
reach a point where they allow us to apply drugs to a guy. . . . But I
don't think this country would ever permit torture, or beatings."
He said there was a difference in employing a "truth serum," such as
sodium pentothal, "to try to get critical information when facing
disaster, and beating a guy till he is senseless."

"If there is another major attack on U.S. soil, the American public
could let it happen," he said. "Drugs might taint a prosecution, but it
might be worth it."

Even some people who are firm supporters of civil liberties understand
the pressures that are developing.

David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center who obtained
the release of Middle Eastern clients after they had been detained for
years based on secret information, said that in the current crisis, "the
use of force to extract information could happen" in cases where
investigators believe suspects have information on an upcoming attack.
"If there is a ticking bomb, it is not an easy issue, it's tough," he

Kenneth W. Starr, the independent counsel during the Clinton
administration, wrote recently that the Supreme Court distinguished
terrorism cases from cases where lesser threats are involved. He noted
that five justices in a recent deportation case recognized that the
"genuine danger" represented by terrorism requires "heightened deference
to the judgments of the political branches with respect to matters of
national security."

Former attorney general Richard L. Thornburgh said, "We put emphasis on
due process and sometimes it strangles us."

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, he said, "legally admissible evidence in
court may not be the be-all and end-all." The country may compare the
current search for information to brutal tactics in wartime used to
gather intelligence overseas and even by U.S. troops from prisoners
during military actions.

Extradition of Moussaoui to France or Morocco is a possibility, one law
enforcement official said. The French security services were quick to
leak to journalists in Paris that they had warned the CIA and FBI in
early September, before the attacks, that Moussaoui was associated with
al Qaeda and had pilot training.

The leak has irritated U.S. investigators in part because "it was so
limited," one FBI official said. "Maybe we should give him [Moussaoui]
to them," he said, noting that French security has a reputation for
rough interrogations.

The threat of extradition to a country with harsh practices does not
always work.

In 1997, Hani Abdel Rahim al-Sayegh, a Saudi citizen arrested in Canada
and transferred to the United States under the promise that he would
tell about the bombing of the Khobar Towers military barracks in Saudi
Arabia, refused to cooperate in the investigation when he got here.
The FBI threatened to have al-Sayegh sent back to Saudi Arabia, where he
could have faced beheading, thinking it would get him to talk. "He
called their bluff and went back, was not executed and is in jail," a
government official said.

Robert M. Blitzer, former chief of the FBI counterterrorism section,
said offers of reduced sentences worked to get testimony in the cases of
Ahmed Ressam, caught bringing explosives into the country for millennium
attacks that never took place, and Ali Mohammed, the former U.S. Army
Green Beret who pleaded guilty in the 1998 embassy bombings and provided
valuable information about al Qaeda.

The two former al Qaeda members who testified publicly in the 1998
bombing trials were resettled with their families in the United States
under the witness protection program and given either money or loans to
restart their lives.

Torture "goes against every grain in my body," Blitzer said. "Chances
are you are going to get the wrong person and risk damage or killing
them." In the end, he said, there has to be another way.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company
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Bruce K. Gagnon
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 90083
Gainesville, FL 32607
(352) 337-9274

Richard K Moore
Wexford, Ireland
Citizens for a Democratic Renaissance 
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