- Guantánamo detainee Abu Zubaydah was the first victim of the George W. Bush administration’s torture program in August 2002.
- Zubaydah, who remains indefinitely detained with no prospect of being prosecuted, drew depictions of the various ways in which he was tortured for a report published by his attorney.
- Insider has republished eight of these drawings, which show Zubaydah being waterboarded, shackled in stress positions, and confined in boxes.
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Abu Zubaydah was captured by US forces following a gun fight in Faisalabad, Pakistan in March 2002. US officials incorrectly believed the Saudi Arabian citizen was a member of al Qaeda and transported him to a secret US-run prison, known as a black site, in Thailand.
In August 2002, Zubaydah, already suffering from a severe leg wound, became the first victim of George W. Bush administration’s so-called “enhanced interrogation,” which included shackling him in stress positions and confined spaces, prolonged sleep deprivation, and 83 episodes of waterboarding.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on the CIA torture program, which was partially declassified and released in 2014, found the enhanced interrogation techniques were ineffective, “brutal,” and “far worse” than the CIA had described them as being.
During one waterboarding session, Zubaydah “became completely unresponsive, with bubbles rising through his open, full mouth.”
At some point during Zubaydah’s detention, he lost one of his eyes for unknown reasons.
CIA interrogators were so worried about the details of Zubaydah’s torture becoming public that they requested “reasonable assurances that [Abu Zubaydah] will remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life,” the Senate report found.
Investigators found that the CIA lied to Bush about the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation techniques used on Zubaydah, telling the president that Zubaydah gave interrogators additional information as a result of the torture.
In fact, the report found that Zubaydah, now 48, provided the CIA with more information about al Qaeda “activities, plans, capabilities, and relationships” and the group’s leadership before being subjected to torture than he did after.
And they discovered that Zubaydah was never a member of al Qaeda, didn’t have advanced knowledge of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and had no information about potential future attacks.
After being held in US black sites for four years, Zubaydah was transferred to the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where he’s been detained since but never criminally charged. Zubaydah’s attorney of ten years, Seton Hall law professor Mark Denbeaux, told Insider that military prosecutors “can’t find a crime to charge him with.”
This week, Denbeaux and his colleagues at Seton Hall released a report, “How America Tortures,” that includes drawings Zubaydah made depicting the various ways in which he was tortured in 2002. The New York Times first published the drawings on Wednesday.
“I think these pictures may have more impact than I ever expected because I’ve lived with them for so long,” Denbeaux said. “It does seem like people might view this all over again.”
Denbeaux added of his client, “He really wants to find out how much the world is hearing about him because he feels lost in Guantánamo.”
Below are Zubaydah’s drawings: