Newly Released Memo Inadvertently Reveals CIA Held (and Abused) Missing Prisoner

Among the recently released OLC memos, one inadvertently reveals the name of a ‘ghost detainee’

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


This story first appeared on ProPublica.org.

Among the OLC memos released today, one appears to inadvertently reveal that a top al-Qaida suspect captured in northern Iraq in January 2004 was held by the CIA in a secret prison.

After Hassan Ghul was arrested in early 2004, President Bush told reporters: “Just last week we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammad, who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was captured in Iraq, where he was helping al Qaeda to put pressure on our troops.”

Military officials and former CIA director George Tenet described Ghul as an al-Qaida facilitator who delivered money and messages to top leaders.

The U.S. government never publicly discussed Ghul again.

The 9/11 Commission report said Ghul was in “U.S. custody.” But the government itself never discussed Ghul’s whereabouts. And the CIA has never acknowledged holding Ghul.

Three years after his capture, human rights groups were surprised when Ghul was not included among 14 high-value detainees who were transferred out of the CIA’s black sites program and sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.

Since then, he has been considered a missing, or ghost detainee. But in the heavily redacted OLC memo dated May 30, 2005, government censors appeared to have missed a single reference to his name and confinement during a lengthy description of the interrogation techniques used against him. The reference can be found at the bottom of Page 7 in the memo, where Ghul’s surname is spelled “Gul.”

According to the memo, Ghul was one of 28 CIA detainees at the time who had been subjected to the agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques.” Specifically, the memo says he was subjected to “facial hold,” “facial slap,” “stress positions,” “sleep deprivation,” a technique called “walling,” in which a detainee’s shoulders are repeatedly smashed against a wall, and the “attention grasp,” in which the detainee is placed in a choke-hold and slapped.

So it appears we now have evidence Ghul was in a CIA prison. Where he is today is still a mystery.

We’ve called the CIA, and they declined to comment.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate