Detainee says he gave false story after harsh interrogation

Suspected Sept. 11 organizer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told U.S. military officials he gave false information to the CIA even after undergoing…

By Julian E. Barnes and Greg Miller |  The Seattle Times, June 16, 2009

Tribune Washington Bureau

Sept. 11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Sept. 11 suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

WASHINGTON — Suspected Sept. 11 organizer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed told U.S. military officials he gave false information to the CIA even after undergoing punishing bouts of interrogation, according to documents made public Monday, a claim likely to intensify the debate over the Bush administration’s use of harsh techniques to gain information from terrorism suspects.

Mohammed made the assertion during hearings held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, where the militant leader was transferred in 2006 after being held at secret CIA sites since his capture in 2003.

“I make up stories,” Mohammed said, describing in broken English an interrogation likely administered by the CIA concerning the location of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.

“Where is he? I don’t know. Then, he torture me,” Mohammed said. “Then I said, ‘Yes, he is in this area.’ ”

The admission could amplify calls for the Obama administration to make public more information about the abuse of detainees or to allow a broader inquiry into the Bush administration’s interrogation policies. Monday’s disclosure, representing the first allegation by a detainee that he lied while being subjected to harsh practices, also could raise more questions about the effectiveness of the techniques.

The transcripts were released as part of a lawsuit in which the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking documents and details of the government’s terrorism-detainee programs.

Previous accounts of the military tribunal hearings had been made public, but the Obama administration reviewed the still-secret sections and determined that more could be released.

Most of the new material centers on the detainees’ claims of abuse during interrogations while being held overseas in CIA custody.

One detainee, Abu Zubaydah, told the tribunal that after months “of suffering and torture, physically and mentally, they did not care about my injuries.”

Zubaydah was the first detainee subjected to Bush administration-approved harsh interrogation techniques, which included a simulated form of drowning known as waterboarding, slamming the suspect into walls and prolonged periods of nudity.

Zubaydah claimed in the hearing that he “nearly died four times.”

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