Trail to Bin Laden began with CIA detainee, officials say

An Al Qaeda suspect who was under harsh interrogation at a secret prison provided the nom de guerre of a courier. When two key prisoners lied about the courier, the CIA knew it was onto something.

Abu Faraj Libbi

Al Qaeda operations chief Abu Faraj Libbi, above, and his predecessor both lied about a mysterious courier for Osama bin Laden, tipping off the CIA that the man was an important figure, officials said. (May 5, 2011)

    By Ken Dilanian, Tribune Washington Bureau

    Reporting from Washington—

    An Al Qaeda suspect who was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques at a secret CIA prison in early 2004 provided a clue, the nom de guerre of a mysterious courier, that ultimately proved crucial to finding Osama bin Laden, officials said Wednesday.
    The CIA had approved use of sleep deprivation, slapping, nudity, water dousing and other coercive techniques at the now-closed CIA "black site" in Poland where the Pakistani-born detainee, Hassan Ghul, was held, according to a 2005 Justice Department memo, which cited Ghul by name. Two U.S. officials said Wednesday that some of those now-prohibited practices were directed at Ghul.
    Ghul was not waterboarded, the notorious interrogation technique that simulates drowning and which critics describe as torture.
    Two other CIA prisoners — Al Qaeda operations chief Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his successor, Abu Faraj Libbi — gave their interrogators false information about the courier. Mohammed was waterboarded repeatedly, U.S. officials said.
    Those lies also played a role in the decade-long manhunt, however. Over time, they were viewed as evidence by CIA analysts that Bin Laden’s top deputies were trying to shield a figure who might be a link to the Al Qaeda leader’s hide-out, according to U.S. officials briefed on the analysis. "The fact that they were covering it up suggested he was important," a U.S. official said.

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