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From the Archive: Co-authors Kiriakou and Hickman Detail the Case of Abu Zubaydeh

On October 6, 2021 the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments about the government’s assertion of “state secrets privilege” to prevent the disclosure of key facts about the torture of Abu Zubaydeh that are not remotely secret.In this interview from the archive, former CIA counter-terrorism chief in Pakistan John Kiriakou and his co-author, courageous whistleblower Joe Hickman, tell the real story of Abu Zubaydeh.  The oral arguments at the Supreme Court reveal that most justices freely call his treatment “torture”.  And most important, Trump appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh seem to be ready to reject the secrecy claims, and perhaps call for the clsoure of Guantanamo–since the Afghan war is now officially over.

You can read Andy Worthington’s excellent recap of the hearing here, and listen to PBC’s recent comments on the David Feldman Show here.

Here is the text from the original podcast post:

John Kiriakou and Joseph Hickman, co-authors of new book on Abu Zubaydeh, return to the podcast–together–to talk about torture, whistleblowing, and the dangerous reporter Matthew Cole.The new book is The Convenient Terrorist: Two Whistleblowers’s Stories of Torture, Terror, Secret Wars and CIA Lies, just released.

Kiriakou was leading CIA counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan when Abu Zubaydeh was taken into custody after a shoot-out that left him badly wounded, and offers a first-person account, including how he was misled about Zubaydeh (intel wrongly said he was al Qaeda’s #3 leader).  Hickman was on the team that handled the transfer of Zubaydeh from the CIA black site to Guantanamo, where he served in military intelligence.

Together, they explain that there were 2 men called Abu Zubaydeh, and that while the guy we captured was a low-level player in running safe houses and training camps, he wasn’t a member of al Qaeda.  Both men comment on the recent depositions of James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, whose firm got $81 million from CIA to devise the torture regimens.  They say they just followed orders, but our guests dismiss this lame “Nurenberg defense”.

Before Zubaydeh was tortured, CIA personnel extracted assurances from CIA brass that he would never be released or allowed to speak publicly, a Mafia-style pact that appears to be still in effect.

Kiriakou acknowledges the weight of the knowledge he has about the people who tortured, and fears they will never be held accountable.  Hickman explains the research he did–including FOIA documents from Jason Leopold–to get the full story of Abu Zubaydeh.

In the final 5 minutes of the interview, both men share their stories of being burned by “journalist” Matthew Cole, whose work at ABC compromised Hickman and sent Kiriakou to prison.  Cole was involved in the recent episode at The Intercept, where NSA leaker Reality Winner was apprehended after Cole shared her leaked document in an effort to verify it.