The Canadian intelligence service quietly withdrew from an important terrorism case information they say U.S. officials obtained after waterboarding a suspect. Newsweek's Michael Isikoff explains what it means for America that a Canadian minister said his country "does not knowingly use information which has been obtained through torture."
The controversy centers on treatment of Abu Zubaydah, the alleged Al Qaeda logistics chief who was captured in Pakistan shortly after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The arrest was hailed at the time as one of the big U.S. catches in its campaign against terrorism. But what was once a cause for optimism has now drawn Canadian rebuke.
After his capture, Zubaydah was held by the CIA in secret foreign detention camps, where, Isikoff says, he was subjected to aggressive interrogation techniques approved by both the White House and the Justice Department.
While it was generally known and reported that Zubaydah was tortured in captivity, Isikoff says, the specifics weren't clear until CIA chief General Michael Hayden acknowledged for the first time that the CIA had used the technique of waterboarding against top-value detainees. (The technique involves strapping someone to an inclined board, with the head held higher than the feet. The mouth and nose is blocked, and water is poured on the person to simulate drowning.)
After the CIA publicly confirmed the use of waterboarding, Iskikoff says, "that brought the issue to a head in Canada." Canadian officials sent a letter to the defendant's lawyer and also issued a revised public dossier that deleted all references to statements by Zubaydah to the U.S.
Isikoff says it's a dramatic way for Canada to call such American practices "morally repugnant and unreliable."
Late last year, the U.S. Justice Department began an investigation into video tapes destroyed by the CIA. In a full-scale criminal probe that's still ongoing, it was revealed that among the missing tapes is footage of Zubaydah's interrogation.