Moazzam Begg (ISN 558)
The material below has been lifted, verbatim, from Section II, Chapter 11, of A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, released in May 2008 by the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Justice.
1. Alleged Threats and Psychological Ploys in Afghanistan
The material below has been lifted verbatim from Section II, Chapter 11 of A Review of the FBI's Involvement in and Observations of Detainee Interrogations in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan, and Iraq, released in may 2008 by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Justice.
Begg Interview. In his OIG interview, Begg alleged that while he was incarcerated at Bagram Air Force Base, he was questioned by a variety of interrogators, including Bell, Harrelson, a CIA employee named "Martin," and a military interrogator named "Alex." He said that during the interrogations, both his hands and feet were usually in restraints unless he needed to write something. He said that his hands were restrained in front of his body.
He said that while Bell and Harrelson asked him many questions, the CIA employee and the military interrogators were "clearly in control." Begg stated that over a period of about a month, he was interviewed 10 to 15 times. He said in addition to Bell and Harrelson, he was interviewed by four other unidentified FBI agents. He said that sometimes these were cordial conversations and were not always interrogations.
Begg told the OIG that during interrogations attended by Bell and Harrelson in May 2002, he was threatened with rendition to Egypt. He stated that he was told that a captured al-Qaeda member had "played the same games" with the interrogators and was sent to Egypt, where he "broke down" within two days, and that Begg would also be sent to Egypt if he did not cooperate. He said that initially this threat was made by the CIA employee, and that Harrelson "possibly" discussed it. Begg said that he did not recall Bell making any reference to Egypt -Begg stated that he understood that the threat to send him to Egypt meant that he would be tortured there, as it was commonly known in the Muslim world that Egypt uses such methods as rape and electric shocks to interrogate prisoners.
Bell Interview. Bell told the OIG that when he and Harrelson began interviewing Begg in May 2002, Begg was generally cooperative. He stated that when they interviewed Begg, he was given "Miranda warnings." In an FD-302 relating to an interview with Begg on May 11, 2002, Bell wrote that at the outset of the interview Begg was asked if he had previously been read his rights, and that Begg stated he had and that he fully understood those rights. Bell said that during the interview there was some "back and forth" with Begg when Begg would deny any knowledge of something that they believed he knew about. Bell said that the most aggressive tactic that the interviewers used with Begg was to raise their voices to challenge him. Bell said that the interviews were never more aggressive than that and that they never had any physical contact with Begg or harmed him physically.
Bell stated that for a majority of the interviews of Begg, he and Harrelson were joined by other members of the intelligence community. He said that the interviews of Begg were all documented with either an FD-302 or an EC if a member of the intelligence community was present.
Bell told the OIG that Begg was escorted into the room for interviews in hand restraints and was hooded during transport. Bell stated that the hood was removed when Begg entered the room and that Bell asked the military escort to remove the restraints, which was done.
Bell denied threatening Begg with being sent to Egypt or referencing another detainee being sent to Egypt. He told us that such an approach would be inconsistent with what he and Harrelson were trying to accomplish with Begg, which was to elicit information that could be used in a United States court.
We asked Bell whether he heard anyone question Begg with words to the effect of "do you ever want to see your children again?" Bell stated that he did not recall that question being asked. He stated, however, that one of the strategies that he and Harrelson employed was to try to encourage Begg to cooperate so that they could move him into FBI custody, have him plead guilty, and then try to help his family to move closer to him. Bell said that they were nevertheless frank with Begg that they did not know what the future would hold for him or any of the detainees. Bell stated that they never threatened him that he would not be able to see his family, but they did warn him that if he lied to them they would not be able to help him.
Bell stated that he had no recollection of a woman screaming in a room next to Begg, nor was he aware of the use of that tactic or even that there were female detainees held at the facility. He stated that neither he nor Harrelson ever made any threats or indicated that Begg's family would be abused or harassed in any way.
OIG Conclusions. Begg stated that a CIA agent and "possibly" Harrelson threatened him with being sent to Egypt if he did not cooperate, but that he did not recall Bell threatening to send him to Egypt. Given Begg's uncertainty about what Harrelson said to him and lack of recollection of Bell making such a threat, we found insufficient evidence to conclude that an FBI employee threatened Begg with rendition to Egypt.
When Begg was interviewed in Bagram in May 2002, the FBI Director had not yet made the decision that the FBI would not participate in interrogations when other agencies were using tactics not normally available to the FBI. (As noted in Chapter Four, we believe this decision occurred in July 2002 in connection with the Zubaydah interrogation.) In other words, the FBI's "do not participate" policy had not yet been communicated to all agents serving in military venues. Therefore, even if a CIA agent did threaten Begg with rendition in the presence of Harrelson or Bell, FBI policy did not yet clearly require them to leave the interrogation.
A similar analysis applies with respect to Begg's allegation that he was led to believe that his wife was screaming in an adjacent room. Bell said he did not recall this incident, and we found no other evidence that it occurred or that Bell or Harrelson directed it. Moreover, Begg acknowledged that the CIA and the DOD were in charge of his interrogations.
We also found insufficient evidence to conclude that the interrogators explicitly or implicitly threatened Begg's children when they showed Begg pictures of his family. Even assuming that the interrogators asked Begg if he cared for his family, as he alleged, this form of questioning as a means to induce cooperation would not constitute an improper threat in violation of FBI interrogation policies.
2. Alleged Physical Abuse in Afghanistan
Begg Interview. Begg also told the OIG that he suspected that interrogators in Afghanistan, including Bell and Harrelson, were involved in an incident in May 2002 in which Begg was physically abused by military personnel. Begg said that during his second or third interrogation, he was in an interrogation room with Bell, Harrelson, and a CIA employee. He said that at the end of the interrogation session the interrogators said they did not believe that he was telling the truth. According to Begg, the CIA employee stated as he was leaving the room that he was going to arrange Begg's punishment. Begg said that shortly thereafter military personnel escorted him to an adjoining room where his hands were restrained behind his back and closely connected to his ankle restraints by a chain. Begg described this as being "hog-tied." He said that he was also hooded. Begg told the OIG that Bell and Harrelson were present in the interrogation room when he was being moved to the other room by soldiers.
Begg told the OIG that several hours later a soldier named Nathan came in and told Begg that the cases of detainees being sent to Syria and Egypt were "very real."
Later in the OIG interview, Begg said that not long after he was restrained on the ground in the room next to the interrogation room, he was struck in the back and head and that he thought it was by the soldiers. He said that he was left alone in that position until the restraints were removed the next day. He said that this was the only time that this kind of treatment occurred.
Begg said that he did not hear any of his interrogators tell the military personnel to tie him up or restrain him, but that he believed that in almost every case, the interrogators would determine how detainees were treated.
According to Army records, one of the accounts that Begg gave to Army investigators was somewhat different from the version he provided to the OIG. According to an investigative report prepared during the Army investigation, Begg told an investigator on June 22, 2004, that he was never beaten or struck by anyone at Bagram, but that he was "hogtied" and laid on his side for a period of time. In a subsequent interview in December 2004, Begg made essentially the same allegations that he made to the OIG.
Bell Interview. Bell told the OIG that he did not hear a CIA employee stating he was going to arrange Begg's punishment. Bell said that if he had heard such a statement, he would have withdrawn from the interview and reported the statement to his FBI chain of command. Bell also pointed out that such a tactic would have been inconsistent with his approach of attempting to build rapport with Begg.
Bell denied that Begg was "hog-tied" and struck in a room next to the interrogation room at Bagram. Bell said that if such an incident had happened, Begg would have told Bell about it. Bell said that he "certainly" would not have allowed something like that to occur. Bell also said that he was not aware of a room that Begg would have been taken to other than the interrogation room or his cell.
Interview of Another FBI Agent. We interviewed another FBI agent who served in the military in Mghanistan in the summer of 2002 before joining the FBI. The agent stated that he attended an FBI interrogation of Begg at Bagram and that the FBI agent's questioning was calm and personable. He also told us, however, that he witnessed Begg being slapped on the back of the head during the interrogation as a way of getting his attention. The agent said he did not recall who slapped Begg, but he was certain it was not the FBI agent. He said that Begg appeared agitated about being slapped, but that shortly after the incident Begg was "laughing and smiling."
OIG Conclusions. Numerous witnesses interviewed by the Army Criminal Investigation Command stated that they never witnessed Begg or any other detainee bein hogtied at the Bagram facility [REDACTED]
Even crediting Begg's version of his treatment at Bagram, Begg did not allege that he was struck or hog-tied by an FBI agent or even that an FBI agent was present during this incident. Begg's allegation of his interrogators' complicity in the incident was based not on personal observation or direct knowledge, but rather on his belief that interrogators dictated how detainees were treated and on the statement of the CIA interrogator that he was going to arrange Begg's punishment. In the face of Bell's specific denials and his explanation that abusing Begg would undermine the effort to build rapport with him, we found insufficient basis to conclude that Bell or Harrelson were aware of or complicit in the alleged incident of physical abuse.
3. Alleged Threats and Coercion at GTMO
Begg Interview. Begg told the OIG that several days after he arrived in GTMO, Bell, Harrelson, and two military interrogators interviewed him and took a statement from him. He said that Bell and Harrelson presented him with a draft statement and told him that if he refused to sign it he could face "untold amounts of years' imprisonment in Guantanamo without ever seeing [his] family or having any access to any legal recourse, which also could include execution by lethal injection or whatever." Begg said that Bell and Harrelson mentioned that they wanted him to enter into a plea bargain followed by witness protection. He said they gave him the example of "Sammy the Bull" who killed 19 people and only got 2 years in prison. Begg also stated that Bell and Harrelson gave him confusing messages, telling him at times that he would be sent to Britain and at other times to Pakistan.
Begg said that the agents gave him the draft statement and allowed him to make changes. He said the statement had poor grammar and clearly was not drafted by him. Begg said the agents came back minutes later after having made some of his requested changes and asked him to sign it, but Begg then asked to see a lawyer. Begg said the agents told him that he would only see a lawyer after he signed the statement. He said that he went to pray first and then signed the document out of "desperation, isolation, fear, apprehension, and all those things that had happened like beatings and threats."
Bell Interview. Bell told us that representatives from the DOD Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) in GTMO who were preparing for the military commission trials requested his assistance in preparing a case against Begg, who was to be the first detainee tried by the military commission. The representative from CITF wanted Bell and Harrelson to clarify some of Begg's statements and have Begg sign a written statement. Bell said Begg's statement was prepared by an attorney for the Office of Military Commissions. Bell said he thought that the statement was "amateurish" as a way of doing business, but he said it was accurate because it was prepared from the reports of prior interviews with Begg.
Bell stated that he and Harrelson went through the statement with Begg "line by line" and told him that he could cross out the items that he did not agree with. Bell said that Begg initialed each paragraph that he agreed with and crossed out the ones that he disagreed with, and the statement went back to the military. Bell said that he and Harrelson subsequently presented Begg with a final copy of the statement that had been revised by the military. He said that Begg asked to pray first, and after praying signed the statement. Bell recalled that during the meetings with Begg two military personnel were present.
Bell denied that Begg was threatened with imprisonment and the possibility of execution if he did not sign the statement. Bell said that he and Harrelson would have stressed the importance of cooperation as the better route. Bell further said that he never suggested to Begg that if did not to cooperate there would be repercussions to his family. Bell stated that the agents wanted Begg to be transferred to DOJ custody and have him plead guilty. They discussed with Begg that the FBI could help his family by having them moved close to Begg.
Interview of Another FBI Agent. We interviewed another agent who visited GTMO in February 2003 and worked closely with CITF, which was developing a case against Begg for the military tribunal. The agent said that while he was at GTMO he met with Begg several times, and that Begg was cooperating with the FBI. The agent told us that the guards treated Begg well and that Begg joked around with them.
The agent said that Bell and Harrelson had already left GTMO when the agent visited the first time and that Begg had already given the signed statement to the FBI. According to the agent, Begg told him that he was being threatened at the time that he gave the written statement to the FBI. The agent told the OIG that he did not probe this any further with Begg because he viewed Begg's complaint as an attempt to distance himself from the written statement that he had given and to minimize it. He said that Begg complained about "some other guys" who told him that he would be sent back to Afghanistan, but Begg did not specify whether the people who supposedly said this were from the FBI or the military. Begg also joked with the agent about Bell and Harrelson, referring to them as "big" and "funny." .
Begg's Signed Statement. The OIG reviewed a copy of Begg's signed statement dated February 13, 2003. The statement is eight single-spaced pages, signed by Begg, Bell, Harrelson, and two DOD Criminal Investigative Division agents. Begg's signed statement indicates, among other things, that Begg sympathized with the cause of al-Qaeda, attended terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and England so that he could assist in waging global jihad against enemies of Islam, including Russia and India; associated with and assisted several prominent terrorists and supporters of terrorists and discussed potential terrorist acts with them; recruited young operatives for the global jihad; and provided financial support for terrorist training camps.
Notations that appear to be Begg's hand-written initials appear at the beginning and end of each paragraph of the statement. The statement also has additions and deletions that are also initialed. These include both minor and substantive changes. For example, on the first page Begg apparently corrected the spelling of one of his aliases, changed "handguns" to "handgun," and deleted "hand" in front of "grenades." On page 3, Begg apparently changed the statement "I am unsure of the exact amount of money sent to terrorist training camps of the many years I helped fund the camps," by replacing the word "many" with the words "couple of." On page 4, he added the following sentence apparently for purposes of explanation for his conduct: "This was to help the Kurds in Iraq."
The facts in Begg's detailed statement are generally consistent with the facts set forth in the numerous FD-302 summaries of Begg's interviews. For example, his statement described the training camps in Afghanistan that he attended and what he learned. This information was similarly developed in the FBI's FD-302s.
Some of the conclusions that appear in his statement are not found in the FD-302s. Specifically, in his statement he admitted that he [REDACTED] The OIG was not able to find a reference in the FD-302s that correlated with this part of Begg's statement.
OIG Conclusions. If true, Begg's allegations concerning how his statement was obtained would potentially violate the FBI's prohibition against using threats to coerce a confession. However, the OIG did not find sufficient evidence to support Begg's allegations. The statement itself with the additions and deletions initialed by Begg support its voluntariness. In addition, even after making the statement Begg continued to cooperate with the FBI, according to the FBI agent who met with him later.
Furthermore, we found that Bell's denial that he threatened Begg in order to get him to sign the statement was credible because such conduct could have undermined Bell's long-term strategy of building rapport with Begg to obtain his cooperation for other prosecutions. Begg even acknowledged that Bell and Harrelson had mentioned the possibility of a plea bargain, witness protection, and cooperation with the government. Therefore, we concluded that the evidence did not support the allegation that they coerced Begg into signing the statement.
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