The Interrogation of Ramzi bin al-Shibh

Senate Select Committe on Intelligence
Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program,
pp. 75[101] - 81[107].
December 2014

Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh Provides Information While in Foreign Government Custody, Prior
to Rendition to CIA Custody


As early as September 15, 2001, Ramzi bin al-Shibh was assessed by the CIA to be a facilitator for the September 11, 2001, attacks and an associate of the 9/11 hijackers. [NOTE 389] While targeting another terrorist, Hassan Ghul, [REDACTED] Pakistani officials unexpectedly captured bin al-Shibh during raids in Pakistan on September 11, 2002. [NOTE 390] On September [REDACTED], 2002, bin al-Shibh was rendered to a foreign government, [REDACTED]. [NOTE 391] Approximately five months later, on February [REDACTED], 2003, bin al-Shibh was rendered from the custody of [REDACTED] to CIA custody, becoming the 41st CIA detainee. [NOTE 392]

As with Abu Zubaydah and 'Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, personnel at CIA Headquarters—often in ALEC Station—overestimated the information bin al-Shibh would have access to within al-Qa'ida, writing that bin al-Shibh "likely has critical information on upcoming attacks and locations of senior al-Qa'ida operatives." [NOTE 393] Later, after bin al-Shibh was interrogated using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques for an estimated 34 days, the CIA's ALEC Station concluded that bin al-Shibh was not a senior member of al-Qa'ida and was not in a position to know details about al-Qa'ida's plans for future attacks. [NOTE 394] In another parallel, officers at CIA Headquarters requested and directed the continued use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques against bin al-Shibh when CIA detention site personnel recommended ending such measures. [NOTE 395]

Ramzi bin al-Shibh was initially interrogated by a foreign government. [NOTE 396] While officers at CIA Headquarters were dissatisfied with the intelligence production from his five months of detention in foreign governmentcustody, CIA officers in that country were satisfied with bin al-Shibh's reporting. [NOTE 397] Those CIA officers wrote that bin al-Shibh had provided information used in approximately 50 CIA intelligence reports, including information on potential fiiture threats, to include a potential attack on London's Heathrow Airport and al-Nashiri's planning for potential operations in the Arabian Peninsula. The CIA officers [REDACTED] [in-country] also noted that they found bin al-Shibh's information to be generally accurate and that they "found few cases where he openly/clearly misstated facts." [NOTE 398] In a cable to CIA Headquarters, the CIA officers in [REDACTED] [the country where Ramzi bin al-Shibh was being held] concluded, "overall, he provided what was needed." The same cable stated that bin al-Shibh's interrogation was similar to other interrogations they had participated in, and that the most effective interrogation tool was having information available to confront him when he tried to mislead or provide incomplete information. [NOTE 399] Personnel at CIA Headquarters concluded in 2005 that the most significant intelligence derived from bin al-Shibh was obtained during his detention in foreign governmentcustody, which was prior to his rendition to CIA custody and the use of the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques [NOTE 400]


Interrogation Plan for Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh Proposes Immediate Use ofNudity and Shackling with Hands Above the Head; Plan Becomes Templatefor Future Detainees

Despite the aforementioned assessments from CIA officers in [REDACTED] concerning bin al-Shibh's cooperation, officers at CIA Headquarters decided the CIA should obtain [REDACTED] custody of bin al-Shibh and render him to DETENTION SITE BLUE [NOT ITS REAL NAME] in Country [REDACTED] [NOTE 401] On February [REDACTED], 2003, in anticipation of bin al-Shibh's arrival, interrogators at the detention site, led by the CIA's chief interrogator, [REDACTED] prepared an interrogation plan for bin al-Shibh.' [NOTE 402] The plan became a template, and subsequent requests to CIA Headquarters to use the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques against other detainees relied upon near identical language." [NOTE 403]

The interrogation plan proposed that immediately following the psychological and medical assessments conducted upon his arrival, bin al-Shibh would be subjected to "sensory dislocation." [NOTE 404] The proposed sensory dislocation included shaving bin al-Shibh's head and face, exposing him to loud noise in a white room with white lights, keeping him "unclothed and subjected to uncomfortably cool temperatures," and shackling him "hand and foot with arms outstretched over his head (with his feet firmly on the floor and not allowed to support his weight with his arms)." [NOTE 405] Contrary to CIA representations made later to the Committee that detainees were always offered the opportunity to cooperate before being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, the plan stated that bin al-Shibh would be shackled nude with his arms overhead in a cold room prior to any discussion with interrogators or any assessment of his level ofcooperation." [NOTE 406] According to a cable, only after the interrogators determined that his "initial resistance level [had] been diminished by the conditions" would the questioning and interrogation phase begin." [NOTE 407]

The interrogation phase described in the plan included near constant interrogations, as well as continued sensory deprivation, a liquid diet, and sleep deprivation. In addition, the interrogation plan stated that the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques would be used, including the "attention grasp, walling, the facial hold, the facial slap... the abdominal slap, cramped confinement, wall standing, stress positions, sleep deprivation beyond 72 hours, and the waterboard, as appropriate to [bin al-Shibh's] level of resistance. [NOTE 408]

Based on versions of this interrogation plan, at least six detainees were stripped and shackled nude, placed in the standing position for sleep deprivation, or subjected to other CIA enhanced interrogation techniques prior to being questioned by an interrogator in 2003." [NOTE 409] Five of these detainees were shackled naked in the standing position with their hands above their head immediately after their medical check. [NOTE 410] These interrogation plans typically made no reference to the information the interrogators sought and why the detainee was believed to possess the information." [NOTE 411]


CIA Headquarters Urges Continued Use of the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, Despite Interrogators' Assessment That Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh Was Cooperative


When CIA interrogators at DETENTION SITE BLUE assessed that bin al-Shibh was cooperative and did not have additional knowledge of future attacks, [NOTE 412] CIA Headquarters disagreed and instructed the interrogators to continue using the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques, which failed to elicit the information sought by CIA Headquarters.[NOTE 413] On February 11, 2003, interrogators asked CIA Headquarters for questions that ALEC Station was "85 percent certain [bin al-Shibh] will be able to answer," in order to verify bin al-Shibh's level of cooperation. [NOTE 414] The interrogators stated that information from Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri suggested that bin al-Shibh would not have been given a new assignment or trusted with significant information given his high-profile links to the September 11, 2001, attacks. [NOTE 415] They further stated that bin al-Shibh had "achieved substantial notoriety after 11 September," but was still unproven in al-Qa'ida circles and may have "been privy to information more as a bystander than as an active participant." [NOTE 416]

The CIA's ALEC Station disagreed with the assessment of the detention site personnel, responding that it did not believe the portrayals of bin al-Shibh offered by Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri were accurate and that CIA Headquarters assessed that bin al-Shibh must have actionable information due to his proximity to KSM and CIA Headquarters' belief that bin al-Shibh had a history of withholding information from interrogators. ALEC Station wrote:

"As base [DETENTION SITE BLUE] is well aware, Ramzi had long been deliberately withholding and/or providing misleading information to his interrogators in [a foreign government].... From our optic, it is imperative to focus Ramzi exclusively on two issues: 1) What are the next attacks planned for the US and 2) Who and where are the operatives inside the United States." [NOTE 417]

The ALEC Station cable stated that bin al-Shibh had ''spent extensive time with [KSM]," and "must have heard discussions of other targets." The cable added that "HQS strongly believes that Binalshibh was involved in efforts on behalf of KSM to
identify and place operatives in the West." The February 13, 2003, cable concluded:

"We think Binalshibh is uniquely positioned to give us much needed critical information to help us thwart large-scale attacks inside the United States, and we want to do our utmost to get it as soon as possible. Good luck." [NOTE 418]

CIA officers at DETENTION SITE BLUE therefore continued to use the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques against bin al-Shibh for approximately three additional weeks after this exchange, including sleep deprivation, nudity, dietary manipulation, facial holds, attention grasps, abdominal slaps, facial slaps, and walling.' [NOTE 419] Binal-Shibh did not provide the information sought on "operatives inside the United States" or "large-scale attacks inside the United States." [NOTE 420]


Information Already Provided by Ramzi Bin Al-Shibh in the Custody ofa Foreign Government Inaccurately Attributed to CIA Interrogations; Interrogators Apply the CIA's Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Bin Al-Shibh When Not Addressed As "Sir" and When Bin Al-Shibh Complains of Stomach Pain

CIA records indicate that the CIA interrogators at DETENTION SITE BLUE questioning Ramzi bin al-Shibh were unaware of the intelligence bin al-Shibh had previously provided in foreign government custody, even though [REDACTED] and the intelligence from those interrogations had been disseminated by the CIA. On multiple occasions, personnel at the detention site drafted intelligence reports that contained information previously disseminated from interrogations of bin al-Shibh while he was in foreign government custody, under the faulty understanding that bin al-Shibh was providing new information." [NOTE 421]

Ramzi bin al-Shibh was subjected to interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement that were not approved by CIA Headquarters. CIA interrogators used the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques for behavior adjustment purposes, in response to perceived disrespect, and on several occasions, before bin al-Shibh had an opportunity to respond to an interrogator's questions or before a question was asked. The CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques were applied when bin al-Shibh failed to address an interrogator as "sir," when inteiTogators noted bin al-Shibh had a "blank stare" on his face, and when bin al-Shibh complained of stomach pain.' [NOTE 422] Further, despite CIA policy at the time to keep detainees under constant light for security purposes, bin al-Shibh was kept in total darkness to heighten his sense of fear." [NOTE 423]

CIA psychological assessments of bin al-Shibh were slow to recognize the onset of psychological problems brought about, according to later CIA assessments, by bin al-Shibh's long-term social isolation and his anxiety that the CIA would return to using its enhanced interrogation techniques against him. The symptoms included visions, paranoia, insomnia, and attempts at self-harm." [NOTE 424] In April 2005, a CIA psychologist stated that bin al-Shibh "has remained in social isolation" for as long as two and half years and the isolation was having a "clear and escalating effect on his psychological functioning." The officer continued, "in [bin al-Shibh's] case, it is important to keep in mind that he was previously a relatively high-functioning individual, making his deterioration over the past several months more alarming."[NOTE 425]  The psychologist wrote, "significant alterations to RBS'[s] detention environment must occur soon to prevent further and more serious psychological disturbance.[NOTE 426] On September 5, 2006, bin al-Shibh was transferred to U.S. military custody at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba." [NOTE 427] After his arrival, bin al-Shibh was placed on anti-psychotic medications." [NOTE 428]

The CIA disseminated 109 intelligence reports from the CIA interrogations of Ramzi bin al-Shibh." [NOTE 429] A CIA assessment, which included intelligence from his time in foreign government custody, as well as his reporting in CIA custody before, during, and after being subjected to the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques," [NOTE 430] concluded that:

"Much of [bin al-Shibh's] statements on the 11 September attacks have been speculative, and many of the details could be found in media accounts of the attacks that appeared before he was detained. In the few instances where his reporting was unique and plausible, we cannot verify or refute the information... he has been sketchy on some aspects of the 9/11 plot, perhaps in order to downplay his role in the plot. His information on individuals is non specific; he has given us nothing on the Saudi hijackers or others who played a role... The overall quality of his reporting has steadily declined since 2003." [NOTE 431]

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  • To read the notes cited above, please consult the full summary of the committee study.
  • DETENTION SITE BLUE is generally thought to refer to a CIA "black site" in Poland (Stare Kiejkuty).