Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016)

The material below has been lifted, verbatim, from Section VII, 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.

In this Section we address allegations that FBI Special Agent Gibson participated in the use of abusive interrogation techniques on detainee Abu Zubaydah and other detainees, and that Gibson disclosed classified information to persons unauthorized to receive it.214 Gibson served as a Supervisor in the FBI's Counterterrorism Division and later as an FBI Legal Attache. In these capacities he made numerous overseas trips on counterterrorism missions.

The allegations against Gibson were originally raised in an anonymous letter to the FBI which stated, among other things, that Gibson "spoke in detail of the mission leading up to the arrest and interrogation of Abu Zubaydah" and "spoke openly and with much enthusiasm about the torturing of captured al-Qaeda terrorists, undisclosed locations and the brutal interrogation techniques by both CIA and FBI which Agent [Gibson] was involved."

A. The FBI Investigation of the Allegations against FBI Special Agent Gibson

The FBI forwarded the anonymous letter to the OIG, and we initially referred the matter back to the FBI for investigation on November 25,2003. The FBI Inspection Division conducted an investigation of the allegations in the anonymous letter. The FBI determined that the anonymous letter was written by Landis, a civilian acquaintance of Gibson, on the basis of statements Gibson made in Landis's presence, as well as information provided to Landis by Morehead, Gibson's ex-fiance.215

The FBI's investigative file indicates that the scope of the FBI's investigation was limited to FBI interviews of Gibson, Morehead, and Landis, and a polygraph examination of Gibson. Gibson's interview was memorialized in a signed sworn statement. The interviews of Landis and Morehead were summarized by the investigating agents in FD-302 reports. The polygraph examination was memorialized in a written examiner's report. There is no indication in the file that the Inspection Division made any effort to determine whether the information that Morehead attributed to Gibson was accurate or, if so, was classified or sensitive.

B. FBI Interviews of Landis and Morehead

[REDACTED] According to an FBI Inspection Division report, Landis told investigators that:


Gibson's ex-fiance, Morehead, told FBI investigators that in late 2002 or early 2003 Gibson told her about the arrest and interrogation of a terrorist. According to the FBI investigator who interviewed Morehead in April 2004, Morehead stated:

[REDACTED] to be flown to [one of two particular countries] for medical treatment and to be interviewed [REDACTED]

Morehead provided more details regarding this matter in an FBI interview in August 2004:


* * *


Morehead also provided FBI investigators with several detailed stories that she said Gibson told her about his other activities overseas, including his involvement in an operation involving a [REDACTED]. She also asserted Gibson kept unauthorized classified information on his personal laptop and pocket PC and leaked confidential information to a television reporter.

In addition, Morehead asserted that Gibson had inappropriately provided information to a member of the press, had used his FBI position to assist family members with law enforcement problems, and had utilized a former informant to provide free limousine service to Morehead and her friends.

C. Gibson's Statement to the FBI

Gibson submitted a 13-page signed sworn statement to FBI investigators in which he denied many of Morehead's allegations. However, he admitted using his personal laptop computer for processing classified information at times when FBI equipment was not available. Gibson's statement also responded to the allegations regarding his contacts with the media, but he did not address the interrogation techniques that he or other agents of the FBI and CIA utilized on suspected terrorists overseas. He stated that he was not aware of having conversations with Morehead during which he disclosed sensitive or classified information. He stated that he never discussed sensitive locations with Morehead but that she may have inferred where he had been from gifts he brought her from overseas. However, he did not address the issue of how Morehead came to know that Gibson and Thomas [REDACTED], which in fact was true.

D. Gibson's Polygraph Examinations

Gibson was polygraphed on September 30, 2004, as part of the FBI's investigation. The focus of the polygraph was to determine whether Gibson had been truthful about two issues: whether he disclosed FBI information to a specific reporter, and whether he paid for services rendered by a limousine driver who had previously been his source.

One of the questions posed to Gibson during the examination was "have you ever purposely discussed classified information with family or friends?" Gibson answered "no." The examiner's report did not address this response. It stated that his responses to questions about media contacts were "not indicative of deception." The report stated that Gibson's responses regarding compensating the limousine driver were

Gibson had also been polygraphed a year earlier in connection with an FBI promotion. The polygraph report for that earlier test indicated that Gibson's negative response to the question "have you provided classified information to anyone from a non-U.S. Intelligence Service" was not indicative of deception.

E. Findings by the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility

The FBI communicated information regarding the Gibson matter to the Public Integrity Section of the DOJ Criminal Division, which reviewed the file and declined to pursue the matter criminally on September 12, 2005.

The FBI Inspection Division also submitted its investigative report to the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) for adjudication. FBI OPR issued a final adjudication of the allegations against Gibson on October 18, 2005. OPR emphasized the "tumultuous five-year relationship" between Morehead and Gibson, which had ended when Morehead believed Gibson was romantically involved with other women, and OPR opined that there was insufficient information to substantiate several allegations against Gibson. OPR found only that Gibson committed a security violation by placing classified or sensitive information on a personal computer, and recommended that Gibson receive a letter of censure.

With respect to the issue of disclosure of classified information, OPR stated: "The investigation was unable to determine whether the information alleged to have been improperly disclosed was in fact classified or sensitive information because [of] the vague descriptions provided by [Morehead and Landis] as to what privileged information was alleged to have disclosed."

The OPR report also did not address the issue of whether Gibson or other FBI agents participated in using "brutal interrogation techniques" overseas as alleged in the anonymous letter.

F. FBI Special Agent Gibson's OIG Interview

Gibson told the OIG that he was involved in the investigation that led to locating Zubaydah in Pakistan. Gibson said he traveled with Thomas and CIA personnel to an undisclosed location in April 2002 to assist in the interrogation of Zubaydah. Gibson said he was instructed by his supervisor, Charles Frahm (then Acting Deputy Assistant Director for the section that became the Counterterrorism Division), not to follow standard FBI procedures in that he should not give Zubaydah any Miranda warnings and that he should not prepare any interview summaries, which would instead be prepared by the CIA. According to Gibson, Frahm instructed him that the CIA would be in charge of the interrogation and that Gibson was to assist the CIA in any way he could.

Gibson said that he and Thomas initially took the lead in interviewing Zubaydah at the CIA facility because the CIA interrogators were not at the scene. Gibson said Zubaydah was seriously wounded when he arrived. Gibson said he used conventional FBI relationship building techniques with Zubaydah and succeeded in getting Zubaydah to admit his identity and to identify a photograph of Khalid Sheik Muhammad as the mastermind of the September 11 attacks.

After a few days, CIA personnel assumed control over the interviews, but they asked Gibson and Thomas to observe and assist. Gibson told us that he continued to work with the CIA for several weeks into June 2002. Gibson continued to conduct interviews of Zubaydah after the CIA assumed control. When asked about the interrogation techniques used on Zubaydah during this period, Gibson minimized the harshness of what the CIA was doing. When pressed, however, Gibson admitted that durin the eriod he was working with the CIA, the CIA [REDACTED]. Gibson stated that the CIA personnel assured him that the procedures being used on Zubaydah had been approved "at the highest levels" and that Gibson would not get in any trouble. Gibson stated that he kept Frahm, his FBI supervisor, informed of his activities with the CIA by means of telephone calls.

When told about Morehead's statements, Gibson asserted that he never disclosed any classified information to Morehead. He described Morehead as being motivated by revenge after a bad breakup. Gibson said that Morehead may have overheard conversations between Gibson and Thomas regarding press coverage of Zubaydah's capture. He also said he sometimes told Morehead general things about difficult experiences he had had overseas, so she could understand his emotional condition. He speculated that Morehead could have inferred that Gibson was involved with Zubaydah from press reports and the timing of Gibson's travel.

G. OIG Interviews of FBI Special Agent Thomas and Acting Deputy Assistant Director Frahm

As detailed in Chapter Four, Thomas told the OIG that he traveled to an undisclosed CIA location in April 2002 to interview a high value detainee who other witnesses confirmed was Zubaydah. He said that after the CIA a ents assumed control of the detainee, they [REDACTED]. Thomas said he considered the [REDACTED] to be "borderline torture." All of these activities occurred during the period that Gibson was assisting with the CIA.217 Thomas stated that he and Gibson were ultimately instructed by FBI Headquarters to withdraw from the undisclosed location, and that he left some time before Gibson did.

Frahm, Gibson's supervisor, told the OIG that Gibson and Thomas were sent [REDACTED] to participate in the joint effort to interrogate Zubaydah. He said he spoke to Gibson several times by telephone, and that Gibson told him that he and Thomas had sat with Zubaydah for hours, prayed with him, and cleaned him up. Frahm said that Gibson told him that Zubaydah was [REDACTED] and that he (Frahm) told Gibson that Gibson and Thomas should not be involved in interrogations using such techniques.

H. OIG Analysis

We first reviewed the issue of whether Gibson participated in using unauthorized interrogation techniques on Zubaydah, which was not addressed in the OPR Report. In 2007, we sou ht to interview Zubaydah after he was transferred to GTMO, [REDACTED].218

We concluded that during the spring of 2002 Gibson participated in interviews in which interrogation techniques that would not be available to an FBI agent in the United States were used on Zubaydah. Specifically, Gibson admitted that during the time he was assisting the CIA in interrogating Zubaydah at the undisclosed CIA facility, the CIA [REDACTED]. As noted above, Thomas' and Frahm's descriptions of the techniques used on Zubaydah were consistent with Gibson's account.

This interrogation of an extremely high profile detainee took place very soon after the September 11 attacks, and before the FBI had determined whether its traditional policies regarding interviews would apply to overseas interrogations of terrorism suspects. Indeed, as detailed in Chapter Four, it was the Zubaydah incident that sparked the deliberations within the FBI that led to the decision that FBI agents should not participate in interrogations using non-FBI techniques. At the time of Gibson's participation in the Zubaydah interrogation, he had received no guidance regarding his participation in interrogations in which the CIA was using non-FBI approved techniques on detainees in CIA custody. Rather, he was told that the CIA was in charge of the interrogations and that normal FBI procedures such as giving Miranda warnings and writing FD-302 interview summaries should not be followed.

The FBI's formal policy addressing participation in joint interrogations with other agencies in overseas locations was not issued until 2 years later, in May 2004. Gibson's supervisor, Frahm, told Gibson to assist the CIA in any way he could. We concluded that under these circumstances, there was insufficient basis to conclude that Gibson's cooperation with the CIA while the CIA was using non-FBI techniques on Zubaydah violated clear FBI policy.

We also reviewed the question of whether the FBI adequately investigated Morehead's allegation that Gibson disclosed classified or sensitive information to her. The FBI OPR report stated it was "unable to determine whether the information alleged to have been improperly disclosed was in fact classified or sensitive information because [of] the vague descriptions provided by [Morehead and Landis]." However, we found that the information Morehead attributed to Gibson was remarkably detailed, specific, and accurate. It corresponded very closely with the descriptions that we received from other sources regarding accurate facts of the capture and initial interrogation of Zubaydah, described in Chapter Four.219

For example, Morehead knew that Gibson traveled with Thomas and CIA personnel to a location in [a particular country or a particular city in another country] to interview a notorious terrorist. In fact, Gibson traveled to the country containing the city that Morehead identified to interview Zubaydah. Morehead stated that the terrorist was missing an eye. Gibson told us that Zubaydah had an infected eye, sometimes wore a patch, and eventually got a glass eye. Morehead knew that [REDACTED]. was utilized with the prisoner, a fact that was confirmed by Thomas. Several witnesses, including Thomas, told us that Gibson and Thomas traveled to an undisclosed CIA location, tended to Zubaydah's wounds, and began to obtain useful information from Zubaydah. They also stated that the CIA intervened and began using interview techniques on Zubaydah that Thomas described as "borderline torture." The interrogation methods that Morehead said were used on the detainee - [REDACTED] - were among the techniques Thomas said were used on Zubaydah. Morehead also identified Thomas as the agent who accompanied Gibson, which also was true.

We recognize that the fact that Zubaydah had been captured by the United States was not a secret. On April 2,2002, the White House and the Pentagon confirmed that Zubaydah had been captured and was receiving medical treatment for gunshot wounds. However, the CIA has treated the details of Zubaydah's detention, including the location of the CIA facilities at which he was detained and the interrogation methods used on him, as Top Secret/SCI information. It is also likely that the FBI would consider the identity of the agents who interviewed Zubaydah as sensitive if not classified information. Indeed, as discussed below, the FBI disciplined another agent for revealing only that she was a "foreign counterintelligence agent." The information that Morehead was able to provide about Gibson's activities was much more significant and detailed, but the FBI made no apparent attempt to determine if this information was accurate.

OPR suggested that Morehead was motivated by her animus toward Gibson stemming from the termination of their "tumultuous relationship," which may have been true. However, Morehead's hostility does not explain how she came to possess such strikingly accurate information regarding the interrogation of Zubaydah.

Gibson suggested that Morehead may have reconstructed details about the Zubaydah matter from media accounts and telephone conversations about such reports between Gibson and Thomas. He stated Morehead may have inferred that Gibson was involved in the Zubaydah matter from the timing of his overseas travel.


Gibson's suggestion that Morehead constructed these accurate details from conversations between Gibson and Thomas that she overheard does not resolve the matter. Even if true, this would suggest that Gibson improperly conducted telephone conversations about classified matters in the presence of Morehead.

Moreover, there is no indication in the investigative file for this matter that the Inspection Division or OPR made any attempt to determine whether the account of Gibson's trip with Thomas that Morehead provided was accurate and if so, whether the information was classified or sensitive.

We also found it inexplicable that the FBI did not make the issue of Gibson's alleged disclosures to Morehead a major focus of its polygraph examination of Gibson in 2004.

We also note that the FBI's indifference to allegations of Gibson's disclosure of his participation in the Zubaydah matter stands in stark contrast to the FBI's treatment of another agent accused of mishandling sensitive information. This agent had concerns about the efficacy of FBI operations in GTMO, where the agent had previously been deployed. In April 2003 the agent addressed these concerns in a letter to FBI Director Mueller. The agent attempted to arrange for the delivery of a letter to the Director by a private citizen who was a mutual acquaintance. In the letter the agent identified herself as an "FCI" (Foreign Counter Intelligence) agent and described (but did not name) detainees she had interviewed at GTMO. OPR ruled in that case that the letter contained sensitive or classified information and that the agent had improperly disclosed the information to an unauthorized person by giving the letter to a private citizen for delivery to the Director. The agent received a 5day suspension without pay for this disclosure and for the offense of circumventing the normal channels of communicating with the Director.

The information disclosed by this agent was considerably less specific or sensitive than the information Morehead allegedly received from Gibson about his involvement with a CIA detainee. For example, the agent was criticized for revealing that the agent was assigned to an FCI squad. Morehead somehow obtained far more sensitive information: that Gibson had been assigned to work with Thomas and the CIA on the interrogation of a high value detainee at a secret location, using specific interrogation techniques that the government clearly considers to be secret. Yet, OPR found that this information was too "vague" to be considered sensitive or classified. Again, we found no indication of any effort by the Inspection Division to determine whether the information was accurate or classified.

The issue of whether Gibson disclosed classified information to Morehead was adjudicated by OPR in 2005. We believe that too much time has passed for investigators to determine whether Morehead could have derived her information from non-classified conversations or publicly available sources. Also, much of the information that Morehead described to FBI investigators was subsequently reported in the media, which attributed the information to several unidentified law enforcement and intelligence officials. It would be unfair for the FBI to reopen the investigation of Gibson without initiating an investigation of the sources of the information in the reports.220 However, the FBI should take note of the inadequate and incomplete investigation it conducted with respect to this matter and take steps to ensure that future investigations of allegations that agents disclosed confidential or classified information are conducted more thoroughly and evenhandedly.221


214. Gibson is a pseudonym.

215. Landis and Morehead are pseudonyms.

216. The agent that Morehead referred to here is a particular agent who has been identified elsewhere in this report in Chapters Four and Five and later in this chapter. We therefore substituted the same pseudonym for this agent that we have used elsewhere in this report.

217. Thomas had left the FBI by the time we interviewed him in August 2005. At the time of Thomas' interview, the OIG had not yet interviewed Gibson and we did not ask Thomas about conversations he might have had with Gibson which Morehead could have overheard.

218. See footnote 4 above.

219. We recognize that Morehead told OPR that she didn't think the detainee at issue was Zubaydah. However, as detailed below, her description of Gibson's participation in the interview closely matches what other witnesses told us about Zubaydah's detention and interrogation in several respects. We concluded that even if Gibson did not tell Morehead the correct name of the detainee, this does not resolve the issue of whether the other information Morehead received was accurate and sensitive or classified

220. The New York Times identified the sources of the information in the article as officials who were not present at the interrogation but rather were briefed on the events as they occurred or later. This description, if accurate, would exclude Gibson as the source because he personally witnessed these events.

221. In commenting on a draft of this report, the FBI stated that the adequacy of the FBI's investigation of the allegation was further supported by the fact that Gibson passed a polygraph examination in connection with a promotion in September 2003, and by the DOJ Public Integrity Section's declination to prosecute Gibson. We disagree. The 2003 polygraph was not a factor in the OPR's adjudication of this issue and does not shed light on the adequacy of the FBI's investigation in 2004-2005. It took place before Morehead made her allegations to the FBI and did not include specific questions about conversations between Gibson and Morehead. Similarly, the decision by the DOJ Criminal Division not to prosecute Gibson does not establish the adequacy of the FBI's internal investigation, but rather reflects DOJ's determination on the basis of the FBI information that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute. Neither the 2003 polygraph nor the Criminal Division declination decision address the central deficiencies in the FBI's investigation: the failure to recognize that the information Morehead provided was highly detailed, specific, and accurate; the failure to determine whether the information was sensitive or classified; and the failure to address how Morehead got the information except from Gibson.