'Misguided zeal' followed 9/11: former CIA agent

posted on April 23, 2012 | in Category Mohamed Harkat | PermaLink

by Ian Macleod
Source: The Ottawa Citizen
URL: [link]
Date: April 8,2012

Information from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency used by Canada to link accused Ottawa terrorist Mohamed Harkat to “al-Qaeda’s banker” was untrue, according to a former senior CIA case officer.

The man thought to be Osama bin Laden’s main financial fixer “wasn’t the senior member of al-Qaeda that we had assessed. He wasn’t even a member of al-Qaeda,” retired U.S. spy Glenn Carle, who interrogated the man at secret CIA black site prisons in 2002, told an Ottawa gathering to promote his blistering memoir about the case, The Interrogator: An Education.

Yet as recently as 2010, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) evidence and testimony before the Federal Court of Canada continued to point to Harkat’s relationship with Haji Pacha Wazir as evidence of Harkat’s ties to the bin Laden terror network.

It is the second time the veracity of key prosecution evidence against Harkat has been questioned in the government’s decade-long campaign to have him declared a national security threat and deported to his native Algeria.

Another supposed high-level al-Qaeda player named Abu Zubaydah, whom federal prosecutors also linked to Harkat, has since been exposed by some U.S. al-Qaeda hunters as a small-time operative who was found to be “certifiably insane” after his 2002 capture.Carle’s supposed al-Qaeda captive was kidnapped off the streets of Dubai in the fall of 2002 by a CIA rendition team and flown to clandestine CIA jails, reportedly in Morocco and Afghanistan. Carle was dispatched from Washington to interrogate him and soon reported back that the man code-named CAPTUS was not the high-value detainee the CIA initially believed. Carle said he also complained bitterly to his superiors about the “torture” and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” prison staff used on the man. But his assessment and concerns fell on deaf ears in Washington, where “misguided assessments and zeal” consumed the highest levels of government in the aftermath of 9/11, he said. “I found that CAPTUS was not the critical member of al-Qaeda we had convinced ourselves he was, and I found something far more important: that the closer one looked at al-Qaeda, the further it receded and the smaller it was,” he writes in The Interrogator. He said the highest levels of the U.S. government were consumed by a delusion in the aftermath of 9/11, with threat of jihadi terrorism wildly exaggerated and contrary information suppressed or ignored “I found that we chose to sacrifice our own principles in the hunt for the few terrorists threatening us. This was a Faustian bargain; the Devil’s ways could not make us any safer than had we retained our soul,” he writes. Carle retired in 2007 as deputy national intelligence officer for transnational threats, one of the three most-senior government advisers on terrorism for the U.S. intelligence community. He is prohibited by U.S. law from identifying CAPTUS. But widespread reports, supported by intelligence experts, lawyers and others and which Carle has not contested, identify CAPTUS as Haji Pacha Wazir, who ran a series of Hawala banks in the Afghanistan and Pakistan. His nationality is variously reported as Pakistani, Afghani or Emirati. In its Federal Court case against Harkat, CSIS disclosed a wiretap of a 1997 telephone call between Harkat and a man in Pakistan it said was Haji Pacha Wazir. It featured prominently with several other CSIS intercepts of Harkat’s calls to various individuals between 1996 and 1998. Harkat later confirmed in an interview with CSIS agents that he had befriended a banker named Haje Wazir in Pakistan. But his lawyer, Matthew Webber, said in an interview that federal prosecutors have failed to show that Haje Wazir and Haji Pacha Wazir are the same person. Federal Court Judge Simon Noel seemed to agree, ruling in December 2010 that the government’s evidence was “inconclusive” in showing Haje Wazir and Haji Pacha Wazir to be the same person and that Haje Wazir was linked to bin Laden. Still, he declared Harkat an active and dangerous member of al-Qaeda, a threat to national security and opened the door for his deportation to his native Algeria. The 43-year-old now awaits word from the Federal Court of Appeal on his January appeal of Noel’s decision. In the meantime, he is free but under security-certificate control measures that began with his December 2002 arrest. After about three months as the CAPTUS case officer, Carle asked to be reassigned. His successor later also agreed with Carle’s assessment that CAPTUS was not a terrorist. CAPTUS was quietly released from U.S. custody in Afghanistan in February 2010 after a military review board concluded he was not an “enemy belligerent.” © Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen