Abu Zubaydah was interrogated by two separate interrogation teams, one from the FBI and one from the CIA.
Ali Soufan and the FBI interrogation team
Following Abu Zubaydah’s capture he was interrogated by FBI agents Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin. The interrogation followed standard FBI protocol and involved cleaning and dressing Abu Zubaydah’s wounds. Ali Soufan stated that "[w]e kept him alive... It wasn't easy, he couldn't drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips." The agents attempted to convince Abu Zubaydah that they knew of his activities in languages he understood; English and Arabic. Both agents believed they were making good progress in gathering intelligence from Abu Zubaydah.
Within a matter of days, however, a CIA interrogation team began participating in Abu Zubaydah’s interrogation. The CIA team was headed by outside CIA contractor and former Air Force psychologist James Mitchell. Mitchell ignored Soufan's previously successful strategy and ordered that Abu Zubaydah answer questions or face a gradual increase in aggressive techniques. According to Soufan, Abu Zubaydah cooperated with the FBI interrogators on multiple occasions. Soufan testified before Congress that his FBI team was removed from Abu Zubaydah's interrogation multiple times, only to be asked to return when the harsher interrogation tactics of the CIA proved unsuccessful.  Soufan asked Mitchell whether he had ever interrogated anyone, to which Mitchell replied that he hadn't, but "Science is science. This is a behavioral issue" and suggested Soufan was the inexperienced one at the facility.
Ali Soufan was alarmed by the CIA’s interrogation tactics, and was so enraged that he challenged a CIA agent's authority to go through with them, shouting "We're the United States of America, and we don't do that kind of thing." The CIA agent told him in April 2002 that the tactics were approved by the "highest levels" in Washington, and even stated that the approvals "are coming from [Alberto] Gonzales." Soufan reported to his FBI superiors that the CIA’s interrogation constituted “borderline torture.” He was particularly concerned about a coffin-like box he discovered that had been built by the CIA interrogation team. He was so angry he called then-FBI Assistant Director for counterterrorism, Pasquale D'Amaro and shouted "I swear to God, I'm going to arrest these guys!" After Soufan’s complaints to the FBI Counterterrorism Assistant Director Pasquale D’Amuro were communicated to the CIA, both FBI agents were ordered to leave the facility immediately by FBI Director Robert Mueller. Ali Soufan left, but Steve Gaudin stayed an additional few weeks and continued to participate in the interrogation.
Shortly thereafter, Pasquale D'Amaro met with FBI director Robert Mueller III and told him that the FBI should not participate in interrogations using harsh techniques because FBI protocol prohibited agents from being involved. Robert Mueller III agreed with D’Amuro and ordered all FBI agents to stop participating in any interrogations where the CIA used harsh interrogation techniques. In 2008, a report by the Justice Department’s Inspector General alleged the FBI complained repeatedly beginning in 2002 about harsh CIA tactics. Top FBI officials apparently debated for six months after Abu Zubaydah’s capture as to what to do, before formally severing ties with any CIA interrogations where harsh tactics were used.
Ali Soufan's Congressional testimony
Ali Soufan testified about Abu Zubaydah's interrogation in front of Congress May 13, 2009. In his testimony he stated:
The case of the terrorist Abu Zubaydah is a good example of where the success of the Informed Interrogation Approach can be contrasted with the failure of the harsh technique approach. I have to restrict my remarks to what has been unclassified. (I will note that there is documented evidence supporting everything I will tell you today.)
Immediately after Abu Zubaydah was captured, a fellow FBI agent and I were flown to meet him at an undisclosed location. We were both very familiar with Abu Zubaydah and have successfully interrogated al-Qaeda terrorists. We started interrogating him, supported by CIA officials who were stationed at the location, and within the first hour of the interrogation, using the Informed Interrogation Approach, we gained important actionable intelligence...
During his capture Abu Zubaydah had been injured. After seeing the extent of his injuries, the CIA medical team supporting us decided they were not equipped to treat him and we had to take him to a hospital or he would die. At the hospital, we continued our questioning as much as possible, while taking into account his medical condition and the need to know all information he might have on existing threats.
We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM's role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) All this happened before the [CIA] team arrived.
A few days after we started questioning Abu Zubaydah, the CTC interrogation team finally arrived from DC with a contractor who was instructing them on how they should conduct the interrogations, and we were removed. Immediately, on the instructions of the contractor, harsh techniques were introduced, starting with nudity. (The harsher techniques mentioned in the memos were not introduced or even discussed at this point.)
The new techniques did not produce results as Abu Zubaydah shut down and stopped talking. At that time nudity and low-level sleep deprivation (between 24 and 48 hours) was being used. After a few days of getting no information, and after repeated inquiries from DC asking why all of sudden no information was being transmitted (when before there had been a steady stream), we again were given control of the interrogation.
We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence...
After a few days, the contractor attempted to once again try his untested theory and he started to re-implement the harsh techniques. He moved this time further along the forcr continuum, introducing loud noise and then temperature manipulation.
Throughout this time, my fellow FBI agent and I, along with a top CIA interrogator who was working with us, protested, but we were overruled. I should also note that another colleague, an operational psychologist for the CIA, had left the location because he objected to what was being done.
Again, however, the technique wasn't working and Abu Zubaydah wasn't revealing any information, so we were once again brought back in to interrogate him. We found it harder to reengage him this time, because of how the techniques had affected him, but eventually, we succeeded, and he re-engaged again.
Once again the contractor insisted on stepping up the notches of his experiment, and this time he requested the authorization to place Abu Zubaydah in a confinement box, as the next stage in the force continuum. While everything I saw to this point were nowhere near the severity later listed in the memos, the evolution of the contractor's theory, along with what I had seen till then, struck me as "borderline torture."
As the Department of Justice IG report released last year states, I protested to my superiors in the FBI and refused to be a part of what was happening. The Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, a man I deeply respect, agreed, passing the message that "we don't do that," and I was pulled out.
As you can see from this timeline, many of the claims made in the memos about the success of the enhanced techniques are inaccurate. For example, it is untrue to claim Abu Zubaydah wasn't cooperating before August 1, 2002. The truth is that we got actionable intelligence from him in the first hour of interrogating him.
In addition, simply by putting together dates cited in the memos with claims made, falsehoods are obvious. For example, it has been claimed that waterboarding got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Jose Padilla. But that doesn't add up: Waterboarding wasn't approved until 1 August 2002 (verbally it was authorized around mid July 2002), and Padilla was arrested in May 2002.
The same goes for KSM's involvement in 9/11: That was discovered in April 2002, while waterboarding was not introduced until almost three months later. It speaks volumes that the quoted instances of harsh interrogation methods being a success are false.
Nor can it be said that the harsh techniques were effective, which is why we had to be called back in repeatedly. As we know from the memos, the techniques that were apparently introduced after I left did not appear to work either, which is why the memos granted authorization for harsher techniques. That continued for several months right till waterboarding was introduced, which had to be used 83 times – an indication that Abu Zubaydah had called the interrogator's bluff knowing the glass ceiling that existed.
Intel gleaned during FBI interrogations
Ali Soufan states that the assertion that traditional, rapport building interrogation methods were not working, and therefore harsher interrogation tactics were necessary to obtain actionable intelligence, was incorrect. He further alleged that the claim Abu Zubaydah only revealed actionable intelligence after the harsher interrogation techniques were applied is also incorrect. "I was in the middle of this, and it's not true that these [aggressive] techniques were effective," Soufan said in a Newsweek interview. "We were able to get the information about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in a couple of days. We didn't have to do any of this [torture]. We could have done this the right way." Other intelligence officials also dispute the need for harsher interrogation techniques. Two high-ranking FBI officials, as well as another person close to Abu Zubaydah's interrogation, and the Government's expert on the Jose Padilla case, Rohan Gunaratna, reported the only actionable intelligence from Abu Zubaydah came before the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. In addition, Daniel Coleman, a retired FBI official involved in Abu Zubaydah's interrogation, commented that after the CIA's use of coercive methods "I don't have confidence in anything he says, because once you go down that road, everything you say is tainted. He was talking before they did that to him, but they didn't believe him. The problem is they didn't realize he didn't know all that much."
Ali Soufan reports some of the actionable intelligence gleaned from Abu Zubaydah:
Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence. We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.
Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.
Abu Zubaydah also disclosed Khalid Sheihkh Muhamed’s alias, “Mukhtar,” as well as other details of the 9/11 attacks. However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report the CIA had identified Khalid Sheihkh Muhamed's alias in August 2001. According to the 9/11 Commission Report, "The final piece of the puzzle arrived at the CIA's Bin Ladin unit on August 28 in a cable reporting that KSM's nickname was Mukhtar. No one made the connection to the reports about Mukhtar that had been circulated in the spring. This connection might also have underscored concern about the June reporting that KSM was recruiting terrorists to travel, including to the United States."
Notably, however, it has been reported that Paul Wolfowitz, the former Deputy Secretary of Defense, admitted there was no actual plot for Jose Padilla to detonate a dirty bomb. In fact, Jose Padilla was never charged with a plot to detonate a 'dirty bomb.'
Finally, he testified before Congress that:
Immediately after Abu Zubaydah was captured, a fellow FBI agent and I were flown to meet him at an undisclosed location. We were both very familiar with Abu Zubaydah and have successfully interrogated al-Qaeda terrorists. We started interrogating him, supported by CIA officials who were stationed at the location, and within the first hour of the interrogation, using the Informed Interrogation Approach, we gained important actionablw intelligence.
The information was so important that, as I later learned from open sources, it went to CIA Director George Tennet who was so impressed that he initially ordered us to be congratulated. That was apparently quickly withdrawn as soon as Mr. Tennet was told that it was FBI agents, who were responsible. He then immediately ordered a CIA CTC interrogation team to leave DC and head to the location to take over from us.
We were once again very successful and elicited information regarding the role of KSM as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and lots of other information that remains classified. (It is important to remember that before this we had no idea of KSM's role in 9/11 or his importance in the al Qaeda leadership structure.) All this happened before the [CIA] team arrived...
We then returned to using the Informed Interrogation Approach. Within a few hours, Abu Zubaydah again started talking and gave us important actionable intelligence.
This included the details of Jose Padilla, the so-called "dirty bomber." To remind you of how important this information was viewed at the time, the then-Attorney General, John Ashcroft, held a press conference from Moscow to discuss the news. Other important actionable intelligence was also gained that remains classified.
CIA interrogation of Abu Zubaydah
The CIA interrogation strategies were based on work done by James Elmer Mitchell and Bruce Jessen in the Air Force's Survival Evasion Resistance and Escape (SERE) program. The CIA contracted with the two psychologists to develop alternative, harsher interrogation techniques than those allowed at the time. However, neither of the two psychologists had any experience in conducting interrogations. Air Force Reserve Colonel Steve Kleinman stated that the CIA "chose two clinical psychologists who had no intelligence background whatsoever, who had never conducted an interrogation... to do something that had never been proven in the real world." Associates of Mitchell and Jessen were skeptical of their methods and believed they did not possess any data about the impact of SERE training on the human psyche. The CIA came to learn that Mitchell and Jessen's expertise in waterboarding was probably "misrepresented" and thus, there was no reason to believe it was medically safe or effective. Despite these shortcomings of experience and know-how, the two psychologists boasted of being paid $1000 a day plus expenses, tax-free by the CIA for their work.
The SERE program was originally designed to be defensive in nature and was used to train pilots and other soldiers on how to resist harsh interrogation techniques and torture if they happened to fall into enemy hands. The program subjected trainees to torture techniques such as “waterboarding . . . sleep deprivation, isolation, exposure to extreme temperatures, enclosure in tiny spaces, bombardment with agonizing sounds at extremely damaging decibel levels, and religious and sexual humiliation.” Under CIA supervision, Mitchell and Jessen adapted SERE into an offensive program designed to train CIA agents on how to use the harsh interrogation techniques to gather information from terrorist detainees. In fact, all of the tactics listed above would later be reported in the International Committee of the Red Cross Report as having been used on Abu Zubaydah.
The psychologists relied heavily on experiments done by American psychologist Martin Seligman in the 1970s known as “learned helplessness.” In these experiments caged dogs were electrocuted in a random way in order to completely break their will to resist. Mitchell strongly believed in his interrogation methods and applied them to Abu Zubaydah. Mitchell believed that Abu Zubaydah must be treated “like a dog in a cage.” He stated the interrogation “was like an experiment, when you apply electric shocks to a caged dog, after a while, he’s so diminished, he can’t resist.”
In 2007 John Kiriakou, a former CIA officer, was widely interviewed, and frequently quoted stating that Abu Zubaybah broke within 35 seconds of his first waterboarding session. In his book published in 2010, Kiriakou acknowledged he wasn't present and had no direct knowledge of how long it took to break Abu Zubaydah.
In 2009, CIA Director Leon Panetta delivered a letter to Congress which banned CIA contractors from conducting any further interrogations. The letter also explained how the CIA will close the black sites it operated during the Bush Administration.
Intel gleaned from CIA interrogations
During his interrogation under harsher techniques, Abu Zubaydah confessed to a universe of alleged plots and plans, although none of them have ever been corroborated or substantiated. A former intelligence official stated "[w]e spent millions of dollars chasing false alarms," and "sent hundreds of CIA and FBI investigators scurrying in pursuit of phantoms." Ron Suskind, the author of The One Percent Doctrine, told Wolf Blitzer during an interview, "I show in the book exactly the useful information he provided, and at the same time I show that essentially what happened is we tortured an insane man and jumped screaming at every word he uttered, most of them which were nonsense." In fact, as early as May, 2002, officials stated they doubted the veracity of Abu Zubaydah’s warnings., and by August 2002, on-scene CIA interrogators were already reporting to CIA Headquarters that Abu Zubaydah had no more actionable intelligence. Indeed, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations, despite all of Abu Zubaydah's confessions, not a single plot was foiled. Abu Zubaydah claims he lied under interrogation to prevent further torture. 
Among the various confessions, Abu Zubaydah confessed that:
- Al Qaeda planned on blowing up “soft targets” such as apartment buildings, supermarkets, and shopping malls.
- There were plots against banks in the Northeastern United States, and New York monuments such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Statue of Liberty. However, Abu Zubaydah’s warnings about the Statue of Liberty and the Brooklyn Bridge were “the statue in the water” and the “bridge in that movie” (referring to Godzilla).
- There was going to be a nerve gas attack on a major U.S. subway system sometime around July 4.
- Revealed that Omar al-Faruq was planning attacks on U.S. embassies and other facilities to coincide with the anniversary of September 11 in Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Vietnam and Cambodia.
- Divulged an al Qaeda plot to detonate a jacket full of explosives on a civilian air-liner. He went so far as to say that the planners had used their own metal and explosive detectors to figure out how to successfully accomplish the mission.
- Used a website to “plan the Sept. 11 attacks”, communicate with the hijackers, and download 2,300 encrypted messages between May 2000 and September 9, 2001.
- Confirmed the fourth September 11 flight, UA 93, was intended to hit the White House. His information is contradicted by Khalid Sheikh Mohamed and Ramzi Binalshibh though, who stated UA 93 was on its way to the capitol, not the White House.
- Identified Usama Bin Laden's voice on a tape and said it was a clear signal for impending attack.
In addition, an unnamed U.S. official claimed Abu Zubaydah stated al-Qaeda knew how to smuggle a dirty-bomb into the United States. The official said Zubaydah’s information was further proof al-Qaeda was attempting to acquire weapons of mass destruction. However, a memo by Michael H. Mobbs filed in Ahmed Ressam’s terrorism case stated Abu Zubaydah recanted his confession that al-Qaeda was planning on building a dirty bomb to be detonated in the United States.
9/11 Commission Report
Zubaydah's interrogations are cited frequently in the 9/11 Commission Report, although he is the sole person to make many of the claims. Human Rights Watch noted that "The 9/11 Commission report refers to the intelligence reports of seven interrogation sessions with Zubayda,[sic] dating from February 2002 to April 2004." Based on Abu Zubaydah's confessions during these seven interrogation sessions, the 9/11 Commission Report alleged that:
- Abu Zubaydah wrote in his diary in late 1992 that he was getting ready to go to an al Qaeda military camp. “Perhaps later I will tell you about the Qa’ida and Bin Ladin group.”
- Abu Zubaydah was a “sympathetic peer” of Osama bin Laden.
- Abu Zubaydah was reportedly complimentary of Khalid Sheikh Muhammed’s leadership abilities giving praise for his ability to incorporate the improvements suggested by others.
- Abu Zubaydah allegedly played a key role in facilitating the travel of al Qaeda operatives, along with Khalid Sheikh Muhammed.
- Abu Zubaydah was planning to attack Israel in 2001.
CIA destroys Abu Zubaydah's interrogation tapes
Starting in 2002 and around the time of Abu Zubaydah's capture, the CIA began videotaping hundreds of hours of Abu Zubaydah's interrogations. Video cameras recorded Abu Zubaydah twenty-four hours a day during his detention in 2002. The CIA ended the recording procedure after Abu Zubaydah had been waterboarded.
Several requests for the videotapes were made by judges, government organizations, and non-governmental organizations. The ACLU requested copies of the tapes under a Freedom of Information Act, but was rebuffed by the CIA. The ACLU would later file legal action against the CIA wherein New York District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein stated he was “disappointed” the agency destroyed the tapes and believes the court was “gulled.” The CIA also denied the existence of the tapes to the 9/11 Commission Report during its investigation. In November 2005, during a pending Guantanamo case, U.S. District Court Judges Gladys Kessler, Richard W. Roberts, and Henry H. Kennedy ordered the preservation of the CIA’s interrogation tapes as evidence for the cases before it. In addition, the Judge presiding over Zacarias Moussaoui’s criminal case, Leonie M. Brinkema, had also requested the tapes only to be told they did not exist. The CIA was advised by top lawyers at the White House and the Justice Department not to destroy the interrogation tapes. Michael Hayden, the Director of Central Intelligence, sent a letter to CIA staff, briefing them on the tape's destruction. Hayden asserted that key members of Congress had been briefed on the existence of the tapes, and the plans for their destruction. United States Senator Jay Rockefeller, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, disputed Hayden's assertion, saying that he only learned of the tapes in 2006, a year after their destruction. Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who was one of just four senior members of Congress who was briefed on the existence of the tapes, acknowledged being briefed. Harman responded to Hayden's assertions by stating she had objected, in writing, to the tapes' destruction, and that it would "put the CIA under a cloud of suspicion." However, the CIA did not comply with any of the advice or the 17 orders from various judges and courts and destroyed the tapes. The Department of Justice is now investigating the CIA’s destruction of the tapes and has appointed John Durham as the special prosecutor for the case. 
Originally, the CIA claimed that only two videotapes and one audiotape had been destroyed. In all, however, the CIA destroyed 92 tapes of interrogations, of which 90 were of Abu Zubaydah, and 12 depicted his waterboarding.  The tapes were held in a safe in the CIA's secret prison in Thailand.
Several motives were given for recording the tapes. Originally the CIA claimed it taped the interrogations to prevent agents from a wrongful death suit if Abu Zubaydah happened to succumb to the injuries he suffered in his apprehension. However, during his testimony, Michael Hayden the director of the CIA asserted that the continued existence of the tapes represented a threat to the CIA personnel involved. He asserted that if the tapes were leaked they might cause the CIA personnel to be identified and targeted for retaliation. However, the tapes were only destroyed once CIA officials determined that written summaries of detainees answers would suffice for intelligence gathering purpose, leading some to hypothesize the videos were made to preserve the confessions of the interrogated detainees.
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- Congressional Testimony of Ali Soufan, May 13, 2009 Congressional Testimony, May 13, 2009 Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "SoufanTestimony" defined multiple times with different content
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