Update May 3, 2011: According to various reports, a U.S.-held detainee named Hassan Ghul provided key intelligence on the courier who ultimately led authorities to Osama bin Laden. In 2009 we reported that, despite the U.S. government’s silence on his case, Ghul had been captured in Iraq and held in a secret CIA prison. His whereabouts today are still unknown as are those of dozens of others.
This story was originally published on April 16, 2009.
Among the OLC memos released today, one appears to inadvertently reveal that a top al-Qaida suspect captured in northern Iraq in January 2004 was held by the CIA in a secret prison.
After Hassan Ghul was arrested in early 2004, President Bush told reporters: "Just last week we made further progress in making America more secure when a fellow named Hassan Ghul was captured in Iraq. Hassan Ghul reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammad, who was the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. He was captured in Iraq, where he was helping al Qaeda to put pressure on our troops."
Military officials and former CIA director George Tenet described Ghul as an al-Qaida facilitator who delivered money and messages to top leaders.
The U.S. government never publicly discussed Ghul again.
The 9/11 Commission report said Ghul was in "U.S. custody." But the government itself never discussed Ghul’s whereabouts. And the CIA has never acknowledged holding Ghul.
Three years after his capture, human rights groups were surprised when Ghul was not included among 14 high-value detainees who were transferred out of the CIA’s black sites program and sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2007.
Since then, he has been considered a missing, or ghost detainee. But in the heavily redacted OLC memo dated May 30, 2005, government censors appeared to have missed a single reference to his name and confinement during a lengthy description of the interrogation techniques used against him. The reference can be found at the bottom of Page 7 in the memo, where Ghul’s surname is spelled "Gul."
According to the memo, Ghul was one of 28 CIA detainees at the time who had been subjected to the agency’s "enhanced interrogation techniques." Specifically, the memo says he was subjected to "facial hold," "facial slap," "stress positions," "sleep deprivation," a technique called "walling," in which a detainee’s shoulders are repeatedly smashed against a wall, and the "attention grasp," in which the detainee is placed in a choke-hold and slapped.
So it appears we now have evidence Ghul was in a CIA prison. Where he is today is still a mystery.
We’ve called the CIA, and they declined to comment.