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tv   Frontline  PBS  February 28, 2013 9:00pm-10:00pm PST

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>> tonight, two stories in ths special edition frontline. the news out of yemen in the past weeks is alarming. >> we are very concerned about al qaeda activity and extremist activity in yemen. >> has the arabian peninsula become a stronghold for al qaeda? >> for the first time, you see al qaeda actually trying to hold territory. >> in an exclusive report, guardian journalist ghaith
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abdul-ahad investigates the new al qaeda threat in yemen. >> this is al qaeda, and they control a whole city. >> and in our second story, al qaeda operative fahd al-quso was killed by a drone strike in yemen earlier this month. tonight, former fbi agent ali soufan, author of the black banners, talks about his interrogation of al-quso before 9/11. >> how the heck quso is involved in what just happened? what did we miss? >> correspondent martin smiths interview with "the interrogator." >> what if that information had been shared? >> o my god. i think e world would be very different today. >> these two stories on this special edition frontline. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan, committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of the public interest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critil issues. and by tfrontline journalism fund, supporting investigative reporting and enterprise journalism.
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>> narrator: reporter ghaith abdul-ahad's journey in yemen began here, in the dangerous no man's land between the yemeni army and al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. >> the government doesn't allow journalists to go see al qaeda. >> narrator: they had to take a risky route through the desert. >> we had to leave the main road, as it's been blocked by the military. and all along the main way we saw military installations, we saw tanks, pickup trucks, mounted with machine guns. >> narrator: just days earlier, ghaith, an iraqi journalist, had heard from his contact inside al
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qaeda. it had taken months of secret negotiations. >> we're trying to hit a bedouin settlement and find a guy who can take us through that desert into the town. >> narrator: ghaith's destination was jaar, a large town under al qaeda control. on his way, ghaith's vehicle broke down in the sand. >> he said we are in al qaedat. territory, and he would send a car to come pick us up. from the moment of the call,
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it's extreme anxiety. this is an organization known for kidnapping journalists, detaining them for a long time, sometimes beheading them. >> narrator: after two hours, a unit of al qaeda fighters arrived to help ghaith. they didn't want their faces shown on camera. ghaith was then escorted to jaar. a year ago al qaeda had taken the town over without resistance from the yemeni army, which receives arms, training, and intelligence from the united states. on the edge of jaar, the first glimpse of the flag of al qaeda.
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>> it's a very sinister thing. it's a black flag inscribed with the words, "no god but one god," and then the seal of the prophet. it has an impact on you. it's very scary. >> narrator: ghaith's contact was a fighter and political officer who called himself fouad. he was a member of ansar al sharia, the local franchise of al qaeda. ansar al sharia was started last year to provide al qaeda in the arabian peninsula with foot soldiers and a new image. some experts question the exact relationship between the two groups, but ghaith found that they operated as one and the same.
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how clearly they referred to themselves as al qaeda in the arabian peninsula. and for fouad to talk to us, he would have to have permission from the highest authority. >> narrator: fouad said that us drones and the yemeni air force often attacked. >> (translated): they bomb people's homes to prove to washington they are truly fighting terrorism. but they have failed. >> narrator: he agreed to take ghaith on a tour of jaar. he wanted to show how al qaeda was effectively governing an entire city. >> jaar is really poor, is wretched. yet he points to all of this and he says, "this is the ultimate just city, because we're implementing sharia." >> narrator: but fouad told him that the attacks from both the americans and the yemeni air force made the locals fear for their lives.
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>> (translated): these days, a lot of people have been displaced. schools have shut down. >> narrator: it came as a surprise that al qaeda allows national newspapers to be sold. this headline says that a government air strike on the town had killed many local fighters. >> they talk about the air force. they're too embarrassed to say it's actually the american drones. >> narrator: he also said that only three fighters had been killed, and claimed to have known them. >> (translated): we are at war with america and its allies. just like bush once said, if you're not with us, you're agait us
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>> did you see that? did you see? two guys on a motorbike with the flag of al qaeda. >> narrator: gaith met fighters who he believed were from somalia, afghanistan, iraq, and saudi arabia. but he wasn't allowed to interview them on camera. >> the whole day was very strange. we passed army checkpoints, we drove through the desert, we were met by the fighters, and now we are in a city. it's a real city, it's an actual city. people are living in the city, people are having their normal life, as we're going to see. yet at the same time, this is al qaeda. this is not even, you know, taliban and al qaeda. this is al qaeda in the arabian peninsula, and they just control a whole city.
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>> narrator: gaith was shown these pictures, filmed by al qaeda. local people had been summoned to the town's theater. it showed al qaeda fighters attacking a major army base near jaar. almost 200 yemeni soldiers were reported killed, and dozens of prisoners were believed to be held in jaar. jalal al marqashi, the top al qaeda commander in this region, was shown visiting the prisoners.
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>> it's unconceivable for a small unit of 60 fighters to achieve this kind of victory. i really wanted to see, did they actually detain 73 officers? >> narrator: ghaith asked to be taken to see the prisoners. after hours of negotiation, fouad got word he could bring him, but blindfolded. >> he said, "i will have to blindfold you," and immediately inside you as a journalist you realize, "ah-hah, that's the point when we're being kidnapped." you're very scared, but you can't run away. you are in the middle of that. we were driven for 50 minutes, and taken to this compound, very, very well guarded. the soldiers there were different from the soldiers we'd seen. they were more aggressive.
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>> narrator: ghaith was then taken to see the detained prisoners, held in a series of small rooms. the prisoners told him they were in fact the yemeni soldiers capture in the attack near jaar. while the camera was rolling, they pleaded for the government to agree to demands for a prisoner exchange. many claimed the al qaeda fighters had been better armed and supplied. >> it was a very, very difficult situation to be tasituation to a
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journalist to interview prisoners. i have been detained before, and i know how hard it is, how hopeless you are, how you have no control. it was very difficult. >> narrator: a few minutes after this scene was filmed, the guards ordered the cameras turned off, and blindfolded the team again. their visit was over. >> i thought, "okay, we've done something. now we'll be detained, and we'll be put with the prisoners." and as we sat blindfolded, a man comes, and he started addressing us. he had this very deep, sinister voice. and he said, "those are our detainees. the sharia tell us we can kill them or we can exchange them for prisoners. and we want to tell the yemeni government that those people will be killed if negotiation
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doesn't start very soon. it was later when we realized that the person who addressed us was the al qaeda commander in the whole of the province, their amir, their supreme commander. >> narrator: back in town, fouad told ghaith about al qaeda's ambitions. >> (translated): our fighters always wanted an islamic state. they didn't just want to fight. they wanted a state with services and institutions. a state to take care of its citizens and represent islamic law. >> narrator: he also said foreigners were coming to join their struggle. >> (translated): anyone who comes to help our brothers, may god reward their kindness for coming to defend them. this is good, not something to
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be ashamed of. >> narrator: in the evening, the shops opened and families came into the street. >> the people would tell you that after al qaeda took over, the crime disappeared from the town. al qaeda chopped off the hands of three thieves-- you know, stupid crimes, yet they got their hands chopped off-- and that created a fear, terror, within the society. >> narrator: it is prayer time, and as al qaeda's interpretation of sharia law requires, everyone had to go to the mosque and pray. >> i ask fouad, "what happens if someone doesn't want to pray?" and he says, "well, we'll go to them and convince them to pray." "and what if they don't pray?" "we will lock them up."
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it's almost a surreal scene in this part of town. all the shops are empty, open, no people inside, yet no one is stealing, no one is taking everything. i don't know if it says much about the honesty of the town or the fear from the ansar al sharia. >> narrator: as night approached, ghaith decided it was too dangerous to stay. >> you carry inside your heart this worst anxiety that if something happens, they will turn against you. they're very paranoid, they're very scared, and they look for a scapegoat. >> narrator: ghaith traveled to the city of aden to regroup and wait for the next call from his contact. this is a strategic port city
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near vital shipping routes at the entrance of the red sea. >> returning to aden is not returning to a safe zone, to your own safety. aden is a ty gripped by chaos. >> narrator: people here know the por of protesting. demonstrations across the country last year drove yemen's long time president ali abdullah saleh from power. they're still marching here, this time to win back the independence south yemen lost two decades ago. but along the way, lives have been lost. ghaith joined the funeral of the latest victim, a 15-year-old girl, nada shawqi. >> we are following a funeral. the girl was killed by army fire a few days ago. and it's part of the security
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chaos that is in aden at the moment. surrounding the cemetery, you see all these military positions. what do the soldiers do? they open fire into the crowd. they fire bullets. live bullets. army soldiers on top of the hill. they're pointing at people. >> narrator: in aden, there are more than 100,000 refugees from the fighting between al qaeda and the government.
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in this former school, hundreds of refugees are struggling to survive. saeeda alhakami and her family have lived in this small classroom for a year. they fled their home for fear of being killed. >> they haven't fled al qaeda. they've fled the shelling of the army, the aerial bombardments, drones, and yemeni army fighter jets. >> narrator: ghaith was also told about life under al qaeda's rule. narrator: al qaeda has posted vio ofhis ucifion.
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they accused the man of being a spy. in aden, ghaith worked to arrange another trip to see al qaeda. this time, he hoped to meet with the senior leadership. >> a week later, they came back to us and they said okay, we're allowed to go and visit them. >> narrator: his contact told him he could travel to the town of azzan, in the shabwa region. azzan is one of the most dangerous places in yemen. >> this, in a way, is the heartland of al qaeda or ansar al sharia in yemen. this is where they have set up base five years ago. it is here in the rugged mountains of shabwa where the leadership of al qaeda been based. >> narrator: this was the home
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of anwar al awlaki, an american- born preacher killed last year in a us drone attack. >> narrator: the approach to the town of azzan was heavily guarded by al qaeda fighters. >> azzan is their fortress. when you reach azzan, you feel it's more sinister than jaar. the town is more desolate, more empty, heavily guarded. they very, very paranoid, far more than in jaar. i had many conversations with judges, clerics in azzan and they wouldn't let us film because no one was allowed to be filmed, to even have his voice recorded by the camera.
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no one was allowed to carry a cell phone. >> narrator: ghaith was shown the site of a us drone strike. >> these are the spots where the son of the american preacher anwar al awlaki was killed. >> narrator: the 16-year-old son of the al qaeda leader was a us citizen. >> his son and eight of his friends were sitting in this place and having dinner and were targeted by one rocket here, and another one there-- if you see, this big circle targeted them-- and then another rocket beyond this area. they say it's an american targeted killing, for an american citizen of course. >> narrator: it was the time for afternoon prayers. the streets were empty.
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>> narrator: at this checkpoint, ghaith discovered one gunman was from somalia and another from afghanistan. inside this booth by the side of the road, recruits were distributing al qaeda newsletters. >> this is in kind of a very, very isolated region, yet here this organization have devoted a part of its resources to a media wing of the organization. it's a small office, but it's very sophisticated. that's why they are very, if you want to say, succsful in their existence. >> narrator: they also gave away dvds, incling e called the survivorabout commanders who've survived drone attacks.
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surviving or being killed in a us drone strike is seen as a badge of honor here. one of the senior al qaeda officials in the town agreed to talk to ghaith, but like the others, he wouldn't appear on camera. >> he told me that the biggest threat for al qaeda is not the americans, not the yemeni army, but the tribes of south yemen. they are very keen not to get into the same confrontations they had in iraq, when the tribes turned against al qaeda and drove them out of the towns and cities. >> narrator: ghaith decided it was time to go. the atmosphere had become tense and they had filmed all that they could. but as he left, his contact told him there was chance that he could come back and interview a high-ranking officer on camera. >> we were told that we might be able to interview fahd al quso. we don't know if it was him
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personally or someone close to him, but this is what our understanding was, that we will be able to interview fahd al quso. >> narrator: al quso was a plotter in the 2000 bombing of the uss cole, and a prime target for american forces. ghaith left al qaeda territory behind him and traveled to the capital of yemen: sanaa. senior us officials are increasingly concerned about yemen. they travel to the capital frequently to urge the new government and armed forces to confront al qaeda. we talked to the us ambassador about the situation. >> we consider that al qaeda present a very significant challenge.
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for the first time, we see al qaeda actually trying to hold territory, and this is a departure from anything that we had seen before in pakistan or afghanistan, in iraq, even in somalia and the horn of africa. >> narrator: but the troops that the us is relying on to defeat al qaeda are weak and divided. on this day, ghaith found soldiers openly protesting. they said their commanders were corrupt and wanted them removed from power. since the fall of president saleh, the new government has struggled to maintain control, crippled by infighting between rival politicians. >> this is responsible for why the army is suffering such big losses in the south of the country. it shows you how weak the military is basically,
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and how splitting they are along political factions. (fanfare) >> narrator: these are the latest recruits to yemen's elite security forces. they're funded in part by the united states. but instead of fighting al qaeda, they mostly defend the interests of their commander, brigadier general yahya saleh. he's the powerful nephew of the former president. saleh admits yemen's political turmoil has allowed al qaeda to grow. >> (translated): al qaeda today is not the same as al qaeda a year-and-a-half ago. they have more followers, more money, more guns. the area they control is bigger, and this is a great danger.
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(explosion) (sirens) >> narrator: last week, an al qaeda suicide bomber targeted the unit we'd filmed. hundreds were killed and wounded. al qaeda said the attack was in retaliation for government efforts to retake the southern areas under al qaeda control. >> this is a very direct message to the military institutions of yemen. it's not only to kill people, but also to send a message that we can reach you in the capital. >> narrator: ghaith waited for weeks to hear if he would be able to interview the high-ranking al qaeda official fahad al quso. but his contacts had gone quiet. then on may 6, fahad al quso was
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killed in a us drone strike. before he left yemen, ghaith took one more trip-- this time to the town of lawder, on the edge of al qaeda territory. something surprising had happened here. a year ago, the locals had chased out al qaeda after its fighters assassinated their tribal leader. >> it was the first military defeat of al qaeda. this is the army that is supported by god, fighting and being stopped by a bunch of tribesmen. >> narrator: now al qaeda wanted the town back. its fighters attacked every day.
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>> every single man was carrying a gun. if the millions of tribesmen decide collectively one day that they would like to kick out al qaeda, it will just disappear. >> narrator: there is a yemeni army base nearby, but the soldiers have abandoned the fight. holding off al qaeda is something the local tribes have to do themselves. >> every single man would go fight in the front, will spend an hour or two fighting at the frontline and come back. >> narrator: here, yemen's
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future and america's security is being defended by tribesmen one shot at a time. >> coming up next on this special edition frontline, fahd al-quso was killed before he could meet with our reporter in yemen. but 12 years ago, former fbi agent ali soufan interrogated al-quso. >> quso? how the heck quso is involved? what did we miss? >> and now talks about how ths key al qaeda operative and others fell through the cracks. >> what if that information had been shared? >> oh, my god. i think the world would be very different today. >> "the interrogator" begins right now.
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>> smith: 6:00 a.m., october 12, 2000. fbi agent ali soufan was on his way to work. >> i remember i was on the brooklyn bridge. i was driving to the office. and i got a phone call saying to come to the office fast. >> a suicide bomb attack on a u.s. navy warship... >> a ship, a navy ship, was attacked in yemen. >> smith: soufan was only 29 at the time. how soon did you go to yemen? >> same day.
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>> smith: he was badly needed. how many people in the fbi spoke arabic? >> eight, nine, something like that. >> smith: how many of them were working on al qaeda? >> i don't know. i think maybe i was the on one. >> smith: soufan was made chief investigator for the uss cole investigation, a major assignment. that's soufan there in a meeting with yemen's president, ali abdullah saleh, and fbi director louis freeh. you began the investigation. how do you begin something that? where do you start? >> you start fro scene. you start taking statements from people who were on the ship, or people in the harbor, anybody who saw something. and you start building on that. by the time he got to yemen, soan knew al qaeda as well as anyone in the fbi. and he had a special approach to his interrogations.
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>> what we did all the time in cases like these is to outsmart that individual. you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. >> smith: you compared interrogations-- interrogating somebody-- as like dating. sometimes, it is. and i tried to basically... ( laughs) ...because it's about building-- it's about building a rapport with an individual. it's about building that chemistry. it's about building a trust, a little bit. because if he's going to tell you something, he needs to have some sense of trust. >> smith: during his interrogation of an al qaeda operative named fahd al quso, a key player in the cole bombing, soufan used his knowledge and skills to get inside his subject's head. >> quso did not believe that anyone from outside the group would know so much about the group, and he was convinced at
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one point that... he told me, "i saw you in kandahar. now, i remember you." i said, "maybe." >> smith: soufan had never been to kandahar, but after just a few days, quso would take soufan deep inside the terrorist organization. >> quso provided significant information, not only about the cole itself and what happened and his knowledge about it, but he provided a lot of information about afghanistan, about the training camps, about people he met over in afghanistan. >> smith: during one session, al quso mentioned an operative named tawfiq bin attash, or khallad, a former bodyguard of osama bin laden's and one of al qaeda's top men. >> the very logical question-- when is the last time you saw khallad? and he said, "well, i saw him last time in bangkok." and, for me, what the heck this guy is doing in bangkok?
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>> smith: quso explained that khallad had asked him to deliver some cash. but soufan wondered, ial qaeda d been planning the cole attack in yemen, why would they have been moving money to bangkok? >> the amount was $36,000. many questions came to our mind. we thought maybe al qaeda was planning to do something in southeast asia. however, the very first logical step we can do is share it with the agency. >> smith: the agency, the cia. soufan hoped they could help fill in some blanks, tell him something he didn't know about khallad being in southeast asia. did you learn any more about what had gone on >> no. >> smith: soufan ran into what agents called "the wall." routinely, the justice department prohibited fbi agents doing criminal investigations from access to some types of cia intelligence. but often, definitions were unclear. at the time soufan was in yemen,
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there was a lot of confusion. >> there was misunderstanding of the attorney general guidelines of the time period that brought this interpretation that intelligence cannot be shared with people who are working on criminal investigations. we never had this problem to that extent in previous investigations. it didn't make any sense to me. >> smith: working on his own, soufan would continue to uncover more details, including the fact that, before the bangkok meeting, khallad had called quso from a phone number in malaysia. soufan wondered what khallad was doing there. so you went back to the cia. you say, "we've got this phone number..." >> yeah. >> smith: kuala lumpur. >> right. >> smith: "do you know anythin about it?" >> yeah. >> smith: and they said? >> no. >> smith: they said no. >> uh-huh. >> smith: how many times did go back to them and ask them about it? >> well, we talked abo lot on the ground, but we have a saying in the bureau-- not on paper, it doesn't exist.
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on paper, it's at leas times." >> smith: three times? >> it's a teletype that goes from the fbi to the cia. >> smith: soufan's last request was sent to the agency in july, 2001. on 9/11, soufan watched in horror from yemen. he thought the cole investigation would be put on hold, but he had no idea that his investigation had taken him to the edges of the 9/11 plot. he prepared to return to new york. >> we were at the airport, ready to go on a plane, when the person from the cia came and said to me, you know, "call your headquarters. they want to talk to you." >> smith: soufan was ordered to stay in yemen.
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he was told, "go back and talk to quso about 9/11 and that trip to south east asia." >> and it was kind of like a knife, somebody put a knife, you know, in me. i was like, "quso? how the heck quso is involved in what just happened? what did we miss? what did we just miss? we caused this." so i was sick to my stomach. so a couple of other guys volunteered to stay with us, and then we went to the embassy, and i was handed a manila envelope. >> smith: who hand manila envelope? >> the cia person on the ground. >> smith: soufan opened th envelope. after many months of having his requests for information ignored by the cia, he now had three cia surveillance photos taken at a 9/11 planning meeting in the malaysian capital, kuala lumpur.
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the cia wanted tknow if one of the men was khallad. soufan took the photo back to quso. >> and he said, "this guy looks like khallad, but he just looks like him. i'm not sure if it's him." >> smith: soufan was incensed that the agency hadn't shared their intelligence months earlier. the cia asked him to look at yet another photo. >> and basically, my answer wa "how many people need to die in order to know how many freaking photos there is out there?" so we get another photo. i mean, i didn't need to ask quso. obviously, it's khallad. we know what he looks like. this is definitely khallad attash. >> smith: khallad was linked to the 9/11 plot. from malaysia, he had flown with two of the hijackers, khalid al mihdhar and nawaf al hazmi, to bangkok. from there, mihdhar and hazmi bought tickets and flew to los angeles. >> now we know why quso delivered the money. >> smith: so you're lookin this...
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>> yeah. >> smith: ...and you're seeing al midhar with khallad, and you're told in the report that al mihdhar was on flight 77... >> yes. >> smith: ...that cras the pentagon. >> yes. >> smith: how did... how did you react? >> i... i basically ran to the bathroom and puked. >> smith: what if that information had been shared? how would it have played out? do you make... >> oh, my god, this is a "if". this is a huge "if". i think the world would different today. i'm convinced. >> smith: no 9/11? >> the world would different. >> smith: you would have put a track on mihdhar, and hazmi? >> i think we could have done many different things.
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we could have been on those guys like white on rice. >> smith: in fact, the 9/11 commission formed to investigate the 2001 attacks concluded that the failure of the cia to share informatiowith soufas team in yemen regarding khallad, al mihdhar, and al hazmi prevented a possible early detection of the 9/11 plot. so, had they simply been put on a watch list, they would have been picked up..." >> absolutely. >> smith: immigration at l.a. international. >> yep. >> smith: the cia declined frontline's request for an interview, but in a written statement said, "any suggestion that the cia purposefully refused to share critical lead information with the fbi is baseless." so why wasn't the information shared? we asked the cia's deputy legal counsel at the time if he knew of any legal reason. >> no. from what i know and what i... what i remember, there would... there would've been no legal
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impediment to sharing that information with the f.b.i. >> smith: can you shed any on why it wasn't shared? >> i don't know. as i say, there was no legal reason not to share it. >> smith: so when you read about this in the 9/11 commission report, it remains somewhat of a mystery as to what happened? >> well, i mean, i don't think... i mean, you know, these things, you know, regrettably but inevitably happen sometimes. there was... there was a breakdown of communication, if that's what it was. or someone on our side thought they had passed it, or the fbi had it. but, you know, in my long agency career, you know, these... these kind of slip-ups or glitches occur. there's no ill intent on... on either side. but they, you know, unfortunaty do happen. >> smith: after 9/11, bin laden
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was able to escape, and crossed from afghanistan to pakistan. his trail went cold. but a few months later, a shootout at this safe house in faisalabad, pakistan. the man taken into custody was believed to be the highest level al qaeda figure ever arrested-- zayn al-abidin muhammad husayn, otherwise known as abu zubaydah. zubaydah quickly revealed critical information, including identifying the mastermind of the 9/11 plot, khalid sheik mohammed. soufan called a supervisor. >> we did not know that khalid sheikh mohammed was a member of al qaeda. and immediately after that, i contacted my asac in new york, and he was totally shocked. he said, "but he's not a member of al qaeda, khalid sheikh mohammed." i said, "well, think again."
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smith: abu zubaydah also told soufan about an active plot which led to the arrest of an al qaeda figure named jose padilla in chicago. but the cia believed abu zubaydah knew much more, so they brought in a special contractor, a retired air force psychologist. although he has been publicly identified since, his name is still technically classified. his real name is mit >> i don't... >> smith: you cannot confirm i >> i cannot confirm or deny the individual's name shape or form. so i describe him in boris. >> smith: and so boris arrives. tell me. tell me the story. >> boris arrives, and we believed we were getting some headway with abu zubaydah. but he has different opinion about how to handle this interrogation. >> smith: so there was a lot of tension between you and this contractor... this psychologist. >> yeah, absolutely. there was a tension between all
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of us and him. you know, absolutely. and i was really frustrated, because i think that this is not going to lead us anywhere. i mean, this guy admitted that he doesn't know an islamic extremists. and here he is trying to call the shots on one of the most important programs, at the time, in the nation's history. >> smith: did you confront him? >> yes, absolutely. we talked about it. we talked about the techniques, and i think he just thought that i was arrogant. and, you know, it was mutual-- i thought he was arrogant, too, so... >> smith: how ma interrogations had you done, up to that point, of al qaeda detainees? >> oh, many. oh, my god. i mean, i... guantanamo, the cole, bin laden case. i don't know, dozens. >> smith: how many had he done? >> zero. >> smith: with soufan standing by, boris started to experiment with sleep deprivation and low temperatures. after he complained to headquarters, the fbi ordered soufan home.
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but boris continued. by august, the justice department approved techniques that were even harsher. now they could include slapping, now they could include slapping, shoving, stress positions and confinement boxes with insects. was any actionable intelligence or any valuable intelligence gained after boris arrived? >> no, we never get any actionable intelligence or any significant intelligence, comparatively to what we got before, when his technique going on. >> smith: and why weren't being listened to? >> i don't know. >> smith: eventually, three men were subjected to water- boarding-- abu zubaydah, khalid sheikh mohammed, and abd al rahim al nashiri. >> they hit the glass ceiling with water-boarding. so what do you do? you do it again and again and again: with abu zubaydah, 83 times; with khalid sheikh mohammed, 183 times. when you repeat a tactic on an individual 183 times, do you think the technique is working? because if it's working, you don't need to do it 183 times.
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this is just logic. >> smith: the cia claims it did work. >> it was a good, good program. it was well run, it was carefully run. >> smith: good intelligence was derived? >> valuable intelligence was derived. i don't think there's any dispute about that. slowly, details of the military and cia interrogation programs akednto bliciew. by 2004, the cia had completed an internal review of its program. >> the cia inspector general concluded that we cannot verify that one-- not one single, imminent threat-- was stopped because of these techniques. that's very significant. >> smith: ali soufan says that not one piece of actionable intelligence was produced by the application of enhanced interrogation techniques. >> yes, well... i mean no disrespect to mr. soufan, but there was a lot of information
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derived-- from k.s.m., from abu zubaydah, from the other detainees who were subjected these techniques. again, whether that intelligence could've been derived without these techniques, i do not know. and to this day, i think it's unknowable. i believe strongly that that would not have happened, because we're talking about the most... the most hardened, the most determined, and the most knowledgeable of leaders. >> i simply can't accept that they would have succumbed to a normal question-and-answer period to provide the information they provided. >> from my experience, i strongly believe that it is a mistake to use what has become known as enhanced interrogation techniques. >> smith: soufan left the fbi in 2005, but didn't speak out
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until four years later. he appeared, his identity hidden behind a screen, before a senate committee investigating how and why the bush white house approved the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. >> these techniques from an operational perspective are slow, ineffective, unreliable, and harmful to our efforts to defeat al qaeda. >> smith: at one point, he alluded to the case of ibn al-shaykh al-libi. >> we don't know whether the detainee is being truthful or just speaking to mitigate his discomfort. >> smith: al-libi was an al qaeda military instructor. en he s pturedn pakistan in 2001, he cooperated at first with fbi interrogators, but with white house permission, the cia flew him to egypt for tougher questioning. the testimony extracted from al- libi would quickly rise to the highest levels of the bush administration. >> i wasn't involved in this interrogation. >> smith: but you're heavily critical of it? >> absolutely. i heard about a lot of the things. some of the stuff that i heard
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about is still classified, some of the things we can talk about. ibn sheikh al-libi, after real macho interrogation-- this is enhanced interrogation techniques on steroids. he admitted that al qaeda and saddam were working together. he admitted that al qaeda and saddam were working together on wmds. that information was given as evidence to secretary powell, and colin powell went to the u.n. everybody remembers that speech. >> i can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how iraq provided training in these weapons to al qaeda. after we went to iraq, after we found out that there is no wmds, after we found out that al qaeda and saddam were not working together, they went back to ibn sheikh al-libi-- and this is all according to the armed services
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committee-- and they asked him, "why did you lie?" he said, "well, i gave you what you want to hear. >> smith: he complied. >> absolutely. >> "i want the torture to stop. i gave you anything you want t hear." >> smith: but the consequences of that... >> tragic, absolutely. the rld is different. look at all the blood that we lost in iraq. look about how the iraq war helped al qaeda, both with recruits and financially. a lot of people are uncomfortable with enhanced interrogation techniques. >> would you have been in favor of it, if you'd known that it was working? you'd known that >> if it was saving lives? i don't believe... look, if it was saving lives and i saw it saving lives, i hate to tell you and probably i will be attacked, but yes, maybe. >> smith: yes, maybe? >> yeah. it's very hard.
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but if somebody in doj is telling me this is legal and saving lives in the united states or abroad, i think... i think, yeah, maybe. again, yeah, maybe. because i know for a fact it didn't. >> ofrontline... in 2004, dave iverson received the same diagnosis as his father and his brother before him. >> parkinson's arrives without fanfare. >> this is his journey. through the medical breakthroughs... >> stem cells have the potential to heal and cure so many. >> ...and the ethical debates. >> all of this cheapens human life and our respect for it. >> we'll just have to fight this together. >> watcfrontline. >> frontline continues online.
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explore our interactive map of the escalating drone war in yemen. read more about ghaith abdul-ahad's journey. >> they're shooting at the demonstrators. >> hear from experts about yemen's growing humanitarian crises. plus, go inside the interrogation room with ali soufan. >> it's about building a rapport. >> and read our extended interviews with soufan and john rizzo. and follfrontline on facebook and twitter, or at >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major funding is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. and by reva and david logan, committed to investigative journalism as the guardian of
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the public ierest. additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critil issues. and by tfrontline journalism fund, supporting investigative reporting and enterprise journalism. >> for more on this and other frontline programs, visit our web site at >> frontline's "al qaeda in yemen" is available on dvd. to order, visit, or call 1-800-play-pbs.
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