Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, allegedly involved in the USS Cole bombing, was the subject of harsh interrogations.
Ex-CIA officer accused of prisoner abuse rehired as a trainer
WASHINGTON — A former CIA officer accused of revving an electric drill near the head of an imprisoned terror suspect has returned to US intelligence as a contractor training CIA operatives, the Associated Press has learned.
The CIA officer wielded the drill, which was bitless, and an unloaded handgun — unauthorized interrogation techniques — to menace suspected USS Cole bombing plotter Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri inside a secret CIA prison in Poland in late 2002 and early 2003, according to several former intelligence officials and a review by the CIA’s inspector general.
Adding details to the public portions of the review, the former officials identified the officer as Albert, 60, a former FBI agent of Egyptian descent who worked as a bureau translator in New York before joining the CIA. The former officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because many details of the incident remain classified.
Both Albert and his CIA supervisor at the time, a second official known as Mike, were reprimanded for their involvement in the incident, the former officials said. The AP is withholding the last names of the two men at the request of US officials for safety reasons.
Human rights activists say the men’s actions were emblematic of harsh treatment and oversight problems in the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, amounting to torture that should have been prosecuted. They also say Albert’s return as a contractor raises questions about how the intelligence community deals with those who used unauthorized interrogation methods.
“The notion that an individual involved in one of the more notorious episodes of the CIA’s interrogation program is still employed directly or indirectly by the US government is scandalous,’’ said Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Federal prosecutor John Durham is looking at the case — the third time federal authorities have examined it for possible charges. Now held at Guantanamo Bay prison, Nashiri faces possible terror charges either before a US military commission or in a civilian court. The outcome of Durham’s investigation could influence Nashiri’s case, possibly determining whether the detainee was tortured.
Nancy Hollander, Nashiri’s lawyer, said torture would be a mitigating factor if Nashiri ever faced a possible death sentence.
After leaving the CIA, Albert returned at some point as a contractor, training CIA officers at a facility in northern Virginia to handle different scenarios they might face in the field, according to former officials. Albert has not been involved in training CIA employees for at least two years, but a current US official says he continues to work as an intelligence contractor.
It’s not clear when Albert left the agency and became an intelligence contractor.
His former supervisor, Mike, 56, retired from the CIA in 2003 and now teaches and works in the private sector. Mike declined to comment.
The events in Poland were outlined in the CIA inspector general’s special review of the agency’s detention and interrogation program, parts of which were declassified last year. But a full accounting of what happened to Nashiri at the so-called black site and who was involved has never been made public.
The CIA used secret prisons scattered around the world, from Thailand to Poland, where detainees were questioned and subjected to the simulated drowning technique of waterboarding and other harsh methods.
President George W. Bush closed the black sites in 2006, but the government has yet to divulge the full history of the secret program.
Nashiri was captured in Dubai in November 2002 and was taken to another CIA secret prison in Afghanistan known as the Salt Pit — a facility that figures in a separate Durham prosecution in a detainee death in 2002.
Nashiri was flown to still another secret CIA prison in Thailand, where he stayed briefly, then taken to the Poland prison on Dec. 5, 2002, just days after that facility was opened.
In Poland, Nashiri was subjected to a series of enhanced interrogation techniques, including some not authorized by Justice Department guidelines.
There were heated arguments at CIA headquarters about Nashiri’s treatment, according to a former CIA official. Some CIA officers felt Nashiri was “compliant’’ after two weeks of tough questioning, and additional rough treatment was unnecessary. But others thought he was withholding information, and Albert was sent to Poland, according to the special review.