News Release

Omar Suleiman, “Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief,” Tied to False Iraq WMD Tortured “Intel”

Laura Rosen of Politico writes that “the United States supports talks on an orderly transition being led by Egyptian Vice President Gen. Omar Suleiman,” who was recently appointed vice president by Hosni Mubarak.

KATHERINE HAWKINS
A human rights lawyer, Hawkins has been a researcher for Jane Mayer, author of The Dark Side and the new piece “Who is Omar Suleiman?” in The New Yorker Mayer writes: “Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the CIA’s point man in Egypt for renditions — the covert program in which the CIA snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.” See Hawkins’ Twitter feed for background and regular updates: twitter.com/KHawkins5

Mayer added to her piece: “Katherine Hawkins, a sharp-eyed human-rights lawyer who did legal research for my book, points out that, according to [author Ron] Suskind, Suleiman was the CIA’s liaison for the rendition of an Al Qaeda suspect known as Ibn Sheikh al-Libi. The Libi case is particularly controversial, in large part because it played a role in the building of the case for the American invasion of Iraq.”

Hawkins wrote “The Promises of Torturers: Diplomatic Assurances and the Legality of Rendition.” Also, see some of her recent updates.

LISA HAJJAR
Hajjar is a professor in the sociology department at the University of California-Santa Barbara and a co-editor at the new journal Jadaliyya, where she recently wrote the piece “Omar Suleiman, the CIA’s Man in Cairo and Egypt’s Torturer-in-Chief.”

The piece states: “At least one person extraordinarily rendered by the CIA to Egypt — Egyptian-born Australian citizen Mamdouh Habib — was tortured by Suleiman himself. … A far more infamous torture case, in which Suleiman also is directly implicated, is that of Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi. Unlike Habib, who was innocent of any ties to terror or militancy, al-Libi allegedly was a trainer at al-Khaldan camp in Afghanistan. He was captured by the Pakistanis while fleeing across the border in November 2001. He was sent to Bagram, and questioned by the FBI. But the CIA wanted to take over, which they did, and he was transported to a black site on the USS Bataan in the Arabian Sea, then extraordinarily rendered to Egypt. Under torture there, al-Libi ‘confessed’ knowledge about an al-Qaeda — Saddam connection, claiming that two al-Qaeda operatives had received training in Iraq for use in chemical and biological weapons. In early 2003, this was exactly the kind of information that the Bush administration was seeking to justify attacking Iraq and to persuade reluctant allies to go along. Indeed, al-Libi’s ‘confession’ was one the central pieces of ‘evidence’ presented at the United Nations by then-Secretary of State Colin Powell to make the case for war. As it turns out, though, that ‘confession’ was a lie tortured out of him by Egyptians. …

“According to Evan Kohlmann, who enjoys favored status as an ‘al-Qaeda expert’ among U.S. officials, citing a classified source: ‘Al-Libi’s death coincided with the first visit by Egypt’s spymaster Omar Suleiman to Tripoli.’ Kohlmann surmises and opines that after al-Libi recounted his story about an al-Qaeda-Saddam WMD connection, ‘The Egyptians were embarrassed by this admission, and the Bush government found itself in hot water internationally. Then, in May 2009, Omar Suleiman saw an opportunity to get even with al-Libi and traveled to Tripoli. By the time Omar Suleiman’s plane left Tripoli, Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi had committed “suicide.”‘”

Background: See Hossam Bahgat, founder and executive director of the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. Interviewed on Democracy Now on Monday, he highlighted critical information about Suleiman, including information gleaned via WikiLeaks. Bahgat noted that until 2007, Egyptians didn’t know who Omar Suleiman was “because up until then, he was not a public persona. We did not know who the head of our intelligence service was.”

Col. Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, wrote after al-Libi’s “suicide” in 2009: “What I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002 — well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion — its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qaeda.

“So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee ‘was compliant’ (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office [Cheney] ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qaeda-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, ‘revealed’ such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

“There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just ‘committed suicide’ in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)”

See video of Colin Powell denying any knowledge of the al-Libi case at Washington Stakeout on May 25, 2009 [questioning by Sam Husseini]

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167