ISN Security Watch
28 November 2006
Rendition detainee surfaces in Israel
The recent discovery of a Pakistani-Jordanian detainee in an Israeli jail has exposed that country's involvement in the CIA renditions program and is a sign of close cooperation between US and regional intelligence agencies.
By Dominic Moran in Tel Aviv for ISN Security Watch (28/11/06)
Marwan Ibrahim Ali Jabur had been detained for over two years when he was discovered by Israeli lawyer Nizar Mahajna in a chance encounter in Kishon prison near Haifa.
Jabur's experiences, as recounted to ISN Security Watch by his lawyers, Mahajna and Maher Talhami, provide circumstantial evidence for some of an intricate web of intelligence relationships that lie at the heart of the CIA renditions program.
His is the first instance in which a militant suspect with no links to Hizbollah or Palestinian groups has been discovered in Israeli custody.
Jabur was born in the Jordanian capital Amman on 15 October 1976. His parents, Palestinian refugees from the Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis, took their son to Saudi Arabia when he was two years old. When he was 19, he says he traveled to Pakistan to study computer engineering.
According to Talhami, Jabur underwent a religious awakening after two friends died in a car accident and a doctor told him he had a fatal disease.
Jabur decided to become a "jihadi" volunteer in the Chechnya war in 1996 but was told by a Pakistani mosque contact, "that the Chechen jihad will not take anyone who hasn't had [military] training," Talhami said.
"And he [the mosque contact] said 'You can go to Afghanistan to train.' So he went there and he trained for three months with a pistol and rifle. It was a military camp for foreigners," Talhami said
Jabur told Talhami that the Chechen insurgency stopped taking Arab recruits so he returned to his studies, marrying a Pakistani woman with whom he had three children.
His opportunity to participate in jihad came with the US-led invasion of Afghanistan. According to Jabur, he traveled to Afghanistan independently and was not affiliated with any organization. Once there he found that he could not fight because "there were no soldiers, there was just bombing all the time so we had to retreat."
"So he didn't fight and he went back to Pakistan," Talhami said. "After that a friend that he had met there was wounded [â¦] and he [the friend] sat [stayed] in his [Jabur's] house. And then he began to help other wounded who were coming from Afghanistan and he did that until he was arrested," by Pakistani security forces in Lahore on 9 May 2004.
It appears that Jabur maintained relatively extensive contacts with fellow Islamic radicals in Pakistan and encountered at least one prominent militant leader: "I met him because we needed funds to help the people. I didn't know who he really was," Jabur said through his attorney.
Allegations of torture
Jabur alleges that he was severely tortured in Pakistani military custody.
"They were beating him with sticks," Talhami said. "While beating him they just tore off all his clothes dragged him and tied his legs and tied his hands to the ceiling [â¦] And then they got a rubber band and they tied his penis so he couldn't pee for three days.
"The one who was interrogating him had this kind of iron that boils water so he just burnt him on his left arm and on his left leg â I saw the signs," Talhami said.
He suffered "electric shocks to the elbows and he showed me scars that were on his back," Mahajna confirmed.
According to his account, Jabur was transferred after 15 days to a US-run detention facility in the city of Islamabad.
"There were these Pakistani guards who used to beat him up, take him from place-to-place, but the investigators were all Americans," Talhami said. "And they didn't let him sleep for about seven days. They would interrogate him for an hour and tie him to the ceiling again."
Upon his release from solitary confinement Jabur was placed in a cell block with militant detainees from Algeria, Yemen, Jordan and Egypt.
After one month and ten days in Islamabad, Jabur said he received an injection that caused him to lose consciousness repeatedly one and was taken by military airplane to a second facility â he has no idea where. Jabur said that he noticed US personnel on the flight and only US nationals in the new facility.
Through his account, Jabur's attorneys believe he was transported either to Guantanamo Bay or to one of several alleged CIA "ghost prisons" in a third country.
Human rights groups claim that a network of secret prisons has been established in US-allied countries - including Romania, Poland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Morocco and Jordan - which have been used to interrogate suspected Islamic radicals without proper human rights oversight.
It is believed that the Eastern European prisons were closed in advance of a critical report on the renditions system by Swiss Senator Dick Marty for the Council of Europe. In his June report, Marty alleged that 14 European countries had been involved in facilitating rendition flights and indirectly accused Romania and Poland of operating secret prisons.
Foreign jails were allegedly used to allow the use of interrogation techniques that are illegal in the US and characterized as torture by critics of the program.
Alleged reference to 11 September
Following intensive interrogation sessions in the second facility, Jabur's attorneys said he was tied while naked to a hook in a wall in painful positions for prolonged periods. According to him, the cell in which he was held in solitary confinement for around six months was only furnished with speakers, used by his investigators for punishment, and a bucket that he used as the toilet.
"The most interesting thing that he told me was that there was this sound from outside the cell that was like [simulates aircraft engine noise] all the time," Talhami said.
"One time he said to the investigator, 'Why don't you stop this noise, it is killing me?' And the investigator said, 'Oh no, we want this noise to be stamped into your mind so that whenever you see or hear an airplane you will remember why you are here.' So he figured that he meant September 11," Talhami said.
After the initial months of interrogation, in which he was asked incessantly about minor details of his contacts with fellow militants, conditions improved. . He was allowed to read books, decorate his room, play chess and watch a weekly movie.
After over two years in custody Jabur says he was again drugged and transferred to Jordan on a private plane on 31 July 2006.
The CIA has allegedly used front companies and flight subcontractors for detainee transport. Employees of one such company, Jeppeson Corporation, recently admitted to conducting over 150 "spook flights" on behalf of the CIA.
When asked about Jabur's case and the renditions program, a CIA spokesperson who identified herself only as "Michelle" told ISN Security Watch, "Anything to do with renditions we have not commented upon ever in the media [â¦] Gitmo is a military operation, you'd have to call DoD [the US Department of Defense], it is not run by us."
Jabur said that the interrogations continued in Jordan but he was allowed access to the Red Cross and family visits.
It is unclear why the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID) would be interested in Jabur. His short stay in the country indicated that they found nothing to tie him to domestic Islamic radicals or to al-Qaida in Iraq, which claimed responsibility for the 9 November 2005 hotel bombings in Amman.
The GID and Israel's Shin Bet have quietly established strong ties in recent years, which preceded and were significantly strengthened by the 1994 peace treaty between the two countries.
Jabur's attorneys said the sensitivity of open Israeli-Jordanian intelligence cooperation and Israeli involvement in the renditions network were demonstrated during his handover to the Shin Bet on 18 September.
According to Talhami, "They [Jordanian intelligence] released him from the cuffs, they said, 'Here's the bus, go home.' He said, 'I'm not going to go there [Israel], you're not going to trick me. They're going to arrest me for me trying to get there [without papers] [â¦] If you want to give me over to Israel you are going to have to do this by yourselves.'"
"So they got him into this garage and then they cuffed him again and blindfolded him again and then they crossed the bridge. And on the other side was the Israeli GSS [Shin Bet]" Talhami said. "The first sentence that the Israelis said to him was 'Welcome bin Laden,'" Jabur's attorney said.
According to Israeli court papers shown to ISN Security Watch, Jabur was detained on suspicion of "involvement in military activities against Israeli targets."
Mahajna believes, "They [Shin Bet] were afraid that he will be the foundation stone for an organization that will belong to the al-Qaida movement." These concerns apparently allayed, Jabur was released to his sister's family in the Gaza Strip on 6 November.
UK civil liberties organization Statewatch has provided information regarding four alleged CIA renditions flights passing through Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport in 2003 and 2004, en route to or traveling from Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco (via Cyprus), Armenia and Greece.
However, until the discovery of Jabur there was no evidence that the Shin Bet was actively involved in the CIA renditions network.
It is still unclear why Jabur ended up in Israeli custody. His attorneys speculate that he may have been transferred as part of a CIA strategy to disperse of detainees as pressure built in the US over the controversial Guantanamo Bay prison camp.
Given that any information he could have provided was out of date, it may have been that the CIA and Pakistan were looking to rid themselves of Jabur through a staged transfer to the relative confinement of the Gaza Strip.
With the embarrassment caused by his chance discovery in Kishon prison, it appears unlikely that Israel would wish to play a more prominent role in the CIA renditions program, though this cannot be discounted.
The CIA recently acknowledged the existence of two confidential documents which, given reports of their imminent release, will provide important insights on the establishment of the CIA renditions network.
The documents, a directive signed by US President George W Bush shortly after the September 2001 attacks giving the CIA authority to establish covert prisons, and a US Justice Department memorandum, are both understood to provide legal guidelines to the CIA concerning permissible interrogation techniques.
The incoming Democratic chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, has vowed to pursue 65 official information requests on the renditions system that have been ignored or stymied by the Justice Department and other agencies.
It remains to be seen how much political damage resultant revelations will cause the Bush administration. The light these will shed on the alleged abuses of the renditions system may precipitate the overt network's initial attenuation and eventual collapse.
Dr Dominic Moran is ISN Security Watch's senior correspondent in the Middle East
This revelation couldn't have come at a worse time could it?