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Senate Report on CIA Torture

"Dirty Bomb"/"Tall Buildings" Plots

U.S. citizen Jose Padilla (pictured) and his associate Binyam Mohammed developed the “Dirty Bomb” plot using information “derived from what the CIA described as ‘a satirical internet article’ entitled ‘How to Make an H-bomb,’ [they read] on a computer at a Pakistani safe house in early 2002.” The article provided instructions for enriching uranium “by placing it in a bucket, attaching it to a six foot rope, and swinging it around your head as fast as possible for 45 minutes.” Padilla and Mohammed approached Abu Zubaydah and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) with the idea to use this “dirty bomb” in the United States. However “neither … believed the plan was viable.” KSM instead “provided funding for, and tasked Padilla to conduct, an operation using natural gas to create explosions in tall buildings in the United States,” known as the “Tall Buildings” plot.

A March 2, 2005 CIA memorandum to the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), entitled “Effectiveness of the CIA Counterterrorist Interrogation Techniques,” discusses “the disruption of the ‘Dirty Bomb,’ and/or the ‘Tall Buildings’ plot, as examples of how ‘[k]ey intelligence collected from HVD (High Value Detainee) interrogations after applying interrogations techniques’ had ‘enabled [the] CIA to disrupt terrorist plots.’” This information is also included in CIA talking points from March 10, 2005, “as well as multiple other CIA briefing records and memoranda.” Additionally, a CIA document prepared for Vice President Cheney for a March 8, 2005 meeting of National Security Council principals briefly describes the “Dirty Bomb” plot, notes “Plot disrupted,” and states, “Source: Abu Zubaydah.” Furthermore, a 2007 OLC memorandum states that “interrogations of Zubaydah—again, once enhanced techniques were employed – revealed two al-Qaeda operatives already in the United States and planning to destroy a high rise apartment building and to detonate a radiological bomb in Washington, D.C.”

Despite all of these claims, “a review of CIA operational cables and other CIA records found that the use of the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques played no role in the identification of ‘Jose Padilla’ or the thwarting of the Dirty Bomb or Tall Buildings plotting.” Rather, “there was significant intelligence in CIA databases acquired prior to - and independently of - the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program to fully identify Jose Padilla as a terrorist threat and to disrupt any terrorist plotting associated with him." Pakistani officials provided information on Jose Padilla to the CIA on April 11, 2002 and on Binyam Muhammad (at the time known as “Faouad Zouaoui”) on April 12, 2002. Padilla “was located and unknowingly escorted back to the United States by an FBI special agent on May 8, 2002.” He was “interviewed and taken into FBI custody” three months before the CIA began interrogating Zubaydah.

Abu Zubaydah did provide information about the “Dirty Bomb” plot, but he provided this to “FBI special agents who were exclusively using rapport-building interrogation techniques.” Zubaydah discussed the plot but said he “did not know the true names of the two individuals” involved, providing physical descriptions only. In 2002, the chief of the CIA’s Abu Zubaydah Task Force wrote to the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center Legal division (CTC Legal) that “[Zubaydah’s] info alone would never have allowed us to find [Jose Padilla and Binyam Mohammed].” The chief also “sought to correct inaccurate CIA representations” on the effectiveness of enhanced interrogation techniques against Zubaydah to elicit information on the “Dirty Bomb” plot.