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U.S. Supreme Court to hear Guantanamo detainee interrogation case

PoliticsApr 26, 2021 11:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. Morning rises over the U.S. Supreme Court building in Washington 2/2

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear the U.S. government's bid to prevent two former CIA contractors from being questioned in a criminal investigation in Poland over their role in interrogating a suspected high-ranking al Qaeda figure who was repeatedly subjected to waterboarding.

The justices will take up the government's appeal of a lower court ruling that Central Intelligence Agency contractors James Elmer Mitchell and John Bruce Jessen could be subpoenaed under a U.S. law that allows federal courts to enforce a request for testimony or other evidence for a foreign legal proceeding.

The case centers on Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian man who was captured in 2002 Pakistan and has been held by the United States since then without charges, spending the past nearly 15 years as a detainee at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Zubaydah, who is now 50, lost an eye and underwent waterboarding - a form of simulated drowning that is widely considered torture - 83 times in a single month while held by the CIA, according to U.S. government documents. He was "an associate and longtime terrorist ally of Osama bin Laden," the leader of the al Qaeda Islamist militant group killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in 2011, a Justice Department filing said.

Zubaydah's lawyers want Mitchell and Jessen to testify and provide documents in a criminal investigation in Poland, which is believed to be the location of a CIA "dark site" where the agency used harsh interrogation techniques against Zubaydah.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in 2019 that Mitchell and Jessen could be subpoenaed. Mitchell and Jessen previously were questioned in other litigation about their roles in the interrogation program.

The U.S. government has disclosed that Zubaydah was held overseas and was interrogated using "enhanced interrogation techniques" but has not revealed the location of the sites, citing national security concerns. In 2015, the European Court on Human Rights determined that Zubaydah was held in Poland in 2002 and 2003.

Details of CIA activities were confirmed in a 2014 U.S. Senate report that concluded that the interrogation techniques were more brutal than originally disclosed. The report found that the CIA had misled the White House and public about its torture of detainees after al Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. The report concluded that not a single terrorist attack was foiled as a result of the interrogations.

The U.S. government has asserted what is known as the "state-secrets privilege" to prevent the contractors from being questioned, saying it would risk national security.

The 9th Circuit overturned a Washington state-based federal judge's ruling in favor of the government after Zubaydah's lawyers filed a lawsuit in 2017 seeking Mitchell and Jessen's testimony.

Following the 2001 attacks, the United States rounded up and detained without charges hundreds of suspected "enemy combatants" overseas, many of whom were then transferred to a detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. Zubaydah is one of 40 remaining detainees, according to the Pentagon.

The court will hear oral arguments and issue a ruling in its next term, which starts in October and ends in June 2022.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear Guantanamo detainee interrogation case
 

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Comments (4)
ben sc
ben sc Apr 26, 2021 6:46PM ET
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This court will show its true colors and side with CIA, guaranteed.
juan san
juan san Apr 26, 2021 12:46PM ET
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4 headlines regarding the Supreme Court by Reuters today, all on the frontpage of this investing website. The DNC give marching orders to push Supreme Court propaganda on the sheep because they want to pack the court?
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 26, 2021 10:29AM ET
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Cry me a river. See what other countries do to people they dont like. Look at what China does to Uighurs first n Tibetian second. How about Myanmar? Should i go on?
Joel Hauser
Joel Hauser Apr 26, 2021 10:29AM ET
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The point is we act holier than thou and dictate other nations.There are still 150k afghanis and more than 250k iraqi blood on our hands,that's from just the last 15 years.But please do go on and on.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 26, 2021 10:29AM ET
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Joel Hauser maybe ur hands but not my hand. I dont act holier nor dictate any. Only the media or politicians do that.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi Apr 26, 2021 10:29AM ET
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so as long as US kills and tortures less people than China or Russia you are OK with anything the US govt does?  i think it's time to have your moral compass recheck
danny Levine
danny Levine Apr 26, 2021 10:17AM ET
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Sadly CIA will never be held accountable. True enemy of humanity
 
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