by Emily Grandcolas
11/4/19 – 11/5/19 Closed Session
11/6/19 -11/8/19 Open Session
Court started on Wednesday for the Victim Family Members and NGOs. Monday and Tuesday were held in closed session due to the discussion of classified materials. Wednesday began with Clayton Trivett’s direct examination of FBI Special Agent Michael Butsch for the prosecution. The rest of the week would focus on this one witness’s testimony.
Special Agent Butsch, who joined the FBI in 1997, began his testimony by outlining how he had come to be involved in the “Pentbomb” team, which investigated the 9/11 attacks. He continued to his 2002 questioning of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who’s name had surfaced early as a suspect. Following the Tariq Road raid on September 11th 2002, Butsch had flown to Karachi, Pakistan to question Ramzi who had been captured in the raid. It was on the tarmac in Karachi, Butsch testified, that the hood covering Ramzi’s head was pulled back and a light directed into his face so Butsch could identify him. In late September, Butsch and agent Ali Soufan (author of The Black Banners) interrogated Ramzi while other agents waited outside.
Butsch’s 2002 Interview:
Ramzi claimed he knew that Butsch was asking him questions to get a statement out of him that could be used without the use of torture. At the end of the first day of interviews Ramzi wasn’t sure he wanted to continue speaking with the FBI, but he did want them to improve the conditions he was being held under.
At a certain point Ramzi said he would talk about himself, but not others and declined to answer a few specific questions. The FBI tried to tempt Ramzi into talking by telling him that the information he shared would be made public and he could help people understand what he did and why he did it.
Ramzi said that Al Qaida was in a war against Jews, Christians and the USA. Bin Laden issued warnings to the USA to leave the gulf region, and to stop the USA’s support of Israel. In 1996 Bin Laden sent a declaration of war. In 1998 he issued a fatawa on American civilians. It was a war of cultures, not just the occupied vs. the occupier, Ramzi claimed. Ramzi said that jihad was the 3rd highest obligation of a Muslim. Those not partaking, were committing sin.
On January 11th and 12th, 2007 Butsch would interrogate Ramzi again, this time, in Guantanamo Bay. It was not Butsch’s first time in Guantanamo, he had been there twice before.
In James Connell’s cross (starting on Wednesday and carrying on into Thursday) he questioned how the FBI got its information. Connell was out to establish an information loop between the CIA and the FBI, proving that the information the “clean” team used could not have been “clean”. Butsch admitted that several pieces of evidence, such as Ramzi’s Iranian visa and a Ramadan video he had used while interrogating Ramzi had been procured from a database shared by the CIA. Butsch had also visited a “Location Five” which was a black site where Ramzi was being held by the CIA. At this site, Butsch was able to watch from a viewing room as Ramzi was interrogated. He admitted that while he was there during the day and saw no torture he had no idea what was happening at night.
Connell: “Upon arrival at Location Five, you checked into the hotel and met with people who gave you information?“
Butsch: “I do not recall.”
Connell: “They gave you instructions?”
Butsch: “I am not recalling.”
Connell: “Then you went to specific location within Location Five with another person? You met additional people at the building and you and the person you were with provided that information to the people who worked in the building?”
Connell: “On a subsequent day it was made clear that Ramzi was in the building. At some point you were allowed to watch Ramzi be debriefed?
Connell: “You were located in an observation room?”
After a few more of Connell’s questions the prosecution jumped in with a deal. The government agreed to provide Ali Soufan as a witness for Connell to ditch the remaining fifteen pages of questions he had for Butsch.
On Thursday James Harrington, Ramzi’s learned council, poked into Busch’s training, how he conducted himself during his interrogations of Ramzi and his cultural knowledge. It seemed that Harrington was trying to establish that the FBI knew Ramzi was agitated from apparent mistreatment.
Harrington peppered Butsch with questions:
Harrington: “Were you trained that is was ok to lie to somebody?”
Butsch: “It is a technique that can be used.”
Harrington: “Have you used this approach?”
Butsch: “I do not recall.”
Harrington: “Did you use this with Ramzi?”
Harrington: Did you have any cultural training? How long did you hold him for questioning? (Longer than the normal, federally approved amount). Did you know anything about the vibrations and noises Ramzi reported having? (No). Did you know Ramzi was on a mix of Ativan, Haldol and Benadryl? (No). That he was involuntarily injected with psychotropic injections? (No). What Muslim religious rules did you know of? That women must cover their heads? Did you know that Ramzi’s beard and hair had been forcibly shaved? (No). Do you know what that means to a Muslim man? How did Ramzi appear to you? Did you know he had been acting agitated? (No).
Harrington: “Do you know what traumatization is?”
Both Harrington and Connell zeroed in on Butsch’s claim that at the beginning of his 2002 interrogation with Ramzi he explained to him that he was now in the FBI’s hands and would not return to any other agency. Both Connell and Harrington questioned this action. Why was it so important that Ramzi know he would not return to CIA custody? The obvious answer being that he was tortured in the hands of the CIA and the FBI was trying to create a clear delineation between their questioning and the CIA’s. Butsch’s actions could also mean that he was aware that the CIA was using enhanced interrogation techniques. During this questioning Butsch claimed he was NOT aware of enhanced interrogation techniques used on Ramzi by any other agency. Butsch claimed that Ramzi never complained about the time he spent in the CIA’s custody or spoke about being in pain.
Harrington asked special agent Butsch if he was trained to give Miranda rights. He asked if Ramzi’s consulate was notified that he was in their custody in the appropriate time frame. Harrington seemed to be attempting to outline a pattern of behavior that was outside of standard operating procedure for the FBI.
Butsch was pressed further about the black sites. He was asked what made a site “black”. Butsch claimed the distinction was in the nature of the interrogation techniques used and outside agencies would not be allowed at a black site. He didn’t think that Location Five was a black site because he, FBI, was allowed in. At Location Five he did not witness enhanced interrogation being applied. However, he did not know what happened in the building at night when he was not there.
POINTS OF INTEREST
- On Thursday Ramzi’s council approached the bench informing the judge that Ramzi was threatening to go pro se if he did not get a full-body MRI scan. Ramzi is now convinced that the vibrations, sounds and sensations he is experiencing are due to an implant he claims the CIA put in his body and he want a scan to prove it. The judge agrees to hear the request ex parte later that day.
- On Thursday the judge canceled Friday’s questioning of the camp seven commander.
- In a surprising move, the prosecution said they would not use the individual FBI statements against anyone other than the man who had made the statement. Any statements that had been made while in CIA custody would not be used at all. The judge, surprised, asked the Prosecution if they knew what this meant and if they wanted a minute to discuss. Prosecution flew into a huddle and the judge called for a break. When we returned to the court, the government casually claimed that this had always been their position. Everyone was stunned.
- William Montrose, one of Walid bin ‘Attash’s attorneys, asked the judge to compel testimony from Pentagon lawyer Jason Foster and Military Commission Overseer Christian L. Reismeier
- Harrington committed Ramzi’s treatment to record when he asked Butsch if he knew that Ramzi had been subjected to constant periods of prolonged light, constant periods of prolonged darkness, loud music, nudity, had been threatened and water doused.
- During the prosecution’s direct examination, a fuller picture of Ramzi’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks, and his actions leading up to the attacks, was formed. Ramzi was part of the Hamburg Cell in Germany, along with three others. While the other men, with Ramzi’s help, were able to get into flight schools in the US, Ramzi was denied visas multiple times. The Florida flight school he applied to accepted him, but the US government continued to deny his request for a visa.
The drugs Ramzi was on at the time of Butsch’s interrogation:
- Haldol (haloperidol) is an antipsychotic drug that decreases excitement in the brain. Haldol is used to treat psychotic disorders like schizophrenia, to control motor (movement) and verbal (for example, Tourette’s syndrome) tics and is used to treat severe behavior problems in children.
- Ativan is the brand name for lorazepam, an anti-anxiety medication also prescribed to treat other ailments ranging from insomnia to epilepsy. … Ativan belongs to the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, or “benzos.”
- Benadryl: Antihistamine
It can treat pain and itching caused by insect bites, minor cuts, burns, poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac when applied topically. In its oral form, it can treat hay fever, allergies, cold symptoms, and insomnia. In its injected form, it can treat severe allergic reactions, motion sickness, and symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.