Friday, May 08, 2009

Was Abdurahman Khadr telling the truth?

In 2004, one of Omar Khadr's brothers, Abdurahman, shared what seemed like a fantastical story with PBS' investigative show Frontline. His now infamous tale involved quite an incredible journey through several countries - from Afghanistan to Gitmo in Cuba and onto Bosnia where he claimed to have worked as a CIA informant. With no way to actually prove his CIA connection, he has remained under a cloud of suspicion since he went public. Both he and child soldier Omar Khadr have been smeared with guilt-by-association charges by those who believe that they hold the radical views expressed by their notorious parents and other family members.

None of that is news, of course, but what reminded me of Khadr's adventure was this article in The Independent this past week that might actually lend some credibility to his story: Exposed: MI5's secret deals in Camp X-ray - How MI5 attempted to recruit prison camp inmates

MI5 secretly tried to hire British men held in Guantanamo Bay and other US prison camps by promising to protect them from their American captors and help secure their return home to the United Kingdom, The Independent has learnt.

Khadr is a Canadian but the first officials he spoke to in Afghanistan when he was picked up were British because, as he explained to Frontline:

Why would the British come and see you?

Well this is after I was put in jail, you know. … I don't know, they told me, "Well there's no Canadian embassy so we are responsible for any Canadians here in Kabul under detention." …

Then they moved us from that jail to another jail which was the Afghani intelligence jails. There is a lot of them but the third intelligence directorate jail. They kept us there and that's where the Americans first interrogated me and then Canadians, the RCMP. They kept me there for a month and a half and then they moved us from there … to another jail.

The British story has a twist, however:

One of the men, Richard Belmar, was told he would be paid "well" for his services if he was willing to work undercover for MI5. A second detainee, Bisher Al Rawi, was told that if he agreed to work for the security service he would be "freed within months".

Three other detainees were threatened with rendition and harsh detention regimes if they did not co-operate with their British and American interrogators.

But MI5 failed to honour the promises made by its agents, a former agent has told The Independent.

The source, who is close to the MI5 officers who conducted the interviews, has confirmed that "assurances" had been given to the British men while they were held in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay. But he said that senior officers in London had cleared the actions of its own officers but later reneged on the promises. This is backed up by sworn testimony lodged in the High Court from the former detainees.

As the article notes, these British agents want the public to know that they had approval from those in charge - that they were not some rogue players in this situation. That's why these details have now come out.

Considering the international intelligence community's collaborations during this period, it suddenly seems even more probable that Abdurahman Khadr was in fact telling the truth. There is very little else to explain the strange facts involved in his incarcerations, releases and subsequent travels that ended with his return to Canada without even a whisper of any charges being laid for his purported role in the so-called war on terrorism.

Working for the CIA

[Frontline:][Tell us about your first contact with the CIA.]

[Khadr:] The first contact with the CIA … it was the meeting where, you know, they started asking me questions. They told me that we know you've been talking to the British and you were very cooperative. And can you help us in this place, can you help us in that? I said well I've already told this to the British. I'll help you anyway. I just want to get out. …


Editor's Note: FRONTLINE asked the CIA to confirm or deny Abdurahman Khadr's story but the agency declined to comment. However, Abdurahman did submit to a polygraph examination at FRONTLINE's request, in which he was asked about his work for U.S. intelligence, being paid for it and being flown on a small jet to Bosnia for his mission there. On all major aspects of his story, Abdurahman passed the polygraph.

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