Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (P.S.)
The book collects and elaborates on stories Hersh wrote for The New Yorker , and includes an introduction by the magazine's editor, David Remnick, on Hersh's background and his sources. Part of Hersh's skill lies in uncovering official reports that have been buried because government or military leaders find them too revealing or embarrassing.
Chain of Command is filled with such stories, particularly regarding the manner in which sensitive intelligence was gathered and disseminated within the Bush administration. Hersh details how serious decisions were made in secret by a small handful of people, often based on selective information. But his family members were eager for Salahi to return, and so they told him that his mother was ill.
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On January 21, , Salahi boarded a flight to Senegal. It was cheaper to fly to Dakar than to Nouakchott, and his brothers drove three hundred miles to meet him there. Before dawn, Salahi was taken to an interrogation room. An American woman, who he assumed was an intelligence officer, entered the room, and stood by as a Senegalese officer questioned him about the Millennium Plot.
By the following day, the lead Senegalese officer was convinced that there was no reason to hold Salahi. They were told not to wait for Salahi. Several more days of interrogation followed. The Senegalese did the talking, but the Americans provided the questions and reported back to D. Eventually, one of the interrogators told Salahi that he was going to be sent to Mauritania for more questioning. He was terrified—he wanted to go back to Canada, where interrogators behaved within the bounds of the law.
Salahi was led to a small private aircraft. The journey to Nouakchott took roughly an hour, tracing the Mauritanian coast—to the left the Atlantic, to the right the Sahara. The plane landed at sunset. A security guard handed him a filthy black turban, to hide his face during the drive to the secret-police headquarters. He tried to sleep, but his mind was racing with the expectation of torture at dawn. The next morning, Salahi was led to the office of the Mauritanian intelligence chief, Deddahi Ould Abdellahi. The men never abused Salahi, but, as the days became weeks, he wished that they would just turn him over to the United States, where, he assumed, he could at least challenge the legal grounds of his detention.
After roughly three weeks, F. On February 19, , Abdellahi let him go home. But a friend helped him find work installing Internet routers for a telecommunications company. So far, so good.
Abu Hafs was back in Afghanistan, living with his family in Kandahar. It had been five years since the Taliban had taken over most of the country, and televisions were banned. He grabbed his shortwave radio.
In the U. He knew what he expected to hear. In that meeting, Abu Hafs challenged bin Laden on Quranic grounds, arguing that the scale of civilian casualties could not be justified in Islam. Later that summer, Abu Hafs wrote a twelve-page dissent, but bin Laden bristled at his defiance, and the objections of other Al Qaeda leaders, and moved forward.
For the next two months, Abu Hafs taught jihadi recruits at a madrassa. After the attacks, Cofer Black, the head of the C. On September 26th, Schroen and six other officers loaded an aging Soviet helicopter with weapons, tactical gear, and three million dollars in used, nonconsecutive bills. They took off from Uzbekistan and flew into northern Afghanistan, over the snow-capped mountains of the Hindu Kush. There, Schroen contacted the leaders of the Northern Alliance, an armed group that had spent years fighting the Taliban, with little external support.
Salahi had deleted the contents of his phone.
Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (P.S.)
A couple of weeks into his detention, two F. How could he possibly know? The interrogations always circled back to the Millennium Plot. Salahi came to think of his interrogators as acting out a Mauritanian folktale in which a blind man is given the gift of a single, fleeting glimpse of the world. One of the F. That is not appropriate language, man. He was very silly.
For once, it flows uphill
He told me he hated Jews also. I told him I have no problem with the Jews, either, man. A few days later, Salahi was released. While in custody, Salahi had befriended Yacoub, the intelligence officer who had been one of his guards. Yacoub had a large family and a small salary, so, when Salahi was released, he started paying Yacoub to do occasional tasks.
Though Salahi was a skilled electrician, he hired Yacoub to fix his TV. Two intelligence officers, including Yacoub, arrived and said that Abdellahi needed to see him again. One of the arresting agents suggested that Salahi drive his own car to the station, so that he could drive himself home afterward. Yacoub climbed into the passenger seat. Abdellahi had bought him a new outfit, but Salahi had refused to eat, and the fabric was loose on his shoulders.
I was an agent of the state. I executed orders.
And I knew that the request was justified, because he had connections in this milieu, these Islamo-terrorist circles, and he might be able to give his captors some ideas of how to improve security. That was my thinking—that he was sufficiently intelligent and well informed to help any intelligence service that might ask him for help.
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It was Ramadan again. He and Abdellahi knelt on the runway, and prayed together. A private jet landed, and out climbed a Jordanian rendition team. Salahi was terrified. You very much become a child again. The Americans supplied the questions, and the Jordanians extracted the responses, often through coercive means. Salahi was asked about innocuous exchanges from intercepted e-mails and phone calls, as if they had been conducted in code.
At other times, the questions originated from material on his hard drive, which the F. Once, on a technical assignment, Salahi had been photographed near the President of Mauritania; now the lead interrogator accused Salahi of having plotted to kill him. Still, Salahi found his Jordanian interrogators to be highly knowledgeable, and they developed a kind of mutual respect.
It was not every day, the torture—I would say maybe twice a week. The guards, who were officially prohibited from interacting with him, began asking questions.watch
Every other week, when Red Cross representatives visited the prison, Salahi and a handful of other C. In Nouakchott, Abdellahi waited for updates from the C. Abdellahi says that, after Salahi disappeared, the family never contacted him. In return, they passed along messages from Salahi, which they had invented, and assured the family that Salahi was well. In Kandahar, Abu Hafs felt the Americans closing in.
The Taliban was rapidly losing ground.
Chain of Command - Seymour M. Hersh - E-book
By the second week of December, it was clear that Kandahar would fall. Bin Laden had fled to the mountains, and the remaining Al Qaeda leaders understood that, as Arabs and North Africans, they could never blend in with the locals, who spoke Dari, Pashto, Balochi, and other regional languages. During the next several days, Abu Hafs travelled toward the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
He slept in remote villages, and entrusted his life to Afghan sheepherders who were presumably unaware of the twenty-five-million-dollar bounty on his head.