Water-boarding Abu Zubaydah as a last resort to find out what he knew about pending terrorist plots was a justifiable act of self-defense.
Two weeks before the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to the 9/11 Commission, a foreign intelligence service issued a report on the following topic: "Consideration by Abu Zubaydah to Attack Targets in the United States."
That threat should have been taken more seriously.
The commission described Abu Zubaydah as a "sympathetic peer" of Osama bin Laden. In the years before 9/11, he operated the Khaldan and Derunta terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. "While the camps were not al Qaeda facilities," the 9/11 Commission said, "Abu Zubaydah had an agreement with bin Laden to conduct reciprocal recruiting efforts whereby promising trainees at the camps could be invited to join al Qaeda."
Some of the terrorists Abu Zubaydah trained and directed were American citizens.
On Nov. 30, 1999, for example, according to the commission, Abu Zubaydah placed a call to one of his lieutenants, Khadr Abu Hoshar. It was intercepted by Jordanian intelligence. During their chat, Abu Zubaydah told Abu Hoshar: "The time for training is over."
The Jordanians interpreted this as a "go" signal for an attack. They arrested Abu Hoshar and 15 others. "One of the 16, Raed Hijazi, had been born in California to Palestinian parents," said the commission. "After spending his childhood in the Middle East, he had returned to northern California, taken refuge in extremist Islamist beliefs, and then made his way to Abu Zubaydah's Khaldan camp in Afghanistan, where he learned the fundamentals of guerilla warfare. He and his younger brother had been recruited by Abu Hoshar into a loosely knit plot to attack Jewish and American targets in Jordan."
This Northern Californian, according to the commission, spent the late 1990s working as a cabdriver in Boston, traveling back and forth between there and Jordan "gathering" money and supplies, recruiting would-be terrorists in Syria, Jordan and Turkey for Zubaydah's camps, and finally returning to one of those camps to get specialized training in explosives.
The foiled plot involving Hijazi and Abu Hoshar, according to the commission, aimed to attack the Radisson Hotel in Amman, the border crossing between Israel and Jordan, two Christian holy places and an airport. The idea was to hit them "at a time when all these locations were likely to be thronged with American and other tourists." Abu Zubaydah approved the plan.
After he was captured, according to the commission, Hijazi's little brother bragged that the terrorist group's motto was: "The season is coming, and the bodies will pile up in sacks."