WASHINGTON – A suspected Saudi terrorist told a military hearing that he was tortured into confessing that he was involved in the bombing of the warship USS Cole, according to a Defense Department transcript released Friday.
Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, said he made up stories that tied him to the 2000 Cole attack, which killed 17 U.S. sailors and nearly succeeded in sinking the $1 billion destroyer in Aden harbor, Yemen.
"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me. It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way," al-Nashiri said, according to the transcript. "I just said those things to make the people happy. They were very happy when I told them those things."
Portions of the 36-page hearing transcript were edited out, and the transcript does not include any details of the torture that al-Nashiri said took place over five years. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said that any allegations of torture would be investigated. He said sections were blacked out of the transcript because of national security reasons.
Al-Nashiri is one of 14 so-called high-value detainees who were moved to Guantanamo in September from secret CIA prisons abroad. The military is conducting hearings for the 14 to determine if they are enemy combatants who can be held indefinitely and prosecuted for war crimes.
According to U.S. intelligence, al-Nashiri is the suspected mastermind of the Cole bombing, and was Al Qaeda's operations chief in the Arabian Peninsula until he was caught in 2002. Nashiri, 41, a Saudi national of Yemeni descent, was allegedly tasked by Usama bin Laden to attack the Cole.
In the transcript, al-Nashiri says he met with bin Laden many times and received as much as a half a million dollars from the terror leader. The money, he said, was for "personal expenses" including for marriage and business deals.
He said he took money to buy a boat and develop a fishing business, and bin Laden later told him it could be used for a bombing. Al-Nashiri said he ended the project, and was not involved when bin Laden later used it "as a military tool."