Posted on Thu, Jul. 17, 2008
last updated: July 17, 2008 12:25:52 AM
GUANTANAMO BAY NAVY BASE, Cuba — Early in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden's driver voluntarily led U.S. forces on a tour of al Qaida turf, pointing out terror group safe houses, an FBI agent testified Wednesday.
Later, as a captive here, driver Salim Hamdan helped agents draw maps of bin Laden's escape routes around Afghanistan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks — and picked bin Laden bodyguards out of a photo lineup.
U.S. interrogators divulged the details while testifying in pretrial hearings at Hamdan's military commissions.
In doing so, they cast the wiry Yemeni with a fourth-grade education as a bit player in al Qaida, an insider turned snitch who told U.S. forces what he overheard while spiriting the big boss and fellow terror plotters between secret compounds.
In March 2002, Hamdan's fourth month in U.S. custody, he joined FBI agents on a field trip from the Kandahar detention center in Afghanistan, said FBI agent Robert Fuller.
Hamdan showed them three bin Laden compounds, a guesthouse and cemetery where Hamdan had earlier helped bury al Qaida's former military chief Mohammed Atef, killed in an American air strike in reprisal for 9/11.
Two months later, he was transferred to Guantanamo, and his interrogations continued.
Fuller was one of six federal agents to testify at the pretrial hearing before Navy Capt. Keith Allred, who has been appointed by the Pentagon to preside at Hamdan's trial next week, unless a federal court stops it.
Tuesday, Hamdan testified for the first time, describing interrogation, sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation in six years of U.S. custody — in his lawyers' campaign to exclude the fruits of his interrogations from next week's terror trial.
He was never warned, defense lawyers argue, that he was a suspected criminal -- so he cooperated with captors without benefit of an attorney.
Prosecutors claim that, under U.S. military commission law, noncitizens need not be told of their rights against self-incrimination if they are outside the United States.
The succession of agents testified Wednesday that the driver freely collaborated with his American interrogators from Afghanistan to Guantánamo.
Only one, FBI agent George Crouch Jr., validated Hamdan's claim that he was stripped of his belongings and put into ''solitary confinement'' while undergoing interrogation in Guantanamo in July 2002. The agent said he protested to the prison camp staff, and Hamdan's punishment ended.
The 37-year-old Yemeni is accused of conspiring in al Qaida attacks, including 9/11, and providing material support for terror as a $200-a-month driver and sometime bodyguard for bin Laden.
He says he never joined the organization, never hurt anybody and got the job for an income not ideology.
Each of the agents who testified said they interrogated him four to 12 times in 2002, and each said he never saw Hamdan treated abusively.
Each said he didn't meddle in his medical or sleep schedule. All were criminal investigators, not U.S. military interrogators. And all testified that Hamdan was never read U.S. civilian or military warnings against self-incrimination, citing U.S. government policy at the time.
One FBI agent testified anonymously, his name withheld without explanation.
''If he had been sitting in Miami not Guantanamo you wouldn't have advised him of his rights?'' asked retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Swift, Hamdan's defense attorney.
''Given he was an intelligence source, not a criminal subject, I would not have,'' the unidentified agent answered.