A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a hearing on whether to suppress statements by a Libyan terror suspect who claims he was shell-shocked from being tasered and kidnapped by Delta Force operatives and subjected to a harsh shipboard CIA interrogation.
Manhattan U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan acted after lawyers for accused one-time al-Qaida operative Anas al-Liby argued that the coercive effect of that six-day inquisition was not purged when he later received warnings and made incriminating statements to the FBI.
"I was convinced that I would end up in one of the CIA's black site torture prisons," al-Liby said in a dramatic first-person description of his 2013 abduction in Tripoli unsealed late Tuesday. "I lived in morbid fear of my imminent death, where its only precursor would be torture."
Al-Liby, 50, was dragged from his car returning from morning prayers on Oct. 5, 2013, interrogated on the USS San Antonio and then flown to the United States by the FBI on Oct. 12 to face charges that he played a role in the 1998 bombing of two U.S. embassies.
Prosecutors say coercive military interrogation of terror suspects for intelligence purposes is permitted as long as none of the information is used in court, and it does not bar using later statements to the FBI after warnings as evidence.
But defense lawyer Charles Kleinman argued the tough treatment improperly primed al-Liby to talk. "It was a continuous process," he told Kaplan, who said he wanted to hear testimony on al-Liby's treatment in FBI custody before deciding.
Al-Liby's written declaration claims he was "falsely accused" in the al-Qaida bombing of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and by the time of his headline-grabbing capture by the United States he had turned over a new leaf and helped NATO overthrow Moammar Gadhafi.
He said at the time of his seizure he was tasered on the hands and legs, stuffed into a minivan, handcuffed, blindfolded, earmuffed and told to keep quiet while "some person sat on me."
Held until dark, he said, he was hustled to a Zodiac boat and taken to a ship offshore. During questioning, he said, the lights never went off and he was constantly cold, sleeping on the floor of a tiny cubicle with only a blanket and forced to sit on the floor while questioned.
He was never hurt, he said, but was disoriented and scared -- told that his interrogation could go on for 16 weeks, and, " 'This is the easiest step,' and then another step would be even harder."
When he was put on a plane with FBI agents after six days, al-Liby claimed, he was told he had the right to remain silent, but felt he had to talk.
"I felt the only way to be treated fairly and humanely was if I did what I was told . . . and I felt there was little if any difference between the actions of the FBI and the CIA," al-Liby said.
The government has not disclosed what incriminating statements al-Liby may have made to the FBI. His trial is scheduled to start Nov. 3.