Wednesday, June 01, 2005

So you want to be a terrorist?

In a recent discussion, someone said that terrorists have a training manual which states that they should claim to be tortured any time they've been captured. This sounds like a good tactic for them, but I'd never heard this idea before, and I went looking.

I suspect that most of those repeating this idea now heard it from this post at Power Line.
The military also claims to have gained valuable information from Gitmo detainees about how al Qaeda's leadership functions -- how it communicates and moves money, for example. It has also learned the details of how al Qaeda trains its fighters. One key element of the training is to complain, if captured, about "torture."
The article it links to does not say that we've learned about this training from captured people but from captured documents. I quote:
In a raid on an al Qaeda cell in Manchester, British authorities seized al Qaeda's most extensive manual for how to wage war.
Folks may also have heard about the manual from a Press Briefing by Scott McClellan. Quoth the White House, "We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use."

Still seeking more detail for this story, I eventually found the Al Qaeda Training Manual at the United States Department of Justice. In a rare fit of conspiracy-minded paranoia, I thought to myself that I probably wouldn't want to download the PDF files they present if I weren't using Tor to make myself anonymous. After all, getting the terrorist handbook can only mean guilt.

But I digress.

Here's another quote from the Washington Times article:
A directive lists one mission as "spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy."

If captured, the manual states, "At the beginning of the trial ... the brothers must insist on proving that torture was inflicted on them by state security before the judge. Complain of mistreatment while in prison."
The article puts these things together, but in the actual manual, they're far apart. The bit about spreading rumors is in the first lesson, which I don't see mentioning torture anywhere else (though I confess I haven't read it all). The part about the trial is in lesson 18 at the end of the manual. By my reading, it doesn't say anywhere that they should lie about being tortured, but it does say to complain about it without mentioning whether it's true.

What have I learned?
  1. The Al Qaeda Training Manual does say to claim to be tortured regardless of whether it's happened.
  2. As this has been relayed, it's been distorted.
  3. It may explain claims of (for instance) Koran abuse, but (duh) pictures of tortured prisoners aren't fake.
  4. I feel a paradox coming on.
I can't resist bringing up one more possibility. The manual on the DOJ site is a translation. It's possible that it's completely fake. The manual is there just to give credence to the "torture victims are liars" line and perhaps other things the administration will want to claim later.

It's sad that I consider that possibility as more than a fun conspiracy theory. My own government has blown its credibility so badly that I find it hard to tell whether they're telling the truth when compared to possible criminals.

UPDATE: A couple of Obsidian Wings readers who read more of the manual than I did think it sounds more like the authors assumed their "brothers" would be mistreated in captivity and gave instructions to make sure people knew about it. Since the manual isn't whole, it's hard to tell. That they assume mistreatment was my initial reading also, but I could see how someone could read it another way.
Post a Comment