Alleged USS Cole Mastermind Charged
Pentagon says Guantanamo detainee met with bin Laden, bought boat, explosives.
WASHINGTON, June 30, 2008— -- The Pentagon has charged a Guantanamo Bay detainee with planning and participating in the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole.
The U.S. military claims that Saudi 'Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri masterminded the plot in which two men appearing to be civilians piloted their small boat toward the Cole in the Port of Aden, Yemen, and detonated explosives hidden inside the vessel.
The attack killed 17 sailors, wounded another 47 and left a 40-foot hole in the side of the ship.
The charges say al-Nashiri met with Osama bin Laden to reorganize and plot the Cole attack after a similar plot against the USS the Sullivans failed in January 2000.
Al-Nashiri allegedly made arrangements to rent homes near the gulf for surveillance, purchased the small boat and explosives used in the attack, and assigned the two men who apparently carried out the bombing.
The charges also implicate al-Nashiri in an October 2002 attack on a French oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, which killed one of the ship's crewmembers and caused the spillage of an estimated 90,000 barrels of oil.
In November 2002, al-Nashiri was captured and held in CIA custody overseas until he and several other high-value detainees were moved to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in September 2006.
CIA Director Michael Hayden told Congress in February that CIA agents used the simulated drowning technique known as waterboarding during interrogations of al-Nashiri and two others, alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and top al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah.
Questions have been raised about whether classified evidence gathered from the waterboarding interrogations might be tainted. At his enemy combatant hearing last year, al-Nashiri told a military panel that he confessed to helping plot the attack on the Cole only because he had been subjected to torture by interrogators.
Brigadier General Thomas Hartmann, who announced the charges against al-Nashiri and is the legal advisor to the Convening Authority in the Office of Military Commissions, said any evidence presented by prosecutors would be reviewed for relevance at trial, just as it would for any other trial.