Joseph Margulies is a professor of law and government at Cornell University. He has been Counsel of Record in Rasul v. Bush (2004), involving detentions at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Station, and in Geren v. Omar & Munaf v. Geren (2008), involving detentions at Camp Cropper in Iraq. Presently, he represents Abu Zubaydah, who was held in CIA black sites and whose interrogation in 2002 and 2003 prompted the Bush administration to draft the notorious “torture memos.” He is also the author of two books, What Changed When Everything Changed: 9/11 and the Making of National Identity (2013) and Guantánamo and the Abuse of Presidential Power (2006). (September 2018)

Follow Joseph Margulies on Twitter: @JoeMargulies.


The Innocence of Abu Zubaydah

A group of detainees kneeling in prayer in the US prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, October 28, 2009

The “facts” recounted above to justify his torture were all false. Abu Zubaydah was no lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. He held no position in al-Qaeda, senior or otherwise. He had no part in September 11 or any other al-Qaeda operations. He did not operate a network of al-Qaeda camps, open an al-Qaeda cell in Jordan, or manage al-Qaeda’s external communications. He did not draft any resistance manual, for al-Qaeda or anyone else, and had no special expertise in resisting interrogations. The government no longer maintains that these assertions are true, and now concedes that Abu Zubaydah was never a member of al-Qaeda. Yet the United States is content that he should be forgotten, out of sight and out of mind. And for this, the government relies on people continuing to imagine him a monster.