- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 13, 2002

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday the biggest prize captured in the war on terrorism, Abu Zubaydah, has begun talking to investigators about Osama bin Laden's secretive al Qaeda terrorist network.
Mr. Rumsfeld described Zubaydah, the most senior al Qaeda leader captured thus far, as a "big fish" who can help the United States foil new attacks and bring down the terrorist network.
"We are asking for a good deal of information, and intend to keep on doing it," the defense secretary said on MSNBC. "I think he'll be around for a long time."
Mr. Rumsfeld expects Zubaydah to stand trial. Officials say he could be the first defendant tried before a military tribunal, also called a commission, authorized by President Bush.
Mr. Rumsfeld gave somewhat conflicting accounts of how much Zubaydah, who sustained three gunshot wounds, has said thus far as he recovers in an undisclosed location.
"He's a fountain of knowledge," he told the network. "He just hasn't turned the spigot on yet."
Later, he told reporters at the Pentagon, "He obviously talked when people asked him questions and he said this, that and the other thing. Has he started to give any intelligence? I would assume so, but anything useful? It's not clear yet."
With American intelligence help, Pakistani authorities last week captured Zubaydah and 50 to 60 other al Qaeda members in raids on safe houses in Pakistan.
Zubaydah was by far the biggest catch that night. Officials say he had become bin Laden's operation's chief, replacing former Egyptian policeman Mohammed Atef, who was killed in a U.S. air strike south of Kabul in November. Zubaydah was also one of bin Laden's chief recruiters. He traveled extensively, under different names and disguises, setting up terrorist cells and finding the fanatical young men needed to carry out attacks.
"There is some information coming out from him, but he's having a little trouble talking," Mr. Rumsfeld said on Fox News Channel.
He said the three wounds, which may have resulted in fire from his own people during an intense gun battle with Pakistani police, resulted in an infection. "He's recovering," Mr. Rumsfeld said. "Most of his problems are behind him at this stage. It looks like he'll live.
"The first task is to get everything we can out of him and keep him off the streets so he isn't killing more people and get as much information as we possibly can so we can stop other terrorist from killing people."
The Bush administration has developed a track record of gleaning intelligence from captives and safe houses in Afghanistan, then stopping planned terrorist attacks and making more arrests.
In the most publicized case, Singapore authorities are believed to have thwarted three planned attacks on American service members and civilians in that country with information obtained from records found in an Afghan house.
"There's no question but that intelligence information has been gathered, shared by dozens and dozens of countries that have, in fact, stopped terrorist attacks and led to the arrest of people who were engaged in planning terrorist attacks," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Military officials also hope Zubaydah knows the recent whereabouts of the most sought-after fugitive in the world. Analysts believe bin Laden is on the run in eastern Afghanistan or Pakistan, aided by friendly Pashtun tribal leaders. Some officials also believe he was wounded in the intense American air assault that began Oct. 7 and targeted every known al Qaeda safe house.
Mr. Rumsfeld said he finds it "interesting" that bin Laden has not issued one of his trademark video tapes to followers for more than three months.

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