From hopeful immigrant to FBI informant — the inside story of the other Abu Zubaidah

Jason Leopold writes: Hesham opened the envelope at the bar, expecting a green card. Instead, it was a subpoena from a federal prosecutor, which would force him to testify–against his brother.

He thought about fleeing to Norway or Poland with his wife and daughter. But it would be much easier to cross the border into Canada in his Cadillac Escalade and avoid the hassle of airport security and the possibility that his name would pop up on the no-fly list. In Canada, he could start over again. Raise farm animals or something. Change his name. Never look back. Hesham had played this fantasy out in his head dozens of times since he had quit working as a confidential informant for the FBI.

“This is what you wanted from me all along, isn’t it?” Hesham asked the FBI agent who handed him the envelope. “You guys used me.”

When he’d been living in Portland, Oregon, Hesham had agreed to infiltrate mosques and spy on other Muslims because his FBI handler led him to believe she could help him obtain a green card. She didn’t, and he cut off contact with the agency when he moved to a small town in Florida. But they had found him again.

“No way,” Hesham said.

“You don’t have a choice,” the agent told Hesham. “Testify or go back to jail.”

Hesham stared at the agent. He didn’t say a word. His eyes started to twitch, which happens whenever he gets angry. He stood up, pulled his wallet out of his back pocket, placed a $20 bill under his whiskey glass and walked outside to light a cigarette. He paced the parking lot, cursing his brother’s name. Two FBI agents and a special agent with the US Army’s Criminal Investigation Command watched him from a distance.

Hesham flicked his cigarette butt and walked back toward them. Going back to jail wasn’t an option. He was afraid he would never get out and would never see his wife and daughter again.

“When do I need to do this?” Hesham asked the agents.

“Probably in a few weeks,” the Army special agent said. “We’ll either stop by or call you.”

Hesham got into his car and tore out of the parking lot, his tires screeching. He felt weak, trapped and ashamed. Hesham hoped his brother would forgive him for ratting him out.

Hesham Mohamed Hussain Abu Zubaidah is the younger brother of Zayn al-Abidin Mohamed Husayn, better known to the world as the high-value Guantanamo detainee “Abu Zubaidah,” whom the US government has for more than a decade claimed was “one of the highest-ranking members of the al-Qaeda terrorist organization” and “involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al-Qaeda,” including the 9/11 attacks [1].

Research I was conducting on the accused terrorist led me to Hesham. I had stumbled across a three-year-old comment on a blog post left by someone who identified himself as Hesham.

“Yes that is my brother and I live in Oregon,” the commenter said. “Do you think I should have been locked away for 2 years with no charges for a [sic] act of a sibling? I am the younger brother of Zayn and I live in the USA. Tell me what you think.”

I was blown away. A search of his name on Google turned up only 28 results, including another comment posted by a person using Hesham’s name, as well as one by a person identifying herself as Hesham’s wife. Who was Hesham, and why hadn’t we heard of him before? [Continue reading…]

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