Grove Press
Atlantic Monthly Press
Atlantic Monthly Press

The Forever Prisoner

The Full and Searing Account of the CIA’s Most Controversial Covert Program

by Catherine Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy

Some argued it would save the U.S. after 9/11. Instead, the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program came to be defined as American torture. The Forever Prisoner, a primary source for the recent HBO Max film directed by Academy Award winner Alex Gibney, exposes the full story behind the most divisive CIA operation in living memory.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 464
  • Publication Date May 09, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5893-2
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $22.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Page Count 464
  • Publication Date April 12, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5892-5
  • Dimensions 6" x 9"
  • US List Price $30.00
  • Imprint Atlantic Monthly Press
  • Publication Date April 12, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5894-9
  • US List Price $28.00

Six months after 9/11, the CIA captured Abu Zubaydah and announced he was number three in Al Qaeda. Frantic to thwart a much-feared second wave of attacks, the U.S. rendered him to a secret black site in Thailand, where he collided with retired Air Force psychologist James Mitchell. Arguing that Abu Zubaydah had been trained to resist interrogation and was withholding vital clues, the CIA authorized Mitchell and others to use brutal “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would have violated U.S. and international laws had not government lawyers rewritten the rulebook.

Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy recount dramatic scenes inside black sites through the eyes of those who were there, trace the twisted legal justifications, and chart how enhanced interrogation, a key “weapon” in the global “War on Terror,” metastasized over seven years, encompassing dozens of detainees in multiple locations, some of whom died. Ultimately that war has cost 8 trillion dollars, 900,000 lives, and displaced 38 million people—while the U.S. Senate judged enhanced interrogation was torture and had produced zero high-value intelligence. Yet numerous men, including Abu Zubaydah, remain imprisoned in Guantanamo, never charged with any crimes, in contravention of America’s ideals of justice and due process, because their trials would reveal the extreme brutality they experienced.

Based on four years of intensive reporting, on interviews with key protagonists who speak candidly for the first time, and on thousands of previously classified documents, The Forever Prisoner is a powerful chronicle of a shocking experiment that remains in the headlines twenty years after its inception, even as US government officials continue to thwart efforts to expose war crimes.

Silenced by a CIA pledge to keep him imprisoned and incommunicado forever, Abu Zubaydah speaks loudly through these pages, prompting the question as to whether he and others remain detained not because of what they did to us but because of what we did to them.

Praise for The Forever Prisoner:

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice

“Comprehensive . . . Cathy Scott-Clark and Adrian Levy—who have published several previous books on similar themes—interweave the stories of captive and interrogator, showing how fatally unprepared they were to understand each other . . . Impressively thorough.”—Robert F. Worth, New York Times Book Review

“British journalists Scott-Clark and Levy team up again to take a hard look at the CIA’s program of rendition and torture after 9/11 . . . Building on The Exile, the authors deliver an impressively researched investigation of government malfeasance and ineptitude. A forceful book that demands greater oversight of the nation’s intelligence services and justice for the wrongly imprisoned.”—Kirkus Reviews

“Journalists Scott-Clark and Levy chronicle the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program in this disturbing and deeply reported history . . . A crucial record of how the U.S. government betrayed its ideals to wage the war on terror.”—Publishers Weekly

The Forever Prisoner is a powerful investigation into the origins of the US official policy of torture. Focusing on the case of Abu Zubaydah, the ‘patient zero’ of the CIA’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, Scott-Clark and Levy manage to get to virtually everyone, which allows them to tell a riveting tale and the authoritative account.”—Alex Gibney, acclaimed documentarian and winner of the Academy, Emmy, and Grammy awards

“A deeply reported and well written account of Abu Zubaydah’s descent into the darkest reaches of the war on terror and of Jim Mitchell who engineered the CIA’s coercive interrogation program. It is a key account of the post-9/11 era.”—Peter Bergen, author of The Rise and Fall of Osama bin Laden

“Being kidnapped and tortured as an innocent person, the prospect of never seeing my family again, was the worst feeling in the world. The nightmare became a reality after the death of my mother. Eventually, I did win my freedom, however. Abu Zubaydah is still held incommunicado, along with others. This book gives him a voice for the first time and gets to the heart of what it is like to be a forever prisoner.”—Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary

Praise for The Exile:

“[Scott-Clark and Levy] set out to do what few had done before in the West: to see the September 2001 terror attacks and their aftermath from the other side. They traveled widely in the region, listened intently, interviewed aggressively, read newly released accounts and government documents deeply (and wrote lengthily). The result is a breathtaking tale.”Boston Globe

“Remarkable . . . They have produced the best account yet of what happened to al-Qaeda after 9/11: it is an astonishingly good piece of work.”Guardian

“A tour de force and the first detailed account told by al-Qaeda members themselves, making good use of the diaries of Abu Zubaydah, the captured al-Qaeda facilitator, as well as extensive interviews with one of its religious thinkers . . . It tells us lots of things we knew, but in far more detail.”Sunday Times

“Magnificent . . . The Exile is a truly impressive feat of journalism, both the closest we’re ever likely to come to a day-by-day account of Bin Laden’s life in those years and also an intensely gripping reading experience.”Christian Science Monitor

“[Scott-Clark and Levy’s] latest, The Exile: The Flight of Osama bin Laden, is perhaps their best yet . . . The book fills in many important gaps in our knowledge of al-Qaeda . . . a gripping inside account.”Observer

“Remarkable . . . The book’s fascinating perspective exposes layers of human complexity in individuals who are often shrouded by intrigue, and brings nuance to the general Western understanding of jihadi groups. This extensively researched, eminently readable work greatly enhances public knowledge of these dramatic years and will be welcomed by specialists and general readers alike.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A tour de force of investigative research.”Kirkus Reviews

“[A] huge tour-de-force of a read . . . The authors have brought the personality of bin Laden into a sharper focus than could ever have been imagined. The detail mustered is little short of incredible, and evidently the result of forensic research only the best of investigative journalists could dig out . . . An exceptional account of those lost years when bin Laden and his family went to ground . . . Big it might be, but it is also a page-turner. There have been many books before on bin Laden and al-Qaeda, but this is one of the best.”Glasgow Herald