60 Minutes: Hopkins doctor operated on al Qaeda suspect

It’s well known that world-renowned doctors from Johns Hopkins Hospital regularly treat royalty, other dignitaries and U.S. service members. According to the CBS news show 60 Minutes, they also have been called upon to patch up those who don’t appear on America’s side.

As part of a report Sunday about the harsh interrogation techniques used by the government after the9/11attacks, the news program said a Hopkins doctor was brought in to operate on a suspected terrorist.

Correspondent Leslie Stahl interviewed Jose Rodriguez, the former head of the CIA's Clandestine Service. And he said a Hopkins surgeon saw Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to have high-level al Qaeda connections, ahead of his interrogation. He had been badly hurt in the 2002 firefight that lead to his capture.


The transcript provided by 60 Minutes went like this:

Jose Rodriguez: He actually was on the verge of dying. So we brought in a surgeon from the U.S. to help him out.

Lesley Stahl: You brought in a top-rate surgeon from Johns Hopkins?

Jose Rodriguez: Yes, the best that we could find.

Lesley Stahl: You save him so you can squeeze everything out of his brain that you can?

So where did the tidbit come from?

It appears to have been reported in 2007 by the New York Times. The story says the CIA was concerned about its image. Specifically, officials were worried that if Zubaydah died in custody the world would think it was at American hands. So they sought a top-flight doctor to save the man, who had been shot three times in the raid in Pakastan.

Here’s what the Times wrote: “At first, Abu Zubaydah fell in and out of consciousness, emerging occasionally to speak incoherently — once, evidently imagining himself in a restaurant, ordering a glass of red wine, a C.I.A. official said. The agency, desperate to keep him alive, flew in a Johns Hopkins Hospital surgeon to consult. Within a few days, Abu Zubaydah was flown to Thailand, to the first of the “black sites,” the agency’s interrogation facilities for major Qaeda figures.”

If Hopkins or any other U.S. hospital is regularly supplying doctors to the spy agency, CIA officials declined comment.

And apparently, it’s a mystery at Hopkins. A spokesman for the hospital said, “We are aware of these reports but have been unable to verify them ourselves.”

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