There's good news for the 434 suspected members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban now being held in Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The detainees no longer have to relieve themselves into plastic bags. Bensayah Belkacem, an Algerian who is suspected of plotting to blow up the American embassy in Sarajevo, Bosnia, shared the news in a recent letter to his wife. Anela Kobilica told TIME last week that her husband detailed Gitmo's new sanitary arrangements. Delta's 612 cells--metal boxes about 8 ft. square--are now equipped with flushable toilets and knee-high sinks in which devout Muslims can perform their ritual ablutions. Air-conditioning is still provided only by the breeze off the Caribbean Sea.
Gitmo is no place for a vacation. Sources tell TIME that U.S. interrogators have developed a technique to pry information out of some detainees. Targeted prisoners are isolated from contact with others until they become dependent on their questioners. It takes time, but, as a source says, "When you sit there staring at the ocean and you see how far you are from home and you're never going to get there, that all works on your mind." Meanwhile, at a secret location, CIA officers continue to question Abu Zubaydah, the suspected al-Qaeda operations chief who was captured after a March gunfight in Faisalabad, Pakistan. Abu Zubaydah, say CIA and other U.S. government sources, is not being tortured, but a variety of methods are being used to encourage him to talk. Typical military interrogation tactics would include depriving him of sleep, changing the temperature of his cell and "modulating caloric intakes"--spookspeak for withholding food and then providing it as a reward.
Abu Zubaydah's information needs to be taken with a pinch of salt; not all of it has checked out. But U.S. officials have a reason for publicly attributing to him many of their leads, whether they originate with him or not. "It declares to his old friends that he's turned colors and come over to our side," says one. "That means he's toast, and he knows it. He doesn't have any friends back home, so he might as well make some here." The ploy may or may not work, but it seems that the Gitmo interrogations, at least, are bearing fruit.
The proof came two weeks ago, when Moroccan police in Casablanca announced the arrest of three Saudis--Zuher al-Tbaiti, Abdullah al-Ghamdi and Hilal Alissiri--on suspicion of plotting an attack on an American or British warship in the Strait of Gibraltar. (The group had been planning to buy a Zodiac motorized skiff, which could have been used for an attack like the one on the U.S.S. Cole in 2000.) Moroccan officials tell TIME that they started tailing the group after a tip from the U.S., which had been questioning Moroccan al-Qaeda detainees in Cuba. The detainees told the Americans they had been recruited by a Saudi they knew only as Zuher, whose first wife was a Moroccan who had been killed in the American bombing campaign in Afghanistan. One detainee knew her name. Using that piece of information, Moroccan authorities traced her family, identified al-Tbaiti and put him under surveillance. A month later, he was in custody.