Phillip Coorey in New York
AUSTRALIAN terrorist suspect David Hicks fell out with his Al-Qaeda comrades in Afghanistan when he refused to become a suicide bomber, according to the US intelligence officer who interrogated him.
The officer, who gave his name only as Tom, told the CBS network 60 Minutes program yesterday that Hicks understood the deep trouble he was in after being captured, and was one of the most co-operative prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
Hicks was chained to a chair in a plywood hut and made to stare at his interrogator for hours on end. He admitted being selected from the battlefield in Afghanistan to be trained in Al- Qaeda terror camps.
"There were several camps that had very detailed specialities. They were mountain warfare camps. There were sniper camps. There was bomb-making schools, how to run a terrorist cell. There was all manner of terrorist training," Tom said.
But he said Hicks baulked when asked to make the ultimate commitment. "He only backed off at a point where he was asked to be a suicide bomber, where he was presented with training that would involve . . . running a terrorist cell and . . . being prepared to strap on a bomb, or to drive a car bomb, or to crash a plane, something along those lines," he said.
"And he resisted. And so it caused a big problem between him and the other Al-Qaeda guys."
Tom also said Hicks never harmed a US soldier – confirming Hicks's lawyers' assertions.
"As far as we knew, he never engaged in conventional combat against the United States," he said.
He could not say for sure whether Hicks would be a threat if released.
"David Hicks is a wildcard. It's difficult to say whether he would be an immediate threat," he said.
"He'd led us to believe that if released, he would simply go back to his Australian home and find work on a farm someplace. My personal opinion, and my opinion alone, is that David Hicks would be a continuing threat."
Hicks, from Adelaide, left for Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1999 and was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001 during the US invasion in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks.
He has been at Guantanamo Bay for more than two years and is waiting to be charged with terrorist-related offences and tried by a US military commission.
Hicks's father, Terry, said yesterday that his son had been "coerced" into confessing information. "We've known that he's been interrogated, but we've never known what information had been passed on," he said.
He said allegations had been spread by other detainees at Guantanamo Bay "who wanted the good life and told all sorts of stories".
Mr Hicks also questioned the validity of Tom's interview.
"This is his own personal opinion, and to me that stands for nothing," he said.
"Personal opinions don't come into it – it's about the law."
He said the timing of the revelations was suspect – only a week before the US Supreme Court hears a challenge to the US Government's right to keep Hicks in custody.