That session is eventually stopped because the redacted official “was afraid of the paperwork that would result in case of my death.”
At one point in the course of abuse, Slahi describes breaking down when offered a kind word by a guard. “What was wrong with me?” he wrote. “Just one soothing word in this ocean of agony was enough to make me cry.”
U.S. investigations have revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld personally approved Slahi’s being subjected to “special interrogation techniques” because he was considered a high-value detainee.
His interrogators appear to have decided at one point that a sudden change to his interrogation regimen might produce results. On Monday, Aug. 25, 2003, he wrote, a commando team broke into his interrogation room. He described being punched and told, “Motherfucker, I told you, you’re gone!” According to his account, he was then blindfolded, goggles were placed on his eyes, earmuffs were put on his ears, and his head was covered with a bag. He expected to be executed. Instead, he was taken by truck to a boat, driven out to sea and made to drink saltwater. “It was so nasty, I threw up.” His three hours on the boat, he believes, was to claim that whatever injuries the accompanying beatings caused were the result of an accident during transportation and to make him believe he was being taken to a “faraway secret prison.”
Slahi reflects, “I think when torture comes into play, things get out of control.”
His journey to Guantánamo began after he was detained by Mauritanian officials in September 2001 and questioned by FBI agents about the so-called millennium plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. Mauritanian authorities told the U.S. he was innocent and released him. Two months later, he was asked to return to a police station for questioning. He did so voluntarily. On Nov. 28, 2001, he was taken to Amman, Jordan, under the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program.
In Jordan, according to Slahi, he was interrogated for seven months. “Yes, Jordanians practice torture on a daily basis, but they need a reasonable suspicion to do so,” he writes. In the summer of 2002, he writes, the Jordanians told him, “Your case is closed. You haven’t lied.” He was asked to sign some statements and was asked if he would like to work for them, but he told them he wasn’t qualified.
Slahi believes it was pressure from the U.S. that prompted renewed interrogation by the Jordanians, and on July 19, 2002, he was rendered to Bagram air base in Afghanistan, which is where his Guantánamo nightmare began.
Larry Siems, who edited “Guantánamo Diary,” received Slahi’s 466-page, 122,000-word draft and found a story corroborated by the public record. Siems said he didn’t take on this project with any specific goal in mind. “I just read [the manuscript] because I wanted to know what the human side of this experience was … [Slahi] really captures the lives of Guantánamo, which is the lives of real men and women, encounters and conflicts and also moments of real understanding and generosity.”
Siems believes Slahi should be freed. “It’s very clear,” he says. “And it’s amazing that he is still there.” The public debate over Guantánamo can’t be restricted to generalities, he argues. “You have to deal with individuals and individual justice. I think when you read this [book], you are forced to encounter the question of if this one person should be in Guantánamo. And I think the answer is no.”
That’s a view shared by Morris Davis. “People still look at Gitmo in the abstract,” Davis says. He hopes Slahi’s book makes the reader think, “What if this was me? What if this was my family, my brother? ... These are not blind statistics. These are real people.”
Siems believes Americans can no longer claim ignorance of the abuses at Guantánamo. “We’ve known, even today, that half of the men in Guantánamo have been cleared for release for years, for many years.”
“These are grievous mistakes and serious crimes” that, he says, the U.S. is declining to deal with. “We keep putting it off and putting it off. What we’re doing every day is we’re perpetuating those mistakes and those errors. That’s the really shocking thing.”
Slahi has never been charged with a crime. Nor have any of his torturers.