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Guantánamo’s Darkest Secret

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As a outcome of Salahi’s coöperation, his private dungeon was now stocked with what a supervision referred to as “comfort items.” After a sham came soap, towels, a request cap, and request beads—by a time Steve Wood arrived, Salahi also had books, a television, a PlayStation, and an aged laptop, on that he killed time personification chess and examination DVDs. Eventually, Salahi would be authorised entrance to a tiny patch of dirt outward his trailer, where he tended sunflowers, basil, sage, parsley, and cilantro. “What we was told was that his information had saved thousands of American lives,” Wood said, “and this is what they’d given him to keep talking.”

Salahi was taken into control when he was thirty years old, though he had already lived on 4 continents, and spoke smooth Arabic, French, and German. English was his fourth language. Since he had schooled it in captivity, some of his beginning phrases were “I ain’t finished nothing,” “cavity search,” “fuck this,” and “fuck that.” “My problem is that we had been picking a denunciation from a ‘wrong’ people—namely, U.S. Forces recruits who pronounce grammatically incorrectly,” he wrote on a throw of paper inside his cell. “English accepts some-more curses than any other language, and we shortly schooled to abuse with a commoners.”

As a matter of professionalism, Wood resolved from a opening to bury in a behind of his mind what he had listened of Salahi’s past. “It’s tough to lay there and giggle and discuss with a guy, if he’s indeed that bad,” Wood told me. The night change was twelve hours, and he never saw Salahi shackled or restrained. Other Guantánamo prisoners threw punches and feces and urine, but, according to a personal dossier, Salahi’s usually disciplinary infringement was that, on May 11, 2003, he “possessed an extreme volume of MRE food.”

Salahi mostly seemed gloomy and withdrawn. But, when he wanted to engage, he spoke with a worldly, provocative amusement that Wood found appealing. He favourite to rile his guards into debating equality, race, and religion, and he wielded a worldly bargain of story and geopolitics to chip divided during their beliefs. Before assembly Salahi, Wood had never listened of Mauritania; Salahi told him that, to his good embarrassment, labour was still used there, even among people tighten to him. Salahi also pushed him to investigate Western foreign-policy blunders—for example, that in 1953 a American and a British comprehension services had orchestrated a manoeuvre in Iran, overthrowing a renouned Prime Minister in sequence to column adult a tyrannical, pro-Western Shah. “Have we listened of Nelson Mandela?” Wood removed Salahi saying. “Look him up, dude. Look adult a jail on Robben Island. See if we consider his chains was just. See what it did to his family.”

A pursuit posting depicts life as an comprehension officer in Guantánamo Bay as “a rewarding plea with implausible surroundings”—sunsets, beaches, iguanas, primitive Caribbean blue. “After a hustled day of rebellious a innumerable of issues and directly contributing to a tellurian fight on terrorism,” it reads, “fun awaits.” Officers could extract in pottery classes, paintball, rugby, tennis, and softball, or use in several pools and gyms. The internal dive emporium offering rigging and certifications for sailing, water-skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, and more: “No experience, no problem. . . . Relaxing is easy.”

In practice, many military-police officers killed time by examination cinema and removing dipsomaniac during a Tiki Bar; they also took flights to Afghanistan, to collect adult some-more detainees. But Wood spent his days in a bottom library, researching topics that Salahi had brought adult in a cell. He devoured volumes on history, unfamiliar affairs, politics, polite rights—“pretty many any form of book we could consider of, other than, like, intrigue novels,” he said. “I was educating myself on a world.” But, since Salahi’s trailer was a inhabitant secret, Wood kept a considerate stretch from many of a other guards. “I’d come home and iron my uniform, and my roommates didn’t know a thing,” he said. “They’d ask me, ‘Who’s in there?,’ and I’d say, ‘I don’t know, substantially somebody famous.’ ”

In time, Wood began to consider of all he had famous before assembly Salahi as a unfair parable of American superiority, important for a omissions of abroad misadventures. Meanwhile, a Bush Administration’s stratagem for invading Iraq was collapsing, and so was Wood’s trust in government. It was a open of 2004. There were no weapons of mass destruction. The “mission” had not been “accomplished.” When Wood watched a dusk news, he saw photographs of American M.P.s torturing and intimately degrading Iraqi detainees during Abu Ghraib. He began to consternation either a box opposite Mohamedou Salahi was as groundless and politically encouraged as that for a advance had been. “I was, like, What else have they lied about?” he said.

Salahi underwent daily interrogations. The sessions Wood witnessed were ease and courteous, with Salahi attempting to answer all asked of him. “It was a flattering blond interrogator bringing in these disks with footage from Al Qaeda and Taliban training camps in Afghanistan,” Wood recalled. The videos had been pulled from jihadi Web sites, or prisoner by comprehension officers during raids, and Salahi’s purpose was to brand a people in them. But sometimes, after coöperating, “he’d get vexed and anxious, and say, ‘I’m a bad Muslim,’ ” Wood told me. “And I’d say, ‘No matter what we did in a past, man, you’ve saved thousands of lives.’ I’d always contend that, and he’d only shake his head, like, ‘Bullshit.’ ”

One night, when Salahi was asleep, Wood listened sounds that reminded him of a child carrying a nightmare. He walked into a sleeping area and found Salahi fibbing in a fetal position, shaking. No adult in Wood’s life had ever looked so fearful and so vulnerable. He kindly hold Salahi’s shoulder, and said, “Everything’s O.K.” Salahi shook his head, and clicked his tongue in disagreement, though refused to speak. The subsequent day, Wood pulpy him to speak about a episode, though Salahi wouldn’t elaborate. He only said, “Dude, they fucked me up.”

The night terrors kept coming. Salahi was on a diet of Ensure nourishment shakes and antidepressants. One day, he complained to Wood that a interrogators were perfectionist information on events that he couldn’t presumably know about, since they had taken place while he was in custody.

Although Wood had introduced himself to Salahi as Stretch, his nickname from a sawmill, Salahi had fast schooled his genuine name, as good as those of a other guards. “The fasten would tumble off a uniforms,” Wood recalled. “We’d try to cover it behind up, genuine quick, though eventually we were, like, fuck it. We knew he wasn’t a threat.” Where once he had struggled to pardon himself for enjoying Salahi’s company, he now felt bad about carrying to close a doorway during a finish of any shift. He walked into a morning object in a daze, incompetent to determine his sense of a male in Echo Special with a depiction of a militant in a dossier. Had Wood remained as a unchanging guard, in one of a unchanging cellblocks, he competence have finished his deployment with his bargain of a tellurian fight on apprehension some-more or reduction intact. Instead, he began to consternation either what he was indeed safeguarding during Guantánamo was one of a government’s darkest secrets: that a highest-value troops detainee was being hold radically by mistake, and that his siege in Echo Special was dictated to cover adult a ruin that had been inflicted on him.

One day, Salahi started requesting paper from his guards. As a outcome of a new justice ruling, Guantánamo detainees had entrance to authorised representation, and so, during a subsequent several months, Salahi drafted a diary of his apprehension as a array of harrowing letters to his lawyers, Nancy Hollander, Sylvia Royce, and Theresa Duncan—four hundred and sixty-six pages, hermetic in envelopes and mailed to a personal trickery nearby Washington, D.C. No guards or interrogators were authorised to review Salahi’s work. For a initial time, he described his practice but fear of retribution. On one page, he removed a day he got his nickname, when an interrogator brought him a pillow. “I perceived a benefaction with a feign strenuous happiness, and not since we was failing to get a pillow,” he wrote. “No. we took a sham as a pointer of a finish of a earthy torture.”

The Detainee