12-Year GITMO Detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi Details US Torture in ‘Guantánamo Diary’
A man currently locked up for 12 years without trial in the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay — even though a federal judge ordered his release in 2010 — has published an account of the torture he claims his American captors have inflicted.
Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a 44-year-old Mauritanian, has published Guantánamo Diary, a remarkable achievement for someone in his position.
Slahi stands accused with associating with and aiding the al-Qaeda terrorists who perpetrated the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. He is also accused of involvement in the foiled Millennium Plot targeting Los Angeles International Airport in 1999. The allegations against him come largely from one man, Millennium plotter Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested in December 1999 at the US-Canadian border with 60 kilograms (132 lbs.) of explosives in his trunk.
But no actual evidence has ever been produced linking Slahi to any of his alleged crimes. For this reason, his captors have never been able to try him. Two high-ranking military prosecutors would resign over what they believed were the grave injustices of tortured confessions and “rigged” trials. A federal judge would even order Slahi’s release on the grounds that there was no evidence of his guilt. That judge was overruled, and Slahi went back to living the next four years like he’d lived the past eight — in a nightmare of abuse at the often brutal hands of his American captors.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved Slahi’s “special interrogation,” a torture regimen utilizing techniques banned under US and international law. Slahi details severe beatings, sexual abuse — including sexual assault — sleep and food deprivation, exposure to extreme temperatures, mock executions, excruciating stress positions, threats to rape his mother, religious abuse and menacing with dogs, techniques which have been previously documented at GITMO and at US military and intelligence facilities around the world.
Some of the tortures described by Slahi were also reported in the recently-released Senate Intelligence Committee summary of a report detailing Central Intelligence Agency torture of terrorism detainees, some of them known by their captors to be innocent.
Slahi describes being kept awake for weeks on end.
“For the next 70 days, I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping; interrogation 24 hours a day,” he writes. He was beaten brutally and mercilessly for the smallest perceived infraction. “Beating parties” would “go on for hours.”
“The guards used every contact opportunity to beat the hell out of the detainee,” claims Slahi.
Then there was the sexual humiliation, and worse. Slahi describes being sexually assaulted by a pair of American females.
“Today, we’re gonna teach you about great American sex,” one of them allegedly told him.
“What hurt me most was them forcing me to take part in a sexual threesome in the most degrading manner,” he writes. “What many [redacted] don’t realize is that men get hurt the same as women if they’re forced to have sex, maybe more due to the traditional position of the man.”
When Slahi refused to eat, his captors took painful steps to keep him alive.
“You’re not gonna die, we’re gonna feed you up your ass,” one of his guards explained. So-called rectal feeding, which is exactly what it sounds like, can be extremely painful.
Other times, they would nearly starve Slahi, give him food, then quickly take it away before he had a chance to eat it.
There were other, more elaborate tortures designed to confuse and terrorize. Profane death threats were constant. One day, he was severely beaten and then taken out to sea in a motorboat, where he was forced to drink salt water until he vomited. His interrogators wanted to make him believe he was being transported to an even worse place than GITMO, and that his mother would be brought there and abused.
Confirmed reports of innocent females being imprisoned and abused by US forces as bargaining chips lend an air of credibility to such threats, terrorizing detainees into thinking the worst will happen to their loved ones.
Finally, Slahi broke:
“No sleep. Water diet. Every move behind my door made me stand up in a military-like position with my heart pounding like boiling water. My appetite was non-existent. I was waiting every minute on the next session of torture. I hoped I would die and go to heaven.”
He decided to tell his captors whatever they wanted to hear in order for the torture to stop.
“I answered all the questions he asked me with incriminating answers,” he writes. “I tried my best to make myself look as bad as I could, which is exactly the way you can make your interrogator happy.”
It worked. Slahi fed his interrogators untold amounts of false information, and they were happy. His quality of life improved dramatically. Slahi would confirm any incriminating ‘evidence’ against anyone, without even thinking of uttering the words “I don’t know”:
“Whenever I thought about the words, ‘I don’t know,’ I got nauseous, because I remembered the words of [redacted]: ‘All you have to say is, ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I don’t remember,’ and we’ll fuck you!’ Or [redacted]: ‘We don’t want to hear your denials anymore!’ And so I erased these words from my dictionary.”
If Slahi’s captors knew he was saying what they wanted to hear, they never let him know it. But they also did not have anything substantial with which to charge him.
Lt. Col. Stuart Crouch was a GITMO prosecutor whose Marine buddy had died aboard United Airlines Flight 175 on 9/11. Slahi was accused of helping the Flight 175 hijackers. But Crouch refused to proceed with the case against Slahi. A devout Christian, the colonel’s conscience would not allow him to participate in the prosecution of a detainee who had been tortured.
Col. Morris Davis, once lead prosecutor on GITMO military commissions, resigned in protest of Slahi’s (and other detainees’) torture and abuse. Davis called the proceedings “rigged from the start” and said he received an order from top Bush attorney Jim Haynes that detainee acquittals were unacceptable.
This, despite the Bush administration knowing that more than 150 innocent men and boys were imprisoned at GITMO, according to classified files leaked by Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff for Bush-era Secretary of State Colin Powell, claims Bush, his vice president Dick Cheney — who admits innocent men were caught up in the CIA torture program — and Rumsfeld all knew the “vast majority” of GITMO detainees were innocent but held them anyway for political reasons.
Slahi claims he is one of those innocent detainees. He is not, however, one of the dozens of GITMO prisoners who have been cleared for release, some since the George W. Bush administration, due to lack of evidence, proof of innocence or a determination that they no longer pose a threat to US security. Slahi did travel to Afghanistan to wage jihad — in a US-backed war against invaders from the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He fought on the same side as the America’s erstwhile ally in the crusade against creeping communism, the young multi-millionaire Osama bin Laden.
Citing the lack of evidence against him, US District Judge James Robertson ordered Slahi’s release in April 2010 after reviewing the lawfulness of his detention.
“The government’s problem is that its proof that [Slahi] gave material support to terrorists is so attenuated, or so tainted by coercion and mistreatment, or so classified, that it cannot support a successful criminal prosecution,” Robertson wrote in his ruling. “Nevertheless, the government wants to hold [Slahi] indefinitely, because of its concern that he might renew his oath to al-Qaeda and become a terrorist upon his release.”
Slahi’s joy turned to crushing sorrow four days later when the Obama administration appealed and his case was remanded to another court. He remains Prisoner Number 760 at Guantánamo, locked up beside hardened terrorists and even more men who have been cleared for release, some of them for a decade.
Despite Judge Robertson’s ruling, the prosecuting colonels’ resignations and President Barack Obama’s 2009 executive order closing GITMO within a year, Mohamedou Ould Slahi remains there, resigned to spending the rest of his days behind bars.
“But nobody can bear [such] agony day in and day out for the rest of his life,” he laments.