Based on the New York Times–bestselling memoir Guantánamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, it tells the grim story of how he was arrested two months after the tragedy of 9/11 and accused of allegedly working for Al-Qaeda to recruit the pilot who flew the plane into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Tortured, terrified and interrogated 18 hours a day for three years without ever being officially charged with any crime, Slahi struggled behind bars to exonerate himself and find his way back to freedom. His pleas were ignored until they were brought to the attention of Nancy Hollander, a lawyer from New Mexico who became determined to find justice. It was an uphill battle that lasted 14 years, and before this movie ends, you will most likely feel like you have lived through every minute of Slahi’s ordeal.
The Guantanamo Bay detention camp (Spanish: Centro de detención de la bahía de Guantánamo) is a United States military prison located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, also referred to as Guantánamo, GTMO, and Gitmo, on the coast of Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. Of the roughly 780 people detained there since January 2002 when the military prison first opened after the September 11 attacks, 733 have been transferred elsewhere, 37 remain there, and 9 have died while in custody.
The camp was established by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration in 2002 during the War on Terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Indefinite detention without trial and torture led the operations of this camp to be considered a major breach of human rights by Amnesty International, and a violation of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth and Fourteenth amendments of the United States Constitution by the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Bush's successor, U.S. President Barack Obama, promised that he would close the camp, but met strong bipartisan opposition from the U.S. Congress, which passed laws to prohibit detainees from
Bay being imprisoned in the U.S. During President Obama's administration, the number of inmates was reduced from about 245 to 41.
In January 2018, U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to keep the detention camp open indefinitely. In May 2018, a prisoner was repatriated to Saudi Arabia during President Trump's administration. In early February 2021, the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden declared his intention to shut down the facility before he leaves office. In July 2021, an additional detainee was released. In December 2021, the New York Times reported
that the Pentagon is building a second facility courtroom, in which the public will not be allowed to view the proceedings.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) inspected some of the prison facilities in June 2004. In a confidential report issued in July 2004 and leaked to The New York Times in November 2004, Red Cross inspectors accused the U.S. military of using "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, and use of forced positions" against prisoners. The inspectors concluded that "the construction of such a system, whose stated purpose is the production of intelligence, cannot be considered other than an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment and a form of torture." The United States government reportedly rejected the Red Cross findings at the time.
On 30 November 2004, The New York Times published excerpts from an internal memo leaked from the U.S. administration, referring to a report from the ICRC. The ICRC reports of several activities that, it said, were "tantamount to torture": exposure to loud noise or music, prolonged extreme temperatures, or beatings. It also reported that a Behavioral Science Consultation Team (BSCT), also called 'Biscuit,' and military physicians communicated confidential medical information to the interrogation teams (weaknesses, phobias, etc.), resulting in the prisoners losing confidence in their medical care.
The ICRC's access to the base was conditioned, as is normal for ICRC humanitarian operations, on the confidentiality of their report. Following leaking of the U.S. memo, some in the ICRC wanted to make their report public or confront the U.S. administration. The newspaper said the administration and the Pentagon had seen the ICRC report in July 2004 but rejected its findings. The story was originally reported in several newspapers, including The Guardian, and the ICRC reacted to the article when the report was leaked in May.
According to a 21 June 2005 New York Times opinion article, on 29 July 2004, an FBI agent was quoted as saying, "On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times, they had urinated or defecated on themselves and had been left there for 18, 24 hours or more." Air Force Lt. Gen. Randall Schmidt, who headed the probe into FBI accounts of abuse of Guantánamo prisoners by Defense Department personnel, concluded the man (Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi, described as the "20th hijacker") was subjected to "abusive and degrading treatment" by "the cumulative effect of creative, persistent and lengthy interrogations." The techniques used were authorized by the Pentagon, he said.
Many of the released prisoners have complained of enduring beatings, sleep deprivation, prolonged constraint in uncomfortable positions, prolonged hooding, cultural and sexual humiliation, enemas as well as other forced injections, and other physical and psychological mistreatment during their detention in Camp Delta.
In 2004, Army Specialist Sean Baker, a soldier posing as a prisoner during training exercises at the camp, was beaten so severely that he suffered a brain injury and seizures. In June 2004, The New York Times reported that of the nearly 600 detainees, not more than two dozen were closely linked to al-Qaeda and that only very limited information could have been received from questionings. In 2006 the only top terrorist was reportedly Mohammed al Qahtani from Saudi Arabia, who is believed to have planned to participate in the September 11 attacks in 2001.
Mohammed al-Qahtani was refused entry at Orlando International Airport, which stopped him from his plan to take part in the 9/11 attacks. During his Guantánamo interrogations, he was given 3+1⁄2 bags of intravenous fluid, then he was forbidden to use the toilet, forcing him to soil himself. Accounts of the type of treatment he received include having water poured over him, interrogations starting at midnight and lasting 12 hours, and psychological torture methods such as sleep deprivation via repeatedly being woken up by loud, raucous music whenever he would fall asleep, and military dogs being used to intimidate him. Soldiers would play the American national anthem and force him to salute, he had images of victims of the September 11 attacks affixed to his body, he was forced to bark like a dog, and his beard and hair were shaved, an insult to Muslim men. He would be humiliated and upset by female personnel, was forced to wear a bra, and was stripped nude and had fake menstrual blood smeared on him, while being made to believe it was real. Some of the abuses were documented in 2005, when the Interrogation Log of al-Qathani "Detainee 063" was partially published.
The Washington Post, in an 8 May 2004 article, described a set of interrogation techniques approved for use in interrogating alleged terrorists at Guantánamo Bay. Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, characterized them as cruel and inhumane treatment illegal under the U.S. Constitution. On 15 June, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, commander at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq during the prisoner abuse scandal, said she was told from the top to treat detainees like dogs "as it is done in Guantánamo [Camp Delta]." The former commander of Camp X-Ray, Geoffrey Miller, had led the inquiry into the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib during the Allied occupation. Ex-detainees of the Guantanamo Camp have made serious allegations, including alleging Geoffrey Miller's complicity in abuse at Camp X-Ray.
In "Whose God Rules?" David McColgin, a defense attorney for Guantanamo detainees, recounts how a female government interrogator told Muslim detainees she was menstruating, "slipped her hand into her pants and pulled it out with a red liquid smeared on it meant to look like menstrual blood. The detainee screamed at the top of his lungs, began shaking, sobbing, and yanked his arms against his handcuffs. The interrogator explained to [the detainee] that he would now feel too dirty to pray and that she would have the guards turn off the water in his cell so he would not be able to wash the red substance off. 'What do you think your brothers will think of you in the morning when they see an American woman's menstrual blood on your face?' she said as she left the cell." These acts, as well as interrogators desecrating the Quran, led the detainees to riots and mass suicide attempts.
The BBC published a leaked FBI email from December 2003, which said that the Defense Department interrogators at Guantánamo had impersonated FBI agents while using "torture techniques" on a detainee.
In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in June 2005, Vice President Dick Cheney defended the treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo:
There isn't any other nation in the world that would treat people who were determined to kill Americans the way we're treating these people. They're living in the tropics. They're well fed. They've got everything they could possibly want.
Main article: Periodic Report of the United States of America to the United Nations Committee Against Torture
The United States government, through the State Department, makes Periodic Reports to the United Nations Committee Against Torture as part of its treaty obligations under the U.N. Convention Against Torture. In October 2005, the U.S. report covered pretrial detention of suspects in the "War on Terrorism", including those held in Guantánamo Bay. This Periodic Report is significant as the first official response of the U.S. government to allegations that prisoners are mistreated in Guantánamo Bay. While the 2005 report denies allegations of "serious abuse," it does detail 10 "substantiated incidents of misconduct," and the training and punishments given to the perpetrators.
Writing in The New York Times on 24 June 2012, former President Jimmy Carter criticized the methods used to obtain confessions:
"...some of the few being tried (only in military courts) have been tortured by waterboarding more than 100 times or intimidated with semiautomatic weapons, power drills or threats to sexually assault their mothers. These facts cannot be used as a defense by the accused, because the government claims they occurred under the cover of 'national security'".
of the chairs the Nazis captors at Guantánamo Bay use to force feed their
victims, when torturing them. Human rights abuses can be the subject of
referrals to the International
Court of Justice, The Hague.
OPERATING MANUAL - DESIGNED TO ELICIT FALSE CONFESSIONS
A manual called "Camp Delta Standard Operating Procedure" (SOP), dated 28 February 2003, and designated "Unclassified//For Official Use Only", was published on WikiLeaks. This is the main document for the operation of Guantánamo Bay, including the securing and treatment of detainees. The 238-page document includes procedures for identity cards and 'Muslim burial'. It is signed by Major General Geoffrey D. Miller. The document is the subject of an ongoing legal action by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which has been trying to obtain it from the Department of Defense.
On 2 July 2008, The New York Times revealed that the U.S. military trainers who came to Guantánamo Bay in December 2002 had based an entire interrogation class on a chart copied directly from a 1957 Air Force study of "Chinese Communist" interrogation methodology (commonly referred to as 'brainwashing') that the United States alleged were used during the Korean War to obtain confessions. The chart showed the effects of "coercive management techniques" for possible use on prisoners, including "sleep deprivation", "prolonged constraint" (also known as "stress positions") and "exposure". The chart was copied from a 1957 article (entitled "Communist Attempts to Elicit False Confessions From Air Force Prisoners of War") written by Albert D. Biderman, working as a sociologist for the Air Force. Biderman had interviewed American prisoners of war returning from Korea who had confessed to having taken part in biological warfare or involvement in other atrocities. His article sets out that the most common interrogation method used by the Chinese was to indirectly subject a prisoner to extended periods of what would initially be minor discomfort.
As an example, prisoners would be required to stand for extended periods, sometimes in a cold environment. Prolonged standing and exposure to cold are an accepted technique used by the American military and the CIA to interrogate prisoners whom the United States classifies as "unlawful combatants" (spies and saboteurs in wartime, "terrorists" in unconventional conflicts) although it is classified as torture under the Geneva Conventions. The chart reflects an "extreme model" created by Biderman to help in "understanding what occurred apart from the extent to which it was realized in actuality" (Biderman did not have a PhD in Sociology [usually the minimum qualification required to carry out such work] and the underlying research was not subjected to peer-review). His chart sets out in summary bullet points the techniques allegedly used by the Chinese in Korea, the most extreme of which include "Semi-Starvation", "Exploitation of Wounds", and use of "Filthy, Infested Surroundings" to make the prisoner "Dependent on Interrogator", to weaken "Mental and Physical Ability to Resist", and to reduce the "Prisoner to 'Animal Level'". Biderman himself admits that he was working from a very small sample of American prisoners who claimed to have been mistreated, and of the handful who had reported prolonged mistreatment none had become the "ideal confessor" (the ultimate aim of the model).
It should be understood that only a few of the Air Force personnel who encountered efforts to elicit false confessions in Korea were subjected to really full dress, all-out attempts to make them behave in the manner I have sketched. The time between capture and repatriation for many was too short, and, presumably, the trained interrogators available to the Communists too few, to permit this. Of the few Air Force prisoners who did get the full treatment, none could be made to behave in complete accordance with the Chinese Communists' ideal of the "repentant criminal".
It is unclear from the article whether the "sketch" of techniques set out in the chart are supported by evidence from prisoner interviews or whether it simply presents "communist" methodology in idealized form in accordance with the conventions of the time. While the chart ostensibly presents the methodology of the "enemy", it has come to have actual application at home. In the military, the techniques outlined by the chart are commonly referred to as "Biderman's Principles" and within the intelligence community it has come to be known as "Biderman's Chart of Coercion". The chart is also often used by anti-cult web sites to describe how religious cults control their members.
The article was motivated by the need for the United States to deal with prominent confessions of war crimes obtained by Chinese interrogators during the Korean War. It was alleged at the time that American prisoners of war who had confessed had been "brainwashed". The allegation was taken seriously by the American military and it led them to develop a training program to counter the use of harsh methods used by an enemy interrogator. Almost all U.S. military personnel now receive Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training to resist interrogation. Central to this training program is the theoretical model of the "communist" interrogation methodology as presented by Mr. Biderman. In 2002, this training program was adopted as a source of interrogation techniques to be used in the newly declared "War on Terror".
When it was adopted for use at the Guantánamo detention and interrogation facility the only change that was made to Biderman's Chart of Coercion was to change the title (originally called "Communist Coercive Methods for Eliciting Individual Compliance"). The training document instructing on the use of these "coercive" methods was made public at a United States Senate Armed Services Committee hearing (17 June 2008) investigating how such tactics came to be employed. Col. Steven Kleinman, who was head of a team of SERE trainers, testified before the Senate committee that his team had been put under pressure to demonstrate the techniques on Iraqi prisoners and that they had been sent home after Kleinman had observed that the techniques were intended to be used as a "form of punishment for those who wouldn't cooperate", and put a stop to it. Sen. Carl Levin (chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee) was quoted after reviewing the evidence as saying:
What makes this document doubly stunning is that these were techniques to get false confessions. People say we need intelligence, and we do. But we don't need false intelligence.