For his first several months in Guantánamo, Slahi was interrogated by agents from the FBI and the Navy’s Criminal Investigation Task Force. Both the FBI and CITF favored conventional, “rapport building” interrogation methods; throughout the fall, both agencies clashed repeatedly with Guantánamo’s commanders over the military’s increasingly abusive interrogations, and fought Pentagon plans for the “Special Project” interrogation of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a 50-day torture regime of extreme sleep deprivation, 20-hour-a-day interrogations, and repeated physical and sexual humiliations.
By January 2003, military interrogators were agitating to make Slahi their second “Special Project,” drawing up an interrogation plan that mirrored Qahtani’s. Declassified documents show that Slahi’s “special interrogation” began when he was transferred to an isolation cell near the end of May.
Things went more quickly than I thought. ████████ sent me back to the block, and I told my fellow detainees about being overtaken by the torture squad.
“You are not a kid. Those torturers are not worth thinking about. Have faith in Allah,” said my next ████████. I really must have acted like a child all day long before the guards pried me from the population block later that day. You don’t know how terrorizing it is for a human being to be threatened with torture. One becomes literally a child. An Arabic proverb says, “Waiting on torture is worse than torture itself.” I can only confirm this proverb.
The escort team showed up at my cell: “You got to move.”
“Not your problem,” said the hateful ████████ guard. But he was not very smart, for he had my destination written on his glove.
“Brother, pray for me, I am being transferred ████████.” ████████ was reserved by then for the worst detainees in the camp. If one got transferred ████████ many signatures must have been provided, maybe the president of the U.S. The only people I know to have spent some time ████████ since it was designed for torture were ████████ al Kuwaiti and another detainee from ████████, I don’t know the name.
In the block the recipe started. I was deprived of my comfort items, except for a thin iso-mat and a very thin, small, and worn-out blanket. I was deprived of my books, which I owned. I was deprived of my Quran. I was deprived of my soap. I was deprived of my toothpaste. I was deprived of the roll of toilet paper I had. The cell—better, the box—was cooled down so that I was shaking most of the time. I was forbidden from seeing the light of the day. Every once in a while they gave me a rec time in the night to keep me from seeing or interacting with any detainees. I was living literally in terror. I don’t remember having slept one night quietly; for the next 70 days to come I wouldn’t know the sweetness of sleeping. Interrogation for 24 hours, three and sometimes four shifts a day. I rarely got a day off.
“We know that you are a criminal.”
“What have I done?”
“You tell me, and we reduce your sentence to 30 years. Otherwise you will never see the light again. If you don’t cooperate we are going to put you in a hole and wipe your name out of our detainees database.” I was so terrified because I knew, even though he couldn’t make such decision on his own, he had the complete backup of the high government level. He didn’t speak from the air.
“I don’t care where you take me, just do it.”
When I failed to give him the answer he wanted to hear, he made me stand up, with my back bent because my hands were shackled with my feet and waist and locked to the floor. ████████ turned the temp control all the way down, and made sure that the guards maintained me in that situation until he decided otherwise. He used to start a fuss before going to his lunch, so he kept me hurt during his lunch, which took at least two to three hours. ████████ likes his food; he never missed his lunch. I was wondering, how could ████████ have possibly passed the fitness test of the Army? But I realized he is in the Army for a reason.
The fact that I wasn’t allowed to see the light made me “enjoy” the short trip between my freakin’ cold cell and the interrogation room. It’s just a blessing when the warm GTMO sun hit me. I felt the life sneaking back into every inch of my body. I always had this fake happiness, though for a very short time. It’s like taking narcotics.
“How you been?” said one of the Puerto Rican escorting guards, with his weak English.
“I’m OK, thanks, and you?”
“No worry, you gonna back to your family,” he said. When he said so I couldn’t help breaking into ████████. Lately, I had become so vulnerable. What’s wrong with me? Just a soothing word in this ocean of agony was enough to make me cry.
████████ we had a complete Puerto Rican division. They were different than other Americans. They were not as vigilant and unfriendly. Sometimes they took detainees to shower ████████. Everybody liked them. Due to their friendly and humane approach to detainees, they got in trouble with those responsible for the camps. I can’t objectively speak about the people from Puerto Rico because I haven’t seen enough, but if you ask me have you ever seen a bad Puerto Rican? My answer would be no.
“We’re gonna talk today about ████████,” [said] ████████ after bribing me with a weathered metal chair.
“I have told what I know about ████████.”
“No, that’s bullshit. Are you gonna tell us more?”
“No, I have no more to tell.” The new ████████ pulled the metal chair away and left me on the floor.
“Talk about it, it wouldn’t hurt,” the new ████████ said.
“Today, we’re gonna teach you about great American sex. Get up,” said ████████.
As soon as I stood up, the two ████████ took off their blouses and started to talk all kinds of dirty stuff you can imagine. Both ████████ stuck on me literally from the front, and the other older ████████ stuck on my back, rubbing ████████ whole body on mine. At the same time they were talking dirty to me, and playing with my sexual parts. I am saving you here from quoting the disgusting and degrading talk I had to listen to from noon or before until 10 p.m. when they turned me over to ████████, the new character you’ll learn about later.
To be fair and honest, the ████████ didn’t deprive me of my clothes at any time; everything happened with my uniform on. The senior ████████ was watching everything ████████. I kept praying all the time.
“Stop the fuck praying. You’re having sex with American ████████ and you’re praying? What a hypocrite you are!” said ████████ angrily while entering the room. I refused to stop speaking my prayers. During this session I also refused to eat or to drink, although they offered me water every once in a while. I was just wishing to pass out so I didn’t have to suffer; and that was really the main reason for my hunger strike. I knew people like them don’t get impressed by a hunger strike. Of course they didn’t want me to die, but they understand there are many steps until one dies.
“You’re not gonna die, we’re gonna feed you up your ass,” said ████████.
To be continued in Part 3
The above is an excerpt from Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s handwritten 466-page memoir, composed during his detention at Guantánamo and declassified by the U.S. government. These excerpts were chosen by Larry Siems and edited by Slate, originally published April 2013. Since Slahi remains in custody and cannot freely communicate, we have limited our editorial changes to correcting grammar and clarifying idiomatic phrasing in order to preserve his unique voice. In the few instances where his meaning required additional context, we have inserted text marked off in brackets.