In July 2003, as Slahi’s “special interrogation” continued, Guantánamo commander Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller added another brutal ruse to Slahi’s interrogation plan. Following days of intensive questioning, Slahi was to be forcibly removed from his cell by a team of military police in riot gear, escorted past menacing dogs, and loaded onto a helicopter, where he would be flown out over the ocean and threatened with death or rendition to a Middle Eastern country—a threat to be made all the more real by the presence of Egyptian and Jordanian interrogators on the flight. The general’s plan was subsequently revised because, as his intelligence chief later told Justice Department investigators, “Miller had decided that [the helicopter] was too difficult logistically to pull off, and that too many people on the base would have to know about it to get it done.” Instead, on Aug. 24, 2003, in accordance with the plan that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ultimately signed, Slahi was abducted from his cell and taken on a three-hour boat trip into the Caribbean, where he was beaten and threatened by U.S. military personnel and two Arab interrogators.
I barely finished my meal, when all of a sudden ████████ and I heard a commotion, guards cursing loudly, “I told you, motherfucker …,” people banging the floor violently with heavy boots, dog barking, doors closed loudly. I froze in my seat. ████████ went speechless. We were staring at each other, not knowing what was going on. My heart was pounding because I knew a detainee was going to be hurt. Yes, and the detainee was me.
Suddenly a commando team of three soldiers and a German shepherd broke into our interrogation room. ████████ punched me violently, which made me fall face down on the floor, and the second guy kept punching me everywhere, mainly on my face and my ribs. Both were masked from head to toe.
“Motherfucker, I told you, you’re gone!” said ████████. His partner kept punching me without saying a word; he didn’t want to be recognized. The third man was not masked, he stayed at the door holding the dog collar, ready to release it on me.
“Who told you to do that? You’re hurting the detainee,” screamed ████████, who was no less terrified than I was.
As to me, I couldn’t digest the situation. My first thought was, they mistook me for somebody else. My second thought was to try to look around, but one of the guards was squeezing my face against the floor. I saw the dog fighting to get loose. I saw ████████ standing up, looking helpless at the guards working on me.
“Blindfold the motherfucker! He’s trying to look—” One of them hit me hard across the face and quickly put goggles on my eyes, earmuffs on my ears, and a small bag over my head. They tightened the chains around my ankles and my wrists; afterward I started to bleed. All I could hear was ████████ cursing, “F-ing this and F-ing that.” I thought they were going to execute me.
The other guard dragged me out with my toes tracing the way, and threw me in a truck, which immediately took off. The beating party would last for the next three to four hours, before they turned me over to another team that would use different torture techniques.
“Stop praying, motherfucker. You’re killing people,” ████████ said, and punched me hard on my mouth. My mouth and nose started to bleed, and my lips grew so big that I technically could not speak anymore. The colleague of ████████ turned out to be one of my guards; ████████ and ████████ each took one of my sides and started to punch me and smash me against the metal of the truck. One of the guys hit me so that my breath stopped and I was choking. I felt like I was breathing through my ribs.
Did I pass out? Maybe not. All I know is that I kept noticing ████████ several times spraying ammonia in my nose. The funny thing was, Mr. ████████ was at the same time a “lifesaver,” as were the guards I would be dealing with for the year to come; all of them were allowed to give me medication and first aid.
After 10 to 15 minutes, the truck stopped at the beach. My escort team dragged me out of the truck and put me in a high-speed boat. ████████ never gave me a break; they kept hitting me.
“You’re killing people,” said ████████. I believe he was thinking out loud: He knew he was committing the most cowardly crime in the world, torturing a helpless detainee who was completely submissive and turned himself in. ████████ was trying to convince himself that he was doing the right thing.
Inside the boat, ████████ made me drink salt water, I believe it was direct from the ocean. It was so nasty I threw it up. They put an object in my mouth and shouted, “Swallow, motherfucker!” I decided inside not to swallow the organ-damaging salt water, which choked me as they kept pouring the water in my mouth. “Swallow, you idiot!” I contemplated quickly, and decided for the nasty, damaging water rather than death.
████████ and ████████ had been escorting me for about three hours in the high-speed boat. The goal of such trip was, first, to torture the detainee and claim that the “detainee hurt himself during transport,” and second to make the detainee believe he is being transferred to some far faraway secret prison. We detainees knew all about this; we had detainees who reported flying four hours and finding themselves in the same jail where they started. I knew from the beginning that I was going to be transferred to ████████.
When the boat [landed], ████████ and his colleague dragged me out and made me sit cross-legged. I was moaning from the unbearable pain.
“Uh … Uh … ALLAH. ALLAH … I told you not to fuck with us, didn’t I?” said Mr. X, mimicking me. I hoped I could stop moaning because the gentleman kept mocking me and blaspheming the Lord; however the moaning was necessary so I could breathe. “We appreciate everybody who works with us, thanks gentlemen,” said ████████. I recognized his voice. Although he was addressing his Arab guests, the message was addressed to me more than anybody.
It was nighttime. My blindfold didn’t keep me from feeling the bright lighting, some kind of high-watt projectors.
“We happy for zat. Maybe we take him to Egypt, he say everything,” said an Arab guy whose voice I’d never heard, with a thick Egyptian accent. I could tell the guy was in his late 20s or early 30s based on his voice, his speech, and later on his actions. His English was both poor and decidedly mispronounced.
Then I heard indistinct conversations here and there, after which the Egyptian and another guy approached. Now they’re talking directly to me in Arabic.
“What a coward! You guys ask for civil rights? You get none,” said the Egyptian.
“Somebody like this coward, it takes us only one hour in Jordan until he spits everything,” said the Jordanian. Obviously he didn’t know that I had spent eight months in Jordan and no miracle took place.
“We take him to Egypt,” said the Egyptian, addressing ████████.
“Maybe later,” said ████████.
To be continued in Part 5
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.