cover image Guantanamo Diary

Guantanamo Diary

Mohamedou Ould Slahi, edited by Larry Siems. Little, Brown, $29 (432p) ISBN 978-0-316-32868-5

A Guantanamo detainee endures a hellish ordeal in this riveting prison diary. Slahi, an electrical engineer, was arrested in his native Mauritania in 2001 at the behest of the U.S. government and has been incarcerated at the American military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for 13 years. (The memoir was originally written in 2005 but was only recently declassified, with redactions.) There he fought a Kafkaesque battle with interrogators who pressured him to admit involvement in the 9/11 attacks and the failed %E2%80%9Cmillennium plot" to bomb several targets on Jan. 1, 2000, which he insisted he had no part in, and subjected him to vicious beatings, freezing temperatures, sleep deprivation, sexual groping, and threats that his mother would be imprisoned. After months of abuse, Slahi says, he falsely confessed to terrorism charges. The gripping memoir, ably edited by Larry Siems, captures the prisoner's suffering and disorientation, yet has currents of reflectiveness and empathy as Slahi strives to understand his captors and connect with their humane impulses. His case is complicated: he trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in the early 1990s, but he was ordered released from Gitmo by a federal judge in 2010 (though Slahi is still imprisoned there), and Siems's introduction makes a cogent case for his innocence. Whatever the truth, this searing narrative exposes the dark side of the %E2%80%9Cwar on terror"%E2%80%94the system of arbitrary imprisonment and %E2%80%9Cenhanced interrogation" where justice gives way to lawless brutality. (Jan.)