Posts Tagged ‘Fifty Shades of Grey


the never-ending gitmo

September 8, 2013

The Guantanamo/Fifty Shades of Grey debacle in the last couple weeks unraveled with reports in the AP and the New York Times challenging Representative Moran’s version of events. Here’s the New York Times piece:

The attorney from my previous post seems to be dead on: the book was either a joke or planted by a government agent:

“A lawyer for one of the men said that prison guards had placed a contraband copy of the book in the cell of his client, Ammar al-Baluchi, a nephew of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, only after Representative Moran’s comments appeared.”

Either way, it’s a pretty damning display of hubris and callousness on the part of prison officials. With so many eyes on Guantanamo and the attendant geopolitical and human rights concerns, you would think the people in charge would act halfway professional. How do you convince anyone fiascos like Abu Ghraib were anomalies when stuff like this keeps happening?

What I’m most interested in is how events like this redound on the current relevant context. On various social media fora, I’ve seen reams of speculative musings about America’s imminent intervention in Syria. Everything from Iraq III to oil interests to regional politics to military ineffectiveness – it seems everyone is taking a few wild swings at the truth piñata. The reality as seen from these shores, it seems, is no one really knows what the Obama administration will attempt or to what end. But alongside scattershot speculation from American sources, there is a noticeable stream of conspiracy theories from various sources, some dubious and some (shockingly) intelligent. Here are some listed on Foreign Policy magazine’s page:

I think what this points to is not that people outside the West are crazy and illogical about American intentions. Rather, I think theories like these reflect an equally appalling narrative that includes the U.S.’ admission that it orchestrated a coup in Iran or that it facilitated the use of chemical weapons in Iraq in the early 80’s – or that it is holding Muslim prisoners in legal limbo under torture-like conditions with no tenable justification for their continued detention. And for anyone who grew up in the shadow of those real conspiracies that actually happened and are still happening, their logic might lead consistently and, yes, logically, to these kinds of surreal conclusions, even if they turn out to be wrong. Because right now, who really can say with any certainty what the U.S. is trying to do with its imminent Syrian intervention or its long-term strategic plan in the Middle East?


a bay full of pigs?

August 4, 2013

I posted this article on my Facebook wall the other day about Guantanamo Bay prisoners reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.” It sounded incredulous to me, and I recalled remarks about straitjacket-tight security at Guantanamo Bay from a friend who had represented several prisoners there. In a word, he said, “Bullshit.” (See below for excerpts of the Protective Order governing procedure at the facility.)

Here’s what he said in his second comment: “They always blame the attorneys. We give our clients books. The military screens them. Things that are not approved get tossed. The mil is very clear about what’s not allowed. Erotica, books with racy pix on the cover, plainly not allowed. And we can’t simply hand this stuff to our clients – all of it gets submitted to a mil screener. So if copies of these books are in the GTMO library, they are there because the government put them there.”

The irony in the Reuters report is remarkable. We have a suggestion that men, who are often subjected to vise-like restraints, are reading trashy novels about women who are liberated through bondage. Supposedly, these men believe the Koran is the only sacred text – but they’re happy to add “Fifty Shades of Grey” to the list?

My astute friend Anna pointed out that it’s not just weird to suggest the prisoners are reading these books, it’s emasculating. Popular perception suggests middle-aged women are the main readers of the series. So this might be another tactic to break down these men through sexual humiliation. Or maybe we should add middle-aged women to the terror watch list for sharing sympathies with alleged terrorists (hence “The War on Women?”). Or maybe the prisoners find true redemption in realizing (mild erotic) torture can lead to some benefit after all.

Maybe the real story in all this is that there is no story at all, but through an act of reporting, Reuters managed to conjure one up and fool everyone – almost. In the comments section below the story, there is a strong hint from a reader named “BriannaReuters”. There is no suggestion this person works for Reuters, but he or she does seem to have some knowledge of the situation, and it appears the comments attributed to Representative Moran might have been based on a joke by the commander at Guantanamo – and Reuters just didn’t bother to check on that.


Which is to say, that is a mind-blowing revelation! Maybe Congress is partly mired in internecine warfare because the press gives a platform to any legislator willing to hurl incendiary remarks regardless of their factual basis. That in turn riles up all sides to dig a little deeper into their trenches and resist cooperation.

Maybe it’s time someone called “bullshit” on all of this. Surely, our satirists-in-chief will cut right to the ridiculousness of the Reuters’ article…but no! Even the Colbert Report did a segment on this story!


It’s a sad day. When purveyors of fake news report on actual fake news, the astonishing outcome is that the news might just become real.


*** UPDATE *** – August 5, 2013:

Some follow-up details from the Habeas attorney quoted above:

“First, I don’t have any independent knowledge of these specific books except to say that there are only two sources of library materials at GTMO that I am aware of: Habeas counsel and the US government. I bring books to my client all the time. I have to fill out a detailed form, submit the book to both my Habeas escort (a minder) and the DoD “privilege review team” for screening. I never see it again.  If the book is rejected, we presume it gets tossed. We are warned that books containing sexually explicit subject matter or covers are not allowed, as are books about politics, certain current events, violence, etc. I once submitted an Arabic translation of a classic academic book on the French Mandate for my Syrian client; it was rejected.

We are not allowed to leave anything with our clients when we see them. We are screened and wanded before going in to the camps. Guards search all of our papers, page by page. 

And we are aware that in the few instances where prisoners were found with contraband reading material, the likely source was their CIA or DoD interrogators, using the material as an incentive to talk.

I think they may be in the protective order. I will look when I get into the office.

Of course, the military makes a lot of it up as they go along….

One last thing:  I believe stories like this get reported to denigrate the men down there, make them look pathetic, vane, weak.  Not that they’re all bastions of high character, but there has for some time been this narrative to portray them as stone cold killers and simultaneously as immature kids.”

*** Excerpts from the GTMO Protective Order about visitation procedures:

(Full version here: 09-11-08 Protective Order)

“Upon receiving legal mail from counsel for delivery to the detainee, the privilege team shall open the envelope or mailer to search the contents for prohibited physical contraband. Within two business days of receipt of legal mail, and assuming no physical contraband is present, the privilege team shall forward the mail to military personnel at GTMO in a sealed envelope marked “Legal Mail Approved by Privilege Team” and clearly indicating the identity of the detainee to whom the legal mail is to be delivered. The privilege team shall return to the sender any incoming mail that does not comply with the terms of paragraphs 12.a and 12.b of these Procedures.

*          *          *

Contraband is not permitted in JTF-Guantanamo, and all visitors are subject to search upon arrival and departure. Examples of contraband include, but are not limited to, weapons, chemicals, drugs, and materials that may be used in an escape attempt. Contraband also includes, but is not limited to, money, stamps, cigarettes, and writing instruments. No items of any kind may be provided to a detainee without the advance approval of the Commander, JTF-Guantanamo.

*          *          *

Upon arrival at JTF-Guantanamo, security personnel will perform a contraband inspection of counsel using metal detectors, as well as a physical inspection of counsel’s bags and briefcases and, if determined necessary, a physical inspection of counsel’s persons.

*          *          *

Counsel will meet with detainees in conference facilities provided by GTMO. These facilities are subject to visual monitoring by  closed circuit TV for safety and security reasons. The only other method of visual observation available is for the door to remain open with military police sitting outside the door. No oral communications between counsel and the detainees will be heard.”

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