Professor Noam Chomsky may be among America's most enduring anti-war activists. But the leftist intellectual's anthology of post 9/11 commentary is taboo at Guantánamo's prison camp library, which offers books and videos on Harry Potter, World Cup soccer and Islam.
U.S. military censors recently rejected a Pentagon lawyer's donation of an Arabic-language copy of the political activist and linguistic professor's 2007 anthology Interventions for the library, which has more than 16,000 items.
Chomsky, 80, who has been voicing disgust with U.S. foreign policy since the Vietnam War, reacted with irritation and derision. "This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes,'' he told The Miami Herald by e-mail after learning of the decision.
"Of some incidental interest, perhaps, is the nature of the book they banned. It consists of op-eds written for The New York Times syndicate and distributed by them. The subversive rot must run very deep.''
Prison camp officials would not say specifically why the book was rejected but Navy Lt. Cmdr. Brook DeWalt, a Guantánamo spokesman, said staff reviews "every proposed or recommended library item to assess force protection issues associated with camp dynamics -- such as impact on good order and discipline.''
The banned book showed the bespectacled professor-emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in button-down shirt and sweater staring out of a black cover of a 2007 edition printed by a Beirut publishing house.
A rejection slip accompanying the Chomsky book did not explain the reason but listed categories of restricted literature to include those espousing "Anti-American, Anti-Semitic, Anti-Western'' ideology, literature on "military topics,'' and works that portray ``excessive graphic violence'' and "sexual dysfunctions.''
The list of approved material includes poetry, fiction, art, math, history, religion, politics and current events.
A Pentagon defense lawyer sent the book to Ali Hamza al Bahlul, a confessed al Qaeda member who had worked as Osama bin Laden's media secretary in Afghanistan at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
A military jury convicted Bahlul, 40, of soliciting murder and conspiracy and sentenced him to life in prison in November for creating al Qaeda propaganda. The key evidence was a two-hour video he made by splicing fiery bin Laden speeches with Muslim bloodshed and stock news footage of the aftermath of the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole off Aden, Yemen.
Bahlul is currently the lone war crimes convict at Guantánamo, where the prison camps commander ordered him separated from the other 245 war-on-terror captives at the U.S. base in Cuba under an interpretation of the Geneva Conventions that forbids holding detainees with convicted prisoners. Two earlier convicts were sent back to their native countries, Australia and Yemen, and are now free after serving short sentences.
Prison camp staff would not say how many donated books have been refused.
But DeWalt said detainees are forbidden from receiving gifts of books as personal property. Instead, he said, books sent to the captives are evaluated for their suitability for the library -- a trailer where Defense Department staff have catalogued a collection that recently ballooned to more than 16,000 books, magazines and videos even as the Pentagon is downsizing the prison camp population.