Military leadership has long argued that torture is strictly taboo here. But the assertion took on new meaning during a media visit this week when the Army officer who runs the prisoners’ 35,000-item library revealed that the last donated book he rejected was the so-called Senate Torture Report.
“There is tradecraft in there,” said the Army captain known as “the librarian,” who was wearing battle dress Tuesday as he briefed reporters in a trailer housing the collection. “There are things that would be of interest to a potential adversary of the United States. In order to maintain good order and discipline in the camps, I said ‘We’re not going to take that in.’ ”
The investigation describes how the spy agency subjected some of its prisoners to waterboarding, rectal feeding, sleep deprivation and other abuses before their transfer to Guantánamo’s secret Camp 7 prison in late 2006. The alleged Sept. 11 mastermind and accused architect of the USS Cole bombing are prominently featured.
Other “negative screening criteria” that can cause a donation to be refused include “military topics,” extreme graphic violence, nudity, sexuality and extremism, the officer said. The prison, which reports constant circulation in books about Islam, seeks to promote more harmonious themes.
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The official name of the paperback book that the library disqualified from accession after its arrival weeks ago is the Senate Intelligence Committee Study on the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation. In fact, however, it’s the 525-page summary, with redactions, of the more than 6,000-page mostly classified report about what happened to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri and other CIA prisoners after their capture in 2002 and 2003.
And some of those men have already seen the report. A Pentagon defense lawyer, Jay Connell, said he sent his Camp 7 client, Ammar al Baluchi, a copy soon after the report was released in late 2014 through a legal mail screening process. It is relevant case material, he said, as they prepare for the eventual 9/11 death-penalty trial.
At the library, the captain manages the 15-language collection not for the high-value prisoners held at Camp 7 but for the 65 long-held, run-of-the-mill captives at the detention center’s Camp 5, 6 and Echo compounds. Of them, 28 are eligible for transfer with security assurances that satisfy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter.
Other tidbits from “the library tour:” The officer said the last video he accepted was a donated copy of the sixth season of “Married With Children,” a 1990s situation comedy.
The trailer housing the collection is always a popular spot with visiting journalists. Unlike the detainees, who get books delivered to their cell door, visiting media can browse the stacks. This week, they also got to pick through a cart of recently returned items, one of which was a copy of “Waiting for Godot” — Samuel Beckett’s two-character play about the guy who never does come.
The librarian said his collection does include something written by Hillary Clinton — it was apparently circulating because it was not in the stacks — but not Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal.”
The library is part of a series of programs run by the Pentagon prison to provide captives with distractions in their second decade of military detention. Checkout privileges are on a sliding basis, depending on how a captive behaves. “We don’t have a due date or anything for them,” said the officer, explaining that each captive can keep his book “on an indefinite basis” — invoking a term from the status of some of his readers.
In keeping with current detention center media policy, reporters are prohibited from publishing the officer’s name.
Visiting Guantánamo’s Detention Center Zone as a reporter means undergoing a nightly military review of any photos or videos you took that day.
For years, Army or Navy journalists handled the “Operational Security Review” in offices alongside the prison commander’s headquarters. That way, senior staff could be consulted. Once prison leaders pushed the “media relations team” out of the Zone, the soldiers conducted the security review in a shed inside an obsolete air hangar on an obsolete base airfield.
This week, troops went expeditionary to comb through video and pictures taken by the BBC, the television station RT and two French reporters, among others. They set up shop in a waiting room at the base air terminal — which has a Subway sandwich counter and wifi — and brought field rations called MREs, Meals Read to Eat, to sustain themselves until they screened the photos and videos of reporters who were granted the only media access to the Zone in May.