Out of Gitmo

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Arun Rath


James Jacoby


ARUN RATH, NPR / WGBH News: [voice-over] I’ve been covering the prison at Guantanamo Bay throughout the Obama years.

NEWSCASTER: President Obama rushing to empty Guantanamo Bay just days before leaving office.

ARUN RATH: I returned just before Obama left office, as he and Donald Trump fought over the future of this place and the men detained here.

DONALD TRUMP (R), Presidential Candidate: He’s allowing people to get out that are terrible people.

Pres. BARACK OBAMA: Make no mistake, we will close the Guantanamo prison.

DONALD TRUMP: Gitmo, we’re keeping that open, and we’re going to load it up with bad dudes! [cheers]

ARUN RATH: Gitmo still houses notorious terrorists, like Khalid Sheik Mohammad, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.

[on camera] Tell us where we are.

CAPTAIN: We’re standing right now in front of Camp 6, and that’s where the majority of the general population of detainees are housed. Just don’t get any guard faces in the back.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] This time, I was here to report on Obama’s final push to empty out the prison. In his last year, he released 52 detainees. Nearly half of them had been held without charges and were once considered too dangerous to let go. But military and intelligence officials finally deemed the men safe to set free.

I wanted to know more about these high-stakes decisions, and what happened to the detainees once they got out.

GUARD: This gate would literally be the last gate that they walk through before they get on their transportation to leave Guantanamo Bay.

NEWSCASTER: Fifteen detainees just released to the United Arab Emirates─

ARUN RATH: The detainees have been scattered around the globe, taken in under secret deals.

NEWSCASTER: ─bodyguard for Osama bin Laden is now free after being held for 14 years.

ARUN RATH: None of the officials involved in these deals will discuss the details, but most of the detainees were sent to Arab countries.

NEWSCASTER: The Obama administration quietly took 10 terror suspects from the prison at Guantanamo Bay and transferred them to the Middle Eastern country of Oman.

ARUN RATH: Some were sent to rehab centers in places like Oman.

NEWSCASTER: The U.S. released four Yemeni men with some relatives waiting.

ARUN RATH: Others were reunited with their families in Saudi Arabia. Every transfer was reviewed and approved by the Department of Defense. Chuck Hagel personally signed off on more than 40 detainees during his years as secretary of defense.

[on camera] In terms of the facts about the former detainees, what should Americans make of their danger, their status?

CHUCK HAGEL, Secretary of Defense, 2013-15: There’s always the danger, of course, because this is an imperfect process. But every one of those detainees I signed off on, it was based on the best, absolute best information, intelligence and knowledge and certification that we could come up with.

And one of the final questions that I had to certify was, “In your opinion, have you done everything to minimize the possibility that a detainee would ever again do any harm to an American or any of our allies?”

ARUN RATH: What did that mean in practice, I mean, in figuring that out?

CHUCK HAGEL: I always took the approach that I wanted to be damn sure. And I wanted assurance from my security people that, in fact, they had seen physically where these people were going to be, who was going to monitor them, how often the monitoring.

And on the other side, we say to the host countries that are going to accept them, “We want these people to get back into society, where they are productive citizens.” That means education. That means rehabilitation. Of course. I mean, that’s clearly in our interests. It’s in the interests of the detainee.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Few of the ex-detainees have been heard from since their release. Their lawyers say that the ones sent to Arab countries seem to be adjusting. But I’ve heard others are having problems, a handful of men who were taken to non-Arab countries with little support.

One of them, among the last to leave Gitmo, is willing to talk, Mansoor al Dayfi, prisoner number 441 from Yemen. He was never charged, but for most of his 14 years at Gitmo, he was considered too dangerous to release. In 2015, a review board convened by President Obama determined that he was no longer a threat.

Yemeni detainees are barred from going home because of political instability there. So last summer, he and another detainee were transferred to Serbia.

Mansoor’s pro bono lawyer in New York says he’s unhappy in Serbia and wants to live in an Arab country.

[on camera] Was he given any choice in where he was going to go?

BETH JACOB, Attorney:   No, not really. It was pretty much presented as Guantanamo or Serbia.

ARUN RATH: And what kind of rehabilitation has been provided for him in Serbia so far?

BETH JACOB: From Serbia, as far as I can tell, nothing. And nothing from the U.S. government.

If we are going to take them after holding them for 14 or 15 years and not let them go home, and not let them go to the country they want to go to, not let them go to a place where they feel they themselves will be able to build a life, but force them to another place, then I think we have a responsibility to help them adjust to that and make it work.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] She says Mansoor has gone on a hunger strike protesting his situation.

[on camera] You have represented other Guantanamo detainees. In terms of Mansoor’s resettlement and reintegrating, is Mansoor a unique case?

BETH JACOB: I do not think he’s the only one who’s had a difficult time. I think a lot of the other men who have been sent, say, to Eastern Europe, which is a very unfamiliar culture for them and unfamiliar languages, have had a very hard time adjusting.

People who were sent to countries like Oman, which are very familiar to them, which are a familiar language, which does have a formal rehabilitation program to help them make that adjustment, those people seem to be doing pretty well.

And if we want to make sure that these people are never going to be a threat to the U.S., the best way to do that is to make sure that they have a life that they are happy with. That’s not going to happen if you put them some place where they’re totally isolated and they don’t see any prospect for a future.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] As I set off to meet Mansoor in Belgrade, Serbia, here’s what I knew about him. He’d spent time at an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan before being captured when he was in his early 20s.

Much of his case file remains classified, but leaked documents show that at first, the U.S. government claimed he was an al Qaeda commander. His final review, however, came to a very different conclusion. At worst, it says, he was a low-level fighter, possibly not even a member of al Qaeda at all.

Mansoor was known to exaggerate and change his story. In 2006, he claimed he was a committed jihadi and praised the 9/11 attacks. But by 2015, he claimed he wanted a college education and was a fan of Taylor Swift.

Still, Serbia seemed a surprising place to send a man once labeled a Muslim terrorist.

NEWSCASTER: ─every Muslim house burned, every Muslim killed or run off.

ARUN RATH: In the 1990s, Serbian troops slaughtered tens of thousands of Muslim men, women and children.

NEWSCASTER: The Serbs call it “ethnic cleansing,” and brag about their efficiency.

ARUN RATH: NATO bombed Belgrade to stop years of carnage.

When the detainees arrived here last July, it made headlines. Some questioned if they were dangerous. The Serbian prime minister insisted they weren’t.

The other detainee has refused to talk at all, and Mansoor has kept a low profile, avoiding publicity while his lawyer has been telling officials about his unhappiness and his hunger strike. Now he wants to go public in hopes of being moved.

The Serbian government agreed to keep Mansoor for two years. He can’t leave the country. They give him a small stipend and an apartment. That’s where we found him.


ARUN RATH: [on camera] Mansoor, hi.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I’m OK. How are you? Good morning.

ARUN RATH: Good morning. How are you feeling right now?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I feel I’m lost, honestly, because I’m nowhere. I end up in Guantanamo 20 years old. I am still 20. Mentally, I’m 20 years old, the way I’m thinking, the way I’m talking.   But physically, I am 36. Because when you stay in jail─ I mean, your mind and your intellectual─ everything is still the same.

And I mean the worst thing in Guantanamo, like, what I have experienced─ you never know─ I didn’t know why I was there. And for how long are you going to punish me? Until when? What’s my─ what’s my crime? I wish, if I had done something wrong, then, yeah, I deserve that. But nothing? It’s just keep people indefinite for no reason? It’s not right at all.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Mansoor’s detention may have been prolonged by what he told a review board in 2006. After nearly five years at Gitmo, he declared himself an enemy of the United States.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I regret that now. I was mad. I was young. I was crazy, of course. Imagine you are in a place where you’re, like, totally disconnected to the world outside, to your family, to lawyers, to anyone. They were extracting the worst of us to show the world, “This is bad people.”

ARUN RATH: Mansoor learned English at Gitmo, mostly from the guards, he says, and he wanted to study at an English language university here but was rejected. He says it’s because of his background, but the university told me he failed his entrance exam.

He rarely leaves the house, especially now that he’s on a hunger strike.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: My weight is, like, slimming down very─ very fast. I started in 154 pound. Now I am 136. Like, almost 18 pounds I have lost in 23 days.

ARUN RATH: For most of the detainees at Gitmo, refusing to eat was a common form of protest. Mansoor says he did it many times, and at one point, was force-fed over the course of two years. Now he’s using the tactic to pressure the U.S. to get him out of Serbia.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: What I am asking to be sent to other country, which I can start my life. That what I want, to start a family, start to finish my college education and to live like a normal person. That what I want in my life, not more, simple dream.

ARUN RATH: [on camera] What did you think when you heard Serbia?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I was afraid, scared, afraid, to be honest with you, because the historical conflict between Serbia and Muslims in the ‘90s. This is, like, “God, I’m going to that country. You threw me in a country which I know nothing about, no language, no”─ I mean, it’s total chaos.

Serbian government told me that after two years, you are─ you are leaving. And who is going to accept ex-Guantanamo detainee after what had─ had been said about us?

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Every night, Mansoor works on a memoir about his time at Guantanamo. He shared a draft with me. When we left him, we planned to come back the next morning and continue our interview.

Within a few minutes, our taxi was pulled over.

[on camera] Police pulled us over. About I think three of four officers. They said “random check.”

[voice-over] We were with our local producer, Valerie Hopkins.

VALERIE HOPKINS, Local Producer: Now he wants to know what do you guys do?

ARUN RATH: [on camera] We’re reporters.

VALERY HOPKINS: [subtitles] Are we going to have more of such encounters?

POLICE: [subtitles] I hope not.

ARUN RATH: This ever happen to you before?

DRIVER: [subtitles] Since 1995, this is the first time I’ve been stopped by the police. These are not the traffic police. These are a special police. They are called the intervention police. They only do this if they suspect something.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] The next morning, before heading to Mansoor’s, he sent a text to FRONTLINE producer James Jacoby.

JAMES JACOBY, FRONTLINE Producer: He says, “Look, I have a problem.” And he said, “I don’t think I can talk to you today. Government was here. That is what I can say now. For now, I don’t want to run into any problem. Please, it’s different now. No, please don’t come. There will be a problem for me.”

ARUN RATH: Mansoor went silent, and so began an unexpected journey. We went to his apartment, and called him repeatedly. We spoke to his lawyer in New York, but she didn’t know where he was, either. In his texts, Mansoor said the government had come, but he didn’t say who or why.

All we knew was that he had a Serbian government minder, but we didn’t know where to find him. So we sought help from a local investigative journalist who’s been pursuing the government for information about Mansoor.

MILIVOJE PANTOVIC, Balkan Investigative Reporting Network:   This is a letter to the government in August. September, also, November. So basically, I am addressing to any possible authorities that are maybe in charge for this issue. And the government didn’t even reply to my constant calls or emails.

ARUN RATH: [on camera] What have you been able to find out about the transfers?

MILIVOJE PANTOVIC: We find out that government didn’t call any experts for resocialization and trauma healing of those people. We found out that they didn’t contact Islamic communities in Serbia and notify them. And for sure, their help is needed in their socialization. So basically, the only person who has everything on this case is the prime minister, who is not very keen of journalists.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] I found out the prime minister, Aleksandar Vucic, was having a press conference. When I arrived, I was referred his interior minister, who’s in charge of domestic security.

NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC, Serbian Interior Minister: Hello. Nice to meet you.

ARUN RATH: [on camera] Likewise. Do you think we could talk to you for a few minutes?

NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC: What are the issues that you want?

ARUN RATH: We’re doing stories about the Guantanamo detainees that have ended up in other countries, and─

NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC: Give me a minute to think about it.


NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC: I want to really think whether I should say anything because there are technical issues that are sensitive.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] I wanted to find out what he knew about Mansoor’s whereabouts.

[on camera] We’ve been interviewing one of the former detainees, and he suddenly went quiet on us. Is there any way that we could find out through─ through you? Or is─

NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC: Well, that─ they are now private citizens, as anyone else, and they have right to talk or not to talk with anyone. So we cannot force them to do that or influence them to do that.

ARUN RATH: He’s fallen out of contact with everybody. I mean, we were actually concerned about what’s going on with him.

NEBOJSA STEFANOVIC: Well, I have no information that any one of them complained. We have regular communication with them, and I think that they’re very happy with the ongoing situation. And I would say that we are doing a very good job. We are trying to accommodate U.S. in the way of de-radicalizing these kind of individuals while closing Guantanamo.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] For two days, we looked all over Belgrade for Mansoor, and the U.S. embassy couldn’t offer much help.

[on the phone] Is the State Department responsible for these guys’ well-being here?

EMBASSY OFFICIAL: You know, I don’t know.

ARUN RATH: You don’t know.

EMBASSY OFFICIAL: The best answer is I don’t know who has primary responsibility.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] While waiting on word from Mansoor one night, I went into downtown Belgrade where more than a thousand refugees from predominantly Muslim countries had set up a makeshift camp. The Serbian government has been trying to provide relief, but it’s hard to keep up.

[on camera] You’re from Afghanistan?

1st REFUGEE: Yeah, I’m from Afghanistan.

ARUN RATH: How long have you been here now?

1st REFUGEE: More than two months.

ARUN RATH: What’s it like living here?

1st REFUGEE: There behind the bus station. It’s really cold there. It’s not blanket, not foods, not water, no shower, nothing. New people come here, many people, lot of childrens, families and single men. It’s not easy.

2nd REFUGEE: When I was in Afghanistan, people call us, “Hey, you are not good Muslim.” They try to kill me. When we come to Europe, you all say, “You are terrorist,” for no reason. Why we terrorist? We did nothing bad here. And we run─ we just run from terrorists.

What we have to do, we really don’t know. It’s really hard, yeah.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] That night, we finally heard from Mansoor. He was at the one place we didn’t expect, our hotel. He told us that the morning we were supposed to continue our interview, several Serbian men barged into his apartment and told him to stop talking to us.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: They were serious, very serious. And I tried to push the door. They pushed the door, and one of them, like, pushed me. I pushed him back.

And I couldn’t resist because I’m on hunger strike. They took me to the ground. I felt humiliated. I hit my head on the wall here.

They went, I think─ there were more than three. They checked the apartment. They took my phone. And they told me, basically, just, “If you want to stay here, you have to keep your mouth shut. You are lying. You are playing games. If you don’t stay in this place, we’re going to take you someplace where you don’t like.” That’s it.

ARUN RATH: Considering his past, it wasn’t surprising the Serbians would keep tabs on him. And it was hard to tell how badly he was being treated. We pointed out that at Gitmo, he was known to exaggerate.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I swear by my God, I didn’t need to make it up.

JAMES JACOBY, FRONTLINE Producer: I understand.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: If you judge me by this, sorry, I have to go. In Guantanamo, when they put you under pressure, under very bad circumstances, like 72 hours under very cold air-conditioning and you are tied to the ground and someone came and poured cold water, whatever, tell him what he want. Just OK, get out of my skin. Why I should even lie about Serbia? I’m living here. Why should I create problems for myself with Serbian government?

ARUN RATH: It was late, and Mansoor wanted to talk to his lawyer in New York about staying overnight at the hotel.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: [on the phone] Honestly, last night, I couldn’t sleep. I have nightmares all night. Even today, like, I put a lot of stuff behind the door, and I think I’m going to keep doing this all the time. OK, I will stay here tonight. OK, James wants to talk to you.

JAMES JACOBY: [on the phone] Beth, let me take your credit card number, unless you want to call the hotel directly and book the room for Mansoor?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I have nowhere to go to. Like, I have think─ thought about to hide among the refugees. But it’s not a good idea.

JAMES JACOBY: What name do you want to use, Mansoor, for tonight?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I want to use 441.

JAMES JACOBY: [on the phone] He wants to use 441! [laughter]

ARUN RATH: The next day, we went to see if any of Mansoor’s neighbors had heard a disturbance. I was with Valerie, our local producer.

NEIGHBOR: [subtitles] I don’t remember what I ate yesterday, so I can’t really tell you what happened on Friday.

ARUN RATH: No one had heard a thing. But one neighbor said he thought the secret police were renting Mansoor’s apartment. Back inside, Mansoor said he was worried the Serbs would return.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I’m very afraid of these people. I’m afraid if they see you guys coming back, they’ll look at it as challenge.

ARUN RATH: [on camera] Do you think, Mansoor, there was a misunderstanding about the terms of your release, that this is more of the way that things are? You have certain restrictions that are─ that are placed upon you that were not─

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Look, they haven’t─ when I was in Guantanamo, they had told me nothing about Serbia. They told me it would be good there. So you know what? I’m─ I will try to forget Guantanamo, start education and learn English, studying, blah, blah, blah.

This is [expletive deleted]! I try to be reasonable. I try to be nice. I’m trying to be quiet because if I get angry─ I’m crazy. You know what’s been crazy? Guantanamo teach us how to be crazy, crazy, [expletive deleted] crazy.

I’m not making threats here, but this is how they push me to the corner. I’m trying to get my message to the [expletive deleted] Serbia and the [expletive deleted] U.S. embassy of U.S. government about my problems here. But who cares? I mean, I’m just a piece of [expletive deleted] there just dying. What matters?

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Later that day, we called the interior minister’s office for comment about Mansoor’s situation.

[on the phone] Hi, Nemanja?

[voice-over] I reached his assistant.

[on camera] We’ve been interviewing one of the former detainees here, and he’s made some allegations regarding how things are in Serbia and─ and his treatment. It doesn’t scan, with what we’ve heard in the interview and what we heard at the press conference on─ on Sunday. So it was some things we really needed to give─ wanted to give the minister a chance to─ to respond to.

NEMANJA: OK, what did he say about his treatment?

ARUN RATH: He’s had some interactions, I guess, with some people from the government that apparently didn’t go pleasantly.

NEMANJA: Call back in three or four hours.


NEMANJA: Hopefully, I will have information about when.

ARUN RATH: OK. Nemanja, thanks very much.

[voice-over] We kept trying, but the government never would agree to an interview or respond to questions about Mansoor and his allegations.

The next day, our last in Serbia, I re-read Mansoor’s memoir. The first line says, “If you have a problem in the camps and you want your problem to be solved, you must cause another problem, or many problems.”

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: The idea of the book to let the reader live the life of the detainees.

ARUN RATH: During our time here, Mansoor would say very little about his past. But before leaving, I pressed him again about it and what he’d written about how Gitmo changed him.

[on camera] I have in my head I think the first line of your book, which I won’t get precisely word for word. In the camps, if you have a problem and you want to solve it─

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: If you have problem, you have to create other problems. You have to protest. You have to start to behave crazy. You have to kick the doors. Why people behave like this? That’s crazy.

It’s not crazy. This is the way how people behave. This is the way how, actually, the place make these people behave. I mean, we were like animals in cages. Literally, just animals who can behave like humans. That’s the way we were treated. I mean, I was wondering always what they want. What they want from us?

ARUN RATH: How did you first get picked up by the Americans?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: OK, we don’t want to go there. I was sold, like anyone else.

ARUN RATH: You were sold.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Sold by Afghans to CIA. And from there, was─ I don’t want to mention Afghanistan.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] While he wouldn’t say more, according to his case file, Mansoor was turned over to the U.S. by an Afghan warlord who was reported to be on the CIA payroll.

[on camera] Why don’t you want to talk about that?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: OK, let us say wrong time, wrong place. I need to write it and put my past in my separate book and separate story. You will see it one day, I promise you.

ARUN RATH: You write about Guantanamo, having difficulty being in a place where you don’t trust anybody and no one trusts you. And you talk about the situation here in Serbia, where there are people who, you know, say that you’re a liar, or like, say that you’re─ you know, might be making things up.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I mean, first of all, the governments here, or every government, they get a picture from United States government that─ the stereotype. Those people are liars. They put in they are psychologically ill, blah, blah, blah.

And I was shocked and surprised, and everyone repeat the same thing. I’m afraid that you’ll get affected with the disease here─ liar, liar, liar. I don’t want to talk to you more to appear a liar, a liar here. Finished.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] We went back to the U.S., leaving Mansoor much as we had found him─ bitter, isolated, determined to carry on with his hunger strike.

Mansoor’s lawyer said she’d made no headway getting anyone at the State Department to reconsider his placement. So on the 40th day of Mansoor’s hunger strike, I went to see the person who had struck the deal to send him to Serbia, Ambassador Lee Wolosky, the special envoy for Guantanamo closure under President Obama.

Wolosky was pressed for time. There were 20 detainees he was still trying to find countries for in the remaining weeks of the Obama administration. I asked him about Mansoor’s troubles in Serbia and his hunger strike.

[on camera] We spent some time with a former detainee who has been resettled in Serbia. He was sent there last July. He seemed like he is in a very desperate situation, and he’s gotten to the point that he’s gone on a hunger strike to protest that.

Amb. LEE WOLOSKY, U.S. State Dept. 2015-17: Well, I’m─ I’m not aware that he’s on a hunger strike. This is─ this is the first I’ve heard that he’s on a hunger strike.

ARUN RATH: His lawyer said that they had been informed, the U.S. government, about the hunger strike.

LEE WOLOSKY: Well, hunger strikes are not the right way to proceed in addressing grievances. The right way to do things there is to try to make the resettlement work. We can’t force people to make good life choices. We can only encourage them to do it, and to create an environment where that’s possible. I think we’ve done that here. And I think the Serbian government has also done it.

ARUN RATH: Is there any additional responsibility from the U.S. government to the detainees after they’ve been released and resettled?

LEE WOLOSKY: We don’t make apologies for having detained people lawfully. However, we also try to create an environment where individuals can move forward with their lives. And the Serbian government has created an environment where if he decides to learn the language and take advantage of the opportunities that are being offered to him, we are still confident that it can be a successful resettlement.

ARUN RATH: But on the State Department’s own Web site, it talks about xenophobic violence being─ being a problem in Serbia.

LEE WOLOSKY: We’ve seen no indication in this case that that is a factor at all.

None of the resettlements that we do are easy. They require work on the part of the individual that’s been transferred and put in a completely alien environment. I’m not minimizing that. What I am saying, though, is that sometimes, life isn’t perfect and you have to, you know, make a decision about where you find yourself in life.

I do have to be in a meeting to make sure that we’re able to get more people out of Guantanamo.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Weeks later, I’d heard that Mansoor started eating again when his mother in Yemen threatened to start her own hunger strike if he didn’t stop his.

Then when I was home on a Saturday afternoon, he called. He said he discovered hidden cameras in his apartment and started ripping them out.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: There was one in the corner over there. Do you see it?

ARUN RATH: [on camera] Yeah. Hold it up a little higher.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: It was there. It was here.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] I used my iPad to record our video call.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Second one is here. Third one is there. You see it?

ARUN RATH: [on camera] Yeah.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: This is [expletive deleted] enough. Really, it’s enough, being watched on camera in my apartment, in the place where I live.

ARUN RATH: I imagine probably, you know, whoever has the cameras is probably going to probably come by at some point.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I’m in deep [expletive deleted], so─

ARUN RATH: A few minutes later, a group of men came in. Mansoor turned the camera on them and kept talking to me.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: The police come here. And the government, and the secret service, they came here. There’s masked people here. And there’s more guns, like, eight of them inside, outside.

ARUN RATH: So what is going to happen right now?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I don’t know.

[to man taking his laptop] Can you leave my laptops, please? Who gives you orders to take my laptop? I don’t think this will end well.

MAN IN APARTMENT: What’s wrong with you?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: You tell me what’s wrong with me.

MAN: Oh, come on!

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] At that point, more men came in.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: So can you tell me why I’m being watched in my apartment? Give me one reason. Am I a criminal?

MAN: I don’t know. Are you a criminal?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: No, I’m asking.

MAN: I don’t know.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: How you don’t know?

MAN: You have two choice. They take your phone now, and you are going in the hospital if you make any kind of the problems. You know the situation. Just listen to me! I am speaking now. You don’t speaking now.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I’m not giving you my phone! Don’t talk to me like this, please!

MAN: You know who you are here.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: I don’t care. You take me to your country, it’s not my fault!

MAN: You have the choice.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Look, speak with me like a man! Speak with me. I am calming down. I have done nothing wrong. I open the door for you. I cooperate with you. Now you’re raising your voice against me. I’m not slave! I’m not slave!

MAN: You are not a slave.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: If you want to kill, kill me! I don’t care! I spent 15 [expletive deleted] years in Guantanamo. Don’t scare me! Look, if I was a bad guy─ I’m not stupid. I’m very smart and very dangerous. But I respect Serbian government. I respect Serbian people. I have promised I will never do anything in Serbia.

MAN: And this is the procedures.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Listen to me. You come to threaten me now.

ARUN RATH: Mansoor’s video cut out, but the audio kept going as the men explained why they were there.

MAN: We, as a state matter, we have to see if you have any other intentions except going back to a normal life. How should I know that you’re not, like, a threat?

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Look, I have done nothing wrong in my life.   I have nothing to be afraid of.

MAN: The only thing that I care is that nothing happens.

MANSOOR AL DAYFI: Nothing happened, and nothing will happen. I want to make my life. I want to start my life. I asked to come to an Arabic country.

MAN: You know that you don’t probably have opportunity to do it. I see that the Trump administration now, it is not the same like before one month. I don’t think that you actually have a choice.

ARUN RATH: Mansoor told me they took his phone and laptop, and when he got them back, he says all of his data had been wiped clean.

I called Serbian officials again for comment, but they wouldn’t respond.

I returned to Guantanamo just before President Trump took office. There are still 41 detainees being held. Five of them are accused of planning the 9/11 terror attacks. Their trial is expected to take place here in the coming years. Around the base, there are signs of a long future ahead.

[on camera] What’s going on here in terms of the construction?

MP: Currently here on the Alpha block will be exam, exam rooms for the detainee medical center.

ARUN RATH: How far away is this from being finished?

MP: Sometime in 2017.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] The commander of the detention center says they’re prepared.

[on camera] There’s some construction going on here. Is that an indication that this─ this facility will be around for a while?

Col. STEPHEN GABAVICS: We’re preparing for whatever the possibility may be. Going forward with that, it provides us a capacity and ability to provide better medical care to the detainee population. Helps us out also if there’s an aging population, if we’re here, you know, five, ten, fifteen years down the road, as well, because we have to look for all possibilities for that.

ARUN RATH: If the new commander-in-chief, who said that he wants to keep the facility open and to start sending detainees here, how would you be able to adjust?

Col. STEPHEN GABAVICS: We have, you know, multiple, you know─ you know, plans in place. The first thing we’d probably do would be looking at, you know, not intermingling new detainees coming in, so we’d have to figure out the best way to do that based upon the number of new detainees we’d get.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Outside, as I took another tour of the camp, something unusual happened. A detainee yelled out to me from the rec yard.

KHALED: I leave go home!

ARUN RATH: [on camera] You leave go home?


ARUN RATH: Where’s home?

KHALED: Yemen.

ARUN RATH: [voice-over] Communication between detainees and journalists is usually forbidden. They made us stop filming, but I was able to continue talking to him off camera for several minutes.

He said he was detainee number 242, that he’s had four reviews, but is being held here indefinitely without charges. He said he’s worried he’ll be here forever. Later, I texted Mansoor about the exchange.

[on camera] I texted him that a detainee tried to talk with me, prisoner number 242. Mansoor says, “This is my best friend.” He said, “I think he is hunger strike. His name is Khaled, Yemeni. Hasn’t been cleared yet.” Mansoor says, “They want him to admit he was wrong. They are crazy. ” But he says, “Sorry, can’t talk about this issue anymore. It brings only pain. And I haven’t figured out what to do.”

[voice-over] Today there are 26 detainees like the one who called out to me being held here indefinitely without charges. And there are five men who had been cleared for release, like Mansoor, but didn’t get out of Guantanamo before Donald Trump took office.

Massacre of El Salvador
Massacre in El Salvador
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November 9, 2021