Mohamedou Ould Slahi, the author of Guantánamo Diary (Little, Brown and Company) and an inmate of the United States prison in Cuba for 14 years, may soon be freed. Following a June hearing during which Slahi testified, a government review board recommended that he be released and allowed to return to his home in Mauritania.
The board’s decision comes 18 months after the publication of Guantánamo Diary, the first memoir by someone captured under the Central Intelligence Agency’s “extraordinary rendition” program, which was instituted following the attacks on September 11, 2001. Slahi, who was suspected of involvement in multiple terrorist plots, was detained in Mauritania by CIA officers and flown to Cuba.
Slahi wrote Guantánamo Diary in 2005 at the suggestion of his lawyers. By that time, he had suffered months of interrogation that included sleep deprivation, beatings, dousings with ice water, and being shackled for days in a freezing cell. The methods used in Slahi’s interrogation were personally approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Slahi strongly denied his involvement in terrorism. He acknowledged that he had joined Osama bin Laden’s mujahedeen and fought the Russian army in Afghanistan. But he insisted that he had quit Al Qaeda in 1992.
Under torture, Slahi did confess to crimes, but he recanted this confession in his book. He said that he confessed only to end the punishment.
The Periodic Review Board did not rule on the truth of the charges against Slahi or the use of extraordinary methods during his interrogation. In one of his first executive orders after taking office in 2009, President Barack Obama prohibited the use of the techniques used on Slahi and other suspected terrorists.
Instead, the board noted Slahi’s “highly compliant behavior in detention....the detainee’s candid responses to the board’s questions....[his] recognition of past activities, [and] clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mind-set.”
The board also observed that Slahi has “a robust and realistic plan for the future.” One of Slahi’s representatives at the hearing said that he wants to start a business and write books.