Mohamedou Ould Slahi began to tell his story in 2005. Over the course of several months, the Guantánamo prisoner handwrote his memoir, recounting what he calls his “endless world tour” of detention and interrogation. He wrote in English, a language he mastered in prison. His handwriting is relaxed but neat, his narrative, even riddled with redactions, vivid and captivating. In telling his story he tried, as he wrote, “to be as fair as possible to the U.S. government, to my brothers, and to myself.” He finished his 466-page draft in early 2006. For the next six years, the U.S. government held the manuscript as a classified secret.
When his pro bono attorneys were allowed to hand me a disk labeled “Unclassified Version” last year, Slahi had been a Guantánamo detainee for more than a decade. I sat down to start reading his manuscript nearly 10 years to the day from the book’s opening scene:
“[Redacted] July 2002, 22:00. The American team takes over. The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied.”
We’re in the middle of the action. Slahi’s life in captivity had begun eight months earlier, on Nov. 20, 2001, when Slahi, then 30, was summoned by Mauritanian police for questioning. He had just returned home from work; he was in the shower when police arrived. He dressed, grabbed his car keys—he went voluntarily, driving himself to the police station—and told his mother not to worry, he would be home soon.