BBC reporter Peter Taylor recently interviewed former Guantanamo detainee Mohammed al Awfi in Saudi Arabia. Al Awfi is one of the 11 former Gitmo detainees who was included on the Saudi Kingdom’s most wanted list in early 2009. After participating in the Saudi rehabilitation program, and feigning a change of heart, al Awfi disappeared into Yemen. He then resurfaced in a propaganda video produced by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), sitting alongside another former Gitmo detainee and other senior AQAP leaders.
Under bizarre circumstances, al Awfi reportedly turned himself in and is now back in Saudi custody. As Taylor writes, “I have never understood why he did so.” I don’t know why he gave himself up either. Perhaps it involved threats to or by his family – we don’t know.
In any event, Taylor reports: “Al-Awfi is now living in luxury accommodation in Riyadh's top security prison where he is being drained of every scrap of intelligence. He has all the comforts of home, a well furnished flat and regular visits by a grateful and relieved family.”
From his luxurious accommodations, al Awfi made some remarkable claims about his time in U.S. custody at Bagram, Afghanistan. According to Taylor:
Al Awfi claimed his US interrogators had done terrible things to him. He alleges they sat him on a chair, made a hole in the seat, and then “pulled out the testicles from underneath which they then hit with a metal rod.”
“They'd then tie up your penis and make you drink salty water in order to make you urinate without being able to do so, until they make you scream,” he added.
What are the chances that any of al Awfi’s torture claims are true?
If the first part of the excerpt above sounds familiar it is because this is a well-known torture scene – from a James Bond movie. Al Awfi apparently thinks of himself as the Daniel Craig version of James Bond, with American interrogators standing in for Le Chiffre – the evil statistical genius who nearly beat Bond twice in a game of high stakes poker. In the Bond film Casino Royale, al Awfi – I mean, Bond – is tortured by Le Chiffre in a chair, with a hole in the seat and…well, you know the rest.
In their rehab program, the Saudis frequently find wives for the terrorists they seek to reeducate. The thinking is that they will settle down and forget about the jihad. There is no word if al Awfi has demanded a wife as beautiful as Bond girl Vesper Lynd. If so, however, then post-Gitmo life is not nearly as traumatic as the detainees’ advocates claim.
Usually current and former Gitmo detainees stick to a well-rehearsed playbook when inventing torture and abuse stories. That way their stories appear plausible. This is not to suggest all of them are false, but certainly most of them are. Al Awfi decided to add a little flare and he would get points for creativity if his story wasn't such a blatant rip-off. At least we know what movie al Qaeda is watching.
Al Awfi is not the only former Gitmo detainee making things up in the press.
Lakhdar Boumediene, the detainee who was at the heart of the Supreme Court case that led to the detainees having the right to challenge their detention in U.S. courts, claims that the U.S. government ordered up Omar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s Christmas Day bombing. In reality, that attack was orchestrated by AQAP, which is headquartered in Yemen. In the aftermath of the attack, the Obama administration has decided not to transfer any more Gitmo detainees to Yemen for the time being. In the spirit of a 9/11 truther, Boumediene says this was all really orchestrated by President Obama.
From Fox News:
Lakhdar Boumediene …told reporters on Monday that President Obama has “changed his mind” about closing Guantanamo Bay, and the Christmas Day attack is a result of that shift.
“The government make that [attack] because the government wishes to keep the Yemen detainees in Guantanamo,” Boumediene, on the phone from France, told reporters in Washington. “The second Obama won the [election] he said, ‘I will close Guantanamo next year.’ … But now, one year [later], and he shows he can’t.”
Now, of course the truth is precisely the opposite. The Obama administration actually wanted to transfer more detainees to Yemen, thereby making the closing of Gitmo a much easier task (most of the remaining detainees are Yemeni). The Christmas Day plot made that course politically inconvenient. But Boumediene inverted this reality to fit his own propaganda campaign.
Previously, Boumediene claimed that “torture” at Gitmo had continued since President Obama took office. Senior Obama administration officials disagree. Attorney General Eric Holder, for example, has said that the facility is “well-run” with no sign of detainee mistreatment.
But there is irony in all of this. President Obama and his administration say that Gitmo must be closed because it has tarnished America’s image. But many of the claims that supposedly tarnish America’s image are sourced back to the detainees themselves. And it doesn’t take much to see that they just make things up – regularly.
Thomas Joscelyn is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.