A former Guantanamo Bay prisoner of 14 years described to "60 Minutes" Sunday his experience under the now-outlawed U.S. enhanced interrogation program.
In Mohamedou Slahi's first televised interview since being released, he details the special interrogation program he was subjected to in 2003, which he said then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld personally approved.
Slahi trained as a Mujahideen warrior under Osama bin Laden, ultimately traveling to Afghanistan. But he said he left al Qaeda after he saw a civil war starting there, without once firing a shot in battle.
While he denies any role in terrorism activity, he told “60 Minutes” that some of his friends and family are still connected to al Qaeda.
Slahi was captured in November 2001 and was transferred from prisons in Jordan and Afghanistan before he eventually was brought to Cuba in August 2002.
His account of the interrogation program is corroborated by other reports and investigations by Congress and the departments of Defense and Justice, CBS noted.
Slahi describes being in a “very small holding cell” — that he called the “fridge,” because it stayed cold and was devoid of light — for 70 days.
There, he faced “continuous interrogation,” in which three people took shifts keeping him awake for 22 hours a day.
“Then they brought another Marine guy. He wore a Marine [uniform]; it does not mean that he's a Marine. I'm just saying this for the record. And then he kept pouring this water on me. Then I kept really shaking,” Slahi recalled. “And then he said, ‘Answer me.’ But I couldn't talk because — because my mouth couldn't move because I was very cold.”
Another interrogator presented him with a fictitious letter saying his mother was also being detained and could be brought to Guantanamo.
In another instance, he was dragged onto a boat and made to drink salt water.
“They opened my mouth and pouring salt water until I — start choking,” Slahi said. “So they start to — fill me with ice cube. Ice cube — inside [my] uniform. Ice cube, full. My body was full. And then I was like shaking uncontrollably like this. They start hitting me everywhere, hitting.”
This treatment ultimately broke him, he said, leading Slahi to falsely confess to a litany of crimes.
“They broke me. … Every single crime, I falsely confessed to,” he said.
He said he falsely admitted he was an al Qaeda recruiter and claimed he participated in a plot to set off a bomb in Toronto — a plan that never existed.
But after his confessions, he told “60 Minutes,” he was treated better. Torture, he said, worked only to prompt a false confession.
“If working is giving false confessions, yes [this works]. If ‘works’ — is giving good intelligence, no,” he said.
The military officer selected to prosecute him resigned in 2004, saying he was convinced Slahi had been tortured. A judge in 2010 also called for Slahi’s release, writing there was “ample evidence … that Slahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at Guantanamo.”
Slahi’s letters to his American lawyers are now called the “Guantanamo Diary.” The U.S. government granted permission for a heavily redacted version to be published.
Slahi praised that decision.
“That shows the greatness of American people. Not — my greatness because American people believe in justice. And they decided to give me a forum, to give me a voice,” Slahi told Holly Williams.