Guantanamo, Latif, United States discussed on The Takeaway

The Takeaway
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Automatic TRANSCRIPT

For this next story. I want you to meet Latiff Nassir. He's a reporter and the director of research for the long running program and podcast radio lap produce here on WNYC studios and this story begins on an average day in January of two thousand seventeen. I was at work. I was procrastinating. I was looking at twitter and I saw a tweet that I thought was about me and it was not it was about this other guy who was detained. Two four four four at Guantanamo Bay Abullatif Nassir. Same name same spelling different pronunciation. I'm loath if he's Latif and very very different life trajectories the more I found out about him. This government case about him that the outline in these league documents that he's you know al-Qaeda's top explosives expert that he was this kind of monster. A judge from these documents just was a shock and I just needed to know more Latif. Chief was supposed to be cleared and released from Guantanamo in two thousand sixteen and at the last moment he wasn't so lot if and his colleagues at radio lab took it on investing Latief's case over the course of three years trying to find out why he was Guantanamo in the first place and why is release. This was stopped short. What I it was just the circumstances of the case it was just a really interesting case? So the government laid out dislike pretty damning list of in these leaked documents is pretty damning list of things that they said he did and then I talked to his lawyer who said basically. All of that was false that he was he was never al Qaeda He didn't have a relationship with bin Laden. You know none of these things. I sat down with light if Nassir to talk about this story which has become the subject of a new six part heart series of episodes from radio lab called the other lot of the case was just so stark. There was the black black version of him. There was the whitest white version of him that he was like in Afghanistan to do charity. Type work. You know And wrong place wrong time so I had these like the black is black and white just white. There's no hint of gray in between. Here's something this is a story I I need to. I need to follow any to investigate as they did. It became even more than that. It became this thing that actually felt weirdly personal. That name coincidence that feeling that initially had is tweet about me that feeling so much of those internal questions that life trajectory that this guy followed like I could see myself and I could try to sort of imagine my way into to and and these pivotal moments in his life that weirdly echoed pivotal moments in my life and became this much more personal story. I mean for a lot of Americans a quantum. Oh is kind of this forgotten place. What do you think people need to know about Guantanamo? That they probably don't most people think it's close close. Actually I think I think Obama made such a big deal about closing it without actually closing it that I think even I kind of have this vague sense. My place still exists. When I heard about it I I think the fact that it's still exists? I think one thing that people ought to know Is that not only. Are there still forty guys there. Many of whom have never. You're not only have. They not had trials that they've not had charges laid against them including this guy. Abdullatif never had charges laid against him formally but in addition to that I think the thing that makes a lot of people including my mouth drop is the cost of it so if you take a supermax prisoner in the United States just guess how so. How much on on average would a supermax prisoner cost one or two hundred thousand dollars a year? Yeah so it's less than one hundred thousand dollars. Okay for Guantanamo detainee per year one detainee per year is thirteen million dollars of year tax money. That's a lot of money and for each one of these guys especially guys. Is that like in the case of this guy ability if not sir and this is the other thing that just pulled me to history. During the waning days of the Obama Administration this guy was cleared for transfer back to his home in Casablanca Morocco. The government six different agencies of the Government V at very the high levels. They looked over this guy's case and they said we don't need to be keeping this guy anymore. He's not a continuing threat to the United States. He should go home are there are a lot of other people like him names. We've been clear he's one of five who've been cleared the same way so he is sort of on paper he's cleared. There was supposed to be this transfer back to his home home but basically because of you know stuff I've been reporting out this. It's a very dramatic story about bureaucracy and paperwork the transfer dance further the communications between the US government and Morocco broke down the finally. They got an acknowledgement but it was a few days too late and basically the Obama Administration left the trump administration ruled in this guy who is right on the cusp of getting onto a plane going all the way to Morocco. The trump administration said. Now we're not GonNa do it so now. He is sort of stuck there. He's sitting there cleared for transfer on paper home effectively. No change in his life and he's sitting there causing us all thirteen thirteen million dollars a year. I mean what is it costing him in terms of what does the experience like. Yeah that that that kind of a promise. Imagine this guy. He's been there for since two thousand two in two thousand sixteen an according to his lawyers. He's he's said many times bring on trial like I would like to have a trial. Please Trimbe unfairly. We have not given him that trial then finally when he did get the closest thing he had to a trial. which was this kind of parole board type? Hearing in two thousand sixteen where he got cleared cleared he passed it he he won his clearance and then they told him his lawyer told him that it would just be a matter of days or weeks or whatever it was for him to be back on his home soil with his family and then basically they had to come back to him and say. Hey you're GONNA be here for at least another four years. Maybe maybe more than that. We don't know what is life like inside. He has some degree of freedom. There was there were times kind of tracing his life. There were long stretches where he was in solitary confinement where he was you can parse the definition but where I would argue. He was tortured. Now he he I do not believe he's being tortured anymore. He lives in a kind of a sort of communal. Sort of a cell block. where he can read is not confined to sally can sort of walk around? Read certain certain books that have been allowed to him weirdly the only news. He can watch his Russia today but basically he's in he's in stasis and he not from his lawyer. I've learned he. He wants to have a family. There's many things that he wants to do. That feels like he's not been able to do so. One detail that I learned from. His lawyer is one of the things he does is he. Reads like self help books and also like family books like how to be a better parent and stuff like that. But he's a single man he just it's just he has this fantasy see of having getting out having a family but he just can't do it. I mean you're just gonNA wonder how much just the value of having a fantasy when you are trapped inside a place for eighteen years. I wasn't but one of the lawyers I talked to said and this is true in a number of places not just Guantanamo. Yeah that the the the most valuable commodity there is hope. And it's but it's so so often dashed That it's just it's the hardest hardest thing to hold onto. Did you encounter him or meet him. No journalist has ever interviewed a detainee detainee at Guantanamo Bay. While they're still detaining Guantanamo Bay so I am not allowed which is made for a very challenging. I mean this this whole story is a we had a real journalistic challenge. How do you make a this is a six episode? PODCAST investigative type series like without the main character without the main characters voice. It's been it's been one of the biggest reporting challenges in my whole life so this is like Sinatra has a cold. Yeah Richard Simmons kind of thing. Exactly the all right I mean. What have you learned without meeting your subject what he would see lake? I mean I can tell you Personality wise which.

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