Original Blog Interview:
The Moderate Voice applauds weblogs that do original interviews — and one blog that has done an ongoing series of highly specific, precise interviews on terrorism related legal issues is The Talking Dog.
Here’s the intro to the latest:
As a sergeant in the United States Army, Erik Saar served as an Arabic linguist at the American detention facility located at the naval air station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, assisting in both interrogations and in routine translations between guards and detainees. He is the author (with Viveca Novak) of “Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier’s Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantanamo”. Mr. Saar now works as an analyst in the counter-terrorism field in the private sector. On August 2, 2006, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Saar by telephone. What follows are my interview notes, corrected as appropriate by Mr. Saar.
As usual, what follows are Q&As on a host of terrorism-related issues. And we would do this post a huge dissservice by trying to quote bits and pieces of it.
We’ll just give you one small excerpt:
The Talking Dog: You’ve suggested that it was conveyed to you that the detainees might try to manipulate you in the course of your translating for them; do you believe that happened? To the extent you can, and if appropriate, without naming names… were there any detainees that particularly stand out in your mind as individuals, and what can you tell us about them?
Erik Saar: Was I manipulated? No, I don’t think I was, but that’s probably what everybody says! Let me say that I had no decision making authority- I couldn’t, for example, help anyone make a case of their own innocence or guilt. And for most purposes, this was irrelevant from where I stood.
Yes, certainly detainees tried to “use” linguists, in two main ways. One was befriending linguists by being extra nice in the hope of getting the linguist to be an advocate. The other especially applied to Moslem linguists, by trying to make them feel guilty, as if they were traitors for contributing to the mistreatment of other Moslems. It had an effect. I’m not sure what benefit it had for the detainees… but being a linguist was a hard job– a very difficult job, and probably more so for the Moslem linguists.
As to the detainees… one detainee had a very compelling story. He was a Saudi described in the book. We talked outside the interrogation booth; he conveyed a long story. He told me that he knew nothing and did nothing; he said he never hated our country, but that he believed we stood for justice and liberty, but how can he any longer reconcile that with what we are doing to him and others?
It didn’t manipulate me, but it left an impression. Yes, he certainly might be lying… but what if he wasn’t? What are we doing? That was the impression. He planted seeds in the nature of “what if what he says is true?” Yes, at some level, all of this is part of war– even mistakes get made. But on the whole, it contributes to the whole sense that Gitmo is not worth it… especially when considering what it has done to our reputation and our ability to effectively prosecute the war on terror.
TTD’s interviews are meaty because he’s an attorney and he’s zeroing in on specific areas. People will find a lot to think about — and debate — in his latest. There’s MUCH more so this interview must be read in its entirety.