tv 60 Minutes CBS March 12, 2017 7:00pm-8:01pm PDT
>> i went, within about 20 minutes, from feeling completely normal to feeling like a very sick man. i don't remember anything for the next month. >> he survived against all odds, only to fall deathly ill again last month. and again, he and others believe he was poisoned. >> it's death if you cross the putin regime. >> american people believe in justice. and they decided to give me a forum, to give me a voice. >> mohamedou slahi was a sworn member of al qaeda and spent nearly 14 years as prisoner 760 in guantanamo bay.
how much english did you speak when you landed in guantaánamo? >> almost none. >> improbably, while fighting for his own release, he taught himself english, wrote a best- selling book about his life in american custody and became good friends with some of his guards, one of whom you'll hear from tonight. do you think you might go and visit him now that he's been released? >> i would love to someday. >> i'm steve kroft. >> i'm lesley stahl. >> i'm bill whitaker. >> i'm holly williams. >> i'm scott pelley. those stories, tonight on "60 minutes." (man vo) it was may, when dad forgot how to brush his teeth. (woman vo) in march, my husband didn't recognize our grandson. (woman 2 vo) that's when moderate alzheimer's made me a caregiver. (avo) if their alzheimer's is getting worse, ask about once-a-day namzaric. namzaric is approved for
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>> stahl: questions continue to surround the role russia may have played in president trump's election last fall, and about the president's professed admiration for vladimir putin's skills as a strong leader. what the president doesn't talk about is the unfortunate fate that stalks some of putin's most prominent critics. they have been victims of unsolved shootings, suspicious suicides and poisonings. tonight, the story of one of them. vladimir kara-murza was an opposition activist on the front lines, protesting putin's policies, organizing demonstrations and town hall meetings. he knew he was on a dangerous mission. when we met him last year, he told us that one day in may,
2015, he learned just how dangerous. >> vladimir kara-murza: i was in a work meeting with my colleagues in moscow, when i suddenly started to feel really sick. and i went, within about 20 minutes, from feeling completely normal to feeling like a very sick man. then, i don't remember anything for the next month. >> stahl: you were out for a month? >> vladimir kara-murza: i was in a coma for a week, and i don't remember anything for a month, and had basically a cascade of all my major life organs failing, one after another; just switching off, you know, the lungs, the heart, the kidneys. >> stahl: he was shuttled from hospital to hospital in moscow for two days, as doctors frantically tried to figure out what was wrong with him. >> vladimir kara-murza: i was, at one point, connected, i think to eight different artificial life support machines, and doctors told my wife that there's only going to be about a 5% chance that i'll survive. >> stahl: but he beat the odds. when we spoke with him last year, he'd been recovering for a year, but he was still walking with a limp from nerve damage. so what happened? >> vladimir kara-murza: well, it was some kind of a very strong toxin. we don't know what it was because, you know, with these
things, as people who know more about this than i do explained to me, you basically have to know exactly what you're testing for in order to find it. >> stahl: so they never found the exact compound? >> vladimir kara-murza: they never did. >> stahl: it wasn't until the fourth day, and after he had been on a dialysis machine, that blood was drawn and sent to a toxicology lab in france. it found heavy metals in his blood, but no specific toxin. still, kara-murza maintains that he was poisoned. >> vladimir kara-murza: i have absolutely no doubt that this was a deliberate poisoning, that it was intended to kill. because, as i mentioned already, the doctors told my wife that it's about a 5% chance of survival. and when it's that kind of percentage, it's not to scare. it's to kill. >> stahl: can you be sure that what happened to you was directed by mr. putin? >> vladimir kara-murza: well, of that we have no idea. i don't know the precise circumstances, i don't know the who or the how, but i do know the why. >> stahl: in recent years, quite a few of putin's enemies have perished by swallowing things
they shouldn't have. in 2006, russian-spy-turned- kremlin-critic alexander litvinenko drank tea laced with polonium-210. two years earlier, the ukrainian politician viktor yushchenko had somehow ingested dioxin. he survived, but was disfigured. but what would the motive be in the case of the critic vladimir kara-murza? cambridge educated, he was for years a washington-based reporter for a russian tv station. so he was well-connected and had perfect english, which he used to incessantly criticize the regime on the international stage. >> vladimir kara-murza: a government that is based on genuine support does not need to jail its opponents. >> stahl: as if his outspokenness wasn't enough to anger the kremlin, he made matters worse for himself when he joined forces with this man. >> bill browder: it's death if you cross the putin regime. >> stahl: bill browder was for years the largest foreign
investor in russia and putin's champion, but he turned into a dogged adversary when his russian tax attorney sergei magnitsky blew the whistle on alleged large-scale theft by government officials. >> browder: we discovered massive corruption of the putin regime. sergei exposed it, testified against officials involved. he was subsequently arrested, put in pre-trial detention, tortured for 358 days and killed at the age of 37. >> stahl: browder was so outraged, he joined with vladimir kara-murza to lobby the u.s. congress for a law targeting those responsible for that death and other human rights violations. they succeeded: the magnitsky act passed in 2012. it is the first law that sanctions individual russians, 44 so far. >> browder: the magnitsky act is designed to sanction, to freeze the assets and to ban the visas for people who commit these types of crimes in russia.
>> stahl: so they can't get their money, which may be stashed in the united states. >> browder: and so vladimir putin is extremely angry that the magnitsky was going to be passed. he was even angrier when it got passed. and he was angrier when people started getting added, names started getting added to the magnitsky list. >> stahl: one reason vladimir kara-murza is convinced he was targeted is because six people connected to the magnitsky case, as he was, have ended up dead. one of them was boris nemtsov, a leader of russia's opposition and kara-murza's partner in lobbying for the magnitsky act. >> vladimir kara-murza: on the 27th of february 2015, he was killed by five bullets in the back as he was walking home, as he always did, out in the open, without bodyguards-- >> stahl: this was an assassination. in some of the deaths, proving there was foul play has been a challenge. take the case of this russian banker, who came forward with incriminating documents related
to the magnitsky case. >> browder: alexander perepilichny was a whistleblower. at the age of 44, he went jogging outside his home in surrey, outside of london and dropped dead. the police deemed it an unsuspicious, natural death. >> stahl: well, they did look for poison. they just couldn't find any. >> browder: they did a very first-round toxicology screen. they didn't find anything on the first run through. >> stahl: detecting poison can be extremely difficult, and there's a reason: this cold war c.i.a. memo reveals that the soviets ran a "laboratory for poisons in a large and super secret installation known as the chamber" to test undetectable compounds. in the case of the banker in london, the coroner wasn't willing to give up. he ordered more tests, and three years later it was revealed in court that an exotic toxin was found, with the help of an authority on flowers. >> browder: a small sample of his stomach contents was sent to
a botanical garden outside of london, and one of the scientists found a compound called gelsemium elegans, which is a chinese herb. they call it the heartbreak grass, and it causes a person to die unexpectedly without explanation. >> stahl: still, there's no direct evidence of a kremlin connection, but the list of those who've come to die unexpectedly after running afoul of mr. putin is long. political opponents and human rights lawyers have been shot; overly-inquisitive reporters have perished in mysterious plane crashes or by car bombs, by poison or gun-fire. journalist anna politkovskaya was poisoned and shot. then there are enemies who kill themselves, one by hanging, one by stabbing himself to death with two knives, and one by tying himself to a chair and jumping into a swimming pool.
some of putin's opponents are in prison, others forced out of the country, like mikhail khodorkovsky, probably putin's most famous living critic. are you afraid for your own life? >> mikhail khodorkovsky ( translated ): for a period of over ten years, vladimir putin had ample opportunity to put an end to my life in a very easy way, just by snapping his fingers. and today, it's a little more difficult. >> stahl: khodorkovsky was once the richest man in russia, until he took to opposing putin. he was put on trial, his oil company confiscated, and then thrown in prison for ten years. home is now london, where he funds a russian pro-democracy movement-- and this is where the plot thickens-- because one of his senior organizers on the ground in russia is none other than vladimir kara-murza. there are people who say that what's happened to kara-murza is
a message to you, a message to you to back off. >> khodorkovsky ( translated ): you know, for ten years, i was receiving lots of messages from our authorities of various sorts. and-- some of these messages were rather unpleasant, concerning my physical well- being. but the authorities saw i ignored these messages. i would like to believe that they have not forgotten that. >> stahl: in 2015, once vladimir kara-murza was stabilized, he was flown to washington d.c. to continue treatment near his wife, yevgenia, and their three children, who live in the u.s. for their safety. but as soon as kara-murza got better, he was itching to go back to russia. >> yevgenia kara-murza: i think what my husband believes in will always outweigh the fear. >> stahl: even for you? >> yevgenia kara-murza: of course i'm terrified. but at the same time, you know, i married the guy 13 years ago, and i knew what i was getting into. >> vladimir kara-murza: you know, i think there's nothing
better this regime, the putin regime would like us to do than to give up and run away. and we're not going to give him that pleasure. it's our country. >> stahl: even after being poisoned? >> vladimir kara-murza: it's our country. we have to fight for it. >> stahl: he told us this in june. he went back immediately after, even though threats against him had intensified, like this video posted on instagram putting him in the crosshairs of a sniper rifle. he was continuing his opposition work, when just last month-- >> yevgenia kara-murza: all of a sudden, he begins experiencing this very elevated heart rate, his blood pressure drops very low. he begins sweating and he has trouble breathing. >> stahl: his wife thinks her husband was attacked, the same way as before. >> yevgenia kara-murza: the first time, he had been dragged from one hospital to another to yet another, where they were trying to establish the cause. this time, he was taken directly to the hospital, to the same medical team that had treated him in 2015.
and the moment they saw him, they knew what they were dealing with. >> stahl: and what do you think happened? >> yevgenia kara-murza: the russian doctors' official diagnosis is an acute intoxication by an undetermined substance, which is poisoning. >> stahl: this happened just as washington was raising questions about president trump's relationship with mr. putin. so last month, vlaidmir kara- murza became an issue on the senate floor. >> john mccain: vladimir has once again paid the price for his gallantry and integrity. >> stahl: politicians on both sides of the aisle spoke out against the apparent poisoning, but the trump administration has not. remarkably, kara-murza survived again. less than three weeks after he collapsed, he was flown to the u.s., and two weeks later, we spoke to him for a second time. you look pretty good. how are you actually feeling? >> vladimir kara-murza: well, you're very kind. i don't think i feel as good as i look. >> stahl: he said he's recovering faster because his doctors knew just what to do this time.
the kremlin has denied any involvement, and since no poison has been found yet, supporters of putin question whether he was really poisoned at all. we've been told that we are very naive, naive journalists, gullible, and that this whole thing is concocted by the opposition to fool the american people into thinking that that regime would do such a thing. >> vladimir kara-murza: to those who say that this is a plot, i honestly-- and i mean this sincerely-- i wish they never have to experience what i've experienced twice in the last two years, when you're trying to breathe and you cannot. when you feel your organs shutting down, giving up on you one after another. and when you feel the life coming out of your body in the next few hours, and you don't remember anything for the next month. and then for the next year you're trying to r-- relearn how to walk, how to use cutlery, you know, how to talk to your kids again. i wish these people who tell you these things never have to experience this. i honestly, sincerely do. >> stahl: you were very, very sick and went back.
now, are you finished? are you saying, "i'm not going back any--" >> vladimir kara-murza: oh, god no, of course not. >> stahl: you're going to go back? >> vladimir kara-murza: of course, i will absolutely go back to russia. i am russian, this is my country, and i believe in what i do, in what my colleagues do. there are many of us. >> stahl: but not many have almost died twice. >> vladimir kara-murza: many, unfortunately, have died. i'm the fortunate one. i'm still here, i'm still talking to you. many of my colleagues cannot do that. >> if he was poisoned twice, why isn't he dead? the search for an answer at 60minutesovertime.com. sponsored by lyrica. before i had the shooting, burning of diabetic nerve pain, these feet kicked off a lot of high school games... built a life for my family... and liked to help others in need. but i couldn't bear my diabetic nerve pain any longer. so i talked to my doctor and he prescribed lyrica. nerve damage from diabetes causes diabetic nerve pain. lyrica is fda-approved to treat this pain. lyrica may cause serious allergic reactions
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president trump disagreed, and has vowed to "load it up with some bad dudes." just 41 prisoners remain at guantanamo, and of the nearly 800 who were there at some point, not many have been interviewed. but tonight, holly williams has the story of one very unusual former detainee, in his first television interview. >> williams: mohamedou slahi was set free by the united states and sent to his home country of mauritania last october, after nearly 14 years as prisoner 760 in guantanamo bay. improbably, while fighting for his own release, he taught himself english, wrote a best- selling book about his life in american custody, and became good friends with some of his guards, one of whom you'll hear from tonight. slahi spent about one-third of his life at guantanamo, and his book offered an unprecedented
look inside the prison. though it includes descriptions of torture, it can be funny at times, and we discovered that, in person, slahi has a keen sense of humor. six weeks after he was released from guantanamo, we went to northwest africa to meet him. what's it like losing all control over your life? >> mohamedou slahi: it sucks. ( laughs ) it's very challenging. i don't know how to describe it in words. but you feel like humiliation. you feel self-pity. you feel, like, panic. i didn't have a plan. i was learning as i was going. >> williams: mohamedou slahi is once again adapting to unfamiliar surroundings.
this time, home and freedom. to learn how he went from here to guantanamo and back again, we traveled to the islamic republic of mauritania. it's a tribal and deeply religious nation of nearly four million people, where the sahara desert meets the sea. about the size of texas and new mexico combined, the country is due east of cuba, separated from slahi's old prison home by the width of the atlantic. you know what's there? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: guantanamo. >> slahi: guantanamo bay. >> williams: about 3,800 miles-- >> slahi: yes. >> williams: in that direction? >> slahi: i say, "goodbye. i hope never to see you again." >> williams: before we explain how slahi ended up in guantanamo in the first place, we'll tell you how a talent for languages helped him survive there. how much english did you speak
when you landed in guantanamo? >> slahi: almost none. >> williams: in the office of his new apartment in mauritania, mohamedou slahi showed us how he learned english in guantanamo. he reads and writes his fourth language with some help from the u.s. navy. where did you get those glasses? >> slahi: these glasses i got from navy hospital in guantanamo bay. thank you, doctors. and they had choices. and i took the ugliest one. >> williams: you-- you chose the-- >> slahi: as a sign of protest. >> williams: he was his own teacher in guantanamo, soaking up new vocabulary wherever he could. >> slahi: i'm letting you now into my world. okay, this how i learn the english language. this is the original. >> williams: so-- so you would, what, hear something, and write it down? >> slahi: hear something, write it down, and ask. >> williams: and then ask a guard? >> slahi: yes, a guard, or an interrogator. >> williams: "how do you spell that?" >> slahi: whomever i meet, whomever i meet. >> williams: yeah. "to chortle." >> slahi: "to chortle." >> williams: that's-- that's a very-- that's a very good-- >> slahi: "snorting a joyful laugh." >> williams: "skyscraper." "riot."
"suicide." you were just working on building your vocabulary? >> slahi: it's what i do. i take this, and then i just go in myself back and forth, and memorizing everything, every day. >> williams: "she threaded her fingers through that thick mane of exquisitely dyed hair." >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what were you reading? >> slahi: i think that was "ya- ya sisterhood." >> williams: in 2005, three years after he arrived at guantanamo, slahi used his new language skills to demand his immediate release. he hand-wrote his own petition for a writ of habeus corpus, a legal document challenging the u.s. government's right to imprison him. he also began a correspondence with his american lawyers that became the guantanamo diary. it's been translated into 27 different languages, but it took seven years for his legal team to convince the government to allow its publication, and they only permitted a heavily- censored version. >> slahi: so it's like it was-- i was shouting in the dark for years.
then i saw a very small hole that i could shout through-- which was my lawyer. >> williams: i don't know if you've seen this before. it is the original copy of the review of your book in "the new york times." have you seen it before? >> slahi: never. first time. >> williams: you were locked in a prison, with so little contact with the outside world. and meanwhile, your work was being discussed-- >> slahi: 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. >> williams: by 2004, the u.s. government regarded him as a cooperative prisoner, so slahi was living in a special segregated hut.
he had access to books, movies and his own vegetable garden, but he was still a prisoner, struggling with solitude, 4,000 miles from home. >> slahi: you can bet your bottom dollar that i was lonely. >> williams: i mean, in the book you describe the guards as your family. >> slahi: yes. >> williams: was that true? >> slahi: they really-- a lot of them treated me as one-- as a brother. >> williams: we found one of slahi's former guards, who asked us to disguise his appearance and withhold his name. he had security concerns because of his work at guantanamo. how long did you guard him for? >> guard: ten months. >> williams: and when was that, the first time you met him? >> guard: in july of '04. >> williams: any first impressions? >> guard: just that he wasn't this horrible terrorist that, you know, i-- i was expecting to go guard. you know, that-- i was told it was-- everybody there was the worst of the worst, and this guy comes out, with a smile on his face. >> williams: so straight away you started thinking, "this was
not what i was expecting." >> guard: yeah, i felt something was off. definitely. >> williams: you didn't think he was going to harm you? >> guard: no. if he wanted to-- i mean, there were times where we slept-- while he was sleeping, and his door was open. and, like, if-- if he wanted to kill us, he could've. >> williams: but you were pretty sure he wasn't going to do that? >> guard: yeah. i had no issues. >> williams: you trusted him? >> guard: definitely. >> slahi: he was very shocked because, he told me, they told him this is the worst of the worst. and-- i wasn't very open to the guards because i was afraid of them. he kept poking me until we open up to each other-- it was very good time with him. >> guard: we'd play monopoly, a lot of rummy, watch movies, like, over and over. and-- yeah, and just hang out with us. >> williams: we heard there was one film in particular that you guys watched over and over. >> guard: "the big lebowski." like, nonstop. like, he could quote it, like, word for word.
like-- a giant por-- portion of the movie. it was hilarious. >> williams: i mean, i was struck by that. what's interesting about "the big lebowski" is they get the wrong guy. >> lebowski: you got the wrong guy. i'm the dude, man. >> slahi: yes, i-- i am not your guy. ( laughs ) >> williams: you played a role in mohamedou slahi's release. you wrote a letter to the review board that decided on whether he-- he would finally be released. >> guard: uh-huh. >> williams: and i think-- is that the letter, there? >> guard: that is. >> williams: yeah? >> guard: that is. >> williams: i just want to read you a section of it. you said, "based on my interactions with mr. slahi while in guantanamo, i would be pleased to welcome him into my home. based on my interactions, i do not have safety concerns if i were to do so. i would like the opportunity to eventually see him again." >> guard: for sure. that's totally honest. >> williams: last year, when the military's periodic review board finally cleared him to go home, slahi says his guards and interrogators seemed even happier than he was, including the officer in charge.
>> slahi: she was smiling the most beautiful smile i ever see in my life. said, "you know you're leaving?" i said, "no, i-- i-- i didn't know." >> williams: what were you feeling? >> slahi: i was feeling happy. but i-- i always learned not to over-celebrate. because so many people received clearance, but they lingered in prison for so many years, including to this day. >> williams: you didn't want to jinx it. >> slahi: i never heard "jinx it," but i presume it's the right word here. ( laughs ) >> williams: he says he was flown home from guantanamo bay the same way he arrived: shackled and blindfolded. >> slahi: strapped on a chair too. it's very painful. more than ten hours-- in a chair. >> williams: did you ask, "why are you doing this to me?" >> slahi: why in the world should i ask any questions?
i didn't want them to change their mind. i said, "do whatever you got to do. i need to go home and go home quick." >> williams: slahi's long road to guantanamo began not with the war on terror-- --but with another war covered here on "60 minutes." in 1988, correspondent harry reasoner and producer george crile traveled to afghanistan to tell the tale of a congressman from texas named charlie wilson. ( gunfire ) he persuaded the u.s. to arm the mujahideen, a band of holy warriors who were fighting the soviet union and their communist allies. ( explosion ) a few years later, slahi who was studying in germany, decided, along with thousands of other muslim men from around the world, to join the battle against the communists.
>> slahi: this was a big coalition, including my country and your country. >> williams: what made you decide to go to afghanistan as a young man? >> slahi: i saw those horrific pictures of people, children being gassed, and i said, "i want to do something." then that's when i decide to travel, and i took a visa and then i went there, twice. >> williams: you thought you were fighting for a just cause. >> slahi: yes, i was sure then. i did not know. today, i know. >> williams: in afghanistan, slahi was trained to fight, not by the afghans, but by a group of foreign fighters dedicated to the cause. at the time they were led by a young, charismatic leader, called osama bin laden. slahi says he left afghanistan the second time, without ever firing a shot in battle. >> slahi: when i saw that the afghanis were butchering each other-- i was completely disgusted.
>> williams: the first time you- - you went to afghanistan, what did your family think? >> slahi: they thought i was a nitwit. >> williams: a nitwit? >> slahi: yes. i should never have gone to afghanistan. i had a scholarship that many people in the whole world dreamed to have. and what i did, i threw everything away and i went to afghanistan. this is the definition of a nitwit. >> williams: and when you left afghanistan for the second time, did you still consider yourself a member of al qaeda? >> slahi: absolutely not. i cut all my ties with the organization. to me, i joined for the sake of participating in jihad in afghanistan. jihad in afghanistan turned into a quagmire. i did not want to be part of a civil war. and i went back. thank god i resumed my studies. i finished college.
and i worked to help my family. >> williams: slahi denies he ever had anything to do with terrorism, but he doesn't deny that some of his friends were still members of al qaeda. he also had a cousin who was a spiritual advisor to osama bin laden. >> slahi: that was really the trouble. that where the trouble began. >> williams: one day in 1999, he got a phone call from that cousin, a man known as abu hafs. >> williams: and if you had known at the time that he was calling you from bin laden's satellite phone? >> slahi: i would have burned his house down. >> williams: would you have-- -- taken the call? >> slahi: absolutely not. but looking back, it's better than i took it, that the people who were listening s-- know what i was talking about. that where the trouble started-- honestly. >> williams: after 9/11, the united states government made catching slahi a priority and the mauritanians were happy to help their powerful ally. on november 20, 2001, secret
police knocked on the door of his mother's house. he followed them back to their station, driving his own car. >> is it over here? that's the car. >> williams: 15 years later, it still sits in the exact place where he parked it. >> wow, it's a bit of a wreck. it's the right license plate? >> slahi: yes, it's my license plate. it's caput. >> williams: after eight days in a mauritanian jail, his government handed him over to the c.i.a., who flew him to a prison in jordan where he spent eight months. u.s. agents then took him to bagram airbase near kabul, afghanistan. after two weeks there, he was put on a military transport plane for the long trip to cuba. at what point did it hit you in the stomach-- "i'm really in a jam here"? >> slahi: it doesn't, actually. you would be surprised. we-- if there is no hope, there is no life. >> williams: in guantanamo, mohamedou slahi's special
interrogation plan was personally approved by secretary of defense donald rumsfeld. the treatment he received has since been outlawed. in a moment, slahi describes what happened to him. >> this cbs sports update is brought to you by the lincoln motor company. i'm greg gumbel. the ncaa tournament begins tuesday night with first four on trutv. the first round gets under way on cbs, tbs, tnt an trutv on thursday. here's a will be at the top seeds by rage. the overall number one is villanova in the east. it's kansas atop the midwest. north carolina the top seed in the south. gonzaga is the one out west. for more sports news and information, go to cbssports.com. ♪
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came out while he was still detained in the prison. published in 2015, it is a unique, first-person account of life in guantanamo and america's now outlawed enhanced interrogation program. when slahi arrived at the prison, his time spent in afghanistan in the early 1990s and connections to al qaeda made him a top priority for u.s. intelligence. we begin the second part of our story by asking slahi the same questions his interrogators asked him, over and over. did you meet any of the 9/11 hijackers? >> slahi: no. >> williams: did you have any prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks? >> slahi: absolutely none whatsoever. >> williams: and when you saw on television those attacks, what did you think? >> slahi: it was heartbreaking, you know, knowing that those people, just like my family, children, men, women, just
regular people who went to their work. they didn't do anything to anyone. but they were-- yet they were killed in cold blood. >> williams: when you discovered that it was the work of al qaeda, what did you think? >> slahi: i thought, "this is evil. thank god that i left afghanistan so many years. >> williams: living freely in his home country of mauritania, slahi is working on a new edition of his book, "guantanamo diary," that fills in some of the blanks put in by the u.s. government. slahi arrived in guantanamo in august 2002. for several months, he was interrogated by the f.b.i. in 2003, the military began subjecting him to so-called enhanced interrogation, that included both physical and psychological abuse. his uncensored story, which you're about to hear, is supported by several reports and investigations from congress and
the departments of justice and defense. >> slahi: they had plans. very careful-thought plans. >> williams: he says those plans began when he was moved to a special cell in the india block section of the prison-- a place he nicknamed "the fridge." why "the fridge?" >> slahi: yeah, it's a very small holding cell that is cold. and you don't see anything, you don't see outside. completely cut off. >> williams: no daylight? >> slahi: nothing. i remained there 70 days, continuous interrogation. >> williams: what do you mean by continuous? >> slahi: that mean i had three shifts of interrogators. >> williams: every day? >> slahi: every day. >> williams: were you allowed to sleep at all? >> slahi: there is, between the night shift and the day shift, maybe two hours.
i don't know, it's not long. i didn't-- i didn't have any feeling for time really. >> williams: what did it do to you? >> slahi: i lived in a haze. i was very nervous, very angry, very easy to be angry. and i was crying for the simplest reason. >> williams: what else happened? >> slahi: then they brought another marine guy. he wore marine; 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. >> williams: he was pouring water on you? >> slahi: yes. and then he said, "answer me," but i couldn't talk because-- because my mouth couldn't move because i was very cold. >> williams: you were just too cold to talk. >> slahi: yes, i couldn't move my lips. >> williams: but it was another tactic that brought slahi close to the edge.
an interrogator who claimed he'd been dispatched from the white house gave slahi grave news. he was shown a fictitious letter stating that his mother had been detained and might be transferred to gitmo." there was no implication that she'd done anything? >> slahi: no, they said only because i wouldn't-- i wouldn't- - confess. >> williams: the idea that she was going to be held with male prisoners was terrible for you. >> slahi: that is an understatement. >> williams: what was your fear? >> slahi: i can't even think about it. i don't want to think about it. >> williams: later he was dragged from his cell and put on a boat. >> slahi: they opened my mouth and pouring salt water until i-- start choking. >> williams: they were forcing you to drink salt water? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what happened next? >> slahi: so they start to-- fill me with ice cube. ice cube-- >> williams: inside your uniform? >> slahi: inside your uniform. ice cube, full. my body was full.
and then i was like shaking uncontrollably, like this. they start hitting me everywhere, hitting. >> williams: beating you? >> slahi: yeah, beating me, everywhere. >> williams: for how long? >> slahi: again, i didn't have feeling for time. but it must have been three hours. >> williams: how much pain were you in? >> slahi: i was moaning like a woman giving birth. >> williams: and what did you decide to do? >> slahi: i decide i will tell them everything they want to know. >> williams: they broke you. >> slahi: absolutely. they broke me. i told the captain, that the boss of my team, "you write anything and i sign it. and if you buy, i'm selling." >> williams: and you were lying to them? >> slahi: not everything i said lie-- my life, i told them my life truthfully. but the crimes, i was lying about.
every single crime, i falsely confessed to. >> williams: slahi says he told his interrogators that he was an active recruiter for al qaeda, and was involved in a plan for a bombing in toronto but that plot never actually existed. >> williams: your life got a lot better-- >> slahi: yes. dramatically better. no more beating. no more-- i was allowed to sleep. i was afraid of conf-- false confessing, but it was a relief because now he-- the captain could not torture me anymore, because i gave him what he wanted. now he had to sell this-- first to the f.b.i., to c.i.a. and then they have to sell this to the prosecution, military prosecution, and those people are intelligent and smart. and then what they-- pretty much told him, "this is a bunch of b.s." >> williams: you told them what they wanted to hear, because you wanted the torture to stop. >> slahi: yes.
absolutely. i falsely confessed to crime. it was bad business. bad business. >> williams: in 2004, the military officer chosen to prosecute slahi resigned from the case, saying later that he was "convinced that slahi had been the victim of torture-- not by anything slahi said, but solely from u.s. government documents from the intelligence databases, detailing, specifically, what had been done to him during the interrogations." in 2010, a federal judge ordered slahi's release and wrote "there is ample evidence that slahi was subjected to extensive and severe mistreatment at guantanamo." evidence gathered through torture has complicated the government's military prosecutions at guantanamo. there have only ever been eight convictions, and three were later over-turned. you were one of the worst tortured in guantanamo, so you're in a unique position to answer this.
does torture work? >> slahi: in what way? tha-- it-- if it's-- if working's bringing pain on me, yes. if-- working is-- giving false confessions, yes. if "works"-- is giving good intelligence, no. if it works resulting in my-- in my-- conviction, hello! i'm here, after 15 years. and not even charged, let alone being convicted. so how can you convince anyone possibly who has a shred of intelligence that it works? >> williams: how did you manage to not lose your sanity? >> slahi: thank you very much, that-- the premise is that i did not lose my sanity. this psychiatrist told me 760, that what they call me. "you are really very sick." >> williams: sick with what? >> slahi: psychologically.
i was hearing noises. >> williams: hearing voices? >> slahi: yes. >> williams: what were they saying? >> slahi: it was my family, just talking to me every day and this wouldn't stop. and then he came to me, this doctor, and they help me. they gave medications over many years, heavy medication. and i was helped. >> williams: they gave you psychiatric medicine-- >> slahi: yes. paxil, klonopin, and-- you see sop-- "the sopranos?" >> williams: yes. >> slahi: yes, that medication he took. prozac. >> slahi: things like that. they gave me a lot of this stuff. >> williams: how's your health today? >> slahi: i don't have time to think about pain, which is good. the pain will go away. >> williams: but you didn't really answer my question, mohamedou. are you dealing with psychological trauma? >> slahi: i'm not a doctor. >> williams: do you sometimes relive the torture in your head?
>> slahi: of course. i still have nightmares. i still wake up and i think i'm- - in guantanamo bay. >> williams: at 46 years old, freedom has been a major adjustment. so has fame. he returned to mauritania a national hero. many here are angry about what the u.s., one of their allies, did to slahi, but are also proud that he's come home with his dignity intact. he's been embraced by a large extended family, including some members who weren't yet born when he disappeared. he's been a new discovery. >> slahi: yeah, many, among many. >> williams: there have also been losses. it's been more than 15 years since he got in his car and headed to the police station on his way to guantanamo. slahi's mother said goodbye that night, but she wasn't there to welcome him home. she passed away in 2013. and you didn't see your mom
again? >> slahi: no, i never see her again. it was the last time. it's seared in my memory, that picture frozen in time. >> williams: if you had to sum up the last 15 years of your life, what would you say? >> slahi: pain and suffering is part of growing up, and i grew up. >> williams: mohamedou slahi says the u.s. government is holding several other books he wrote while in prison: two novels, and a self-help book about staying positive no matter the situation. at times during our trip to mauritania he seemed exhausted, but there was almost always a smile on his face. he told us getting out of guantanamo was like being born again.
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