Patterico’s Exclusive Interview with a Man Who Has Spoken to the Terrorists at Guantánamo (Part One: Introduction)
I know Zarqawi, the terrorist said to the American. I am going to have Zarqawi cut off your family’s head while you watch. Then he will cut off your head.
The terrorist said it all in a matter-of-fact way, looking the American straight in the eye.
The American was not frightened. There was little danger that the terrorist was going to carry out his threat . . . at least any time soon.
The terrorist was a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the American was an Army nurse who worked with Guantánamo detainees with psychological and/or behavioral problems. For six months, he spoke with detainees on a daily basis, and built a rapport of sorts with some of the most troublesome terrorists at Guantánamo.
He spoke with me recently, and I will be telling his story in several posts over the coming days.
The terrorists at Guantánamo knew the American by the name “Stashiu.” Readers of this blog know him as “Stashiu3.” Stashiu has been reading and commenting on this blog since July 2006, but only recently mentioned that he had been stationed in Guantánamo. When I read that, back on September 17, I immediately e-mailed Stashiu to ask him if he would be willing to speak with me on the record about Guantánamo, and let me publish the results of our conversation. He agreed, and this series of posts is the result.
Although I know Stashiu’s real name, I am not going to publish it. Stashiu has received death threats from around a dozen Al Qaeda members. Some of the threats have been made in anger, some have been attempts to intimidate — and some have been simple statements of intent . . . like the detainee who threatened to have Zarqawi cut off the heads of Stashiu and his family.
This detainee had talked with Stashiu for hours about his life, mentioning Zarqawi twice during these conversations. He liked Stashiu. But as Michael Corleone said to his brother: “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
Because killing Americans is what terrorists do.
While Stashiu doesn’t expect to see any of these detainees again when he retires from the service, he knows that, if he ever does, he has been targeted. He does not believe that terrorists have any particular interest in tracking him down. But just in case they do — and because his family has been threatened — he has decided to remain anonymous here. Accordingly, just as when he served at Guantánamo, he will be known here simply as “Stashiu.”
Verifying Stashiu’s Identity
After I e-mailed Stashiu, I received a return e-mail that bore his real name. Before I spoke with him on the telephone, I researched his background to make sure he was not a hoaxster. He is not. His IP address (both on his comments and e-mails) comes back to the United States Army Medical Information Technology Center. I have reached Stashiu by telephoning a number that can be accessed through the Army’s official web site.
At my request, Stashiu scanned in and e-mailed me his certificate for the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, signed by Harry B. Harris, Jr., Rear Admiral of the U.S. Navy, and Commander of Joint Task Force Guantánamo. He also e-mailed me the citation accompanying that medal.
Most importantly, I have spoken with him on the telephone for hours over the past two weeks, and he and I have exchanged dozens of e-mails. Stashiu has been very generous with his time, and always unhesitatingly answered my questions with detailed answers that show an insider’s knowledge of Guantánamo. While forthright and apparently quite honest with me, Stashiu has always maintained an appropriate reserve and a level of generality that protects both patient confidentiality and operational security.
In my research about Stashiu, I discovered an article, which I won’t link, that showed: 1) he is indeed a Major in the Army; and 2) he once saved a man’s life by donating bone marrow. I asked him about that and we spoke about it. He even sent me a link to a brief comment he had left on Blackfive about the experience. The comment was left under his usual pseudonym of “Stashiu3.”
Stashiu is the real thing, and he is a hell of a decent guy.
Why Speak with Patterico?
So why did Stashiu agree to speak with me? After all, hadn’t journalists visited Guantánamo? He told me that, of course, they had. So I asked him: why not give his story to Big Media? He said:
I don’t trust them to factually report anything I say. I’ve read you and trust you.
The suspicion of Big Media is, unfortunately, all too common nowadays.
Stashiu explained that he is not writing a book or looking to hit the talk show circuit, and he reiterated in forceful terms his disdain for Big Media. He added:
The only reason you were able to find the article about my Bone Marrow donation was because I thought it was the right thing to do for the program. It was my duty to talk with media that time (but I didn’t enjoy it). I take my oaths and my duties seriously and don’t shy from them. Sorry for being long-winded, but I wanted to thoroughly explain this.
Over the next few days, you will hear more from Stashiu about Guantánamo. You’ll learn what the detainees are like. You’ll hear details about how they are treated. You’ll learn from a professional whether they are truly mentally ill.
Oh — I almost forgot the best part. Blogs are an interactive medium, and Stashiu reads this blog. So if you think the interviewer is doing a terrible job, you can jump in yourself. If you have any questions of your own, just ask them. Stashiu has told me that he’ll do his best to respond.
Keep in mind that there are more posts coming, though. So don’t be surprised if Stashiu’s answer is: keep reading these posts.
Here is my planned schedule for follow-up posts:
Part Two: Stashiu arrives at GTMO, and tells us what the terrorists are like.
Part Three: Hunger strikes, suicides and suicide attempts, and mental illness.
Part Four: Treatment of the detainees.
Part Five: Stashiu reacts to Big Media pieces about GTMO.
UPDATE: A reader expresses concern that I have revealed too much regarding Stashiu’s identity. This is an issue that he and I discussed extensively. I warned him that including certain details would probably reveal his identity to anyone with a basic knowledge of Google. Stashiu allowed me to retain those details, reasoning that anyone determined enough to find him probably could anyway. I am allowing him to review the posts before publication for the sake of accuracy, so he knows exactly what I am saying about him.
UPDATE x2: Stashiu tells me he has been contacted by a member of the media. He has not responded and does not intend to respond. He has asked me to update the post and request the media not to contact him further, as he does not intend to speak to the media.
UPDATE x3: Part Two is here.