A member of Congress said Tuesday he disclosed the popularity of the erotic sometimes sadomasochistic series "Fifty Shades of Grey" among Guantanamo's most prized prisoners not to titillate but to set straight for their global followers that they were not devout holy warriors passing their Ramadan reading the Quran.
"It demystifies them. It exposes them for who they actually are," said Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., in a telephone interview that sought to set straight that the captives in the secretive Camp 7 complex are "not exactly holy warriors. Just the opposite. These people are phonies."
Moran first disclosed the reading preference at Guantanamo's most secretive prison, which houses former CIA captives like alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed, to The Huffington Post after a July 26 visit to the base. He said the "factoid" was somehow misinterpreted as salacious, or an abuse of U.S. funds, rather than offering what he called "some profound insight."
"They're not the people anyone should be strapping on suicide vests for. They're not the people who understand Mohammed's meaning more than anyone else," said Moran, adding, "I don't want this seen as I'm trying to manipulate public opinion."
What made the disclosure so odd is that, during media visits to the trailers that house the prison camp's collection of about 18,000 books, many of them religious, the Defense Department contractor in charge, Milton, says he systematically forbids the circulation of books and videos that are either lascivious or exceptionally violent..
The Miami Herald contacted Moran on vacation after a prison camps spokeswoman, Army Capt. Andi Hahn, checked with the Army officer in charge of the detention center library and replied that the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series is a "prohibited" book.
The Herald asked the congressman whether members of the U.S. military were perhaps playing a practical joke on him inside Camp 7, where the conversation took place.
Camp 7, which is run by a secret separate staff, Task Force Platinum, contains captives who got to Guantanamo in 2006 from years of CIA custody, where at least three were waterboarded. They include the five alleged conspirators in the Sept. 11 terror attacks, who devotedly unfurl their prayer rugs and conduct Muslim prayers at the appointed times inside the war court during pre-trial hearings in their death-penalty cases.
Only members of Congress with security clearance get to see the secret prison.
"I asked, 'What kind of books do they read?"' Moran said Tuesday. "The camp commander said, actually the book in greatest demand is `Fifty Shades of Grey' - in fact the whole series. They all smiled and nodded and it wasn't as though this was a particular secret."
They also told him, Moran said, that some Camp 7 captives were not observing the Ramadan fast.
Moran said he has long favored exposing the Pentagon prisoners to great works of Western literature, and had asked the same questions in the less secretive prisons containing the 150 or so other prisoners, 84 of them approved for release or transfer in 2010. In those prisons, the troops responded more generically that detainees who broke the rules get to keep just two library books in their cells while cooperative, communal captives get to borrow eight at a time.
U.S. military public affairs officers are allowed to confirm Camp 7's existence, especially lately as the Southern Command seeks $49 million from Congress to replace it with a new building.
But they cannot say anything about what goes on there, or even identify its Army commander.
In February, military spokesman said they were forbidden to elaborate on war court testimony that showed Camp 7's troops seized as banned a previously approved book by ex-FBI Agent Ali Soufan called "Black Banners."
Now it seems that Guantanamo's "high-value" Camp 7 captives are entitled to different literature - the latest sign that Task Force Platinum operates under a different regime than those shown to reporters brought down regularly for tours that talk about the detention center's commitment to transparency.
Another attorney, Carlos Warner, said while his Camp 7 client, Muhammed Rahim, was interested in American popular culture he couldn't imagine him reading the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series sometimes referred to as "mommy porn."
In March, Warner said, he handed Rahim the bestseller fantasy novel "American Gods," about a freed prisoner, now being serialized for HBO - and was fully engaged in it.
Because of his enthusiasm, Warner got a card for Rahim from the book's author, Neil Gaiman. "I hope you enjoy American Gods. It was written before Guantanamo and all this current madness," the British novelist wrote Rahim in June at Warner's behest. The lawyer said he plans to show it to Rahim at their next meeting.
"American Gods" is not an approved book at the detention center library, the prison spokeswoman, Hahn, said in response to a question Tuesday.