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Inside the Wire: A Military Intelligence Soldier's Eyewitness Account of Life at Guantánamo Hardcover – May 2, 2005
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About the Author
Erik R. Saar served as an army sergeant with the U.S. military in the Detainee Camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for six months from December 2002 to June 2003, working to support the intelligence and interrogation operations. Sergeant Saar is a recipient of two Good Conduct Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, a Joint Service Commendation Medal, and a Joint Service Achievement Medal. He was trained in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, CA. Before serving at Gitmo, he worked as an intelligence analyst for the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, MD, and for the FBI in New York City. He is a graduate of King's College in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Viveca Novak is a Washington correspondent for Time, covering legal affairs, terrorism, and civil liberties, among other issues. A recipient of Harvard University's Goldsmith Prize for investigative reporting, the Clarion Award for investigative reporting, and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, she is a frequent guest on the national broadcast media, including CNN, NBC, PBS, Fox, and MSNBC. She has a B.A. in foreign affairs from the University of Virginia, an M.S. from Columbia University School of Journalism, and an M.S.L. from Yale Law School.
Top customer reviews
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The book was an easy read. The details were disturbing. Is it fact/fiction? Its up the reader to decide. Unfortunately we dont have any nice digtal photos floating around on the internet to verfiy the author's account.
Many are quick to dismiss his version of events. But then again, if someone had written a book about soldiers in Iraq leading detainees around on leases, making them masterbate, stacking them naked in a pyramid...I would be inclined to think it was fiction too. Now if only we could find some photos from GITMO.
The scenarios in the prologue brought many smiles to this reader, a former Army and Air Force linguist trained 30 years earlier than Saar. I had to chuckle when reading the reader reviews critical of Saar's Arabic language skills. An incredibly difficult language, much harder than the languages of Southeast Asia which fell to me and my generation. Saar tells us in his book that he had his fair share of trouble during language training. Who did not? I've had very brief and disappointing experiences inside one of our prisons in Iraq and another in Afghanistan, and never once saw an American who could interrogate at a professional level in Arabic or Pashto, not one. There must be a few out there, but they are rare creatures. We are doing the best we can in a war for which we were almost totally unprepared. I'm hoping that one of the brilliant Titan ethnic Iraqi or Afghan naturalized American citizens who carry the heavy interpreter burden will write his own memoirs about the trials and tribulations of assisting in these interrogations. These interpreters and native speakers have stories that will knock your socks off when compared to those told by young interrogators. The contract interpreters hold the true key insights into our by now well-recognized failures in the war on terror, and our failure to investigate their reactions disappoints me deeply. Saar does mention these contract linguists, and clearly has learned much from his association with them.
I see nothing in Saar's story that rings untrue. The spotless reputation of the FBI in regard to prisoner handling and enlightened interrogation strategies is still intact, and I would hope that any American who reads the internal FBI complaints which came out of Guantanamo has come to accept by now that our efforts have fallen short of the mark. [They always do fall short in many ways; perhaps that is easier for us older and more jaded veterans to recognize and admit.]
The appendix of "Inside the Wire" is a good collection of key policy documents which help us understand some of the origins of this debacle.
Erik Saar leaves me with the impression that he is a fine young man with a good heart, naive in the best and most traditional American way, expecting our actions in an ugly environment to match our declared American ideals and way of life. Sad to say, wars are not humane endeavors, precisely why we should undertake them only as last resort, so as not to bring ourselves down to our enemies' level. My personal feelings are that we would serve the long term goals of the United States much more effectively by treating these prisons as political reorientation facilities, viewing any information obtained as secondary to our primary goal of demonstrating by unfailing example to our prisoners what the American people truly stand for.
Any military prison is a complicated environment which arouses instinctive animal passions, reflexive brands of patriotism, bigotry, religious convictions both radical and reasonable, and deep-seated feelings of what is fair play and what is beyond the pale. Don't look for "heroism" in our interrogators or guards. Saar shows great insight into all of these diverse factors, and gives us detailed observations of the best and the worst of us at work at Guantanamo. Heroism in prison is reserved only for prisoners. Our prisoners who survived the abuses of the Vietnamese communists are our best example of that. The best any interrogator, interpreter, or guard can do is to remain human.
Erik Saar has made a contribution in the best way he could, and I admire his efforts and his service to our nation. I highly recommend "Inside the Wire" to anyone who understands that a sense of compassion and fair play is a prerequisite to being able to call oneself an American at heart, not merely an American by accident of birth.