Guantánamo Public Memory Project

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Brandon Neely

At GTMO: Jan 2002-Mar 2004

Brandon Neely remembers his time as a guard at the detention facility at Guantánamo, and the challenge of humanizing the detainees.

Oh yea, everyday before there was like a briefing. They would tell you where to work, what happened the night before and right before you in, they would just be like, “hey remember these are the worst of the worst, these are the guys that would kill your family in a heartbeat. Have a good day!” It was everyday.

And when you started talking to detainees, what made you start talking to them? How did that even happen?

Pretty much being bored and I know it was surprising to me to hear some of these guys speak English to me, speak English as good as I spoke. And then you would start talking to some of them and you realize this guy was doing the same thing I was doing two weeks ago. You know I spoke to Ruhal and like we were talking about girls, nightclubs, music and we listened to a lot of the same music. This would be a guy I would probably hang out with back in the States. but here he is in Guantanamo. Well at the time I just thought everyone there was guilty so I was just like ok, you are going feed me a line of BS but you had to do something to get here, so.

Are you in touch with other detainees today?

I talk to Ruhal Shafiq through Facebook and text message, you know maybe couple times a week, once every other week. And we exchange photos of the kids and I mean, just normal conversation since we are past the whole awkward stage and I would say we are friends.

Do you think it is surprising to you that you are on Facebook with people we used to lock up?

It was funny because I had not been on Facebook long and I cannot.. It was about the time I was doing some research on Guantanamo and saw the whole thing about the Tipton Three. I was like, yea I remember those guys. And just for kicks, I put in Shafiq’s name and there it was. It just popped up with his picture and I said, “man, no way this guy is on Facebook” so I sent him a message and we just started talking through there. It was just weird. You could find everybody on Facebook now.

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