Are Gitmo Detainees Really Reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’?

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National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Aug. 22, 2013, 11:19 a.m.

Ap­par­ently Guantanamo Bay de­tain­ees aren’t the really big fans of the steamy best seller Fifty Shades of Grey they were re­por­ted to be a few weeks ago.

After vis­it­ing the U.S. mil­it­ary de­ten­tion cen­ter in Cuba, Rep. Jim Mor­an, D-Va., said mil­it­ary of­fi­cials told him the racy E.L. James book was a fa­vor­ite among the in­mates.

Here’s what Mor­an told The Huff­ing­ton Post in Ju­ly:

Rather than the Qur­an, the book that is re­ques­ted most by the [high-value de­tain­ees] is Fifty Shades of Grey. They’ve read the en­tire series in Eng­lish, but we were will­ing to trans­late it. I guess there’s not much go­ing on, these guys are go­ing nowhere, so what the hell.

The mil­it­ary would not con­firm this in­form­a­tion, say­ing it does not com­ment on spe­cif­ic in­mate be­ha­vi­or.

However, it seems that Mor­an’s in­form­a­tion may have been in­ac­cur­ate, at least ac­cord­ing to some of the in­mates’ law­yers. James Con­nell, who rep­res­ents Am­mar al-Bal­u­chi, one of the men sup­posedly be­hind the Sept. 11 at­tacks, said a guard gave the book to his cli­ent as a joke.

Ac­cord­ing to the BBC, Bal­u­chi ar­rived in court this week with a copy of the book, telling his law­yer, “You’ll nev­er guess what I have,” and handed him the nov­el. Bal­u­chi told Con­nell that the “fairly worn pa­per­back” had been a gift from a couple of guards. He, however, did not read the book, as he is an “avid” read­er of The Eco­nom­ist and Wired magazines.

“He knew that it was some sort of a joke,” Con­nell told the BBC. “Or some sort of dis­in­form­a­tion cam­paign.”

James Har­ring­ton, a law­yer who rep­res­ents an­oth­er pris­on­er, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, also ex­pressed doubts about the Fifty Shades of Grey series.

“I don’t know where it’s com­ing from,” Har­ring­ton told the As­so­ci­ated Press. “It’s something that clearly was planted with this con­gress­man who comes back to Wash­ing­ton and makes a big deal about it, all of which is de­signed to paint a pic­ture of our cli­ents and the oth­er de­tain­ees here which is just not ac­cur­ate.”

Bal­u­chi, also known as Abd al-Aziz Ali, is the neph­ew of al­leged 9/11 mas­ter­mind Khal­id Sheikh Mo­hammed, who made news about his read­ing pref­er­ences in re­cent months. In Ju­ly, the AP re­por­ted Mo­hammed was a big fan of the Harry Pot­ter books and was also al­lowed to build a va­cu­um clean­er, among oth­er de­tails.

In April, New York Times re­port­er Charlie Sav­age pos­ted sev­er­al pho­tos of the books that are avail­able in the pris­on lib­rary.

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