The Truth Behind Torture
Interview with Marc Lamont
January 8, 2013 Get video here
Zero Dark Thirty painted the picture that torture was effective in killing Bin Laden. What's winning the war on terror, torture or intelligence?
Marc Lamont: Brandon, you worked at Guantanamo; you've been a guard there. When you look at a film like that [= Zero Dark Thirty], how did it compare to your experiences on the ground?
Brandon Neely: Well, seven minutes into the film—first seven-and-a-half minutes—you already got a detainee being waterboarded. And right before that it shows a detainee actually chained up to the building, kinda like havin' his arms up, kinda like he's on a cross. And that [INAUDIBLE] at Camp X-Ray: you saw a detainee chained up, and he was beaten just like that. And they portray that on the film within the first-seven-and-a-half minutes of the film. You can't even go seven minutes into the film without seeing somebody getting tortured! I actually saw the film last night for the first time.
ML: And when you think about being a guard, how prevalent was torture? How often did torture happen? Is this film overstating it? At all?
BN: As far as what happened on the blocks—cause I didn't have a lot to do with the interrogations—it was pretty common practice to treat detainees in a manner that was unhumane; whether it was chained into the fence or hog-tie and leaving them for hours or sitting in the interrog—or actually for I've seen them basically like they did in the film, to beat on the detainee to soften them up for interrogators in interrogation rooms. But it was pretty common; especially at the beginning of Guantanamo.
ML: Now, you said you weren't in the actual spaces where the torture was happening...
BN: Well not inside the interrogation rooms; this is all happening actually on the blocks of Camp X-Ray; out in the open.
ML: Right, but you talked to folk who did do those interrogations; those enhanced interrogations...
BN: Yes, I've talked to many guards who actually were inside the rooms and who actually turned on the music, who actually turned on the heat, and up the cold on the detainees, and short-shackle them and watch them urinate and stuff on themselves. I think a thing this film doesn't even portray—[and] a lot of people do not realize—[is] the effect not only torture has on the people being tortured, but the effect it has on these guards that actually took part in it and witnessed it. That's a story that will never be told because the government—because people like me, who do speak publicly, they try to shut us down. They threaten us with prosecution all the time.
ML: And has it happened to you? I'm interested in that. Has it happened to you? Have you been personally intimidated?
BN: I've been threatened [OVERSPEAKING] by the government, early on. I've been threatened at work, I have received death threats. I actually know a guard who came public and actually was kicked out of the United States Army after 19 years.
ML: Wow... And you personally said you've gotten the death threats; you've gotten the challenges. In what form do they come—I'm curious—when you get messages from the government to stop? When you feel intimidation coming from the government, in what form does it come?
BN: I've heard it through the lawyers I've had over the years and they've come through the UC Davis Project when I first spoke to them . But I've had people knock on my door, from the Department of Justice before. But the fact is it just makes me wanna be louder. And if you want to try and shut me up, it's not to threaten me; it's just gonna make me speak out more. Because I feel like, "if what I have to say, if it's so important for you to come after me or threaten me, I might as well keep speaking." So obviously I'm making a difference or making a point.
 Shortly after Mr. Neely gave his original testimony to the Guantanamo Testimonials Project (GTP), an official from the Department of Justice indeed contacted the GTP wishing to get in touch with Mr. Neely. The GTP immediately forwarded this information to the attorney it had made available to Mr. Neely.