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Guantánamo guard Facebooks former prisoner and they become friends

New to Facebook, Brandon Neely was searching the site for acquaintances in 2008 when he typed in the names of some of the detainees he had guarded during his tenure as a prison guard at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Mr. Neely, an Army veteran who spent six months at the prison in 2002, sent messages to one of the freed men, Shafiq Rasul, and was astonished when Mr. Rasul replied. Their exchanges sparked a face-to-face meeting, arranged by the BBC, which will be shown on Tuesday. Mr. Neely, who has served as the president of the Houston chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, says his time at Guantánamo now haunts him, and has granted confessional-style interviews about the abuses he says he witnessed there. In a message to Mr. Rasul, Mr. Neely apologized for his role in the imprisonment.

Gavin Lee, a BBC correspondent, learned about the Facebook messages from Mr. Rasul, who lives in Britain, and thought the situation was incredible. Mr. Lee tracked down Mr. Neely — on Facebook, naturally — and asked, “would you consider meeting face to face?”

“He thought about it and he said, ‘I would love to,’ ” Mr. Lee recalled last week. “I would love to apologize in person.”

It took months to find a time, however, and Mr. Rasul was uncertain. He told the BBC that some members of his family had said to him, “Why do you want to meet someone like that for? The way he treated you, you stay away from him.”

The BBC paid for Mr. Neely’s flight to London last month, where a camera crew filmed him meeting Mr. Rasul and a second former detainee, Ruhal Ahmed, on a Saturday afternoon. (Both men have pursued legal action against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.)

The cameras were there for a second conversation the morning before Mr. Neely’s flight home to Houston. “To see it happen was extraordinary,” Mr. Lee said.

In a segment that will be telecast on Tuesday’s “BBC World News America,” Mr. Ahmed is shown saying to Mr. Neely, “You look different without your cap.”

“You look different in jumpsuits,” Mr. Neely responds.

BRIAN STELTER

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Posted in: News by SoulRiser on February 1, 2010 @ 11:52 PM

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