2011-04-02 Interview with Brandon Neely, former Guantanamo prison guard and Iraq veteran. "Because I've heard people say: 'Well I bet you wouldn't say that under oath.' Well, I betcha I would." (Part 7 of 8)

ImageThis is our first interview in a series of interviews with former Guantanamo Bay detention camp guards and detainees.

Several current and former U.S. soldiers have expressed interest in speaking publicly about their experience at Guantanamo: including a CIA psychologist, interrogators, guards, and medical personnel. They are disgusted with what they witnessed or took part in at Guantanamo, but declined my request for an interview, because they fear opening themselves up to prosecution by the US government, which required them to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement .

I was also told that many are afraid of being prosecuted for war crimes, since low level soldiers are often the ones who shoulder the brunt of punishment and backlash; whereas higher ranking officials seem to escape scrutiny completely.

Brandon Neely, has been a vocal critic of both Guantanamo Bay, and the war in Iraq. And he speaks from experience, since he was both a guard at Guantanamo during the the first six months the camp was open, and served in Iraq during the US invasion. In the course of his advocacy, he has offered testimony to the Center for Human Rights in the Americas, and appeared in numerous articles and on television programs, including a BBC program that recounts how he contacted two of his former prisoners on Facebook to express remorse for what he did. You can also find him, where I did, on twitter, @BrandonTXNeely.

I think that people like you have such an important voice. I am just so glad, and I am so honored that you allowed me to have a chance to talk to you about this. And, I just want to tell you keep doing what you are doing. It's just awesome.

Yeah. Definitely. I think like I told you before...I left. I refused any media and took a lot of heat for it.

But, at the same time I've told people if you would take pictures of me now...and go back to that BBC documentary...I don't even look the same.

I am working out. I'm look like I did when I was in the army now...I'm back to, you know being myself. I'm more confident, like, I mean I'm not nervous when I speak to media anymore. I know what I want to say.

Because, honestly, when all that stuff went down when I first spoke out I had no clue it was going to. I was by myself. I had a couple of friend, but its kind of like...well on the Monday I'm talking to these guys at UCDavis, and on Tuesday I had the Rachel Madow Show and Sixty Minutes knocking on my front door.

I'm panicking, you know? Like, I was panicking, what do I do? I am gonna be most hated man. It was horrible.

So, once I did all that and after I did the documentary then, I'm like, I'm never doing any more media. I needed to calm down.

Well, now it's like...after seeing how important it is, and how many supportive messages I've heard from people...just real regular citizens like, "You know...like a lot of us don't agree with this, but we're not going to say nothing cause..."

I've heard from soldiers who say you know, "I would like to tell what happened." or tell my side of the story, but really Brandon, what does it matter? Nothing is ever going to change."

I really think that if something was going to happen, they are gonna be like. "Well. let these people talk out."

If more people would speak out...

I was talking to somebody the other day and it's like I've talk to a lot of people. I've talked to guards. I've even talked to some former interrogators.

I even talked to this psychologist one time, who worked inside the interrogation rooms, and so have other reporters, and stuff I've known talked to these people....and you hear their stories...but I can't tell in public what they told me, because I have nothing to back that up.

But, it's like, I know what they have said or what they have seen. And, I understand why they don’t go public.

Guys come to me, and they are like, "What happens when you go public?"

I'm not going to lie to them. I straight up tell them, "This is probably what's going to happen. This might be what happens. If I was you, I would get a lawyer, because technically we did sign a non-disclosure statement when we left Guantanamo, not to speak to the media , write a book, make a movie, et cetera."

So, that's a big issue too with former personnel at Guantanamo was that non-disclosure statement they signed. That you can't get a copy of it now.

We've tried to get copies. But they won't release a copy. But they say they have it.

What have you faced? I mean, what do you tell them. I mean you, you said you say this. You said you say that, but what is it? What have you faced?

A lot of guys are worried about it...

Okay, honestly, with me...it's really split my family down the middle. I don't even talk to my extended family anymore. I almost got fired from my job.

People are asking, "What kind of comments are you getting"" I'm like, "Dude, like literally 98 per cent of comments I read I got from people were all positive."

I said you are always going to have people, no matter what side you are on that don't agree with you, and they're going to be nasty about it.

That's just a part of what happens.

You know, I'm always honest...and tell people exactly the backlash I have gotten, but at the same time I tell them, "Look, I still have my job. I'm still doing this, and it's not as bad as it seems, but this has happened, and you have to weigh those options for yourself. The majority of the things, don't worry about that. Cause they never came after nobody that has spoken out."

Have people asked you about Bradley Manning when you talk to the media?

Usually, when I do something lately like a lot about David Hicks and the basic Guantanamo stuff, nothing apart from that.

Do you have an opinion about on it *privately*?

Like, Bradley Manning?

I believe he became the fall the guy of the whole situation. Like, we have to pick one person to show the American people that were going to take down and it's going to be him.

Has the military said anything? Or commented on you? Or have you gotten any letters? Or has it simply been more personal conflict, like you said with you extended family or the threat of losing your job?

No. They've never directly say anything. There was rumors that well..they made comments we're coming after the non-disclosure statements, and some of the lawyers I had at the time...were kind of like, "Okay. If you're going to do it, let's do it! Because this is what they are going to come at you with, and you're going to have to get a copy of the non-disclosure statement."

I tried to get copies of it through various ways because we wanted to show it was illegal, and couldn't be held up in the court system.

But we could never get a copy of it. Nobody to this day can get a copy of it. Lawyers. You can't get it through the Freedom of information Act. No way.

But, they have confirmed that I did. That there is one in the first Associate Press article that was written about me. They did contact the Pentagon on the statement...and they said, "Oh, yeah. All soldiers leave there, signing some kind of confidentiality statement."

But they didn't go into detail about what you can do, and you can't do. But I know the day I left there, we were told, "You can't talk to the press. You can't write a book. You can't make a movie. Et cetera."

So, you know I even tell people: "I don't care if you are pro-Guantanamo or not. If you speak out, then you're just as guilty as me right now with the non disclosure statement."

"So, if they come after me, they are going to come after you too."

So, don't act like your better than God, because you signed it too," And, people are like, "Well it's different." I'm like, "It's not different. It goes both ways, you know."

Honestly, I'm not worried about it. If they were going to come after me, they would have already done it. But at the same time, I knew that speaking out that it was an option that they could do...but, at the same time, you just turn it around it give you a bigger platform...and, it turns around and puts the whole system on trial.

Absolutely. Yep. I kind of feel like a clean conscience sometimes is worth the sacrifice of whatever.


The thing is like, if I was a liar, you know if I was lying about anything, then they would have come after me. They would have come after me to make an example of me.

If anybody who was speaking out: If Joe Hickman was full of it...if any of these guys...or FBI guys...they would have make an example out of you.

And be like, "Look. This guys a loony. This is what we are doing to him. Look. He's a fraud." But they don't say nothing. They don't say nothing at all.

I mean if they came after me tomorrow, I'd be like, "Okay. Let's go ahead and do this." But, we've tried to like hearings in Washington like put us on...because I've heard people say: "Well I bet you wouldn't say that under oath." Well, I betcha I would.

But, they won't do it. You know. Just like, Joe Hickman, I mean, they wouldn't even...they didn't even do a real investigation about that.


And, he wasn't by himself. There was four other soldiers that vouched and backed up, and added to what he said.

But, they just want to sweep it under the rug and say well, "We don't need to go in the past. Lets go about the future."

I don't care if Guantanamo is the best place on earth right now. You can't forget about what happened there. You can't forget the history of it. You know we did this. You have to admit to it.

I've always said until we come out...until the government comes out and says, "Yes. This is what we've did done. We are wrong. We messed up. This is how we're going to fix it"...We'll never get over it. We'll always be looked at as, " Well this is what you all did!"

Nobody is ever going to start the healing process, until you know, you admit what you've done wrong. But obviously it seems like nobody wants to admit what they have done wrong, or what they allowed to go wrong...because it's not the thing to do. So.

Continue to Part 8 of 8

Brandon Neely Interview:

Other Resources:

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer