Inside the dark cell, the translator tried to make sense of this situation. "I thought this was a test for to see if I can stand humiliation and detention," he said. "I thought one of the members of my unit would come and say I know what he was doing."
He just couldn't imagine the detention would be real. After all, he said, he'd never gone anywhere by himself during his whole detail on the base. And he was never alone when he met with the sheikh. It was always with a convoy of at least two vehicles and several guards, he said.
But three days later, he was shackled, blindfolded and hooded once again before being taken to Camp Cropper, near Baghdad, the complaint states. It was then that reality began to set in.
Several days later – on Nov. 11 – he received a letter from the Detention Review Authority, stating that he was being held as a "security internee." Unable to get an attorney, he went on a hunger strike.
A month later, he received another letter, this one from the Detainee Status Board, indicating that a proceeding would be held to determine his legal status as an "enemy combatant," security internee or "innocent civilian." The letter also said that he had no right to a lawyer but that he could call witnesses that were "reasonably available."
On Dec. 22, 2005, the complaint states, he was brought -- shackled, hooded and blindfolded -- before a panel called the Detainee Status Board. He was hardly able to think straight after 16 days on a hunger strike, he said. He says he also wasn't allowed to hear much of the evidence against him, but he was given a chance to speak.
Realizing that this clearly wasn't a joke, he told the story of his work with the sheikh. The judges stared blankly, he said, and when he was through told him to step outside. Minutes later he was brought back in and told he would continue to be held. All they said was that he was a threat to the multinational forces in Iraq. When he was brought back to his cell, he decided to begin eating again.
For the first several months he claims he was kept in total isolation, where he slept on either a small cot or a thin mattress on the concrete. If that didn't make sleep difficult enough, the guards certainly didn't help. He claims they would keep the lights on throughout the night, blast heavy metal or country music and bang his door when they thought he was asleep. He was rarely taken outside and when he was it was usually around midnight or later, the complaint states.
"There was nothing I could do," he said. "I couldn't tell the day from the night. Luckily I went out without being insane."
Three months in, he says he was allowed to make his first call to his family. He got just five minutes. "They wouldn't believe it," he said. "It was like someone from the dead." They'd tried to contact his employer, the military, anyone they could think of. But nobody gave his family any information until that day.
Soon, he was then transferred to another building, inside the prison, one used to house suspected al Qaeda members and Baathists. The translator stood out and, he says, was attacked several times by fellow prisoners. It didn't help, he claims, that one of the guards had told some of the suspected al Qaeda operatives that the translator used to be in the U.S. military and had worked for the defense department.