Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah proposed that the Obama administration implant electronic micro-chips into the bodies of Guantanamo Bay detainees to track their movements when they are released, a leaked State Department cable shows.
"This was done with horses and falcons, the King said," according to the document, which was first posted online by Wikileaks. Abdullah suggested Bluetooth technology could be used to keep tabs on the men.
The king raised the idea in a March 2009 meeting with White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan in Riyadh, where the men had discussed a range of security issues including closure of the U.S. military detention center of Guantanamo Bay.
"I've just thought of something," the King said to Brennan, suggesting the chips.
Brennan responded politely, explaining that "horses don't have good lawyers" and the idea would likely face stiff opposition from civil libertarians in the U.S. He assured Abdullah, however, that "keeping track of detainees was an extremely important issue" to the administration.
A recent Pentagon analysis found that around 20 percent of former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the fight against the U.S. and continues to climb.
Brennan told Abdullah that the Obama administration was committed to closing Guantanamo and was working closely with Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Nayef on how to resolve the cases of 99 Yemeni detainees.
Adbduallah made an "unusual concession" at the end of the meeting, according to the cable, saying "be assured I am fully briefed on the work you are doing with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef."
The Brennan-Abdullah meeting is one of dozens of interesting anecdotes buried within the initial release of more than 250,000 secret U.S. government documents exposed by Wikileaks Sunday and posted online.
Prince Asserts British Superiority
In a 2008 cable to Washington, U.S. ambassador to Kyrgyzstan, Tatiana Gfoeller, said a discussion with Britain's Prince Andrew was "astonishingly candid" and "at times verged on the rude (from the British side)."
The prince, who is a special British trade representative, displayed "almost neuralgic patriotism whenever any comparison between the United States and United Kingdom came up," according to the cable.
When a British businessman, who also participated in the discussion, pointed out that the United States had invested less in Kyrgyzstan relative to the size of its economy than Great Britain, the prince retorted, "No surprise there. The Americans don't understand geography. Never have. In the U.K., we have the best geography teachers in the world!"
Kazakh Elites Fly In Elton JohnOne leaked, classified cable from April 2008 offers a colorful look inside the lifestyle of Kazakhstan's political elites, who "indulge in their hobbies on a grand scale."
Elton John headlined an exclusive 41st birthday party for the son-in-law of President Nazarbayev, reportedly to the tune of one million pounds. Nelly Furtado reportedly performed at a separate birthday celebration for a relative of the ruling elite, the cable said.
The document also highlights the Kazak leaders' affinity for alcohol and dancing. U.S. Embassy officials in the capital of Astana observed Kazak Prime Minister Masimov at one of the city's trendiest nightclubs, where he was seen dancing alone on an elevated platform.
"His companions quickly tired but Masimov remained," the cable said, "dancing alone and animatedly on the stage for another 15-20 minutes."
On a separate occasion, the country's Defense Minister Akhmetov showed up for a meeting with a senior U.S. defense department official in a drunken stupor.
"Slouching back in his chair and slurring all kinds of Russian participles -- Akhmetov explained to this very senior guest that he had just been at a cadet graduation reception 'toasting Kazakhstan's newly-commissioned officers,"' the cable reads. "Who was toasted more -- the Defense Minister or the cadets -- is a matter of pure speculation."
American Dentist Makes Harrowing Escape from Iran
Another cable obtained by Wikileaks details a 75-year-old Los Angeles dentist's harrowing escape from Iran on horseback in January after officials in Tehran confiscated his passport.
Hossein Ghanbarzadeh Vahedi, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, paid $7,500 to two drug smugglers who led him on an extraordinary three-day trek into Turkey, including a 14-hour overnight ride through the mountains in temperatures below freezing.
A "visibly shaken" Vahedi ended up at the U.S. consulate in Ankara, suffering only from "some aches and pains," the cable said. Officials later helped him avoid deportation back to Iran by Turkish authorities and fly home to the U.S. to reunite with his family.
Vahedi had traveled to Tehran in May 2008 to visit his parents' gravesite and spent an uneventful four weeks there with family and friends. But when he tried to leave the country on June 6, authorities confiscated his passport and refused to let him leave.
Wikileaks Secrets Include Many Anecdotes
Authorities sought a $150,000 fine to "make the process move more quickly" and assurances that his sons – popular Persian pop singers who use "occasional anti-regime rhetoric" – would end their music business, he told consular officials, according to the cable.
But after seven months of unsuccessful appeals before an Iranian court, Vahedi became desperate, believing a covert escape would be his only option of getting home.
Vahedi weighed being a stowaway on a ship across the Persian Gulf into the UAE; crossing through Baluchistan in southeast Iran into Pakistan; or, venturing into Iraq with hopes of connecting with U.S. military forces. He settled on a fourth option: crossing Iran's mountainous northwest border into Turkey.
On Jan. 7, 2009, the daring journey began when he set out on horseback in the cold darkness as two paid escorts led the way.
Vahedi, who was not properly dressed for the frigid temperatures, had the escorts "physically hug him to keep him warm," according to the cable. At one point during the treacherous climb, he fell from the horse and down into the woods.
"He really believed he was going to die by freezing to death on a mountainside," consular officials wrote in the cable.
Once in Turkey, Vahedi recovered briefly in a halfway house before taking a 10-hour bus ride to Ankara, where he found refuge in the U.S. consulate.
Embassy officials quietly deterred Turkish authorities from deporting Vahedi, who was technically an illegal immigrant to Turkey, back to Iran. He flew to the U.S. on Jan. 13.