NPR logo A Guantanamo Detainee's Letters Home

A Guantanamo Detainee's Letters Home

Majid Khan, pictured in suburban Baltimore, Md., where his family still lives. He was arrested in March 2003 in Pakistan while visiting his brother. He's been held as a "high-value" prisoner by the CIA for years and is now held at the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo courtesy of the Khan family hide caption

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Photo courtesy of the Khan family

Letters from Guantanamo

Khan's letters to his family in Maryland were delivered to them in December by the International Committee of the Red Cross. His family decided to make the letters public to draw attention to Khan's case. Read some of Khan's missives below:

June 10, 2006: 'Pray [for me].'

Oct. 17, 2006: 'I do get to go out-sight [sic] from my cell to get sunburn for about 1 hour every day' (Read the Letter)

Oct. 20, 2006: 'First 2 years I didn't even had [sic] my glasses to read or to see' (Read the Letter)

Much of the material in the letters Majid Khan sent to his family in Maryland might have been written by anyone far from home.

"Please let me know in our family who is married to who, new born babies and who has died. And I don't need to tell you how much I love and miss you guys," he wrote in a letter dated Oct. 17, 2006.

But these are no ordinary letters. Khan is one of 14 men considered a "high-value" terrorist suspect who are being held at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. His lawyers say he also spent time in a secret CIA prison after he was taken from his home in Pakistan in 2003.

Khan's letters to his family were delivered in December by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is allowed to visit with detainees.

"Now I weigh 180 pounds and I do 100 pushups in 80 seconds," Khan writes in one letter. "I do get to out-sight [outside] from my cell to get sunburn for about 1 hour every day and some[times] I get to talk to other detainees as well from behind the wall. But I am still in solitary confinement."

In that letter, heavy black lines block the words that follow.

Khan, 26, is a citizen of Pakistan who grew up outside Baltimore. The government believes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, handpicked Khan to help carry out a possible attack inside the United States. A document from the office of the Director of National Intelligence says Khan passed an al-Qaida test to see whether he "was committed to being a suicide operative." The document alleges that Mohammed asked Khan to research poisoning U.S. water reservoirs. It also says Khan attended a training course to learn how to build explosive timing devices.

Khan's family and his lawyers say he is a moderate Muslim, and no terrorist.

"He's not the person the government says he is," says his lawyer, Gitanjali Gutierrez, who works for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Khan's family in Maryland released the letters just as Bush administration officials said they were preparing for the first military trials of high-ranking al-Qaida detainees.

"I get two books to read here. No I don't get newspaper so I don't know what media is throughrng [throwing] trash on me," Khan writes in his Oct. 17 letter. "And they don't have single prove to link me with anything. Please reach out to International Criminal Court (ICC) lawyers to fight my case. Love..."

Khan's lawyers are challenging the constitutionality of Khan's detention in a petition to a federal judge in Washington. They've also cast it as an effort to shed light on the methods of interrogation that the United States has used to gather information from terrorism suspects.

In response, the CIA submitted an affidavit stating that if specific interrogation techniques were disclosed in Khan's case, ''It would permit terrorist organizations to adapt their training to counter the tactics that C.I.A. can employ in interrogations.''

The judge in the case has not yet ruled on the legal challenge.