Death of a Prisoner: short documentary by Laura Poitras on Guantánamo detainee Adnan Latif

Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Laura Poitras, who is my colleague on the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, has a powerful short-form documentary film out today, via the New York Times' "op doc" series.

"Death of a Prisoner: The Tragic Return Home of a Guantánamo Bay Detainee" follows a journey to Yemen, to return the body of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif to his family. In 2012, he "died in solitary confinement at Guantánamo at age 36, after nearly 11 years of imprisonment there, despite never having been charged with a crime."

Mr. Latif’s death is under investigation by the United States military, which claims he committed suicide from an overdose of prescription medication complicated by acute pneumonia. But that’s hard to take at face value. Why was he placed in solitary confinement when he was suffering from acute pneumonia? How could he have overdosed on medication, given the strict protocols at Guantánamo? Why did it take three months for the body to be returned to Yemen? And finally, why are his autopsy and toxicology report classified and being withheld from his family?

These questions are not just about Adnan Latif. They also address the injustices that our government has instituted and normalized in the war on terror.

Read the rest of Poitras' account here.

And the video is also here on YouTube.

Today, it should be noted, is the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo as a terror detainee facility. What irony that Poitras' film was published by the Times on the same day as this pathetic op-ed arguing Gitmo should remain open.


  1. I can scarcely stand to read about Guantanamo and related excesses any more. My only coherent question is: was it always like this?

    1. Like what? Innocent people being held without charge indefinitely? It’s been “like that” since Guantanamo opened; that’s what the purpose of the place is & always has been. 

      The reports we see now reflect the ugliness of this tragic story’s end, rather than beginning.  Instead of sad stories about an innocent person sold to the American military for a bounty, we’ll hear stories of them dying more than a decade later, still without justice, or even charge. Its bullshit, but whats truly bullshit is the fact that the answer to your question is: Yes, it has always been like this, and we never stopped it.

      1. I meant before Guantanamo. Have we always kept people locked up for years without charges in secret offshore prisons? Has torture always been part of the American way of life?

        1. Even after the end of WWII we (not including the USSR of course) let the majority of POWs go within a year or so and the ones kept for possible crimes were clearly identified and charged.  There was none of this perpetual detention or secret prison sleaze.

        2. Speaking as an outsider, 9/11 sent the US mad. Whatever transgressions it would tolerate in its own behaviour before were thrown out the window in favour of a new kind of insanity after that.

          The question you should be asking yourself is can America give up on torture, kidnapping, indefinite imprisonment without due process, drone attacks and other assassinations, etc. moving forwards? It doesn’t need any of that blood on its hands, but it has tasted blood and doesn’t want to exercise restraint after that. Who knows if it will ever end?

  2. Jennifer Daskal’s op-ed piece is unbelievable.  Basically she says that since they are a little more comfortable physically now that it is acceptable to keep them penned in a concentration camp without charges.  Also, since someone has decided that they are too dangerous (without any trial) to release they can be kept until that magic moment they declare the war “over”.  I suspect that even after the last Al Qaeda member is in a nursing home they’ll still declare the war on, and pushing for more taxpayer money too.  I’m also confused that they didn’t want to consider them prisoners of war, with all the basic rights soldiers are supposed to get, but they turn around and base their release on the cession of hostilities.  Don’t worry Ms Daskal, America’s Enabling Act is alive and well.

    1. Unbelievable is probably the best word for it. Pathetic works, too, in the sense of being “miserably inadequate”.  Unbelievably pathetic? Ending quote:

      “At that point, the remaining men in Guantánamo can no longer be held without charge, at least not without running afoul of basic constitutional and international law prohibitions.”

      Umm….I think “that point” passed a long time ago….there are people that have been in there for as long as it’s taken my child to go from the nursery to middle-school.

  3. If only Obama was “lesser” enough kind of evil that he would have fought against indefinite detention instead of so enthusiastically supporting it.

    1. Nonsense, the Guantanamo detainees are much, much happier being detained by a charming, cool, intellectual president like Obama than they were when it was that tongue-tied shitkicker Dubya keeping them locked up.

      Most of liberal America (exempting some posters here) seem to be much less aggrieved about it too.

Comments are closed.