The Patriot of Guantanamo Bay

Well into the night of Sunday, Jan. 2, 2005, lt. Cmdr. Matthew Diaz sat alone at his desk in the headquarters of the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, consumed with a new project.

Sitting at a secure desktop computer, he printed out page after page of classified information, pulling each batch from the printer in case anyone wandered by. When he was done, Diaz had assembled a document 39 pages long. In tiny type, it listed names, prison serial numbers and other information for each of the 551 men who were then being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

Now, Diaz knew he was crossing a line. For nearly two weeks after printing the list, he kept it locked inside the safe in his office. On another late night, he carefully trimmed the pages down to the size of large index cards. Then, on Jan. 14, the last night of his tour, he went back to the office one more time. While his colleagues were getting ready for his farewell dinner, he slipped the stack of paper inside a Valentine’s Day card he had bought at the base exchange. It was an odd touch. The card showed a cartoon puppy with long ears and bubble eyes and the greeting, “Hope Valentine’s Day is just your style.” Diaz would later say that he chose it because it was big enough to hold the list. He also hoped the lipstick-red envelope might pass unscrutinized through the Guantánamo post office.

The flaws in Diaz’s plan became apparent soon after the red envelope reached the New York offices of the Center for Constitutional Rights, a left-wing legal-advocacy group that counted itself among the most zealous opponents of the administration’s Guantanamo policy. Diaz had addressed the card to Barbara Olshansky, a lawyer at the center whom he had never met. Weeks earlier, she had written to the Pentagon official overseeing detention policy, Navy Secretary Gordon R. England, asking for the names of the detainees so attorneys could offer to represent them. Diaz, who had been copied on the draft response, knew that the administration never considered granting the request.

New York Times

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