Military officials say sugar, not salt, may make detainees talk

Friday, April 5, 2002

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- The 300 detainees being held at this remote outpost have books to help pass the time and spicy food to remind them of home. They are even driven to interrogation houses in golf carts so they don't have to walk in their shackles.

For some Americans, it's hard to understand why the men, suspected of having links to the fallen Taliban regime of Afghanistan or the al-Qaida terrorist network, are being given anything other than food and water. But for U.S. military officials, the answer is simple: a happy prisoner is more likely to talk.

"The more comfortable that the detainees are, we're hoping that they're going to be more forthcoming with information," said Lt. Col. Bill Costello, spokesman for the interrogation mission.

Hoping to earn trust

A few weeks ago, troops guarding the detainees began transporting them to their interrogation sessions in golf carts rather than having them walk with shackled feet.

More recently, at the request of the detainees, an Islamic cookbook provided by the Muslim chaplain's wife has been used to prepare their food.

"They're not used to eating the things that we like. So I said make it a little bit spicy, put some onions, some jalapeno peppers" in their meals, said Navy Lt. Abuhena M. Saiful-Islam, the mission's Muslim chaplain. "They were really happy. For months they haven't had any spicy food, so they were jumping up and down. They are happy now."

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