Guantanamo Bay Arrests Raise Red Security Flag

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, October 1, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO, GUEST HOST: The arrests of two translators and a Muslim chaplain from Guantanamo Bay have triggered an urgent military investigation. Part of that investigation will have to center on security procedures to prevent this from ever happening again.

Bill Tierney (search) is a military intelligence veteran who worked as an interpreter at Guantanamo Bay (search). And that's today's big question, Bill, are the Gitmo inmates running the asylum?

BILL TIERNEY, FORMER GUANTANAMO TRANSLATOR: No, that's a little bit too far, but the problem is that we want to continue to live in our delusion that the Jihadists are a fringe element that are hijacking Islam, when in fact that is not the case. What is really going on is that the Jihadists (search), Usama bin Laden… there's a very long list of these people, they're simply pointing out the key verses in the Koran (search) that have been ignored for many years.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: When you say the Jihadists, do you mean the leadership or do you mean the rank-and-file that we've captured in Afghanistan and Iraq and have now incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay?

TIERNEY: I mean anybody whether they're in Gitmo, out of Gitmo, whether they carry a weapon or not, who reads those verses in the Koran and acts on them. They number in the millions.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: You were a translator at Guantanamo Bay for the American military. What is it like? Tell us. What kind of a relationship, if any, develops, between the prisoner, the translator and the interrogator?

TIERNEY: Well, I cannot get into details.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: I don't want you to name names. I just want you to tell us of your experiences.

TIERNEY: Right. Arabs make friends very easily. They're very friendly. It's one of the characteristics of Arabs that is very positive is that they make friends very easily. I've seen this through many years. And an interrogator can run the gamut between being very friendly and being someone's worst nightmare. If being friendly gets their cooperation, gets information and helps us win and saves the lives of U.S. servicemen, be friendly. So if it is by design, there's no problem with that. If you are being manipulated emotionally by the Jihadists, that's a problem. And they're very good at it. Look at the Palestinians. They actually make us believe there's a peace plan when, in fact, there is not.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: When you are in a jail cell, when you are in a cell at Camp Delta and you are translating from English to Arabic and Arabic into English, do you have a conversation with the prisoner that the interrogator doesn't hear or doesn't understand? Do you develop some kind of a relationship? I don't mean you, I mean the translator. Does the translator develop some kind of a relationship with the prisoner?

TIERNEY: Well, I would never do that, but you don't have actually trained interpreters there, someone who has done court interpreting or been through some kind of class, from what I saw. That wasn't happening. The problem that you have is that you will have a Muslim interpreter come in, sit down and the detainee is going to buttonhole him and say, “Here I am. I'm putting my life on the line for what the Koran is telling me to do and it's telling you to do it also, and you are sitting there taking a check from the infidels?”


TIERNEY: Now, he's under pressure.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Are you surprised that two of the translators and one of the Muslim clerics who worked with you - maybe not alongside you — but at the same time in Guantanamo Bay have been arrested and charged with espionage and treason?

TIERNEY: No, not at all surprised.


TIERNEY: For one thing, it's politically incorrect to do a thorough betting job. You do a criminal check. You ask neighbors what you need to really know with Muslims is where they go to mosque, and that's politically incorrect to ask that question. You will have one mosque that is lukewarm, and down the street you will have a place… that gets millions of dollars in funding from the Saudis and it's a Wahabi Center.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: All right, before I let you go — we just have 30 seconds.


JUDGE NAPOLITANO: What should be changed?

TIERNEY: We need to start asking that question about where they go to mosque. And we need to change our fundamental world view that because you have people who want to change our government and you have multiculturalism that says all cultures are equal, none is better than the other. One of those is going to have to break because [the enemy] means to change our government. The sooner we wake up to that the better.

JUDGE NAPOLITANO: Okay, Bill, thanks for joining us today.


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