WNYC Studios’ Radiolab presents “The Other Latif”
Radiolab’s first-ever serialized story dives into the mystery of
Abdul Latif Nasser, Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay
Hosted by Radiolab’s Latif Nasser
Interviewees include Detainee Nasser’s family and lawyer,
U.S. intelligence and military officials, and national security reporters
Six-Part Weekly Series Launches Today
(New York, NY — February 4, 2020) – Today, Radiolab debuts its first-ever serialized story, “The Other Latif,” a six-part mystery series about Detainee 244 at Guantanamo Bay.
Radiolab reporter Latif Nasser was procrastinating at work, scrolling through Twitter, when he saw a tweet that was about him—or so he thought. It was actually about a different man bearing the same name. Though never convicted of—or even charged with—a crime, “the other Latif” has been a prisoner inside the world’s most notorious prison for the last 17 years. Cleared for release by six U.S. government agencies in the waning days of the Obama administration—but never freed—Detainee 244 remains in a Kafkaesque state of legal limbo.
“The Other Latif” is Detainee Nasser’s story as told by Radiolab’s Nasser, the result of a three-year investigation spanning five countries, three U.S. Presidents, and 17 years. Leaked documents from the Department of Defense paint a terrifying portrait of one of Osama bin Laden’s top military advisors, the man who allegedly blew up Afghanistan’s iconic Bamiyan Buddhas and helped bin Laden escape the battle of Tora Bora; his lawyer maintains he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Through the course of his reporting, Radiolab’sNasser is ushered through the bowels of the Pentagon, followed by Moroccan intelligence, kept up late at night exchanging WhatsApp messages with alleged terrorists. He even manages to catch a brief but breathtaking glimpse of the other Latif at Guantanamo.
With every new revelation, the case of the other Latif careens back and forth between guilt and innocence, keeping him trapped in a legal, geographic, and political netherworld.
“The Other Latif” asks: will he—and should he? —ever get out?
In investigating his namesake’s story, Radiolab’sNasser interviews more than 35 people—including Detainee Nasser’s lawyers and family, U.S. government officials, and journalists who cover the war on terror—to piece together a portrait of a man he’s forbidden to communicate with directly. Until they find a way….
- Members of Abdul Latif Nasser’s family
- Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, Abdul Latif Nasser’s lawyer
- Mohamedou Salahi, former Guantanamo detainee
- Rear Admiral John Ring, former head of the Joint Task Force-Guantanamo
- Joshua Geltzer, former Senior Director for Counterterrorism at the National Security Council
- Ambassador Daniel Fried, first of several officials to be named Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure under the Obama Administration
- Carol Rosenberg, longtime Guantanamo reporter at the Miami Herald, now at The New York Times
- Charlie Savage, national security reporter, The New York Times
- Lawrence Wright, staff writer, The New Yorker
“Usually I pick the stories I cover, but this story picked me,” said Latif Nasser, Director of Research, Radiolab. “Once I discovered a Gitmo detainee with my name, I became obsessed with telling his story, wherever it might lead. Every crumb of evidence I found forced me to reassess: was he the worst of the worst? Or was he just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Over the last three years of parsing through this story, I changed my mind about him so many times, and I think listening to this series, listeners will too.”
“As Radiolab’s first foray into serialized storytelling, The Other Latif is some of the most compelling work we have ever done,” said Suzie Lechtenberg, Executive Producer of Radiolab and More Perfect. “The format allows us to not only tell Abdul Latif Nasser’s story, but to also ask some of the larger questions that came up after 9/11 and remain deeply relevant today: questions about the reliability of intelligence, American foreign policy in the Middle East, and the unfinished business of the War on Terror. The Other Latif is an example of the kind of ambitious journalism Radiolab is committed to pursuing, whether that takes us to a laboratory, a courtroom…or inside the gates at Guantanamo Bay.”
“Latif’s crazy curiosity
and dogged reporting define everything he does, and this story is quite
literally one Radiolab wouldn’t have told without him,” said Jad
Abumrad, Creator and Host of Radiolab.“Suzie’s keen
instincts in telling stories is what gave me the confidence to make More
Perfect. So I’m proud that The Other Latif is Radiolab’s first
foray into serial storytelling, and believe that what they created can spark a
long-overdue conversation in America about why Abdul Latif Nasser and others
like him have remained detained for 17 years without ever having been convicted
or granted a trial.”
We hear the evidence against Abdul Latif Nasser—at least the evidence that has been leaked or declassified—and we meet Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, his attorney, who contests more or less every government claim against her client. Sullivan-Bennis walks us through the process that came excruciatingly close to releasing Abdul Latif, but fell apart at the last minute. He is now technically a free man, yet remains stuck at Guantanamo Bay, thanks in part to a Presidential tweet.
Radiolab’s Latif travels to Abdul Latif’s hometown of Casablanca, Morocco to try and find out if he was “radicalized”? And if so, how? He visits Abdul Latif’s family, but is surprised by the reaction he gets. He also finds out surprising information on a radical political group—his alleged on-ramp to extremism—that Abdul Latif supposedly joined in his youth. Tensions escalate when Radiolab’s Latif realizes he is being followed by Moroccan intelligence.
Radiolab’s Latif turns his focus to Sudan, where his namesake spent time working on a sunflower farm owned by…Osama bin Laden. Latif scrutinizes the evidence to try to uncover whether it was an innocent clerical job—as Sullivan-Bennis insists—or whether, as the U.S. government alleges, it was the pivotal experience that sealed his transformation into an extremist fighter.
Radiolab’s Latif investigates the mystery around Abdul Latif’s classified time in Afghanistan. He follows the government’s story to the very center of a horrific battle and learns that the Abdul Latif may have helped the most sought-after and most-hated terrorist in modern history, Osama bin Laden, escape. He also finds an explosive jailhouse interview with Abdul Latif that bluntly reveals the man’s allegiances in the months after 9/11.
On a bizarre tour of the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Radiolab’s Latif tries to imagine himself in Abdul Latif’s reality for the last 17 years. He gets to know this strange place that is essentially the “legal equivalent of outer space.” He learns what detention would have been like for Abdul Latif in the first few years when detainees had no access to lawyers, and what it is like now that Abdul Latif is technically a free man. Against all odds, Latif manages to catch sight of his namesake, but in the eeriest possible way.
“It takes an Army captain to send someone to Gitmo, and the President of the United States to get them out.” Radiolab’s Latif investigates why Abdul Latif’s release was botched after his clearance in 2016. He cuts through the bureaucratic buck-passing to trace the surprisingly dramatic story of what went wrong, a story that comes to a head at the White House.
“The Other Latif” is available at radiolab.org and all other platforms where podcasts are available. New episodes drop every Tuesday from now through March 10.
ABOUT LATIF NASSER
Latif Nasser is Director of Research for the Peabody-Award-winning public radio show and podcast Radiolab, where he has reported on topics ranging from snowflake photography to medieval robots to a polar bear who liked to have sex with grizzly bears. He was also a producer and reporter on Radiolab’s “Border Trilogy,” a three-part series about a 1990s U.S. border control policy that caused a dramatic increase in migrant deaths, and that remains in effect today.
addition to his radio work, Nasser has written for the Boston Globe Ideas
section, Cabinet magazine, and the New Yorker and Atlantic websites.
He has delivered two TED Talks, the second of which was featured on a PBS
special in March 2016. He was also the narrator of the
critically-acclaimed Netflix docuseries Rotten, a deep and unsettling
look at the food supply chain.
Nasser holds a B.A. from Dartmouth University and a Ph.D. in the History of Science from Harvard University.
ABOUT WNYC STUDIOS
WNYC Studios is the premier producer of on-demand and broadcast audio, home to some of the industry’s most critically acclaimed and popular podcasts, including Radiolab, On The Media, Trump, Inc., The New Yorker Radio Hour, Death, Sex & Money, The United States of Anxiety, Snap Judgment, Nancy, and Here’s the Thing with Alec Baldwin. WNYC Studios is leading the new golden age in audio with podcasts and national radio programs that inform, inspire, and delight millions of intellectually curious and highly engaged listeners across digital, mobile, and broadcast platforms. Programs include personal narratives, deep journalism, revealing interviews, and smart entertainment as varied and intimate as the human voice itself. For more information, visit wnycstudios.wnyc.org.
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