Wed 7 Feb 2007
[Katherine: Below is a letter from Rafil about his transfer and new prison situation at Terre Haute, Indiana. The first part of the letter was written around December 17, 2006; it was completed on January 18, 2007 and received on February 3, 2007.]
I am writing you from Terre Haute, Indiana where I was just moved. I was put in isolation for 2 days before the move in what I know now was a nationwide operation to put Muslims/Arabs in one place so that we can be closely monitored regarding our communications, be it our phone calls or visits or correspondence.
We had to endure a total of about 20 hours of bus ride in complete shackles.
No one seems to know about this top-secret operation until now. It is still not fully understood. The order came from the Attorney General himself. The staff here is struggling to make sense of the whole situation. There are 16 of us all Muslims but two, with one non-Arab Muslim. We are housed in what we are told was the holding area for those on death row!!!!!
We are told this is an experiment, so the whole concept is evolving on a daily basis. We are allowed only one 15 min. call a week. We are not allowed to speak in other than English on the phone*, no contact visits that must be in English.
So far we are treated with great respect and good accommodation.** We are totally segregated from the rest of the prisoners.
We are told that more people will be coming for a total between 60-70.
All prisoners with me were whisked, as I was, at exactly 7a.m. Monday Dec., 11 and put in the “hole” or the dungeons until 2 days later when we were taken early in the morning into waiting buses. I was told that riot police with full gear and machine guns were around before being loaded in to the buses.
For me I was taken by a van with machine gun carrying guards all around until I was in the van. We took off to Fort Dix, about an hour away to pick up another prisoner. Then we both were taken to Lewisburg, PA prison after a 6 hour-ride. We were put together until midnight. We were told to get ready to move. Then we discovered that there were 7 more in the same facility. They took all 11 of us in a bus and were told that we were heading to Terre Haute. We were in the bus for about 14 hours, shackled fully and not allowed to stretch outside the bus when the guards stopped for smoking, eating or using the bathroom. It was very uncomfortable. The guards in Lewisburg were nasty, but the rest, especially on the bus were respectful and accommodating as much as they were allowed.
Here they are allowing us total freedom for our religious activities. They are slowly fixing the place to accommodate us and our needs. We are constantly working with the Unit Management team to make sense of all this. One thing that is for sure; the whole thing is managed directly from Washington.
Some of the “Lackawanna six” is hear, one of the paint ball boys is here, one of the managers of a charity organization is also here. A Columbian man who speaks no English and a Croat who has been in prison for 30 years make the rest.
We are all concerned about the close intrusion on our communications. We knew all along that our calls, mail and visits were monitored, but with the new system we will have absolutely no privacy including our visits. This is causing a great deal of anxiety and resentment especially among those whose families speak no English. This is a 1984 control. We hope that they will come to their senses and realize that this will not work and adjustments need to be made. Unmonitored moments with our families are very important for us emotionally, culturally and religiously.
[The rest of the letter is hand-written.]
This was typed around December 17th. I couldn’t write anything because they took away my reading glasses in NJ and I just received them along with my property. This is why you see many typos and why I didn’t write sooner. Today I received your 5th letter dated Jan. 6; I didn’t read my mail until only a few days ago because of my glasses.
I am enclosing a description of the program we are in.*** Please send it to my lawyers and my wife and post it. I don’t know where you got the impression that I like being here. A prison is a prison and a jailor is a jailor. This fact will never escape my mind. I feel like (what my wife liked to describe) being in a fishbowl. It is a terrible feeling. Yes they can feed us, they can make it that we do not have to do anything, they may grant just about all our requests for comfort but the fact remains that we are not allowed to communicate freely at all.
Mail takes an average of two weeks to be sent and received. I have only 60 mins. of phone time a month, four hours of non-contact visits a month with a microphone listening and recording. I have no doubt that the whole area we are in is bugged. The irony of it all is that none of those here in this jail (including 5 of the Lackawanna boys, I don’t know where the 6th is) are bad or did anything (absolutely anything) to hurt the U.S. or its people. I don’t know how long will it take them to realize this and stop the nonsense and the incarceration of good citizens for no valid reason other than to satisfy the ambition of a few agents and lawyers to justify their existence.
* Rafil had hand-written an insert here that read, “We have to specify which language beforehand.” It’s not clear what that means, possibly that phone calls can be in another language, but visits cannot.
*** I hope to have this description available on this site soon soon. What appears to be an earlier, more restictive, draft of the program can be found here . The one that Rafil sent begins:
U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Prisons
Subject: Operation & Security of the Communication Magagement Unit (D-Unit – FCC Terre Haute)
1. PURPOSE: This supplement establishes guidelines and procedures for operation and security of the Communication Management Unit (CMU) in D-Unit, FCC Terre Haute, Indiana.
The CMU is established to house inmates who, due to their current offense conviction, offense conduct, or other verified information, require increased monitoring of communication between inmates and persons in the community in order to protect the safety, security, and orderly operation of Bureau facilities, and protect the public. [Rafil had bracketed this paragraph and put two questions marks at the side of it.]
To write to Rafil:
Rafil Dhafir, 11921-052, P.O.Box 33, Terre Haute, Indiana 47808
Write you name and address (not an address label, that may be torn off) so that he will know who the letter is from.