Life on Both Sides of the Wall at Guantánamo Bay

Times Insider explains who we are and what we do and delivers behind-the-scenes insights into how our journalism comes together.

It was a sunny day in May 2015 when Sarah Koenig and Dana Chivvis stepped off a U.S. military-chartered plane and onto the naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

They were there to learn the unofficial story of Guantánamo, where, after Sept. 11, the U.S. government had opened a prison to hold people it suspected of being members of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

So began a story that would span nearly 10 years and hundreds of hours of interviews.

That story is told in the new season of “Serial,” a podcast from Serial Productions and The New York Times. Over nine episodes (the first two drop on Thursday), Ms. Koenig and Ms. Chivvis, the season’s co-hosts, present a mosaic of life at Guantánamo using the experiences of those who have survived and served there, as Ms. Koenig put it in the season’s trailer. That includes former prisoners, guards, interrogators and more.

“There’s been a tremendous amount of amazing and important reporting on the place in the realm of geopolitics and policymaking,” Ms. Chivvis said. “But what we were trying to do was recreate the world of Guantánamo through the personal stories of people who have existed and lived and worked and been imprisoned there.”

Between Ms. Koenig and Ms. Chivvis’s first visit to Guantánamo in 2015 and Thursday’s season premiere, there were a few false starts, and interviews with more than 100 people. When Ms. Koenig and Ms. Chivvis first visited, they found that many sources were hesitant to speak on the record. Some personnel didn’t want to risk their careers. Former detainees they reached out to were nervous about unpacking their experiences, or just wanted to move on.

“People would tell us really interesting and crazy things off the record,” Ms. Chivvis said. “But as soon as we turned our microphones on and stuck them in their faces, they totally clammed up.”

Back to top button