At Guantanamo, inmates aren't just reading the Koran. They're plowing through the hit erotic thriller "Fifty Shades of Grey." And despite strict rules on library content, prison officials are allowing it.
Rep. Jim Moran caused quite a stir when, after a recent visit to the US prison in Cuba, he revealed that the raunchy book was the most requested among high-value detainees at Camp 7.
Camp 7 is the most secure part of the Guantanamo facility, and its dozen detainees include the five men accused of planning the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Moran's claim is all the more surprising since, according to a Guantanamo librarian, books or videos containing "too much sex, too much violence, extremist or racial" content are strictly forbidden.
The librarian employed by the Pentagon, who only gave his first name Milton, is tasked with reviewing books, films and games requested by the men held in Camps 5 and 6 — home to most of the prison's 166 inmates — and delivering his verdict to a cultural panel.
From the get go, however, he culls works that are "pornographic and violent" from a collection of roughly 18,000 works made available to prisoners. The facility has a quarterly library budget of $3,000-4,000.
Somehow though, the soft-core "Fifty Shades" trilogy — which some have called "mommy porn" — has managed to make it into the hands of those considered to be the most religiously conservative at Guantanamo.
A prison spokeswoman confirmed that the series — written by British author E.L. James — was available in Camp 7's library.
"It is not a restricted book at all," Army Captain Andi Hahn told AFP.
"It is allowed. If any detainee asks for any book, it will be allowed as long as it doesn't cause controversy in the camp."
It's impossible to know whether "Fifty Shades of Grey" — of which more than 70 million copies have been snapped up worldwide — made it to the inmates via unauthorized or official routes.
"It didn't go through us, we don't have it," said Milton. "What they do on the other side (in Camp 7), that I don't know."
No one is allowed to disclose what happens at Camp 7. Access to the facility is restricted to the privileged few, including members of Congress with security clearance.
It was on one of these tours that Moran, a Virginia Democrat, heard about the popularity of the series -- which depict the use of handcuffs and blindfolds during sex — from Camp 7's commander.
"I guess there's not much going on. These guys are going nowhere, so what the hell," Moran said.
For him, the revelation serves to demystify the perception of Camp 7 prisoners, known for appearing at hearings in traditional garb and unrolling their prayer rugs.
An al-Qaida magazine, smuggled in as contraband, was discovered in the prison in January 2012, sparking stricter inspection of mail exchanged between detainees and their lawyers.
As with all other influential Islamist publications, "Inspire" magazine, published by al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, was and remains off-limits to the detainees suspected of terrorist links or activities.
Still, those incarcerated in Camp 7 — once considered the "worst of the worst," though many of the inmates are now being held without charge — have access to a large selection of literature.
"Fifty Shades of Grey" aside, the selection include religious books, crime novels, medical journals and even "Harry Potter" in Arabic, Russian, French, Pashtun, Farsi, Urdu and, of course, English.
"The religious books in Arabic are the most popular" in Camps 5 and 6, said Milton.
Documentaries and football magazines are also in demand.
Another hot commodity is the "Tomb Raider" video game, he added, although one inmate used a marker to cover up the heroine's cleavage and navel — apparently deemed too sexy — on the packaging.
© AFP 2013