Let’s just get this out of the way first: Facebook sucks. From it’s dogged insistence on eroding our privacy, to the endless stream of annoying friend suggestions, Facebook is just horrible, yet most of us can’t bring ourselves to delete our profiles from the site. With that said, here’s an actual heartwarming story that centers around Facebook facilitating some good in the world.
Last year an Army veteran named Brandon Neely used Facebook to search the names of prisoners he oversaw when he was stationed at the infamous military prison at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, Cuba. After finding a profile for Shafiq Rasul, one of the detainees whose name he entered into the Facebook search box, Neely sent him a message and the two had an exchange, culminating in Neely apologizing to Rasul for the abuses he says he witnessed there. When the BBC found out about the Facebook reunion between guard and detainee, the network arranged to fly Neely to the UK for a face to face reunion.
It took months to find a time, however, and Mr. Rasul was uncertain. He told the BBC that some members of his family had said to him, â€œWhy do you want to meet someone like that for? The way he treated you, you stay away from him.â€
The BBC paid for Mr. Neelyâ€™s flight to London last month, where a camera crew filmed him meeting Mr. Rasul and a second former detainee, Ruhal Ahmed, on a Saturday afternoon. (Both men have pursued legal action against former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.)
The cameras were there for a second conversation the morning before Mr. Neelyâ€™s flight home to Houston. â€œTo see it happen was extraordinary,â€ Mr. Lee said.
In a segment that will be telecast on Tuesdayâ€™s â€œBBC World News America,â€ Mr. Ahmed is shown saying to Mr. Neely, â€œYou look different without your cap.â€
â€œYou look different in jumpsuits,â€ Mr. Neely responds.
About the glowing picture of life at Gitmo painted by the American media, Neely said:
“The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place,” he says, “like ‘they [prisoners] were treated so great’. No it wasn’t. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages.”
Neely told the BBC that he began to have doubts about the truths to the claim that the Gitmo inmates were “the worst of the worst” when he began to get to know some of the prisoners.
“It was no different from me sitting at the bar with a friend of mine talking about women or music,” says Mr Neely. “He would say, ‘you ever listen to Eminem or Dr Dre’ and he threw off a little rap and it was just funny. I thought how could it be somebody is here who’s doing the same stuff that I do when I’m back home.”