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On a bright spring day in 2005, in a country I cannot name, I entered a drab, unremarkable building, a gateway to a grim, unaccustomed world. Its spaces were impersonal, antiseptic, institutional. The residents of that alien world, both the guards and the guarded, were never exposed to natural light. They inhabited a claustrophobic universe of their own, a place suffused with a permanent air of foreboding, in which both time and external reality had been suspended. On entering that world one could sense an invisible bond among the inhabitants, the captors and the captured, impenetrable to outsiders. A harsh necessity had bound them together, condemning them both.
No one with a soul, upon first exposure to this place, could fail to be affected by it. And yet, when I spoke with the Americans there, it was to another reality, far outside their confined spaces, that I referred. I told them of the importance of what they were doing, how the information they generated, confirmed by investigations whose leads they had supplied and which had culminated in the arrests of committed terrorists, may well have saved the lives of hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocents, most of whom would forever remain blissfully unaware of their debt to the inhabitants of that room.
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