‘Interrogation (16041)’: Hoax or crime?
A man dressed in what looks like white hospital scrubs shuffles barefoot around a small, square room whose walls seem to be made of plywood. He moves slowly; chains bind his hands and feet.
“I see you watchin’ me,” he says.
The seat of his pants is stained — apparently by his own fecal matter. The number 10641 is handwritten on his shirt, front and back. As he rounds a small, light-colored table, a second man enters.
“Get these chains off of me,” the first man says.
“I can’t do that,” says the other.
These are the first few seconds of “Interrogation (10641),” a DVD that purportedly contains footage of a secret holding facility, possibly in the U.S., wherein a man questionably accused of aiding terrorists is deprived of rights and freedoms, kept against his will, and ultimately assaulted with what looks like a Taser by a man claiming to be a civil-liberties officer.
The DVD came to the Current in a paper sleeve marked “Top Secret,” along with an unsigned press release that provided a San Antonio post-office-box listing and an email address.
Upon contact, the sender introduced himself as James, a local teacher. James says the DVD was mailed to him unsolicited about a year ago, with no return address and a Nebraska postmark. Since then, he’s been busy: With the help of friends, he’s set up a website (10641.com) that hosts excerpts from the video, and distributed an estimated 2,500 copies of the DVD among friends, strangers, media outlets, and 44 U.S. Senators.
“My goal is to make this thing as widely available as possible,” he says.
The DVD runs about an hour, and is separated into six ostensibly chronological segments. The “detainee” refuses to answer questions in the first segment, but becomes gradually more cooperative. A complex story emerges, suspicions arise and fall, but by the end, the detainee signs a full, on-camera (post-Taser) confession.
Frankly, in this writer’s opinion, “Interrogation (10641)” is staged. The two men are clearly acting throughout, often not very well. The scene seems to have been filmed with a digital camcorder, and though an alphanumeric tag and a timer have been added, it still looks nothing like a security-camera recording. The list goes on. James, however, says the veracity of this particular account may not be the point.
“I hesitate to say that what is going on in the video is real,” he says. “`But` it smacks of the realism of some of the stuff that’s really going on I honestly believe that maybe this video isn’t true, but at the same time I believe our government is doing some of these things.”
On the other hand
“If this thing really turns out to be real,” James says, “I imagine the shit will really hit the fan somewhere.”
Or, conversely, if we’ve reached a point where people need to resort to hoaxes in order to get their nation’s attention, perhaps it already has.