When was the last time you let your curiosity about a topic take you beyond the first page of Google search results? Or forced you to pick up the phone? It’s likely been a while.
In 2017, a tweet from an international human rights charity directed to President Donald Trump appeared in Latif’s timeline. Upon first seeing it, he was certain his name was mentioned. He wasn’t completely wrong.
The tweet did reference an individual with the same name. But, as Latif later discovered, that’s where the similarities ended.
“I Googled him and there was almost nothing about him,” Latif says. “All the results were about me. Then I saw there were just a few results about him. What I found was actually, like, kind of… It was creepy. I found these WikiLeak documents where it said that he was basically Al-Qaeda’s top explosives expert and an aid to Osama bin Laden — a pretty long and damning rap sheet…
“But when I contacted his lawyer, she told me basically the exact opposite story. Everything I had read in that document was wrong, that this guy had never been in Al-Qaeda. He didn’t know Osama bin Laden. He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time and got swept up and sold to the United States for a bounty.”
Latif’s namesake had been held in Guantanamo Bay for nearly 20 years with no trial or charges.
“What made that even more extreme is that in 2016, he had been cleared by the U.S. government, unanimously cleared, to go back to his home in Morocco,” he says. “Yet this guy, despite that clearance, they still were holding him at Guantanamo Bay. To me, I was like, none of this makes sense. There’s something here that I need to know more about. And it felt like for me as a journalist… I mean, it was definitely led by my curiosity, but it also felt like if I don’t cover this story, nobody else is going to. It took years but ultimately I made it.”
That is just one of the many fascinating anecdotes Latif gave us during our conversation. Make sure to check out the podcast below to learn more about Connected, the power of curiosity and the importance of asking the right questions to get the best answers.