Acosta appealed against him and in July 2019, when his day in court finally came, he was surprised to be taken to a private room before the hearing. The new judge asked him the truth. After Acosta reiterated that he had just smoked, the judge told him that his human trafficking charges would be dropped and that he would only be punished for reducing his life sentence to four years. “I just looked at him like, what the hell just happened?” Said Acosta. Lowe’s judgment was similarly tempered. Acosta was thrilled but at a loss about his sudden turn.

What happened was that people at the State Department had started being questioned about the fate of the contractors. In June 2019, I contacted the State Department about Acosta and the other men’s cases, and it finally began to take discernible action on their behalf. American officials met 11 times with their Kuwaiti counterparts between July and November to discuss the abuse. The result was that the Kuwaiti Attorney General finally agreed to open a new investigation. About three weeks after my initial examination, American consular officers saw Morrison for the first time in more than six months and took legal action to circumvent his lack of a privacy law waiver and receive medical treatment. An American official said that my investigation was raised repeatedly during internal State Department discussions about the handling of the cases. Another person who discussed these cases with high-ranking Kuwaiti officials said, “My impression was that high-ranking Kuwaiti officials, who knew attention was coming, wanted to make sure the weak cases were turned away so that when and when they were [expletive] hit the fan, they had a defense. “

In addition, Bill Richardson, the former ambassador to the United Nations who now heads a nonprofit that negotiates the release of Americans detained abroad, had been involved. In the summer of 2019, I asked him for an expert comment, and after learning of the situation, he decided to take her cases up. In the fall of 2019 and 2020, he campaigned with numerous high-ranking American and Kuwaiti officials for their release, including discussing their cases several times personally with the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the United States and then speaking with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun at the American Embassy in Kuwait was increasingly pressured to solve the problem. The release of the men “would be of mutual interest to both governments,” argued Richardson, “and must be treated as a humanitarian problem.”

After Acosta’s human trafficking charges were dropped, he was allowed to participate in a rehab program that effectively reduced his four-year prison term to a few months. In early October 2019, Acosta’s cellmates clapped as he hugged everyone goodbye and handed out all of his belongings, from his watch to his extra uniforms. The day before his release, he met the Kaiser, the alleged American drug dealer at the center of the arrest network, in the corridor connecting the cell blocks. The Kuwaiti authorities caught the emperor with over $ 3 million worth of drugs, including cocaine, and sentenced him to death. (A representative of the emperor asked him to remain anonymous for his safety and said that law enforcement made his case sensational by portraying him as a bigger human trafficker than he was.) Acosta and many of the men believe that this is the case The case was collateral damage while the Kuwaiti police searched for this man. Was it possible that none of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for him? Anyway, they were both still American. They hugged each other. The next day, Acosta went out with a few books and clothes on her back.

It was also around the time that Lowe was liberated, leaving at least 11 Americans jailed for drug crimes, including Rogers, Morrison, Bailey, Jones, Gabriel Walker, Tyrone Peterson, and five others who asked not to be identified. At the beginning of 2020 a new American ambassador arrived in Kuwait: Alina Romanowski, a career in the Middle East. Romanowski urged her Kuwaiti colleagues to sign an agreement on the transfer of prisoners. On the day she was sworn in, the embassy sent a diplomatic message demanding that Morrison receive adequate psychiatric treatment in the hopes that it would result in a pardon. In February, Morrison was finally transferred to a Kuwaiti mental hospital and consular officers noted that he now appeared to be “smiling” and “in better physical health”, even though his mental health problems persisted. The embassy saw more actions on his behalf in the first quarter of the year than it had in 2017 and 2018 combined.

In June, when the pandemic infiltrated the central prison complex and threatened the lives of American prisoners, particularly Rogers, who has a weakened immune system due to hereditary kidney disease, Romanowski officially called for the release of all Americans on health and humanitarian grounds. However, by October the Kuwaitis refused to grant it. Ambassador Romanowski said the prisoners’ cases were “a very high priority” and strongly denied that the breed had anything to do with their treatment. But in the give and take of diplomacy, anything the government was willing to free these men was insufficient – and tiny compared to what was done for the likes of Warmbier, Brunson, and others. Rogers’ third and final appeal was denied and he remains in prison for many years. In September, Morrison was brought back to the Central Prison Complex from the mental hospital. At this time the emperor lost his last appointment. There are no longer any legal obstacles to his execution.

I finally met Acosta Face to face in early November 2019. During our phone hours while in detention, he seemed to me to be miraculously composed. But as he carefully examined the other diners at a cheerful restaurant near a naval base in Virginia, I could see that the experience had taken a toll. At brunch, he described the difficulty of leaving what had happened behind. He had recently tricked or treated his son, but when it came time to say goodbye, his son clung to him, trembling. “It wasn’t a normal scream,” said Acosta. “He doesn’t know if he’ll see me again.” Acosta’s goal now was to be there for his son, but he was also considering signing another contract, probably in Europe. Lowe also seriously considered signing another contract. This time, they knew the risks, but the incentives that drew them overseas were just so strong.

As our meal ended, Acosta wondered aloud if the United States had a place for him, especially after they failed to defend him while he was incarcerated. So many things had made him feel stateless – institutionalized racism, the nation’s perpetual wars, the offshoring of the middle class, the privatization of the military’s responsibility to those who work for it, and a government that is unwilling, a lot To do for him and his comrades – It was a question that seemed impossible to answer briefly. He kept scratching a fresh wrist tattoo: the name of the grandmother who raised him and who died while he was incarcerated. It had been infected. Even after drinking several mimosas, he did not seem to relax completely. If he stayed, he told me, it would only be because of his son. A month in America had already made it clear that although he did not know exactly where home was now, this was no longer the case.