The heavy iron-shackles around my ankles made a deafening noise when they hit the metal stairs leading up to the second floor of the Federal Detention Center in downtown Houston. It felt like a nightmare. I had not seen a prison since about 25 years ago when, as a politician and member of the Danish Parliament and member of the judicial committee, I had inspected prisons in Denmark. It was shocking to be taken into an American prison as a prisoner. After being photographed, registered and finger-printed and having left my tailor-made business suit and issued a pair of khaki pants, a T-shirt and a pair of Chinese one-dollar rubber shoes, I was fitted with handcuffs and foot-shackles again and taken to the S.H.U. – Special Housing Unit – the top-security floor of the FDC. The guards first took me to a freezing cold concrete cell, took off my cuffs and shackles and asked me to undress completely. After I had waited naked for some time, the guards handed me an orange coverall, a pair of orange rubber shoes and a blanket.
Time went by – and later in the evening came two guards and took me handcuffed to single cell #107. There was a steel bunk, a small table, a shower-cabin, a toilet of steel and a sink with hot and cold water. The cell was about 70 square feet and there was a narrow window about 3 feet high and 5 inches wide – ten floors up.
The guards locked my door and asked me to put my shackled hands through a small opening and finally took off my handcuffs. I sat down on the hard mattress of my bunk and felt very isolated and lonely. “Welcome to an American prison,” I told myself.
A small booklet with the rules of Hotel FDC was slipped under my door. I looked out through the little window in the door but could see nothing. Yes, I was in total isolation. Now and then I could hear other inmates scream, call and yell from their cells. Later in the evening I was provided two sheets, but still no pillow, so I put my orange pair of slippers under my head and tried to get some sleep. I thought about my little son and his mom, since I had not been allowed to call them, but not only these disturbing thoughts made it difficult to relax. The light was kept on and I could hear the screaming from the neighboring cells. Every hour during the night, a guard came by and shone a light into my face to ensure that I was still alive.
“Thanks, I am still alive,” was my response once an hour throughout the night.
It was exactly five a.m. when a guard knocked on my door. “You have to be ready for court at six o’clock,” said the guard through the little opening, a hatch, that I later learned was called a “bean-chute”. A few minutes later he pushed a plastic tray with cornflakes and milk through the opening and told me that I would be picked up at six a.m. “Take your plastic ID card with you!”
Shortly before six, I was asked to turn my back to the hatch and put my hands through the hole. There were now two guards, and after they had put on my handcuffs, they opened the door and took me to a different cell near the entrance where I was asked to undress completely.
One of the guards wearing rubber gloves went through my clothing. Even my socks were turned inside out while I was waiting totally naked. The other guard asked me to run my fingers through my hair and flip my ears so he could be sure that I was not hiding anything. I was still standing there naked and the guard now asked me to open my mouth and roll my tongue so that he could see whether I was hiding anything in my mouth.
Then came the most embarrassing moment when I was asked to lift my penis and my testicles to ensure that I was not hiding anything there either. Then I was asked to turn around and bend down and spread my legs and my behind and spread my buns so they could have a free view of my anus. I wasn’t hiding anything there, either.
This procedure was repeated every time an inmate from the S.H.U. was going downstairs for a legal visit or returning from a visit from his attorney or family. I had difficulties accepting the embarrassment, but had no choice. The guards then told me to get dressed again.
I still felt as if the whole thing was a bad dream, but was quickly assured that it was reality. A quarter past seven, together with eleven other inmates, I was taken down to the ground floor. The noise from the metallic shackles going down the metal staircase was deafeningly loud. We were taken to a bus with metal fences covering the windows, making sure that we would not escape the bus ride. I did not see that as a risk since we all were wearing foot shackles, handcuffs and low-quality Chinese rubber shoes. The trip to the court building only took ten minutes since the morning traffic had not started yet. It was only a split second after I had been a busy businessman, occasionally visiting downtown Houston, and now I was an imprisoned inmate.
In the elevator in the Federal Court Building, we were about twenty shackled inmates going up to the tenth floor where we were placed in two holding cells with a toilet, a sink and two concrete benches. One of the prisoners looked at me and said that he recognized me from the TV news. I had noticed that when we tumbled out of the bus that there were photographers with cameras outside the fence. Only now did I realize that they had come to take pictures of the only person from Operation White Terror arrested in the U.S. And that was me. The three others, my boss, Cesar Reyes and the two commanders Fraco and Rico, had been arrested in Costa Rica and would only be transferred to the U.S. later, but at this stage I knew nothing about the fate of those three Colombians. Had I known that the cameras were in action because of me, I would have sent the nation a smile, but I could not imagine that it was my story that the newspapers, the media and the TV stations were after.
I looked back at the inmate and said, “What did you say?”
“You are Uwe Jensen, aren’t you? I saw you on TV last night. You were on all the channels, also on CNN. They said that you were a white terrorist.” He pointed his thumb upward but could not lift his hand as we were still cuffed to the steel shackles around our waist.
I was shocked to have been titled a “white terrorist.” I still could not grasp how I had landed in this crowd and would shortly be on my way to face a judge in an American court room. I had accepted to show up without an attorney to face the formality of my charges by identifying myself.
Two U.S. Marshals escorted me a few floors down to the Federal Court room of the Magistrate Judge. Before I entered the court room the marshals removed my shackles from my feet and freed my right hand from the handcuffs. When the female judge entered her courtroom and walked up on the podium, the bailiff called out:
“All Rise,” and everybody got up on their feet including a flock early risers of journalists with their note pads. My arrest had gotten worldwide, nationwide and local media attention. This morning, on November 6th, 2002, at my first court appearance, the courtroom was crowded with curious spectators who wanted to see this dangerous “white terrorist”! It was probably difficult to convince the crowd that I, Uwe Jensen, in a jail suit as a federal inmate was not guilty as hell.
“Next. Uwe Jensen. Come forward.”
I walked up the court floor and noticed the attention of the press representatives, bent my head down and answered: “Yes, Your Honor”. The Magistrate Judge looked down at me and asked if someone was representing me in court, and since there wasn’t, she would read the charges against me out loud.
“Mr. Jensen, you are charged with conspiracy against the United States by providing material support to a foreign terror organization and to distribute Cocaine. Do you understand the charges against you?” I could not avoid admitting that I understood the charges. There were no cameras allowed in the court room, so the journalists were busy scribbling and could now report every single detail from the brief confrontation of a former politician who was now associated with international terrorism. I no longer doubted that the media had come here early because of my case. I was a commercial trader and had suddenly been caught up in an incomprehensible plot. Both hands were again wrapped by the tight cuffs and I was escorted out of the courtroom.
On the way back to my cell # 107 on the top floor of the S.H.U., I felt as if I were on my way to my own funeral. I was thinking how it was possible that I was charged with conspiracy against the United States – the nation I loved as much as my own native country of Denmark. I thought about how my German friend had betrayed me and with the support of the FBI, had entrapped me in an arms for drugs deal at a total of U.S. $25 million. Now the trap had snapped and the wall back to reality was impenetrable. I had never with my own eyes seen any of the weapons, nor the Cocaine I was charged with trading in, but I could not deny, that I knew about a possible deal. However, I did not view nor consider that to be support of anti-American terrorism. Some days later, I had the opportunity to read the 20-page arraignment charges. They were confusing and disturbing. Later I also had access to more than 1,000 pages of transcripts from tape recordings covering many of the meetings I had participated in with my German friend and my part-time employer Cesar Reyes. The recordings also covered some of the meetings that my boss had had in Panama with the two co-defendants, the AUC commanders Fraco and Rico.
I now realized that my German friend Hansi Grooss had been issued a small, silent recorder as well as a transmitter, and that he had passed on every carefully taped conversation to the FBI and the DEA. I had not paid attention to some of the red flags as I should have during the 14-month period since I had first met the German. I should have listened to my instincts but I had not done so.
Now the whole Operation White Terror had become the icon of the justification for the hunt for foreign terrorists by the U.S. after September 11, 2001, but I felt betrayed and entrapped by false promises in a carefully planned maze construed by the German snitch, the FBI and the DEA.
I slowly faced the reality of how this awful dilemma had been put together.
While I was on my way back to cell #107, I again had to go through the humiliating body search procedure. My thoughts now went back eight years in time to clarify how I had ended up in the world-news media as a white terrorist imprisoned at the Federal Detention Center in Houston, Texas, U.S.
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