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November 13, 2006

Gitmo's Girl

Performing in purple underwear on MTV hardly seems like qualification for the toughest legal job on the planet: defending suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay. Then again, Kristine Huskey is not your typical lawyer

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Shortly before their first visit to Guantánamo Bay, on the day after Christmas in 2004, Kristine Huskey and her colleagues were told they could put together a special care package for their 12 Kuwaiti clients, none of whom they'd ever met. Stunned by this small act of grace — you can bring food down there? — the lawyers were suddenly faced with a rather peculiar challenge: What would a dozen observant Muslims want to eat after two years in American custody? They settled on traditional Middle Eastern fare: Nuts. Dates. A baklava they'd bought from a famous store in Detroit. "We put together this whole spread," says Huskey. "And they thanked us — they were very polite about it. But it turns out what they really wanted was pizza and Twix."

Over the next two years, Huskey learned the cravings of her clients by heart. For Fawzi al Odah, she almost always brought McDonald's french fries and ice cream. For Abdullah Kamal al Kandari (her favorite, a former member of the Kuwaiti volleyball team), she brought a 12-inch cheese pie from Pizza Hut. Each time she visited, at least two guards inspected her boxes and bags and confiscated all utensils, which, Huskey notes, made eating the ice cream a problem — although under the circumstances, this was the least of her clients' complaints.

Compared with other Arab countries, Kuwait is fairly receptive to Western ideas and influence, which may help explain why Huskey's clients chose fast food over baklava. Whether they'd choose to accept Huskey as their lawyer, however, was another matter entirely. Though Kuwait's attitudes toward women are more progressive than most of its neighbors in the region (the country's workforce is 35 percent female, and its female literacy rate is roughly 83 percent), its women were only extended the right to vote last year, and Huskey, by virtually any measure, is a deeply unconventional gal. Though tiny and lithe, she's blunt and outspoken, and she likes to pair her chic suits with calf-hugging, high-heeled boots. ("They've sort of become my statement," she says.) While most Kuwaiti women over 30 are married with three children, Huskey, at 39, is still single, still without kids, and knows how to fire a gun. (She keeps the head of a ram, which she shot herself, mounted on her living room wall.) Her boyfriend of several years is a staunch Republican. "Which makes for some pretty heated debates," she says.

Perhaps most unusually, Huskey worked part-time as a model before she went to the University of Texas for her law degree, a mini career that once earned her a starring role as a dancer in the 1993 video "Knockin' Da Boots" by H-Town. In it, she wore nothing but a purple satin bra and panties. "At least it was MTV before the thongs," she says.

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