“A front-page article on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2008 described the problems of the tribunals at the American military base in Guantánamo, as seen through the failure to resolve the case of Abdul Razzaq Hekmati, an Afghan war hero who died there Dec. 30 after a five-year-long detention. The article quoted several Afghan officials who said they were prepared to offer evidence that he was falsely accused, but were never given a chance to do so.
”Andy Worthington, a freelance journalist who worked on the article under contract with The New York Times and was listed as its co-author, did some of the initial reporting but was not involved in all of it, and The Times verified the information he provided. That included the fact of Mr. Hekmati’s death, and the content of transcripts released by the Pentagon showing that the accusations against Mr. Hekmati had been made by unidentified sources and that the tribunal at Guantánamo had never called outside witnesses requested by detainees.
”Mr. Worthington has written a book, “The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison,” in which he takes the position that Guantánamo is part of what he describes as a cruel and misguided response by the Bush administration to the Sept. 11 attacks. He has also expressed strong criticism of Guantánamo in articles published elsewhere.
”The editors were not aware of Mr. Worthington’s outspoken position on Guantánamo. They should have described his contribution to the reporting instead of listing him as co-author, and noted that he had a point of view.”
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
The words preposterous and ridiculous spring to mind, farcical even. They must have been apoplectic when they realised just how opinionated you are, Andy! I can’t help laughing at the thought. Imagine saying that you wouldn’t have been given co-authorship of the article (even though you co-authored it) if they had known you were an outspoken critic of Guantanamo! What kind of newspaper is that? Their editorials must really set the heather on fire! You can imagine just how impassioned they get over things! A man dies after five years of illegal internment in a US torture camp – they don’t get upset about that – they are only horrified that the man who wrote their article about it had an opinion! It quite beggars belief. Sorry, I am shaking my head in bemusement. Is all the US press as lily-livered as this? I am glad, though, for the extra publicity! I don’t suppose they intended to do the book a favour but I very much hope they have. More Americans should know the full horror of what they are doing to human beings in that camp!
I am fairly certain the editors of the NYT have the ability to use a search engine to research a contributor before they publish their work. As such I am convinced they were fully aware of Andy’s “position” (and, I expect, what the White House response would be). The Editor’s note did not challenge any facts as they had already confirmed them.
It sounded to me like the NYT editorial staff had had their ears chewed by some White House loon, and the Editor’s note was the best way to save their ears (and perhaps jobs) so that they might stay on to publish more excellent articles (as the original clearly was).
I agree that it is absurdly hypocritical to even mention “taking a stance”, since the US media seems to constantly present opinions (aka “truthiness”) without any facts to back them up, but I think this is the game that the media has to play with politicians and the corporate powers that be. They do, after all, own the US media, and the editorial staff are employees.
All in all I think this episode is incredibly positive, raising awareness in the terrible behaviour of the US administration and their treatment of our fellow human beings. They did publish the original for a start, so we should not lose sight of that fact, and were bound to be aware of the consequences. The article clearly rattled the White House cage to such an extent that it caused the ear chewing that caused the Editor’s note says one thing to me: Andy (and Carlotta Gall) must be doing something right. Good on you both! You should be proud, and we are proud of you.
A Seasoned Lurker
I read your article on Cageprisoners.com before the New York Times editor’s note was added. I was so proud of you Andy when I read this report and thought how grand it was that you were now being published in the New York Times. The article made me feel very sad for this poor old man and totally frustrated that he was brought to the attention of the American public too late to allow him a dignified death in the arms of his family.
You are a historian, Andy, and that is what initially attracted me to your articles. You record public events after long research and this is rare in journalism these days. Journalists have grown lazy and are happy with sound bites and quick fixes. The Times verified all you wrote so why say, “he takes the position that Guantánamo is part of what he describes as a cruel and misguided response by the Bush administration to the Sept. 11 attacks.” This is a fact – not an opinion!!!
And what a bonus to be given such great publicity for your book and your exposure of America’s shame. The more Americans that read it, the more hope for closure of Guantanamo. When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty. All power to your pen, Andy.
Any human being with a conscience has a point of view. Carlotta Gall has a point of view. Tim Golden has a point of view. Thanks be that their stories have appeared, or the Villagers’ ability to keep the rest of us unaware of ugly realities would be near-total.
With this craven, cringing little performance the New York Times slips further into Orwellian territory.
[...] who the editors of the Times were shocked and dismayed to discover was a man with a point of view. Andy Worthington, a freelance journalist who worked on the article under contract with The New York Times and was [...]
Following the publication of the article, the Miami Herald ran the following editorial:
The final injustice: Death in captivity
OUR OPINION: TRIBUNALS STACKED AGAINST GUANTANAMO DETAINEES
The disturbing story of Abdul Razzaq Hekmati shows the injustice and inhumanity of the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay. No one should be locked up indefinitely on flimsy evidence and without a fair chance to defend themselves. Yet the process created by the Pentagon to determine ”enemy combatants” is so flawed that it invites serious abuse. Detainees remain imprisoned for years without due process, trial or hope of release.
Opposed the Taliban
Mr. Hekmati’s case is emblematic. He is known in Afghanistan for opposing the Taliban and was a war hero during the 1980s Russian invasion, as The New York Times reported this week. Yet the U.S. military accused him of being a Taliban commander. He died of cancer on Dec. 30 at Guantánamo.
In his five years of captivity, Mr. Hekmati denied the charges. He provided the names of witnesses who would corroborate his story to the Combatant Status Review Tribunal, the Pentagon’s substitute for any protections against unwarranted detention. But the tribunal decided the witnesses were not “reasonably available.”
Translation: It is too much trouble to verify the detainee’s defense. The jailer serves as prosecutor, judge and jury. The detainee remains imprisoned indefinitely. This is unconscionable.
Had the government bothered, it would have been easy to find the witnesses. One is Afghanistan’s energy minister, the other a general. Both men told The Times that they had appealed to U.S. officials on Mr. Hekmati’s behalf, to no avail. Both men had led troops against the Taliban after escaping from a Taliban prison during a breakout masterminded by Mr. Hekmati.
Far from being a Taliban, Mr. Hekmati fled the country after the 1999 prison break in fear of his life. This also makes it unlikely that he collaborated with al Qaeda, another charge against him. More likely, Mr. Hekmati was turned in by an enemy who wanted the U.S. bounty offered for ”terrorists” in the aftermath of the Taliban defeat. The practice is commonplace in Afghanistan and has been the case with other Guantánamo captives.
This is not justice
The Pentagon says the tribunals provide ”significant process and protection,” including the right to call witnesses. But a law-school study found that no outside witnesses had ever been called to testify at Guantánamo. Detainees are not allowed to bring a lawyer or see the evidence against them. Imprisoned, they have no means of producing physical evidence. The process is stacked against them. Surely this is not what Americans consider justice.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a case that will determine if these tribunals meet legal standards. For Mr. Hekmati, the decision will come too late.
Antony Loewenstein, a journalist, author and blogger in Sydney, and a friend of author Mike Otterman, sent me the following message:
Just wanted to drop you a line in solidarity re: the recent New York Times issue. Simply put, the story was wonderful, congrats on that. The New York Times’ response was shameful, though hardly surprising. Corporate media will only go so far, especially when receiving flak from the establishment. You deserve all the praise in the world for what you’re doing. Don’t let pettiness on the part of New York Times editors get you down.
I write extensively about Israel/Palestine and receive constant hate mail/abuse etc. The performance of the MSM on this issue is generally woeful, but one’s just gotta keep on battling away, spreading the word etc.
After I sent Antony a reply, he sent me another message:
Re: the right-wing bloggers, wear it as a badge of honour. Frankly, like Mitt Romney, they want to double Gitmo. Never forget that the vast majority of the world is against the policy. Of course, what McCain/Clinton or Obama may do if they win, god knows.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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