Archive for September, 2008

A Message to Barack Obama: Don’t Forget Cheney and Addington

Barack ObamaIraq, Iran, Russian, Pakistan, Afghanistan: It was an impressive foreign policy list in Friday’s Presidential debate, and by all sensible accounts Barack Obama did a decent job convincing Americans that his opponent may not be the expert that he claims to be.

Missing from the debate, however, as it has been since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination in August, was any discussion of certain specific locations that have played a key role in America’s foreign policy in the last seven years: Guantánamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and a set of far-flung torture chambers in places as diverse as Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Diego Garcia, to name but a few.

This is, to put it mildly, a disappointment, as it is in these places that much of America’s pride and dignity has been lost, through the use of torture, degrading and inhuman treatment, and the detention of prisoners in a legal black hole between the Geneva Conventions and the US courts. It is only by addressing the horrors that have occurred there, holding those responsible to account, and ensuring that the unfettered executive power that allowed these abuses to occur is repudiated, that America can embrace the change that Senator Obama and so many Americans want to see.

Unlike his flip-flopping opponent, who has even shed his lifelong opposition to torture in an effort to appeal to the Republican Right, Barack Obama has a proven track record in standing up to the abuses of power that have taken place in the last seven years. When the Supreme Court ruled, in June 2006, that the Military Commission trial system designed to prosecute “terror suspects” at Guantánamo was illegal, Senator Obama refused to vote for the ill-conceived legislation (the Military Commissions Act) that not only brought Dick Cheney and David Addington’s monster back to life, but also endorsed the President’s right to detain “enemy combatants” indefinitely, and stripped the prisoners of their habeas corpus rights (that great barrier to arbitrary detention, which the fledgling US appreciated as one of the great legal achievements of its formal colonial masters), which the US Supreme Court had granted them in June 2004.

In a resounding defense of habeas corpus, Obama told his fellow Senators in September 2006:

Instead of detainees arriving at Guantánamo and facing a Combatant Status Review Tribunal that allows them no real chance to prove their innocence with evidence or a lawyer, we could have developed a real military system of justice that would sort out the suspected terrorists from the accidentally accused.

And instead of not just suspending, but eliminating, the right of habeas corpus — the seven century-old right of individuals to challenge the terms of their own detention — we could have given the accused one chance — one single chance — to ask the government why they are being held and what they are being charged with.

But politics won today. Politics won. The Administration got its vote, and now it will have its victory lap, and now they will be able to go out on the campaign trail and tell the American people that they were the ones who were tough on the terrorists.

And yet, we have a bill that gives the terrorist mastermind of 9/11 his day in court, but not the innocent people we may have accidentally rounded up and mistaken for terrorists — people who may stay in prison for the rest of their lives.

In June this year, after the Supreme Court overturned the habeas-stripping provisions of the Military Commissions Act, and ruled that the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights were constitutional, Senator Obama spoke up again to defend the law, explaining that the ruling was  “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus,” even as John McCain cranked up the hyperbole and declared it “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

Since then, however, Obama the Presidential candidate has been almost silent on the crimes of the current administration. This is understandable, of course, as his team has ascertained that the rights of foreign “terror suspects” are not high on the list of priorities of the average American voter, and are even less appealing as the United States suffers an economic meltdown.

Obama knows, however, that one of the key planks of his foreign policy — his opposition to the war in Iraq — addresses the supreme example of the administration’s hubris, which grew inexorably out of the realization, by certain high-ranking members of the government, that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which was passed by Congress just days after 9/11, granted them the unfettered executive power that they had been seeking for decades: in the case of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, since their time in the waning empire of Richard Nixon, and in the case of David Addington, Cheney’s legal counsel and now chief of staff, since he and Cheney teamed up to protect another President — Ronald Reagan — from scrutiny during the Iran-Contra scandal.

The AUMF, which authorized the President “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons,” was then used by the administration to justify all its other abuses of executive power: warrantless wiretapping, the Military Order of November 2001 which established the Military Commissions and empowered the President to seize and indefinitely detain anyone he suspected of being an “enemy combatant,” the creation of Guantánamo, the shredding of the Geneva Conventions, and the sequence of memoranda approving the use of torture by US forces.

Senator Obama clearly believes in the law, in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which have been so viciously undermined by the present administration, and in the separation of powers that was designed to prevent a recurrence of the tyranny that was overthrown when the United States declared its Independence.

But compare the fine words quoted above to his response, on Friday, to John McCain’s pledge “to make sure that we have people who are trained interrogators so that we don’t ever torture a prisoner ever again”:

It is important for us to understand that the way we are perceived in the world is going to make a difference, in terms of our capacity to get cooperation and root out terrorism.

And one of the things that I intend to do as president is to restore America’s standing in the world. We are less respected now than we were eight years ago or even four years ago.

And this is the greatest country on Earth. But because of some of the mistakes that have been made — and I give Senator McCain great credit on the torture issue, for having identified that as something that undermines our long-term security — because of those things, we, I think, are going to have a lot of work to do in the next administration to restore that sense that America is that shining beacon on a hill.

That was a generous nod to Senator McCain (who, to be honest, did not deserve it), but I couldn’t help imagining how powerful Obama’s speech would have been if, instead of leaving the “mistakes” undefined, he had included some of the comments that he made last August in Washington D.C.:

In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power. A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us.

When I am President, America will reject torture without exception. America is the country that stood against that kind of behavior, and we will do so again … As President, I will close Guantánamo, reject the Military Commissions Act, and adhere to the Geneva Conventions. Our Constitution and our Uniform Code of Military Justice provide a framework for dealing with the terrorists … The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example to the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.

So, yes, I know why Senator Obama stays quiet, but I also know that, in the Vice President’s Office, the quest for unfettered executive power that has been pursued to such ruinous effect by Dick Cheney and David Addington remains unchallenged.

Andy 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.

As published on the Huffington Post.

US election: Obama and McCain shirk discussion of Guantánamo and executive overreach

While pundits have been busy analyzing Friday’s Presidential debate, no one has been talking about a crucial issue that has completely disappeared from the election campaign since Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in August, even though it is absolutely central to the complaints about the Bush administration’s behaviour over the last seven years.

The issue is unfettered executive power, and it has been manifested, to the horror of the world, and the dismay of Americans who pride themselves on being a nation founded on the rule of law, in the endorsement of torture as official US policy, the transformation of the CIA into an organization that has run a colossal “extraordinary rendition programme” and a network of secret prisons around the world, and the detention of thousands of prisoners without charge or trial in a legal black hole between the Geneva Conventions and the US court system.

In Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq, over 20,000 prisoners in US custody are held neither as Prisoners of War, who would be protected from “humiliating and degrading treatment” and coercive interrogations by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects who will be tried in a US court. The only trials put forward by the government — the Military Commissions at Guantánamo — are so tainted by accusations of pro-prosecution bias and the suppression of exculpatory evidence that the administration is fighting a losing battle to establish their legitimacy, nearly seven years after they were set up by Dick Cheney and David Addington.

John McCainIn John McCain’s case, his refusal to discuss executive overreach is understandable. Republicans have been encouraged to endorse without question the bellicose rhetoric of the “War on Terror” and to turn a blind eye to the government’s shredding of the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Forget the rights of foreign prisoners; warrantless wiretapping and the President’s self-declared right to imprison anyone as an “enemy combatant” — even American citizens — have been sold as vital steps to protect America, rather than a naked power grab by a Vice President who believes, above all, in unfettered executive power.

Although McCain has stated that he wants to close Guantánamo, and has often declared his opposition to the use of torture by US forces, he has flip-flopped horribly as the election has approached. Back in February, he conveniently shelved his lifelong opposition to torture by voting against a bill banning the use of torture by the CIA, and after the Supreme Court ruled, in June, that the prisoners at Guantánamo have constitutional habeas corpus rights, he declared that it was “one of the worst decisions in the history of this country.”

Barack ObamaThe disappointment, therefore, is in Barack Obama’s unwillingness to tackle the administration’s crimes head-on. His team has presumably discovered that neither the plight of prisoners held beyond the law nor the executive’s dictatorial power grab is of paramount importance to voters, but this is lamentable for two reasons: firstly, because Obama clearly both knows and cares about the law, and secondly because it is the Bush administration’s quest for unfettered executive power that has led to almost all the ills that currently plague the United States.

On respecting the law, Obama has a proven track record. He has worked with lawyers representing the Guantánamo prisoners, and has consistently voted against ill-conceived “War on Terror” legislation. Last August, in a speech in Washington D.C., he touched on all the issues that are currently lacking in his campaign:

In the dark halls of Abu Ghraib and the detention cells of Guantánamo, we have compromised our most precious values. What could have been a call to a generation has become an excuse for unchecked presidential power. A tragedy that united us was turned into a political wedge issue used to divide us.

And as recently as June, after the Supreme Court’s ruling, he declared that the ruling was “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law, and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus.”

This is not only fine oratory; it is also, I believe, essential to Obama’s campaign for change. In order to demonstrate quite how different he is from the Republicans who have brought the country to the brink of ruin, he should use his opposition to the Iraq war as a springboard for an assault on the executive’s power grab, in which all the horrors of the “War on Terror,” outlined above, would also be included. Instead of playing on the folly of an expensive war without end, he should be focusing on the war’s origins, and nailing it as the supreme gesture of a power-crazed executive, acting without restraint and with the arrogant assumption that it has destroyed both the “quaint” principles on which the United States was founded, and the separation of powers that was established to prevent tyranny.

Andy 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.

As published on Liberal Conspiracy.

Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials?

It could all have been so different. Between September 2002 and April 2003, the five defendants in the forthcoming 9/11 trial at Guantánamo — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (aka Ammar al-Baluchi) and Walid bin Attash — were seized and transferred to secret CIA prisons, where they were subjected to an array of “enhanced interrogation techniques” including waterboarding. And yet they could, instead, have been questioned by skilled US interrogators for whom torture remains abhorrent, illegal and counter-productive.

The five co-defendants charged in connection with the 9/11 attacks

From the top: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Mustafa al-Hawsawi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Walid bin Attash.

These experts would, no doubt, have spent years building up cases against Mohammed and his alleged accomplices and encouraging them to talk through tried and tested methods. After 9/11, however, the White House and the Pentagon decided that skilled interrogation was somehow soft, and that al-Qaeda operatives were so tough that they had been trained to resist all types of traditional interrogation. But as the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer explained in an article last summer, a former CIA officer with knowledge of the techniques used on the al-Qaeda suspects explained, “A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable.”

If the same techniques used before 9/11 had been applied after the attacks, it’s probable that by now Mohammed and his co-defendants would have been tried in a US federal court, and the reputation of the United States — as a country that does not torture, rather than one with a lying administration that claims it does not torture because it has cynically redefined what torture means — would still be intact. A case in point, completely overlooked in the administration’s defense of its “robust” new approach, is Ramzi Yousef — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed’s nephew, and the terrorist behind the first attempt to blow up the World Trade Center in 1993 — who, as Mayer has explained, “gave a voluminous confession after being read his Miranda rights,” following his capture and rendition to the US court system in 1995.

Instead of being condemned as a mass-murdering criminal, however, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — a man with an “unimaginable” ego, and one, moreover, at the apex of a system of mass imprisonment in which thousands of innocent men and insignificant Taliban foot soldiers have been brutalized, held without charge or trial and deprived of the protections of the Geneva Conventions — has been allowed to portray himself as a “warrior” in an epic “Clash of Civilizations.”

In his tribunal at Guantánamo last year, Mohammed compared himself to George Washington fighting the British, and last week he spent several days in a courtroom at Guantánamo, unrelated to the US courts or the US military’s own judicial processes, in which he was free to bait the judge, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann, to play to the world’s media, and to make strategic use of his torture at US hands to score points against the system set up to try him.

Day One

The action unfolded slowly. At 9 am on Monday, four of the co-defendants gathered in the courtroom for hearings on a series of pre-trial motions, but one — Ramzi bin al-Shibh — was nowhere to be seen. Doubts had already been raised about the mental health of the Yemeni, and his lawyers — whom he is trying to dismiss, so that he can represent himself, like Mohammed and some of his other co-defendants — were seeking permission to appoint clinical and forensic psychologists to examine him. His lead attorney, Navy Cmdr. Suzanne Lachelier, stated that the defense team has doubts about his mental health, and noted that his medications include “a psychotropic drug prescribed to persons with schizophrenia.” As a report by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) explained, Lachelier “referred to pleadings filed by the bin al-Shibh team that contained considerable additional evidence, which she could not discuss in court, which bolstered the claim that he was mentally ill and might not be competent to stand trial or able to participate in his own defense.”

Ramzi bin al-Shibh at his arraignment in Guantanamo, June 5, 2008

Ramzi bin al-Shibh at his arraignment in Guantánamo on June 5, 2008. Sketch by courtroom artist Janet Hamlin.

In the end, the rest of the day’s planned discussions were derailed, as the authorities tried to work out what to do about bin al-Shibh’s refusal to appear. Although the military could have brought him to the courtroom against his will, they refused to do so without a formal order from Kohlmann. In the first surreal touch of the hearings, protracted discussions between Kohlmann and the prosecution were only halted when, as the Washington Post described it, Mohammed “raised his hand and offered to meet with bin al-Shibh in an effort to persuade him to come to court,” and was backed up by his co-defendants. Bin Attash explained, “I agree with my brother Sheikh Mohammed. We don’t have to do any fight with Mr. Ramzi. He doesn’t trust anyone in government, but he does trust us. With what has happened to us in this situation — we have all lost faith. But we have faith in each other.” Kohlmann refused to allow a meeting, but he did allow the co-defendants to write letters to bin al-Shibh, which they all signed.

The judge also stated that bin al-Shibh should be given another opportunity to meet with his lawyers, but he refused to let Cmdr. Lachelier meet him in his cell, in the prison’s secretive Camp 7, and explained that he would, instead, have to be “transported, hooded and shackled, in a van with blacked-out windows” to a meeting place. Pointing out that this might only add to her client’s reluctance to meet, Lachelier offered to be hooded herself and taken to Camp 7, but Kohlmann refused. As Denny LeBoeuf of the ACLU explained, it was “a remarkable suggestion that highlights yet again the absurdity of Guantánamo’s secrecy regime.”

Day Two

As a bizarre spectacle, however, the hearings only really came to life on Tuesday, after bin al-Shibh had responded to the entreaties of his co-defendants, and all five men were in court together for the first time since their arraignment in June. On that occasion, Mohammed’s willingness to be a martyr had dominated the proceedings, but nearly four months later it was apparent that he had decided to take on the US government through the weaknesses in its novel judicial system.

In the voir dire process, in which, as Carol Rosenberg explained in the Miami Herald, “lawyers question a judge on his potential bias at trial,” Mohammed was allowed to grill Kohlmann about his background. “For a while,” as the Los Angeles Times noted, he “turned the tables on his captors and made the military judge justify his competency to preside over the trial.”

“Glaring and poking an occasional finger in the air,” Mohammed told Kohlmann, “The government considers all of us fanatical extremists,” and asked, “How can you, as an officer of the US Marine Corps, stand over me in judgment?” Insisting that he was attempting to work out if Kohlmann was a religious extremist, he continued: “[President] Bush said this is a crusader war and Osama bin Laden said this is a holy war against the crusades. If you were part of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson’s group, then you would not be impartial.’”

For his part, Kohlmann attempted to maintain his dignity, explaining that he was “currently unaffiliated with a church ‘because I’ve moved so often.’” He added that he had previously worshiped at “various Lutheran churches and Episcopal churches,” and the sub-text — that he was no religious fanatic — was clear. It was at this point that bin al-Shibh spoke out unexpectedly. “As far as I know your last name is a Jewish name, not a Christian name,” he said, prompting a terse response. “With regard to your observation about my heritage and background,” Kohlmann said, “it’s actually inaccurate. And I’ll leave it at that.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Walid bin Attash (left)

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Walid bin Attash (left) during their arraignment on June 5, 2008, as drawn by Janet Hamlin.

Mohammed proceeded to ask Kohlmann about his views on torture. As part of the background materials supplied to him — or made available to the civilian lawyers who are voluntarily assisting him in his defense — he referred to an ethics seminar that Kohlmann had conducted at his daughter’s high school in 2005, in which the students had been asked to consider their responses to a “Ticking Time Bomb” scenario. Based on a fictional proposition that a bomb is about to go off, and an unwilling captive knows its location but is unwilling to disclose the information, the scenario is widely used by proponents of “enhanced interrogation techniques” to justify the use of torture.

Kohlmann explained that he encouraged the debate as part of “a complex question that might be dealt with differently if someone were specifically trying to save the nation or just looking at it from an ethical sense or just looking at it from a legal sense,” and dismissed a combative question from Mohammed — “It seems that you are supportive of the use of torture for national security?” — by stating, “I have no idea where that would come from.”

As Mohammed continued questioning Kohlmann, in what the Washington Post described as a “sometimes rambling disquisition,” he was “frequently unsatisfied,” as Josh Meyer described it in the Los Angeles Times, “and hit Kohlmann with a barrage of follow-up questions and sarcastic political commentary.” Kohlmann put up with this for some time, but when he was asked if he read books by Billy Graham or Pat Buchanan, and what movies he watched, he said that the questions seemed designed “to develop a personality profile,” and stated, “I decline to provide you with my reading list or my movie list.” Finally, after he had twice scolded Mohammed for failing to stick to the topic in hand, and Mohammed muttered aloud, “You reject to answer,” Kohlmann lost his patience. “You are not going to have free rein,” he exclaimed. “I will not allow you to act in a manner that is disrespectful to this court. Do you understand me clearly?”

Nevertheless, it was Mohammed’s day. Although Ramzi bin al-Shibh piped up at one point, declaring, “I am not mentally incompetent,” but haranguing Cmdr. Lachelier in a manner that did not necessarily justify his own appraisal of his mental state, the rest of the co-defendants seemed content to allow Mohammed to speak for them. Even the defense lawyers’ long list of relevant complaints, which, they insisted, would make it impossible for the men to receive a fair trial, were overshadowed by Mohammed’s grandstanding. At various points throughout the day, as the Los Angeles Times put it, they expressed concerns that “lawyer-client conversations may not be confidential,” complained that they “cannot talk to friends and family of the accused as part of their defense preparation without prosecutors finding out about it, which has scared off potential witnesses on their behalf,” and described the court translators as incompetent, which was proving to be “a severe hindrance for defendants who don’t speak English.”

Explaining how bad the situation was, Major Jon Jackson, the lawyer for Mustafa al-Hawsawi, said at the end of the day that his client “doesn’t understand about a quarter of the court proceedings because of incomprehensible interpretation.” But although he and other lawyers “asked for the transcripts of each day’s proceedings to be made available in English and Arabic so that they can go over each day’s events with their clients and make corrections for the record,” as the ACLU explained, the government “strenuously opposed the request,” stating that it was “enough for the defendants to be present and observe the proceedings.” This prompted Major Jackson to complain, “I could not believe my government would not provide transcripts in the native language of the accused that it wants to put to death.”

While a few commentators noticed these exchanges, however, most eyes were on Mohammed. As the Associated Press pointed out, “During breaks, Mohammed pivoted in his seat at his defense table and chatted amiably in Arabic with his co-defendants, who sat at their own tables arrayed behind him — despite complaints that he used a similar opportunity in June to pressure the others to reject their Pentagon-appointed defense lawyers.”

Day Three

On the third and final day of this round of pre-trial hearings, as the Washington Post put it, “The loquacious Mohammed, as he does on most days, took the lead in speaking for the other four defendants.” Following up on claims made the previous day that Kohlmann’s background as a Marine prevented him from being impartial, he stated, “I believe that we are part of an inquisition,” adding that Kohlmann was an officer in the US military, “which is “currently occupying our Muslim holy lands. As I address the court now, your government is killing Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq.” On another occasion, he said, “I don’t believe you respect Muslims. We are your enemy,” adding, with a sly broadside about how he and his co-defendants had been treated for years, “If this is the case, you could have killed us years ago instead of holding us for years under torture.”

The thrust of Mohammed’s remarks, however, focused on an admission by Kohlmann that he was due to retire in April. Asking the judge to disqualify himself from the case, he said, “It is clear you are retiring before [the trial] is completed,” and argued that, as a result, he “might inappropriately rush the proceedings.” Kohlmann replied that Mohammed’s claims were “completely wrong,” and “briskly rejected each argument offered as a basis for disqualification,” but the announcement of his departure was not reassuring. Although Kohlmann is the chief judge at the Commissions, and selected himself for the 9/11 trial, defense lawyers noted that, “with unused leave time,” he “could be gone as early as mid-January.” And that, as bin Attash’s lawyer, Lt. Cmdr. James Hatcher explained, would mean that “a new round of pretrial hearings would be required and the new judge would be forced to reexamine earlier rulings.” “It will,” he said, “make an already complex case even more complex.”

With Mohammed’s attention-grabbing antics out of the way, the rest of the day’s proceedings focused on “defense motions seeking more resources for the defendants and easier access to them for their attorneys, both by person and by phone.” Explaining that the prosecution was seeking “to improve access while maintaining security,” lead prosecutor Col. Robert Swann explained, as the Associated Press put it, that the government was “preparing to issue each defendant a laptop computer loaded with 40,782 pages of documents and more than 50 videos.” He added that “they could not safely be provided with requested printers or other equipment with electrical cords, presumably because of the danger of suicide.” It transpired, after Amanda Lee, one of Ali Abdul Aziz Ali’s attorneys, asked for the men to have “unfettered access to news articles so that they can be prepared to challenge expert witnesses for the prosecution,” that they currently only receive a redacted version of USA Today, and that their lawyers are prohibited from giving them other material when they meet them.

Away from Mohammed and the limelight, it is issues like these — and the other problems raised by the defense lawyers on Tuesday — that will be fought over until the next time the five men appear in a courtroom. As Major Jackson explained, “This is going to be a long, long, long battle before these accused get sentenced.” And while Lt. Cmdr. Brian Mizer, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali’s military lawyer, closed the proceedings by promising, “Torture is at issue in this case. It is going to be at the very center of this case,” my feeling is that it is, above all, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed who will remain at the center of the case, doing all he can to derail a system that is an inadequate substitute for a real trial.

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.

As published on the Huffington Post, Antiwar.com and CounterPunch.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

Dick Cheney Shreds Secret Documents

Well, obviously, I don’t have proof, and the title’s just meant to lure you in. As a second installment of my brief foray into the art world, this is another image from Philip Toledano’s excellent new online installation, America: The Gift Shop, in which he asks, “If American foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell?” and presents a series of eerily seductive pieces, including this fine take on the traditional snow globe — the “Cheney Shredding Secret Documents Snow Globe” — in which Vice President Dick Cheney gets rid of the evidence, in case he is ever parted from the all-enveloping cloak of unaccountability that was hand-crafted for him by his chief of staff (and former legal counsel) David Addington.

Philip Toledano's Cheney Shredding Secret Documents snow globe

Andy 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.

Guantánamo Bouncy Castle – in America: The Gift Shop

With torture as official US policy, the Constitution under perpetual attack, the Geneva Conventions shredded and children facing war crimes trials — to cite just a few of the wrongs that preoccupy me on a daily basis — it’s easy to forget that, outside of the secretive “War on Terror” prisons and the farcical courtrooms of Guantánamo, some artists are also focusing on the moral quagmire created by the Bush administration.

A case in point is Philip Toledano. In his new online installation, America: The Gift Shop, Toledano asks, “If American foreign policy had a gift shop, what would it sell?” and presents a series of mixed media works — about Guantánamo, Iraq and secret prisons — which, as he describes it, “reflect the current foreign policy in the fun-house mirror of American commerce.”

Along with T-shirts that look like they should be available to buy on the way out, an Abu Ghraib coffee table, and other barbed souvenirs of the last eight years, Toledano has recreated, as a kind of bouncy castle, one of Guantánamo’s notoriously Spartan maximum security cells, in which prisoners held for nearly seven years without charge or trial spend up to 23 hours a day.

As the website daddytypes.com explained, in its appraisal of Toledano’s Gift Shop, “the must-have is probably the Guantánamo Bay bouncy cell, authentic in every detail, except that you can get out at some point. Watch for it at edgier birthday parties near you.”

Philip Toledano's Inflatable Guantanamo Bay bouncy prison cell

Andy 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.

Andy Worthington – Guantánamo Events, Autumn 2008

The Guantanamo FilesAndy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press/the University of Michigan Press).

The following is a list of events that Andy is involved in this autumn:

Saturday September 27, 5.30 to 8 pm: From Ladbroke Grove to Guantánamo Bay: Iftar in Solidarity with Binyam Mohamed, the Last Londoner in Guantánamo Bay.
Venue: The Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, 244 Acklam Road, London, W10 5YG.

Speakers: Andy Worthington and Yvonne Ridley (journalist).

British resident Binyam Mohamed lived in Ladbroke Grove for over seven years, and worked at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre. Seized in Pakistan in April 2002, he has been imprisoned at Guantánamo since September 2004, and currently faces a trial by Military Commission (the system derided by Lord Steyn as a “kangaroo court”). Before that, he spent over two years in various torture prisons — 18 months in Morocco, where he was sent by the CIA and tortured on behalf of the US administration, and nine months in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” near Kabul and the US military prison at Bagram airbase.

More of his story — including his lawyers’ recent battle to secure access to evidence about his rendition and torture in the British High Court — can be found here and here, and on Reprieve’s website here. Andy will run through Binyam’s story, and explain why it is so disturbingly emblematic of the horrors of the US administration’s “War on Terror.”

As the organizers of this event explain: “The evidence against Binyam was extracted by torture. Come and learn about the plight of a local man and see what action you can take. In the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Binyam should be with his local community. Come and join us for an evening of reflection on his plight followed by Iftar (post-fast meal).”

This is a public event, open to everyone. For more information, please email London Guantánamo Campaign or call Abdul Jalil on 07985 382188.
Click here for the London Guantánamo Campaign’s website, and click here for the Bring Binyam Home Facebook group.

Thursday October 2, 5.30 pm: Torture in Guantánamo.
Venue: The Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, 111 Isledon Road, London, N7 7JW.

In this seminar at the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, Andy will discuss the types of torture techniques used at Guantánamo, and the reasons that they were used. The talk will include accounts of the prisoners’ experiences, the disturbing reasons why the US administration’s flight from the Geneva Conventions prompted the introduction of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and the deep divisions between the White House and the CIA, on one hand, and other agencies, including the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, on the other.

For further information, please contact Hannah Rutledge at: Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture

Saturday October 4, 5 pm Eastern time: Online discussion of The Guantánamo Files on the Firedoglake Book Salon.

Andy will be discussing The Guantánamo Files online with readers of the respected US political blog Firedoglake in the Book Salon. Recent participants include Jane Mayer (The Dark Side), Sidney Blumenthal (The Strange Death of Republican America), and Bob Woodward (The War Within).

Thursday October 23, 8 pm: The Future of Guantánamo.
Venue: Friends Meeting House, Ship St., Brighton, BN1 1AF.

Speakers: Andy Worthington, Jackie Chase (Brighton Against Guantánamo) and Omar Deghayes (former Guantánamo prisoner).

Organized by the Brighton & Hove Fabian Society, this event will feature the speakers talking about Guantánamo past and present, and reflecting on its future just 12 days before the US Presidential election. See here for information on Omar’s horrendous experiences in US custody.

The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison is 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.

Guantánamo: Government Says Six Years Is Not Long Enough To Prepare Evidence

Lady JusticeImagine being seized in Afghanistan or Pakistan, where you were, perhaps, a completely innocent man, sold for a bounty, or a Muslim soldier, fighting other Muslims in a civil war whose roots lay in the resistance to the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, which was partly funded by the United States.

Then imagine that, both during and after being treated with appalling brutality by US forces, you are given no opportunity to establish whether you are an innocent man seized by mistake, a soldier, or the victim of bounty hunters, and you are, instead, flown halfway around the world to an experimental offshore prison, where you are interrogated about your connections to al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.

At no point are you offered the protection of the Geneva Conventions (to which your captors are a signatory), which were designed to prevent the “humiliating and degrading treatment” of prisoners seized during wartime, and also to prevent their interrogation (prisoners may be questioned, but any form of “physical or mental coercion” is prohibited). Moreover, if you struggle to answer the questions put to you — perhaps because you know nothing about al-Qaeda or Osama bin Laden — you are not only interrogated relentlessly, you are also subjected to an array of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which contravene the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which your captors are also a signatory.

Now imagine that, after six and a half years of this imprisonment — in which, unlike convicted criminals on the US mainland, you have never been charged or tried, and have not been allowed a single visit from your loved ones — the highest court in the United States rules, in Boumediene v. Bush, that you have habeas corpus rights; in other words, the right to know why you are being held. And finally, imagine that, in response to this ruling, when the judges responsible for establishing the reviews have ordered the cases to be addressed “as expeditiously as possible,” and have set a deadline for the government to comply, your captors turn around and say that, after holding you for up to 2,444 days in Guantánamo, they need more time to prepare a case against you.

You would, I think, be appalled, and would conclude that the government was specifically dragging its heels for political purposes, hoping to avoid humiliation ahead of the Presidential election, and, in particular, hoping to prevent a replay of the verdict in Parhat v. Gates, the only case reviewed since the Supreme Court made its ruling in June, in which the judges — two Conservatives and a Liberal, no less — ruled that the designation of Huzaifa Parhat, a Chinese Muslim, as an “enemy combatant” was “invalid,” and lambasted the quality of the government’s evidence as being akin to a nonsense poem by Lewis Carroll, author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

And in this opinion you would, I think, be correct. When the Supreme Court ruled that the prisoners were entitled to “a prompt habeas corpus hearing,” and added that, “[w]hile some delay in fashioning new procedures is unavoidable, the costs of delay can no longer be borne by those who are held in custody,” it’s certain that they did not intend, over three months down the line, for the government still to be dragging its heels. In the immediate wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling, meetings were scheduled to appoint judges to review the 250 cases and to set dates for the government and the prisoners’ defense lawyers to file their evidence. On July 11, the District Court dealing with the reviews “ordered the government to file factual returns at a rate of fifty per month, with the first fifty due by August 29, 2008.”

“Just before midnight” on August 29, however, with only 22 returns filed, the government filed an “instant motion” begging for more time, pleading that it “simply did not appreciate the full extent of the challenges posed by the extensive need for classified information in these cases when [it] proposed to complete the first set of factual returns by the end of August,” and asking for “partial and temporary relief” from the order of July 11. Specifically, as Judge Hogan noted in the opinion of September 19 (PDF) from which this article draws extensively, the government asked for an extension of 30 days. High-ranking figures — the Acting General Counsel for the Department of Defense, the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and the Director of the CIA — explained “the substantial resources and efforts the government has devoted to preparing factual returns and the risk of harm to the national security involved in releasing classified information to persons outside the Executive Branch.”

After noting that delaying the schedule by a month was neither “partial” not “temporary” relief, Judge Hogan agreed to grant the government’s motion. He stated that, after reviewing the declarations, “the Court is satisfied that the government is not dragging its feet in an attempt to delay these matters beyond what is necessary to protect the national security concerns associated with releasing classified information. These cases are not run of the mill; they involve significant amounts of sensitive, classified information concerning individuals whom the government alleges were part of or supporting the Taliban or al-Qaeda or other organizations against which the United States is engaged in armed conflict.”

However, Judge Hogan also noted that “the Court grants the government’s motion reluctantly,” explaining that “it is disappointed in the government’s failure to meet the schedule the Court adopted based in part on the government’s assurances.” Citing statements in which the government claimed that it had “attempt[ed] to meet its goal” and that it would “continue to strive to meet the 50-per-month requirement,” Judge Hogan added, pointedly, that the Court was “not merely setting a ‘goal’ for which the government is to ‘strive,’” but was, rather, “ordering the government to produce at least fifty factual returns by month’s end, followed by at least another fifty more each month thereafter until production is complete.”

In conclusion, while Judge Hogan recognized the government’s explanation that, since the Supreme Court ruling, its “[a]ttorneys and others from multiple agencies have worked long and hard, nights and weekends,” he reminded the executive that “the government has detained many of these petitioners for more than six years, and the time has come to provide them with the opportunity to fully test the legality of such detention in a prompt, meaningful manner.”

He added, with just a hint of irritation, that the decision to grant the prisoners the right “to fully test the legality of their detention through habeas corpus challenges” was “no bolt out of the blue,” as the government contended, because the Supreme Court had ruled, four years before (in Rasul v. Bush), that they had this right. This was, it seems, a barbed comment on the legislation passed by the government in the wake of Rasul (the Detainee Treatment Act and the Military Commissions Act), which was partly overturned — and ruled unconstitutional — in Boumediene.

The Court’s decision will be small comfort to the prisoners languishing in Guantánamo while the government does all in its power to avoid exposing its reasons — or lack of reasons — for holding them, but it shows, at least, that the judges responsible for reviewing their cases are paying attention.

Andy 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.

As published on Antiwar.com, the Huffington Post and CounterPunch.

For a sequence of articles dealing with the Guantánamo habeas cases, see: Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: the most important habeas corpus case in modern history and Guantánamo and the Supreme Court: What Happened? (both December 2007), The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean? (June 2008), Guantánamo as Alice in Wonderland (Uighurs’ first court victory, June 2008), What’s Happening with the Guantánamo cases? (July 2008), From Guantánamo to the United States: The Story of the Wrongly Imprisoned Uighurs (October 2008), Guantánamo Uyghurs’ resettlement prospects skewered by Justice Department lies (October 2008), Guilt By Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), After 7 Years, Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo Kidnap Victims (November 2008), Is Robert Gates Guilty of Perjury in Guantánamo Torture Case? (December 2008), A New Year Message to Barack Obama: Free the Guantánamo Uighurs (January 2009), The Top Ten Judges of 2008 (January 2009), No End in Sight for the “Enemy Combatants” of Guantánamo (January 2009), Judge Orders Release of Guantánamo’s Forgotten Child (January 2009), How Cooking For The Taliban Gets You Life In Guantánamo (January 2009), Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics (February 2009), Bad News And Good News For The Guantánamo Uighurs (February 2009), The Nobodies Formerly Known As Enemy Combatants (March 2009), Farce at Guantánamo, as cleared prisoner’s habeas petition is denied (April 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Judge Condemns “Mosaic” Of Guantánamo Intelligence, And Unreliable Witnesses (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), Guantánamo: A Prison Built On Lies (May 2009), Free The Guantánamo Uighurs! (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July 2009), Obama’s Failure To Deliver Justice To The Last Tajik In Guantánamo (July 2009), Obama And The Deadline For Closing Guantánamo: It’s Worse Than You Think (July 2009), How Judge Huvelle Humiliated The Government In Guantánamo Case (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), As Judge Orders Release Of Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner, Government Refuses To Concede Defeat (Mohamed Jawad, July 2009), Guantánamo As Hotel California: You Can Check Out Any Time You Like, But You Can Never Leave (August 2009), Judge Orders Release From Guantánamo Of Kuwaiti Charity Worker (August 2009). Also see: Justice extends to Bagram, Guantánamo’s Dark Mirror (April 2009), Judge Rules That Afghan “Rendered” To Bagram In 2002 Has No Rights (July 2009).

Seized at 15, Omar Khadr turns 22 in Guantánamo

Omar KhadrToday, Omar Khadr, the sole Canadian citizen in Guantánamo, marks his 22nd birthday in isolation. Seized in Afghanistan when he was just 15 years old, Omar has now spent nearly a third of his life in US custody, in conditions that ought to be shameful to the US administration responsible for holding him, and to the Canadian government that has abdicated its responsibilities towards him.

Under the terms of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, to which both the US and Canada are signatories, juvenile prisoners — defined as those accused of a crime that took place when they were under 18 years of age — “require special protection.” The Optional Protocol specifically recognizes “the special needs of those children who are particularly vulnerable to recruitment or use in hostilities”, and requires its signatories to promote “the physical and psychosocial rehabilitation and social reintegration of children who are victims of armed conflict.”

As I have discussed at length before, several factors have conspired to keep Omar in Guantánamo; in particular, US allegations (only recently challenged) that Omar threw a grenade that killed a US soldier in the firefight that preceded his capture; a general indifference towards him in Canada, because of the alleged sins of his family (his father, who raised funds for the welfare of the mujahideen of Afghanistan and their families, was reportedly close to Osama bin Laden); and a disregard for the traditional rules of war, in which not only should a child be protected from punishment, but any combatant seized in wartime should be regarded as a soldier, subject to the prohibition on “cruel and inhuman treatment” and interrogation dictated by the Geneva Conventions, and not held as a terrorist, to be brutalized and interrogated at will.

As Omar turns 22, however, it is abundantly clear that his treatment — which includes a heartless disregard for his terrible wounds in the months following his capture, severe isolation in Guantánamo, and prolonged periods of abuse and humiliation — demonstrates a blatant disregard, on the part of the US administration, for the Geneva Conventions. This kind of behavior is reprehensible in the cases of the adults in US custody, and even more grotesque in the case of Omar and the 21 other juveniles (at least), who have been held in Guantánamo throughout its long history, and who have been deprived of the protection not only of the Geneva Conventions but also of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Images from the 2003 interrogations of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo

Images from a video of Omar’s interrogation in 2003 by Canadian agents, which were released this summer.

What makes Omar’s case even more shocking is that, because of the nature of the “crime” of which he has been accused (killing a US soldier in wartime), he was chosen by the administration for prosecution in its system of “terror trials” at Guantánamo, the Military Commissions — unrelated to any other form of US justice — that were conceived by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers in November 2001.

Although Omar was initially charged in November 2005, his case — like that of the other nine prisoners charged — was dismissed in June 2006, when the US Supreme Court ruled that the entire process was illegal, but he was one of the first prisoners to be charged again (with the Australian David Hicks and the Yemeni Salim Hamdan) when the Commissions were revived by Congress later that year.

For the last 15 months, since the first pre-trial hearings were held, the case against Omar has stumbled from one setback to another. Initially, his case was dismissed by the government-appointed military judge, Col. Peter Brownback, because of discrepancies in the wording of the Military Commissions Act (the legislation that revived the process), and in the last year his military defense team, led by Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, and his Canadian civilian attorneys, Dennis Edney and Nathan Whitling, have done everything in their power to persuade the Canadian government to press for Omar’s return, and to persuade the US government to call off his trial.

These have included submissions pointing out the weakness — or illegality — of the government’s claims that the charges against Omar constitute “war crimes,” suitably shocked announcements following the emergence of long-suppressed evidence indicating that Omar did not throw the grenade that killed Sgt. Christopher Speer, and a heartfelt plea for the US government not to set a vile precedent by prosecuting a juvenile. “If jurisdiction is exercised over Mr. Khadr,” the defense team explained, “the military judge will be the first in western history to preside over the trial of alleged war crimes committed by a child. No international criminal tribunal established under the laws of war, from Nuremberg forward, has ever prosecuted former child soldiers as war criminals … A critical component of the response of our nation and the world to the tragedy of the use and abuse of child solders in war by terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda is that post-conflict legal proceedings must pursue the best interest of the victimized child – with the aim of their rehabilitation and reintegration into society, not their imprisonment or execution.”

Although the administration refused to be swayed by any of these complaints, the path to Omar’s proposed trial has continued to be a bumpy one. In March, Col. Brownback criticized the prosecutors for their slow response to demands to hand over information to the defense team. After ordering them to give Omar’s lawyers a list of all US personnel who had interrogated him in Afghanistan and Guantánamo, and to provide them with access to their notes, he postponed the trial’s start date (which was scheduled for May 5) to allow more time for discussions of acceptable evidence, and was promptly dismissed from his job. The administration argued that this was because his appointed tenure had come to an end, but Omar’s lawyers were not convinced.

Even so, his replacement, Col. Patrick Parrish, has also demonstrated his independence, despite initial doubts. In hearings over the summer, Omar’s lawyers submitted a raft of new requests and complaints, calling for independent experts on “false confessions made by juveniles” to be allowed to assess Omar, and accusing Brig. Gen. Thomas Hartmann, the Commissions’ legal adviser, of “unlawful command influence” in connection with the removal of Col. Brownback from the case, and his role in “sexing up” (my phrase) the case for Omar’s prosecution.

Brig. Gen. Hartmann had already been excluded by other government-appointed judges from two other cases — those of Salim Hamdan and the Afghan teenager Mohamed Jawad — but although Col. Parrish refused to exclude him from Omar’s trial (and refused to allow independent experts to assess Omar’s mental state), he dealt a third blow to Brig. Gen. Hartmann’s credibility by ruling soon after that, in the case of a conviction, he was prohibited from reviewing the verdict.

Col. Parrish also dealt another blow to the prosecution in Omar’s case by backing a largely overlooked ruling made by Col. Brownback in April, shortly before his departure, in which the now-retired judge demolished a key plank of the government’s case against Omar by striking out part of the language in the “conspiracy” charge against him. Col. Brownback had ruled that the Secretary of Defense lacked the authority to expand the traditional definition of “conspiracy” to include joining an “enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose,” and Col. Parrish agreed, prompting the government to declare that it would appeal to the “Court of Military Commission Review” that it had been forced to establish last summer after Col. Brownback (for Omar) and Capt. Keith Allred (for Salim Hamdan) had thrown out their cases in June.

In a press release, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler explained the importance of the decision. “The ruling is significant,” he wrote, “because military commission prosecutors lack evidence to link all but a handful of detainees directly with the 9/11 attacks and other major al-Qaeda atrocities.” He pointed out that the short sentence Salim Hamdan received after his trial partly came about partly because prosecutors were “unable to rely on the expansive ‘enterprise’ definition of conspiracy.” Criticizing the government’s decision to appeal, he explained that, because the prosecutors were “[j]ealous of their advantages in military commission litigation, and unable to change the ruling by changing the judge,” they were now turning to the appeals court “in an effort to unlevel the playing field in their favor.”

Reiterating that “Omar’s anticipated trial violates basic international standards for the treatment of children and child soldiers and takes place in a tribunal in which no US citizen can be tried,” Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler concluded that the decision to appeal the “enterprise” ruling “plainly show[s] that Omar Khadr is a mere guinea pig for the anticipated trials of real terrorists such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other alleged al-Qaeda masterminds.”

Omar Khadr during a pre-trial hearing in May 2008

A courtroom sketch of Omar, during a pre-trial hearing at Guantánamo on May 8, 2008.

With this appeal yet to proceed, Omar’s defense team recently stepped up their efforts to derail the proposed trial. On September 10, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler once more sought permission for independent experts to evaluate Omar, arguing that the prosecutors’ choice, army psychiatrist Chris Peterson, lacks the required expertise, and also suffers from a conflict of interest, given that military medical teams helped devise the interrogation techniques used at Guantánamo. “You’re basically asking the guy to testify against his employer, and that’s a problem,” Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler explained.

As described in the National Post, one of the medical experts chosen by Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler is “a specialist in child soldiers and victims of torture,” and the other “is conducting a study for the army into blast trauma — which is significant in Mr. Khadr’s case because US forces dropped two 225-kilogram bombs on the compound just ahead of the raid by US ground forces.” Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler explained, “Omar’s condition at the time and his ability to recall, to communicate, is something we have no information on. We need to have someone to evaluate him and to evaluate what was actually broken when he was first taken into custody.” He added that he also believed that the experts would be able to assess the extent to which Omar’s upbringing “has affected his current ability to talk about the past or understand his current predicament.” Omar “has provided us with some information, but not the whole picture,” Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler added, “and we think that’s something we need in order to be competent and ethical at trial.”

The following day, the Associated Press reported that attempts by Canada’s foreign affairs department to “ensure proper medical care and prison conditions” for Omar were being “stymied” by the US authorities. The documents showed “even simple requests to provide Khadr with a pillow, blanket or sunglasses to protect his shrapnel-damaged eyes and body foundering on apparent security concerns.” The agent who visited Omar, Suneeta Millington, who described how shrapnel was “slowly working its way out of Omar’s body,” explained that two pairs of sunglasses were “rejected on the grounds that they might constitute a security risk,” and added, “A number of requests made both by Omar and Canadian government officials either fall through the cracks, go ignored or are not processed in a timely manner.”

At the same time that the Canadian complaints were aired, Omar’s defense team announced another surprise: the existence of another witness to the firefight, in addition to “Lt. Col. W.,” the witness who, in March, was accused of “doctoring a report” to implicate Omar in Sgt. Speer’s death. Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler named the man as Jim Taylor, while admitting that he “could not disclose the government agency or department where Taylor works since it is classified,” and adding that he had not yet met with him “due to instructions from his employer.” He proceeded to explain, as Michelle Shephard described it in the Toronto Star, that Taylor “had written a report — date unknown — claiming more than one occupant of the compound raided by US Special Forces was alive when Speer was wounded.” As the Globe and Mail put it, Lt. Cmdr. Kuebler told the court that “there were multiple people alive.”

After another surprise — a potentially damaging admission by the prosecution that, at the time of his capture, Omar had indeed been “a ‘child,’ in need of special consideration” — Col. Parrish, once more chiding the prosecutors for their delays in providing information to the defense, postponed the trial until November 10, after both the Canadian and US elections. The results of either election — or both — may be significant to Omar, but it makes little difference to him today, as he passes his sixth successive birthday in Guantánamo, alone. Historic though his case may be, it’s doubtful whether the ripples of indignation that have been steadily building over the last three years, as his lawyers and other supporters have sought to humanize this lost child, will touch him in his solitude.

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.

As published on AlterNet, Antiwar.com and the Huffington Post.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Another Insignificant Afghan Charged (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

The Guantánamo Files: 9/11 interview, Aafia Siddiqui protest and other events

The Guantanamo FilesOn September 11, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I had the pleasure of being interviewed once again by Linda Olson-Osterlund for the “News and Public Affairs Special” show on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. The interview, available here, was part of a 9/11 Special, and Linda and I had the opportunity to follow up on previous interviews (here and here) to look at the current situation in Guantánamo: the plight of the 50-plus prisoners who have been cleared for release, but who cannot be repatriated because of international treaties preventing the return of foreign nationals to countries where they face the risk of torture; and those put forward for trial by Military Commission, with a particular focus, at Linda’s request, on Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, the two prisoners, of the 24 charged to date, who were juveniles when they were seized.

This discussion focused on whether it was legitimate to apply “war crimes” charges to alleged combatants in war (it is not, of course, as it leads to an insane situation whereby US combatants are soldiers, while anyone who opposes them is a terrorist), and on the US obligation to rehabilitate juveniles, rather then subjecting them to years of abuse and then putting them forward for “war crimes” trials.

The last few weeks have been busy, as requests have come my way to comment on various issues, either as a spokesman for Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent 31 of the remaining 263 prisoners in Guantánamo, or as the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

On August 30, following the UK High Court’s ruling that the British government had an obligation to reveal potentially exculpatory information in its possession to the lawyers of British resident Binyam Mohamed, in advance of his proposed trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo, I was invited to talk to George Galloway on his TalkSPORT show about the sub-text of the case — the torture to which Binyam was subjected in Moroccan custody (on behalf of the CIA, who rendered him there for that very purpose) and in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” near Kabul. George was a gracious host, very attuned to the absolute horror of torture, and I would be happy to speak to him again.

On September 8, I was talking about Binyam again, after a showing of the film Outlawed at the Portobello Film Festival, which was arranged by the campaigning group Filmmakers Against War. Made in 2006, the half-hour film tells Binyam’s story and that of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, mistaken for an alleged al-Qaeda accomplice, who was kidnapped as he attempted to enter Macedonia for a holiday and spent months in the “Salt Pit,” another CIA torture prison near Kabul, until the CIA discovered its mistake, and flew him to Albania, dropping him off and leaving him to make his own way home. In a lively Q & A session after the film, I was able to update the stories of these men, and to discuss, in particular, Reprieve’s long struggle for justice for Binyam.

Aafia SiddiquiOn September 12, I was one of several speakers — including Lord Ahmed, Victoria Brittain, Asim Qureshi and Moazzam Begg — invited to speak at a Cageprisoners protest outside the US embassy, to demand justice for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, abducted with her children in 2003, whose whereabouts were unaccounted for until this summer, when she reportedly surfaced in Afghanistan, was wounded in a gunfight and was spirited way to the United States to be charged in connection with terrorism. I can’t even begin here to discuss the horror of Aafia’s case, her long detention (denied by all parties), and the bizarre story about her capture in Afghanistan, and I recommend readers to visit this page on the Cageprisoners’ website to discover more and to read this article by Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch (and then to see here for the trail of tortured intelligence that leads from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Majid Khan to Aafia).

I’m pleased to report, however, that the event was a success, as several hundred people turned up, some from far-flung locations around the country, and many who had not, to date, attended any other protests against the excesses of the “War on Terror.” I was happy to provide those attending with some background to the stories of “extraordinary rendition” that underpin the “War on Terror,” and to talk about the US prison in Bagram (in many ways, Guantánamo’s less accountable mirror prison). I can only hope that more people are drawn to the cause (which seems to be one of the most disturbing cases in the whole of the United States’ flight from the law over the last seven years), and that Moazzam’s heartfelt plea for more engagement from the British Pakistani community bears fruit.

And finally, on September 15, I was interviewed by Jeff Monaghan for CKCU, a community radio station in Ottawa, Canada. Jeff contacted me after he read an article I had written about Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, a victim of rendition and torture who was recently released from Guantánamo (and whose story has not gained anywhere near enough press interest). In an interesting half-hour interview, we discussed Madni’s case, looked at “extraordinary rendition” in closer detail, and also spoke about the case of Omar Khadr — in particular, I must admit, I focused on the hypocrisy of the Canadian government, which advocates for the rights of “child soldiers” from other countries, but is unwilling to act for one of its own, and is content to let Omar, a 15-year old at the time of his capture, be brutalized for the perceived sins of his family.

My thanks to everyone mentioned above for keeping alive the struggle against the injustices of Guantánamo and the “War on Terror.” America’s return to the rule of law is more pressing than ever, as the election approaches, and I can only hope that every gesture by concerned individuals will help to deliver a new administration committed to engaging the United States with the wider world, and overturning the executive power grab engineered, over the last eight years, by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers, including his Chief of Staff, David Addington.

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.

Guantánamo trials: another insignificant Afghan charged

A prisoner at Guantanamo is escorted by guardsThe Military Commissions at Guantánamo — the trial system for “War on Terror” prisoners that was established in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — are of enormous significance, as they are the only point at which the Bush administration’s post-9/11 detention policies (focused, for the most part, on a disturbing legal limbo between the Geneva Conventions and the US court system, in which prisoners are held indefinitely without charge or trial) are tested in public.

In my book, The Guantánamo Files, I looked in detail at the first incarnation of the Commissions, which was struck down in June 2006 when the US Supreme Court ruled that the entire system was illegal, and its unholy resuscitation, in the fall of 2006, when US politicians of all political hues largely demonstrated their spinelessness or their disregard for justice by passing the Military Commissions Act (MCA). This hideously flawed piece of legislation not only revived the Commissions and gave the President seemingly unlimited powers to seize and indefinitely detain anyone he regards as a “terror suspect” (including US citizens), but also stripped the Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights (their 800-year old right to ask why they were being held), which the Supreme Court had granted them in June 2004.

While the Supreme Court struck down the MCA’s habeas-stripping provisions in another landmark case in June this year, the executive’s unlimited power to detain “terror suspects” at will has not been seriously challenged (and was, indeed, endorsed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in July, in the case of US resident Ali al-Marri), and the revived Military Commissions have also been allowed to pursue their wayward trajectory without facing a serious legal challenge.

The result, as I have been reporting since last June, is a dysfunctional soap opera that will one day, I’m sure, be regarded as one of the bleakest periods of modern American history. In this saga of novel and ill-defined laws, in which military judges appointed by the government have struggled, for the most part, to fulfil their judicial obligations with honor, serious challenges to the system have been mounted on one occasion by the judges themselves, throughout the entire process by the prisoners’ own government-appointed military defense lawyers, and, since last fall, by Col. Morris Davis, the Commissions’ former chief prosecutor. Col. Davis resigned after complaining that the process had been politicized, and that his superiors not only endorsed the use of evidence obtained through torture, but also believed that the system should operate without including the option of acquittals.

After the Commissions’ first limited success last March, when the Australian prisoner David Hicks accepted a plea bargain, admitting to material support for terrorism in exchange for dropping his complaints of torture by US forces and receiving a short sentence to be served in his homeland, the system has stumbled from one disaster to another, as an almost random mixture of, at best, peripheral figures in the Afghan conflict have been put forward for trial alongside a handful of al-Qaeda operatives alleged to have been involved in the 9/11 attacks, the African embassy bombings of 1998, and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. Allegations of torture have plagued almost all of these cases, and in others attention has also focused on the prisoners’ age: two, Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, were under 18 when captured, and should, according to the United States’ international obligations, be rehabilitated rather then punished.

The only other case to advance to trial — that of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden, whose trial ended just five weeks ago — also failed to provide the administration with the justification it sought for creating a brand-new “terror court” after 9/11. After a two-week trial, the military jury failed to be swayed by the government’s arguments that Hamdan was guilty of conspiracy, and should receive a 30-year sentence, and decided instead that, although he was guilty of providing material support for terrorism, the appropriate sentence was just five and a half years. Allowing for time served since he was first charged, this means that Hamdan will be eligible for release in December.

As I reported at the time, the sentence was a shock to the US authorities, and it remains to be seen if they will continue to hold him even after his sentence is served. In a clear sign of the arbitrary lawlessness of the administration’s “War on Terror” policies, senior officials have always maintained that they can continue to hold prisoners as “enemy combatants,” even after they have served a sentence delivered in a special court of their own devising.

The charges in the latest case to be put forward for trial by Military Commission demonstrate the Commissions’ misplaced zeal with alarming clarity. Obaidullah, a 26-year old Afghan, is charged (PDF) with “conspiracy” and “providing material support to terrorism,” based on the thinnest set of allegations to date”: essentially, a single claim that, “[o]n or about 22 July 2002,” he “stored and concealed anti-tank mines, other explosive devices, and related equipment”; that he “concealed on his person a notebook describing how to wire and detonate explosive devices”; and that he “knew or intended” that his “material support and resources were to be used in preparation for and in carrying out a terrorist attack.”

It doesn’t take much reflection on these charges to realize that it is a depressingly clear example of the US administration’s disturbing, post-9/11 redefinition of “war crimes,” which apparently allows the US authorities to claim that they can equate minor acts of insurgency committed by a citizen of an occupied nation with terrorism. It’s also clear that the charges involve no mention whatsoever of al-Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks or any of the other terrorist attacks for which the Commissions were supposedly established.

In addition, Obaidullah’s story, as revealed in the transcripts of his review boards at Guantánamo — the Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), convened to assess his status as an “enemy combatant,” and the annual Administrative Review Boards (ARBs), convened to assess whether or not he is still regarded as a threat to the United States — cast serious doubt on the veracity of even the limited allegations leveled against him.

In his first ARB, in 2005, Obaidullah refuted the allegations that have finally surfaced in his charge sheet, explaining that the mines, which were in the grounds of his parent’s compound, were left over from the pre-Taliban days, and that the notebook, which he used to record details of his everyday affairs (such as who owed him money), also contained information about planting mines because, several years before his capture, he had been forced by the Taliban to attend a school where he had been obliged to study the techniques for use against the forces of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Taliban’s enemies in Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance.

Stating, “I have no hostility towards anybody,” Obaidullah also refuted a number of other allegations that did not surface in his charge sheet: specifically, that he was “recruited by al-Qaeda” at a madrassa (religious school); that, “during the time of the Taliban rule,” he “helped coordinate the movement and activities of various foreign al-Qaeda operating in the Khost area”; that after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001, he “used his compound to hide and relocate about 18 Arab al-Qaeda members to Pakistan; and that after the Shah-i-Kot campaign in March 2002 (a US-led mission against al-Qaeda and Taliban remnants in a mountain range in eastern Afghanistan), he “hid six additional al-Qaeda members in his house.” These, indeed, appeared to be groundless allegations, as the links between al-Qaeda and ordinary Afghans were almost non-existent, and it was inconceivable that Obaidullah, who was just a teenager at the time of the Taliban rule, would have been in a position to liaise with al-Qaeda members.

What is most striking about the transcripts of Obaidullah’s hearings, however, are his claims that he made up false allegations against another prisoner, Bostan Karim (who is also still held in Guantánamo), during his detention at the US prison at Bagram airbase, and the fact that these false allegations were then used not only against Karim but also against Obaidullah himself.

A preacher and also a shopkeeper, Karim, who was 33 years old when he was captured, was reportedly “apprehended because he matched the description of an al-Qaeda bomb cell leader and had a [satellite] phone.” It was also alleged that he was “possibly identified as an al-Qaeda associate, planning landmine attacks in Khost,” and was “possibly identified as a person likely to have communicated with Arab al-Qaeda members operating in Peshawar, Afghanistan [sic], and working directly for Arab al-Qaeda in the Khost province.”

Karim maintained that the allegations had been made by Obaidullah, who had been a partner in his shop, but had fallen out with him in a dispute over money, and it’s clear, from Obaidullah’s statements in his own hearings, that, while being interrogated by US forces in Bagram, he admitted making up allegations against Karim. In his ARB in 2005, he responded to an allegation that Karim “is thought to be a Taliban commander who is getting funding from the Taliban or the Arabs” by saying, “I accepted this by force in Bagram. They told me in Bagram that Karim is one of the Taliban commanders and they forced me to say yes. I am not aware if he is a Taliban commander.”

The following exchange was particularly enlightening:

Board Member: Who forced you to say things?
Detainee: Americans.
Board Member: How did they force you?
Detainee: The first time when they captured me and brought me to Khost they put a knife to my throat and said if you don’t tell us the truth and you lie to us we are going to slaughter you.
Board Member: Were they wearing uniforms?
Detainee: Yes … They tied my hands and put a heavy bag of sand on my hands and made me walk all night in the Khost airport … In Bagram they gave me more trouble and would not let me sleep. They were standing me on the wall and my hands were hanging above my head. There were a lot of things they made me say.

So tell me, after reading this: does charging Obaidullah for “war crimes” look like justice?

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.

As published on Antiwar.com, the Huffington Post and AlterNet.

See the following for a sequence of articles dealing with the stumbling progress of the Military Commissions: The reviled Military Commissions collapse (June 2007), A bad week at Guantánamo (Commissions revived, September 2007), The curse of the Military Commissions strikes the prosecutors (September 2007), A good week at Guantánamo (chief prosecutor resigns, October 2007), The story of Mohamed Jawad (October 2007), The story of Omar Khadr (November 2007), Guantánamo trials: where are the terrorists? (February 2008), Six in Guantánamo charged with 9/11 attacks: why now, and what about the torture? (February 2008), Guantánamo’s shambolic trials (ex-prosecutor turns, February 2008), Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008), African embassy bombing suspect charged (March 2008), The US military’s shameless propaganda over 9/11 trials (April 2008), Betrayals, backsliding and boycotts (May 2008), Fact Sheet: The 16 prisoners charged (May 2008), Four more charged, including Binyam Mohamed (June 2008), Afghan fantasist to face trial (June 2008), 9/11 trial defendants cry torture (June 2008), USS Cole bombing suspect charged (July 2008), Folly and injustice (Salim Hamdan’s trial approved, July 2008), A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008), Salim Hamdan’s sentence signals the end of Guantánamo (August 2008), High Court rules against UK and US in case of Binyam Mohamed (August 2008), Controversy still plagues Guantánamo’s Military Commissions (September 2008), Seized at 15, Omar Khadr Turns 22 in Guantánamo (September 2008), Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008), two articles exploring the Commissions’ corrupt command structure (The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, and New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, October 2008), Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials (five trials dropped, October 2008), The collapse of Omar Khadr’s Guantánamo trial (October 2008), Corruption at Guantánamo (legal adviser faces military investigations, October 2008), An empty trial at Guantánamo (Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, October 2008), Life sentence for al-Qaeda propagandist fails to justify Guantánamo trials (al-Bahlul, November 2008), Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008), 20 Reasons To Shut Down The Guantánamo Trials (profiles of all the prisoners charged, November 2008), How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008), More Dubious Charges in the Guantánamo Trials (two Kuwaitis, November 2008), The End of Guantánamo (Salim Hamdan repatriated, November 2008), Torture, Preventive Detention and the Terror Trials at Guantánamo (December 2008), Is the 9/11 trial confession an al-Qaeda coup? (December 2008), The Dying Days of the Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Former Guantánamo Prosecutor Condemns Chaotic Trials (Lt. Col. Vandeveld on Mohamed Jawad, January 2009), Torture taints the case of Mohamed Jawad (January 2009), Bush Era Ends with Guantánamo Trial Chief’s Torture Confession (Susan Crawford on Mohammed al-Qahtani, January 2009), Chaos and Lies: Why Obama Was Right to Halt The Guantánamo Trials (January 2009), Binyam Mohamed’s Plea Bargain: Trading Torture For Freedom (March 2009).

And for a sequence of articles dealing with the Obama administration’s response to the Military Commissions, see: Don’t Forget Guantánamo (February 2009), Who’s Running Guantánamo? (February 2009), The Talking Dog interviews Darrel Vandeveld, former Guantánamo prosecutor (February 2009), Obama’s First 100 Days: A Start On Guantánamo, But Not Enough (May 2009), Obama Returns To Bush Era On Guantánamo (May 2009), New Chief Prosecutor Appointed For Military Commissions At Guantánamo (May 2009), Pain At Guantánamo And Paralysis In Government (May 2009), My Message To Obama: Great Speech, But No Military Commissions and No “Preventive Detention” (May 2009), Guantánamo And The Many Failures Of US Politicians (May 2009), A Child At Guantánamo: The Unending Torment of Mohamed Jawad (June 2009), A Broken Circus: Guantánamo Trials Convene For One Day Of Chaos (June 2009), Obama Proposes Swift Execution of Alleged 9/11 Conspirators (June 2009), Obama’s Confusion Over Guantánamo Terror Trials (June 2009).

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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