Andy Worthington discusses Guantánamo on the BBC and al-Jazeera

14.6.09

On Friday, al-Jazeera English’s “Listening Post” ran a feature on the New York Times’ now-notorious May 21 cover story, “1 In 7 Detainees Rejoined Jihad, Pentagon Finds,” which quoted uncritically from a Pentagon report alleging that 74 ex-prisoners had “returned to the battlefield.” I discussed the many problems with this story in a recent article, “New York Times finally apologizes for false Guantánamo recidivism story,” and was featured in the program, with other interviewees including Mark Denbeaux of the Seton Hall Law School in New Jersey, whose team of lawyers and students have done more than anyone else in debunking the Pentagon’s many reports about Guantánamo, proving, time and again, that they are nothing more than propaganda masquerading as evidence. The School’s latest report, “Revisionist Recidivism: An Analysis of the Government’s Representations of Alleged ‘Recidivism’ of the Guantánamo Detainees,” is available here as a PDF.

On June 6, after issuing an Editor’s Note regarding the original story, Clark Hoyt, the Times’ Public Editor, wrote an op-ed, entitled, “What Happened to Skepticism?” in which he conceded that the article was “seriously flawed and greatly overplayed,” and added, “It demonstrated again the dangers when editors run with exclusive leaked material in politically charged circumstances and fail to push back skeptically.” He also made a point of stating, “The lapse is especially unfortunate at the Times, given its history in covering the run-up to the Iraq war,” which is a gratifyingly frank admission of the Times’ failures during that critical period.

On Saturday, I took part in a discussion about the future of Guantánamo on the BBC World Service’s “Newshour,” with guests including Pierre-Richard Prosper, the Bush administration’s ambassador-at-large for war crimes, and Moazzam Begg, former Guantánamo prisoner and spokesman for the human rights group Cageprisoners. This wide-ranging discussion of some of the many issues surrounding the closure of Guantánamo is available on the BBC iPlayer. The discussion starts 26 minutes in, lasts for around 25 minutes, but is only available online until June 20.

This was not my only recent radio appearance. On May 5, I was interviewed by the ever indignant Scott Horton for Antiwar Radio (for the eighth time — the MP3 is here), which was a pleasure, as ever, although the sound quality is rather poor at my end (otherwise I would have mentioned it earlier), and on June 6 I was interviewed by Kevin Barrett for Truth Jihad Radio on American Freedom Radio. My interview followed Kevin’s discussion of torture with Brad Friedman of the excellent Brad Blog, and can be found on the Truth Jihad Radio Archives (under 06/06/2009), starting about one hour and nine minutes in, and lasting for 50 minutes.

Kevin and I started off by discussing the mysterious death last month, in a Libyan prison, of the CIA “ghost prisoner” Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and moved on to a wider discussion of secret prisons and other “ghost prisoners,” and the West’s extremely dubious relationship with Libya since the 9/11 attacks. Kevin also asked me to explain the proportion of prisoners held in Guantánamo who were involved in terrorism, allowing me to recap the extraordinary story of arrogance and ineptitude that led the capture of only a few dozen genuine terror suspects, as opposed to the 700-plus innocent men or low-level Taliban foot soldiers who were also seized. In the second half of the show we had a lively discussion about the basis of the 9/11 attacks, and then moved on to talk about Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo, and the problems — some of his own making; others not — that are complicating the fulfillment of this promise, as I have discussed in numerous articles over the last few months.

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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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