In the dying days of the decade, I was delighted to talk once more to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio about the latest news regarding Guantánamo. The show — my 12th appearance with Scott — is available here, and in it Scott and I focused initially on the ABC News story linking the failed Christmas plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab with two prisoners released from Guantánamo, which has been taken up by right-wingers to argue that no more Yemenis should be released from Guantánamo, and also, of course, to bolster their ongoing attempts to prevent the closure of the prison.
I made a point, as I have on several occasions recently, that the men in question were Saudis, rather than Yemenis, which rather tended to undermine the purported connections being drawn (especially in light of the stories of the six wrongly imprisoned Yemenis who were released two weeks ago), and after our interview was recorded (but before it was aired), ABC News belatedly apologized for claiming that two ex-Guantánamo prisoners from Saudi Arabia were involved with al-Qaeda in Yemen, noting that one of the two men identified in the initial report had actually turned himself in to the Yemeni authorities in February 2009, and therefore could have had nothing to do with the plot. The retraction was welcome, of course, but it came far too late, after the damage had been done and the right-wing media and unprincipled lawmakers had taken the initial story and run with it in the most outrageous manner.
I also had an opportunity to talk about the Obama administration’s misplaced machismo when it comes to making pronouncements about dozens of prisoners who, as the President explained in a major national security speech in May, “cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.”
As I never tire of repeating, these claims are actually an insult to the US judiciary, and, in particular, to the District Court judges who have been ruling on the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions for the last 15 months, making the only genuinely objective review of whether the evidence is “tainted,” and whether it demonstrates that the prisoners “pose a threat to the security of the United States.”
In 32 out of 41 cases, the judges not only ruled that the government failed to provide credible evidence to justify its claims that the men “pose a threat to the security of the United States,” but also pointed out specifically that the so-called evidence was “tainted” not only because of the torture that the President was euphemistically referring to in his national security speech, which surfaced to the most alarming degree in September, in the story of Fouad al-Rabiah, but also because so much of it consists of false allegations made by a small number of prisoners who, whether through the use of torture, coercion or bribery, have lied about an disturbingly large number of their fellow prisoners.
There’s more in the half-hour show that I haven’t mentioned above, but you’ll have to listen to the interview to catch it all. It was great to catch up with Scott again, and I look forward to our next meeting.
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 I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
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