On Monday afternoon, after almost no sleep, because of the rush release on Sunday night of WikiLeaks’ Guantánamo files, and after a busy morning of feedback and planning, a trip to central London for an interview on the BBC World Service’s Newshour, a quick cup of coffee and a muffin in the blazing sunlight just off the Strand, and a cycle ride to Albert Embankment, diagonally opposite the Houses of Parliament, I fulfilled the first of my early morning promises (after a call received at 7.30 am London time), talking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, in a studio in a building overooking the Thames, about the significance of the WikiLeaks documents.
The broadcast is below, and I’ll refrain from discussing it in detail here, not just because I covered some of the themes I wrote about in my introductory article, but also because I want you to watch it! Amy, as ever, was rigorous and unflappable, and I was delighted to have 14 minutes to discuss the story in depth:
This, FYI, is how Amy described the show (and, for those interested, a transcript of the interview has now been made available on the Democracy Now! website):
The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing thousands of secret documents from the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay that reveal the Bush and Obama administrations knowingly imprisoned more than 150 innocent men for years without charge. In dozens of cases, senior U.S. commanders were said to have concluded that there was no reason for the men to have been transferred to Guantánamo. Among the innocent prisoners were an 89-year-old Afghan villager and a 14-year-old boy who had been kidnapped. Some men were imprisoned at Guantánamo simply because they wore a popular model of Casio watches, which had been used as timers by al-Qaeda. The documents also reveal that the journalist Sami al-Hajj was held at Guantánamo for six years partly in order to be interrogated about his employer, the Al Jazeera network. Al-Hajj’s file said he was sent to Guantánamo in order to “provide information on … the Al-Jazeera news network’s training programme, telecommunications equipment, and newsgathering operations in Chechnya, Kosovo and Afghanistan.” For more, we speak with journalist Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.
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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Arthur Rimbaud wrote:
Hank Williams wrote:
I heard it this morning. Great job.
Amir Khan wrote:
Thank you Andy, shared.
Sylvia P. Coley wrote:
Have something I want to discuss with you, but no time now. sylviapcoley
Ryan Hunt wrote:
Absolutely! Great job and, as always, thanks for doing the work you do.
Thanks, everybody. What a wonderful day. Nearly 6,000 visitors to my website (that’s a lot of new readers!), and over 1366 people have shared this interview so far on Facebook. I hope the interest lasts. America without Guantanamo would be a victory for decency, fairness and the rule of law. America with Guantanamo remains a place still gripped by fear and vengeance, nearly ten years after 9/11.
Another great job, Andy.
One comment: you say that the majority of the detainees were brought there and some reason to interrogate them was dreamed up afterwards, and that the torture was implemented because they falsely believed these were terrorists who were aware of U.S. interrogation techniques.
However, I’d note that the kinds of torture and harsh detention treatment was meant to break people down precisely to “exploit” them, and not least to get false confessions from them. They needed to justify the war in Iraq, and later justify their own propaganda that there was a giant jihad army out there, ready to rip their own veins out to attack America.
Inside the deeper bowels of the IC and Pentagon, there is also a clique that seeks to rule by power alone, and will use any means to create the public illusion of danger and stir up mass fear. The “creation”, for that is what these docs show, of a large group of supposed “worst of the worst” was meant not least of all for U.S. consumption, to whip up the war drive at home, and the accompanying attacks on civil liberties.
Very good points, Jeff, which strike at the heart of what Guantanamo and the “War on Terror” was about, and the multiple layers at which this illegal detention and interrogation regime operated.
I believe that the rationale I expressed above was part of the story — no screening, because the Geneva Conventions were inconvenient, transportation to Guantanamo, where stories had to be extracted from prisoners whose identities were largely unknown, where “actionable intelligence” — on anything to do with terrorism, militancy and the workings of foreign governments (and, perhaps, almost anything else that surfaced) — was the intention, and those ordered to extract this and to analyze it were encouraged to believe that they were creating the most compelling “mosaic” ever of information about terrorist groups worldwide and anyone else who might threaten US interests.
And it’s in this context, I also believe, that torture was implemented by Rumsfeld (almost, it seems, so as not to be left out by the CIA) when those detained failed to provide “actionable intelligence”; hence, the horrendous witchhunt, in which innocent men, seized by a careless and arrogant superpower, were tortured to provide information they never possessed, and whose ignorance should have been easily established.
Beyond this, however — and I believe that this was driven by Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the lawyers and implemented down the chain of command — I have no doubt that others, perhaps from deep in the bowels of Langley, were pursuing the long-running program of psychological experimentation that you’ve identified so carefully in your work, whose more sinister purpose — to test the limits of human beings’ endurance under physical and/or mental torture, and through the use of drugs, was largely hidden.
I also think that, from as early as December 2001, the purpose shifted from protecting America from a second large terrorist attack to finding out information to justify the planned invasion of Iraq, although what is not known is whether those driving this (Cheney in particular, I think) was deliberately after false information, or simply didn’t care — or even refused to believe it — when it was revealed as a lie, as in the notorious case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, tortured in Egypt.
One thing I’ve never resolved is whether any of the most senior officials knew about the specific contours of the program of psychological experimentation through torture, or whether that was really only the preserve of a few.
Back on Facebook, Aileen Sander wrote:
Danny Mann wrote:
Be sure to revisit the Seton Hall reports now that the new information is out.
Yes, sure, Danny. They’re here:
Willy Bach wrote:
I also shared the video of the Amy Goodman interview http://www.democracynow.org/2011/4/25/wikileaks_documents_reveal_us_knowingly_imprisoned
Abu Jafar Mujahid wrote:
Andy that was awesome; thank you.
Willy Bach wrote:
I hope that when all these people write to their reps and Commander in Chief Obama and tell them they will never vote for them again and will actively campaign against them, the message might get through with enough force.
Ann Alexander wrote:
A birthday to remember, Andy.
Kaolin Kay wrote:
Mui J. Steph wrote:
Amazing. Thank you, Andy. And I like the introduction. Regarding your note of caution: That’s justified. I just scanned one of the Uighur’s files. They charge him with being affiliated with ETIM. But from what I can gather, the only validation for the existance of a terrorist group called ETIM comes from the Mainland Chinese government. And it’s pretty f*cking sad when Mainland props are considered valid by US intelligence. Scholars whose specialty is contemporary W. China say they never heard of ETIM.
HEidi PEterson wrote:
Congratulations good job on getting more publicity and exposing this news. Love Heidi in your fight for human rights!
Carl Clark wrote:
Thank you Andy for adding some clarity to this troubling issue. Great work and keep it up!
Dhyanne Green wrote:
Andy – you are the epitome of ‘unbiased, clear writing – speaking professional journalism. I, no doubt, along with thousands of others have learned so much from your posts and look forward to them. The time it must take you to research, interview, write, re-write is a gift that is much appreciated. Peace – Love – Blessings
Nancy Vining Van Ness wrote:
thank you for this response. Since you know so much about the prisoners, I especially appreciate your response.
Thank you as ever, my friends, for your ongoing support, and I’m particularly grateful this time around to Abu Jafar and Dhyanne!
Ann, was it your birthday? If so, then very many happy returns from me and the family!
And Mui, great work on analyzing the horsesh*t that passed for intel in the case of the Uighurs. You may like the following, which goes into depth about the maneuvering that involved the US obligingly designating a non-existent organization as a terrorist group to curry favor with the Chinese govt:
[...] been up all night and had spent days reading the Wikileaks cables is interviewed by Amy Goodman. Here is a link to Andy’s blog post about it where you can also see the Goodman [...]
I believe this interview was of great significance in the fight for justice and all that justice encompasses. It seemed to go very well. I can only presume this will be seen by many and have some positive effect. Open Democracy now have a Democracy Now section on their web site; includes the the TV News Show and articles, comments and so on. The is a very good web site, highly regarded by many. The facts are slowly coming to light, for those who wish to know them; though there are many who do not wish to know.
Thank you, Peace Activist. Glad to hear that Open Democracy now has a Democracy Now! section. I had missed that.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
Andy, excellent interview. You are truly a brilliant writer, journalist and researcher. Huge gratitude to you for the extensive coverage of the lives and rights of the Guantanamo detainees. It’s so essential to be informed, to educate the public. It is the public, not the politicians, who should become the instigators of change. Carry on, I will always support you.
Thank you very much, Dejanka. Your support is greatly appreciated.
Excellent stuff as ever.
I actually wondered if I might ask a question that has been bothering me slightly. It may well be rhetorical, depending on whether or not you reply I suppose!
It is about the case of Shaker Aamer. Looking at his file it seems that there is significant belief that he is somewhat dangerous and the reports themselves are apparently candid accounts of US intelligence.
Though I am a strong advocate of unconditional human rights, it somewhat bothers me (maybe wrongly) that I personally have campaigned on his behalf as part of a wider Amnesty national campaign. Given that your work and film focus not only on Guantanamo generally, but also on individual stories, I wonder whether any of the revelations have made you feel differently about any of the prisoners? Campaigns based on individuals often at least hint at innocence, and news such as this has left me feeling somewhat naive!
The problem with these files in general is that what looks like reliable evidence may well be no such thing, because those providing the supposed “intelligence” are not to be trusted, and I don’t see Shaker Aamer’s case as being different from the files of many other prisoners. All those witnesses — ISNs 10016, 252, 493, 535, in particular — are deeply untrustworthy, and without them I don’t see much of a case for anything.
Back on Facebook, Carolyn Pascoe wrote:
Good job Andy Watched the interview with Amy. My favorite was when you made the point about no screening in 2002 round up everyone then make up reasons for holding the prisoners indefinately. Obama needs to put end to this black hole in cuba, shine a light on true justice for all in Quantanamo even the torture that happen must be told and retold so it wouldn’t happen again and for heaven sakes stop the torture that’s going right now. Democracy be damned
Mike Hersh wrote:
Rob Weaver wrote:
Amy Goodman plays right into the banker’s covert overthrow of all these nations, just like she knows the truth of 9/11 and will not say it. The only thing she reports on truthfully is Israeli war crimes. Controlled left, very infuriating sometimes
Susan Hall wrote:
Thank you & moving to share.
Sue Kinder wrote:
Did I miss you on the World Service? Keep up the good work, Andy!
Thanks, friends, for your continued interest and support.
Sue, yes, I did a short interview on Newshour, and then was on World Have Your Say for the whole hour at 7 pm, but I can’t figure out where any of it might be on the BBC site! Great to hear from you! Hope all is well with you.
Thanks, Connie. Great to hear from you, and thanks for the support, and for spreading the word.
“One thing I’ve never resolved is whether any of the most senior officials knew about the specific contours of the program of psychological experimentation through torture, or whether that was really only the preserve of a few.”
Cheney certainly knew this. See this old Daily Kos diary of mine from five years ago:
Janet Legg wrote:
Just heard your interview on Press tv…well done Andy.
Free-Talha Ahsan wrote:
Need to get Talha’s cause more widely known too: http://www.freetalha.org – please show solidarity
You are brilliant, Jeff. You know that, don’t you …?
Chris Usher wrote:
tg for the guardian. reading this on my behalf, seems like 2 prisoners were tortured (waterboarded if you think that isn’t torture) and they told the interrogators that some other guys were al quaida, some of those people including shaker aamer are still in guantanamo, some have been released and living normally in receiving countries, some have been proven not to be who “informers” said they were. bout time they were all released and sent to safe countries.
Yes, Chris. I couldn’t agree more. Close the abomination that is Guantanamo now!
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