Archive for May, 2011

During State Visit by Barack Obama, Amnesty International Asks David Cameron to Call for Return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer

In a news release on Friday, Amnesty International announced that its UK Director Kate Allen had written to Prime Minister David Cameron “calling on him to raise the case of the Guantánamo detainee Shaker Aamer when he meets US President Barack Obama” during the US leader’s visit to the UK on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

The last British resident in Guantánamo, with a British wife and four British children who live in Battersea, Shaker Aamer has been held without charge or trial in America’s notorious “War on Terror” prison for over nine years, despite being told that he had been approved for transfer in 2007.

In WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo throughout its long history (171 of whom remain), the reasons for Shaker Aamer’s continued detention were revealed as the paranoid sham that they have always been. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Suicide Was Severely Mentally Ill, And Was A Case of Mistaken Identity

There is cruelty. There is stupidity. And far too often, when it comes to the activities of the US government in the “War on Terror,” there is both.

In my previous article, The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin, I wrote about the death at Guantánamo — reportedly as a result of committing suicide — of an Afghan prisoner identified by the US military as Inayatullah, who was the penultimate prisoner to be brought to the prison in Cuba, arriving in September 2007.

Noting that the US military had recycled information from a press release issued when he arrived at Guantánamo, describing him as “an admitted planner for Al-Qaeda terrorist operations,” but dropping a claim that he had “admitted that he was the Al-Qaeda Emir of Zahedan, Iran,” I suggested that he had never, in fact, been appraised adequately since his arrival, as no tribunal had been held to assess him as an “enemy combatant,” and noted, moreover, that his file was one of 14 missing from the classified military assessments of 765 prisoners, which were recently released by WikiLeaks.

In addition, I lamented that it was “unlikely that the evident truth about Obama’s Guantánamo — that the only way out is by dying — will shift public option either at home or abroad,” and also noted that, “whatever Inayatullah’s alleged crimes, it was inappropriate that, because of President Obama’s embrace of his predecessor’s detention policies, he died neither as a convicted criminal serving a prison sentence for activities related to terrorism, nor as a prisoner of war protected by the Geneva Conventions.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Only Way Out of Guantánamo Is In a Coffin

Despite sweeping into office promising to close Guantánamo, President Obama now oversees a prison that may well stay open forever, from which the only exit route is in a coffin.

The last living prisoner to be released from Guantánamo was Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who was repatriated against his will in January. Since then, an Afghan prisoner, Awal Gul, died in February after taking exercise, and on Wednesday the US military announced that another Afghan prisoner, Inayatullah, who was 37 years old, “died of an apparent suicide,” early on the morning of May 18.

A US Southern Command news release explained, “While conducting routine checks, the guards found the detainee unresponsive and not breathing. The guards immediately initiated CPR [cardiopulmonary resuscitation] and also summoned medical personnel to the scene. After extensive lifesaving measures had been exhausted, the detainee was pronounced dead by a physician.”

Later, a Guantánamo spokesperson, Army Lt. Col. Tanya Bradsher, said that Inayatullah was discovered “hanging from his neck by what appear[ed] to be bed linen” in one of the prison’s recreation yards — a scenario that surely raises the question of how, in a prison where the detainees are closely monitored all the time, he was allowed to spend enough time unmonitored in a recreation yard to be able to kill himself. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part Two of Five)

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 2 of the 70-part series.

As I explained last week in the first part of this five-part series, one of the great publicity coups in WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo was to shine a light on the stories of the first 201 prisoners to be freed from the prison between its opening, in January 2002, and September 2004, when 35 prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan, and 11 were repatriated to Afghanistan.

As I also explained, a handful of these 46 prisoners were cleared for release as a result of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, a one-sided process, which ran from August 2004 to March 2005 and was designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ prior designation as “enemy combatants,” who could continue to be held indefinitely. Information about the 558 prisoners who passed through the CSRT process (PDF) was first made publicly available in 2006, but no records have ever been publicly released by the US government which provide any information whatsoever about the 201 released, or approved for release before the CSRTs began, except for a prisoner list released in May 2006 (PDF), which contains the names, nationalities, and, where known, dates of birth and places of birth for 759 prisoners (all but the 20 who arrived at Guantánamo between September 2006 and March 2008).

In the years since the documents relating to the CSRTs were released (and information relating to their annual follow-ups, the Administrative Review Boards, or ARBs), I attempted to track down the stories of these 201 men, and managed, largely through successful research that led to relevant media reports, interviews and reports compiled by NGOs, to discover information about 114 of these prisoners, but nothing at all was known about 87 others (except for their names, and, in some cases, their date of birth and place of birth). With the release of the WikiLeaks files, all but three of these 87 stories have emerged for the very first time, and in this series of articles, I will run through these stories.The first 17 stories were in Part One, and the second 17 are below. Also see Part Three, Part Four and Part Five. Read the rest of this entry »

Act Now to Save the NHS, as Government Advisor Claims Reforms Will Show “No Mercy” and Allow “Big Opportunity” for Profiteering

So David Cameron was out schmoozing on Monday, telling nurses in Ealing that he loves the NHS, but that reform is needed to save it, and claiming that he doesn’t know who Mark Britnell is.

A former director of commissioning for the NHS, who is now head of health at the accountancy giant KPMG, Britnell’s unguarded comments to a conference in New York last October, first revealed on the Internet (see these articles on Spinwatch and Political Scrapbook), and then exposed on the front page of the Observer on Sunday, have blown a hole in claims by Cameron and his health minister Andrew Lansley that their NHS reforms are not privatisation by stealth.

At the conference, as the Observer explained, Britnell said, “GPs will have to aggregate purchasing power and there will be a big opportunity for those companies that can facilitate this process … In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider, not a state deliverer.” He added, “The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.” Read the rest of this entry »

“High-Value Detainee” Abu Zubaydah Blinded By the Bush Administration

The story of Abu Zubaydah has fascinated me for many years — since I was writing my book The Guantánamo Files, specifically, and, in my journalism, since I first wrote extensively about him in my April 2008 article, The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts. Since then, I have returned to his story repeatedly, in articles including Abu Zubaydah: The Futility Of Torture and A Trail of Broken Lives and Who Authorized The Torture of Abu Zubaydah? (in 2009) and Abu Zubaydah: Tortured for Nothing, The Torture of Abu Zubaydah: The Complaint Filed Against James Mitchell for Ethical Violations, In Abu Zubaydah’s Case, Court Relies on Propaganda and Lies and New Evidence About Prisoners Held in Secret CIA Prisons in Poland and Romania (in 2010), and Algerian in Guantánamo Loses Habeas Petition for Being in a Guest House with Abu Zubaydah and Former CIA “Ghost Prisoner” Abu Zubaydah Recognized as “Victim” in Polish Probe of Secret Prison (this year).

As the supposed “high-value detainee” for whom the CIA’s torture program was specifically developed, and who, after John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee wrote and approved the notorious torture memos of August 1, 2002, was waterboarded 83 times, Zubaydah is pivotal to any assessment of the CIA’s torture program, and what makes his story particularly poignant — while reflecting awfully on the Bush administration’s supposed intelligence — is the fact that it should have been clear from the very beginning to the CIA, and to senior Bush administration officials, up to and including the President, that Zubaydah was not , as touted, the number three in al-Qaeda, but was instead the mentally damaged gatekeeper of a military training camp — Khaldan — that was only tangentially associated with al-Qaeda, and was, in fact, closed down by the Taliban, after its emir, another notorious “ghost prisoner” named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, refused to bring it under the command of Osama bin Laden.

In the wake of WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the Guantánamo prisoners (the Detainee Assessment Briefs, or DABs), my friend and colleague Jason Leopold had an excellent story out yesterday on Truthout, which, in essence, analysed why, in the photo of Abu Zubaydah available in the documents, he is wearing an eye patch, when, in the few photos available from before his capture, he clearly had both his eyes. Read the rest of this entry »

Five New UK Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” with WikiLeaks Partner Andy Worthington — in London, Cardiff, Shropshire and York

“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

“Every American needs to watch this film. Or at least every mouthpiece in the corporate media. They should broadcast this instead of the WWII Holocaust documentaries, which play on rotation on the cable networks.”
Alexa O’Brien, journalist, WL Central

As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout. Buy the DVD here (£10 + £2 postage in the UK, and worldwide) or here if in the US ($10 post free). Read the rest of this entry »

On Antiwar Radio, Andy Worthington Discusses Pro-Torture Propaganda in the Wake of Osama bin Laden’s Death

A few days ago, I spoke, for the 27th time, to the irrepressible Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, in response to the ongoing — and false — narrative propagated in the US by torture apologists including Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, which has arisen, like a malignant phoenix, in response to the death of Osama bin Laden. The 22-minute show is available here.

In this false narrative, in which an assassination that should mark an end to the “War on Terror” is being manipulated by dark forces to suggest the start of a new phase in the “war,” Guantánamo and secret prisons — and, by inference at least, torture — are undergoing what is intended to be a rehabilitation process, proving Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and their lawyers correct, when, in fact, they are all responsible for breaking the US torture statute.

The spur for this has been a deliberately mangled narrative, involving information that led to bin Laden’s capture, as I explained in my article, Osama bin Laden’s Death, and the Unjustifiable Defense of Torture and Guantánamo (and also see, New York Times Attempts to Stifle Torture Debate It Helped Spark in the Wake of Osama bin Laden’s Death). In addition, some supporters of Guantánamo and torture — in Congress, sadly — hope to keep Guantánamo open to hold terror suspects captured in future, and also want to expand the “War on Terror,” as I explained in my article, No End to the “War on Terror,” No End to Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo (Part One of Five)

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Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington begins a 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by Wikileaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 1 of the 70-part series. It was updated on September 21, 2011.

In WikiLeaks’ recent release of classified military documents relating to the majority of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo, one of the great publicity coups was shining a light on the stories of the first 201 prisoners to be freed from the prison, between May 2002, when a severely schizophrenic Afghan prisoner, Abdul Razak, was returned to his home country, and September 2004, when 35 prisoners were repatriated to Pakistan, and 11 were repatriated to Afghanistan.

A handful of these 46 prisoners were cleared for release as a result of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, which began on August 13, 2004 and concluded on March 29, 2005. These, as Lt. Col. Stephen Abraham, a veteran of US intelligence who worked on the tribunals has explained, were essentially part of a one-sided process designed to create the illusion that the prisoners’ cases were being objectively examined to determine whether, on capture, they had been correctly designated as “enemy combatants,” who could continue to be held indefinitely.

558 prisoners passed through the CSRT process, and records released by the Pentagon in 2006, as the result of a successful lawsuit filed by media groups, provided details of all these men’s cases — the government’s supposed evidence against them, and transcripts of the CSRTs (and their annual follow-ups, the Administrative Review Boards), or, at least, transcripts of the tribunals and review boards in which the prisoners had deigned to take part, after many boycotted them, correctly perceiving that they were essentially a sham. Read the rest of this entry »

No End to the “War on Terror,” No End to Guantánamo

With the death of Osama bin Laden, there is a perfect opportunity for the Obama administration to bring to an end the decade-long “War on Terror” by withdrawing from Afghanistan and closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

The justification for both the invasion of Afghanistan (in October 2001) and the detention of prisoners in Guantánamo (which opened in January 2002) is the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed by Congress on September 14, 2001, just three days after the 9/11 attacks.

Under the AUMF, the President is “authorized 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.”

In 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, the Supreme Court confirmed that the AUMF also authorizes the detention of those held as a result of the President’s activities, although, as law professor Curtis Bradley explained last week on the Lawfare blog, “Justice O’Connor’s plurality opinion in Hamdi made clear that the Court was deciding only the authority to detain in connection with traditional combat operations in the Afghanistan theater.” Bradley also noted, “As for the proper length of detention, O’Connor largely avoided the question, although she did refer to the traditional ability under the international laws of war to detain individuals until the ‘cessation of active hostilities.'” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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