Archive for October, 2011

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Ten of Ten)

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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 30 of the 70-part series. 374 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.

The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to “exploit” the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence.”

My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. This was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources. This was followed by another five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005,” dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As Possible Eviction Looms, the Canon and Chaplain of St. Paul’s Resign, and Protestors Challenge the City’s Unaccountability

Two weeks ago, the “Occupy London” protestors first set up camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral, and it was apparent from the very beginning, as I noted the time, that the authorities were determined not to allow the movement to establish itself freely in the City of London.

First, Paternoster Square — the entry point to the London Stock Exchange, the original focus of the protestors’ indignation — was declared off-limits, and remains so to this day, as though it is some sort of forbidden territory in a war, and then the area around St. Paul’s, where hundreds of protestors gathered instead, was “contained” by the police — or, essentially, “kettled,” and the protestors bullied and physically intimidated — until Giles Fraser, the Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s, intervened, explaining, “People have a right to protest and I’m very happy that people have that right to protest. People have generally been respectful and I have asked the police to leave.”

With the support of Giles Fraser, the camp established itself, with a kitchen, information point, a media tent, a legal tent and a “tent university,” and with daily meetings to decide on the camp’s objectives, and sub-groups to discuss other issues in detail. I was busy during the week, but I went down last Sunday with my family, and was impressed at how it had developed into a base for an organised, but non-hierarchical response to the grave crisis we all face, as a result of 30 years of largely unregulated greed and opportunism by those involved in international finance. The “Occupy” protestors have confused those who are only able to comprehend a traditional party political model of organising dissent and challenges to the existing power structures (which also involve hierarchies and “charismatic” leaders), as they are primarily asking questions and seeking answers to them rather then being manifesto-driven, although a statement of intent was issued on October 16. Read the rest of this entry »

Sign the Petition to the British Government: Prevent Babar Ahmad’s Extradition to the US, Put Him on Trial in the UK

Please sign the petition! 100,000 signatures needed (current total: 52,000). Today has been designated National Babar Ahmad Day by his supporters. UPDATE November 2: Congratulations, everyone! 100,863 signatures! Well done to all those involved in this extraordinary campaign!

On August 11, the family of Babar Ahmad launched an e-petition, calling on the UK government to put him on trial in the UK, and bring to an end his seven years of imprisonment without charge or trial in the UK, pending extradition to the US under the controversial Extradition Act of 2003, whereby the US government can demand the extradition of British citizens to face trials in the US without having to provide any evidence that there is a case to answer.

100,000 signatures are needed by November 10, to trigger an official request that Babar Ahmad be tried in the UK. As the petition explains: “In June 2011, the Houses of Parliament, Joint Committee on Human Rights urged the UK government to change the law so that Babar Ahmad’s perpetual threat of extradition is ended without further delay. Since all of the allegations against Babar Ahmad are said to have taken place in the UK, we call upon the British Government to put him on trial in the UK and support British Justice for British Citizens.” Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Andy Worthington, Investigative Journalist and Author of “The Guantánamo Files,” for The Sunday Indian

Recently, I was asked, by Saurabh Kumar Shahi of the Sunday Indian newspaper, to take part in an interview for the paper’s monthly “Media Watch” supplement, and I was happy to do so. The interview is available here, and I’m cross-posting it below, as Saurabh asked some great questions, giving me an opportunity to run through Guantánamo’s history, and to explain why it was, and remains a disgraceful aberration, and also to explain why, under President Obama, it remains open, despite his promise to close it.

The Sunday Indian: How did it all begin: your journey as a journalist and historian?

Andy Worthington: I was always interested in history, and in writing. I studied English Language and Literature at New College, Oxford, in the 1980s, but my journey really began when I published two books on modern British social history, dealing with protest movements, dissent, state oppression and civil liberties in 2004 and 2005, After that, I felt able to move into the field of human rights.

The Sunday Indian: How did you get interested and involved in the Guantánamo detention camp? Read the rest of this entry »

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Nine of Ten)

Please support my work!

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 29 of the 70-part series. 359 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.

The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to “exploit” the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence.”

My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. This was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources. This was followed by another five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005,” dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Torture Expert Calls for an End to Solitary Confinement, Discusses Bradley Manning

On Tuesday, Professor Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, “called on all countries to ban the solitary confinement of prisoners except in very exceptional circumstances and for as short a time as possible, with an absolute prohibition in the case of juveniles and people with mental disabilities,” as a UN news release explained. Presenting his first interim report (PDF) on the practice to the UN General Assembly (which was published in August), Professor Méndez noted that the use of solitary confinement was “global in nature and subject to widespread abuse,” as the news release also explained.

An abhorrence of solitary confinement is central to my work — both for its inherent cruelty and because it is a form of torture — and I was delighted to read Professor Mendez’s comments, as I had the pleasure to meet him in January at an event on the future of Guantánamo and accountabiity for torture at the American University Washington College of Law, where he is a Visiting Professor of Law, when he delivered a powerful critique of the use of torture, and the need for the absolute ban on its use to be upheld.

Professor Mendez’s opinions are important, not just because he is a survivor of torture in Argentina, but because much of the solitary confinement in the world’s prisons is taking place in the United States, where he is currently based. Back in January, I thought how appropriate it was, given US history under the Bush administration, that the UN Rapporteur on Torture was based in America, and I remain convinced that it is appropriate, because, of course, lawyers in the Bush administration cynically and inappropriately attempted to redefine torture, and the use of torture was approved by senior officials, including President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld — and also, of course, because President Obama has failed to hold any of his predecessors accountable for their crimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Obama vs. Congress: The Struggle to Close Guantánamo, and to Prevent the Military Detention of Terror Suspects

It’s a sign of how skewed America is today that assassinating the world’s most wanted terrorist (Osama bin Laden), assassinating an American citizen working in Yemen as an anti-American propagandist (Anwar al-Awlaki), and being involved in a number of wars — covert or otherwise — that involve the targeted killings of alleged terrorists and insurgents through attacks by remote-controlled drones has not transformed Barack Obama into a hero for supporters of America’s brutal, decade-long “war on terrorism.”

Despite all this, to many Republicans in Congress — and even members of his own party — Obama is still not tough enough on national security issues. Time and again, lawmakers have acted to tie his hands, inserting provisions into a defense bill last December and an omnibus spending bill in April that prevented the administration from moving any prisoner from Guantánamo to the US mainland for any reason, even to face a trial, that prevented the purchase, construction or modification of any prison on the US mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners, and that also required the defense secretary to notify Congress before releasing a single prisoner from Guantánamo.

Not content with this, lawmakers are pushing for further restrictions on the President’s authority and the administration’s policies, and are pushing so far that, finally, senior officials have responded. The problems for the administration, as the Associated Press explained two weeks ago, are with two provisions in a defense bill passed by the House of Representatives in May, and another provision in a bill that emerged from the Senate Armed Services Committee in June. Read the rest of this entry »

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Eight of Ten)

Please support my work!

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 28 of the 70-part series. 348 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.

The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to “exploit” the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence.”

My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. This was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources. This was followed by another five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005,” dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released. Read the rest of this entry »

Rights Groups Call for the Arrest of George W. Bush for Torture as He Arrives in Canada

As former US President George W. Bush arrives in Canada today to address a regional economic summit, where attendees will pay $599 a head to hear him and former President Bill Clinton as featured speakers, human right groups opposed to Bush’s visit, having petitioned the government to intervene, but with no response, are initiating a private prosecution, by four Guantánamo prisoners, accusing Bush of torture. In addition, campaigners on the ground are planning a huge protest.

It is anticipated that those turning out to protest Bush’s visit will dwarf the hundreds of protestors who turned up to campaign against a visit by former US Vice President Dick Cheney in Vancouver last month, where the “Vice President for Torture” was addressing diners who had paid $500 a head for the privilege. As CTV News noted, however, “The numbers at the Bush rally could dwarf those at the Cheney event because many protesters from the Occupy Vancouver movement camped out at the Vancouver Art Gallery are planning to head to Surrey to take part.”

Amnesty International got the ball rolling last week, calling for Bush’s arrest for war crimes and torture. In a press release, Susan Lee, Americas Director at Amnesty International, explained, “Canada is required by its international obligations to arrest and prosecute former President Bush given his responsibility for crimes under international law including torture. As the US authorities have, so far, failed to bring former President Bush to justice, the international community must step in.  A failure by Canada to take action during his visit would violate the UN Convention against Torture and demonstrate contempt for fundamental human rights.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Dale Farm Eviction: Using Planning Laws to Justify Racism Towards Gypsies and Travellers

What a disgraceful day to be British.

In Basildon today, riot police have been leading the eviction of 86 Gypsy and traveller families from land they own at Dale Farm, but for which they do not have planning permission, hospitalising several residents, tasering others, and generally creating a situation that is reminiscent of the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher regularly used the police as her own private army. See here for more photos.

After a ten-year struggle between Basildon Council and the residents of Dale Farm, the last legal appeal was exhausted last week, when, in the High Court, Mr. Justice Ouseley ruled that the removal of the 86 families was necessary to avoid “the criminal law and the planning system being brought into serious disrepute.”

I don’t deny that the residents of Dale Farm who erected permanent structures on their land, without planning permission, have broken the law, but what seems to be generally ignored, in the haze of self-righteousness from settled people, is the blunt truth that Gypsies and travellers are rarely given planning permission for land they buy. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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