Archive for October, 2011

On Antiwar Radio, Andy Worthington Discusses the Omar Khadr Film, “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo”

A few days ago, I was delighted to speak to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, in what was our 29th interview (available here) since he first sought me out over four years ago, but our first interview since June this year. Scott particularly wanted to discuss “You Don’t Like the Truth: 4 Days Inside Guantánamo,” the harrowing documentary about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner, which is based on footage of his interrogations by Canadian intelligence agents in the summer of 2003, when he was just 16 years old.

I attended a Q&A session after a London screening of this film back in June, and also took part in a discussion about it on Press TV (available in two parts here and here), so I was pleased to be able to revisit it, especially as the story of Omar Khadr is so central to the injustices of Guantanamo, and also because, barring any last-minute horrors on the part of the Obama administration, he is due to be released from Guantanamo to Canada on October 31.

Khadr was only 15 when he was seized in July 2002, after a firefight in which he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a US soldier — although serious doubts have been expressed about whether he actually threw the grenade, as he was apparently unconscious, face down, and half-buried under rubble at the time, and his lawyers claimed that the initial reports of the firefight were amended afterwards to incriminate him. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: Please Sign the 38 Degrees Petition to Scrap the Tory-Led Government’s Privatisation Bill

I wouldn’t be alive without the NHS, and nor would my wife, and nor would my son, so it’s a cause that’s very, very dear to my heart. Less selfishly, it’s also dear to my heart because it’s paid for by general taxation, and is free to anyone at the point of entry, and at the point of exit, and is therefore a service for everyone, regardless of their income. However, while I recognise that certain types of cost-cutting reforms may be required, I cannot trust the Tory-led government to do so responsibly. Despite David Cameron promising to protect the NHS from “top-down reorganisation,” and promising to protect frontline services from the coalition government’s swingeing nationwide programme of cuts, he and the Tories have lied.

Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Bill proposes exactly the sort of “top-down organisation” that David Cameron said wouldn’t happen on his watch, and is a monstrosity, as almost everyone involved in the health service recognises (see  here, here, here and here for examples).

However, despite colossal opposition, the government has refused to scrap it, and is now trying to push it through the House of Lords. See here for information about the proposed privatisation that the government doesn’t want to you to see, and see here for information about Lansley’s ties to private companies eager to make money out of the NHS. And for information about how the government’s cuts are already undermining frontline services, see this report in yesterday’s Guardian.

I have covered this saga since it began, and will continue to do so, but for now I’d like merely to ask you, if you haven’t yet signed the 38 Degrees petition to save the NHS from the Tories’ juggernaut of privatisation, to PLEASE do so now, and then to forward it to everyone you know. You can share it via Facebook here, and via Twitter here. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy London: As the Canon of St. Paul’s Welcomes the Protestors, They Issue a Statement of Intent

On Saturday, as protestors in 951 cities in 82 countries took to the streets and public spaces to protest about the gross inequalities of modern life (with 1 percent of the population having a wildly disproportionate amount of money, power and influence), the thousands who gathered to “Occupy London,” hoping to establish a camp in Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, unfortunately found their day dominated by a heavy-handed police presence, as I reported in an article entitled, Occupy London: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

First of all, Paternoster Square was blocked, then the first few hundred protestors were “contained” in front of St. Paul’s, and then, as night fell, the police made a few violent efforts to clear the area, before giving up and allowing a limited overnight camp to proceed.

The end result was as the authorities hoped. An occupation that would have numbered in the thousands, and would then have attracted many, many more thousands of people, if it had been allowed to proceed unmolested, was indeed “contained,” with just 250 people camping the first night, and a clear message sent out to potential protestors, letting them know that the police don’t have any problems with violence if the “Occupy” movement shows any signs of becoming a significant irritant. Read the rest of this entry »

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2006 (Part Seven 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 27 of the 70-part series. 337 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: Are We Free to Protest, or Is This a Police State?

October 15, as I discussed in an earlier article, was a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, which has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street.”

In London, the plan was to occupy Paternoster Square, next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the London Stock Exchange is situated, but from the moment I approached St. Paul’s yesterday afternoon (at about 2.30 pm, cycling from London Bridge), it was clear that a clampdown was in place — with police vans everywhere, and lines of police blocking all the entrances to Paternoster Square, where notices had been posted, stating, “Paternoster Square is private land. Any licence to the public to enter or cross this land is revoked forthwith. There is no implied or express permission to enter the premises or any part. Any such entry will constitute a trespass.”

When I finally found the crowd — in front of St. Paul’s and spilling onto Ludgate Hill — I was delighted to see that thousands of people had turned up, but bitterly disappointed that the police had sealed off those closest to St. Paul’s from everyone who arrived afterwards, and had shifted the focus of the event from the protestors to the police, and fears and doubts about what they would do. Read the rest of this entry »

Occupy Wall Street, Occupy London, Occupy the World: Get Out on the Streets Today, and Don’t Go Home

Today, October 15, is a global day of action, with events taking place in 951 cities in 82 countries, according to 15october.net, where, under the heading, “united for #globalchange,” campaigners worldwide have been planning events over the last few months, with the intention of starting a global movement to change the world.

Inspired by the revolutionary movements in Tunisia and Egypt, and the mass mobilization of citizens in Greece, and the indignados in Spain, this movement has taken off in America in recent months through “Occupy Wall Street,” a manifestation of the movement in New York which, growing from a seed planted by Adbusters, began a month ago, was initially ignored by the mainstream media, but then became too big to ignore, spawning similar movements across the US (see the “Occupy Together” website), and both inspiring movements in other countries and tying in with already existing movements around the world, all of which have sprung up in the wake of the revolutionary movements in the Middle East.

While this global movement is confusing to the establishment because it lacks clearly defined leaders and manifestos written in stone, its aims are readily comprehensible, as is obvious from its statements. Those protesting recognize, as the British campaigning group UK Uncut states succinctly on its website, that banks, corporations and the super-rich are bleeding the rest of us dry, and that tax evasion and state subsidies to banks are equivalent to the cuts imposed on the rest of us in this new global age of cuts and austerity. Read the rest of this entry »

A Call to Close Guantánamo on the 10th Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan

As the war in Afghanistan begins its second decade, the reasons for it to be brought to an end are compelling — the ruinous financial cost ($460 billion and counting), the ruinous human cost (over 1,400 US military deaths, and tens of thousands of Afghan civilians killed), and the utter pointlessness of the occupation itself. Having driven out al-Qaeda and the Taliban within a few months of the invasion, the US military, has, for most of the last ten years, been bogged down fighting a regrouped Taliban and an array of other Afghan “insurgents,” fighting to free their country from foreign occupation.

A fourth reason, less generally noticed, is that the Afghan war led to the creation of Guantánamo, a prison touted by the Bush administration as a facility for holding “the worst of the worst,” but in reality a brutal and failed experiment, which never held more than a small number of genuine terror suspects, but, which, nonetheless, has proved resistant to calls for its closure.

Around three-quarters of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo were seized as a result of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, either in Afghanistan itself, or after crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan after the US-led invasion, where the authorities (up to and including President Pervez Musharraf) were particularly interested in the bounty payments offered by the US military for al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects. As President Musharraf admitted in his 2006 autobiography, In the Line of Fire, in return for handing over 369 terror suspects to the US, “We have earned bounty payments totaling millions of dollars.” Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Attends New Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” in Aberdeen University, October 21, 2011

“‘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

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).

The first autumn screening of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington) takes place on the second anniversary of the film’s launch, at the University of Aberdeen, as part of a human rights film festival, from October 17 to 23, which also includes screenings of two films about Burma — “Burma VJ” and “This Prison Where I Live,” “The Green Wave” (about the Iranian elections in 2009, and the state’s brutal clampdown on the pro-democracy movement), and a film about Scottish Gypsy Travellers. See here for further details, and see below for specific details about the screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: The Battle is Not Over, Despite the Lords’ Capitulation on the Privatisation Bill’s Second Reading

When I think back to the already forgotten scandal of how David Cameron cosied up to Rupert Murdoch, seeking to allow him an unacceptable media monopoly via the planned BSkyB buyout, and when I now hear about Liam Fox’s dirty dealings with his buddy Adam Werritty, pretending to be an official representative of Her Majesty’s Government in MoD-related meetings around the world, I can only reflect on how the same kind of dodgy meetings and corrupt business deals have been incessantly taking place regarding the Tory-led coalition government’s planned privatisation of the NHS, with consultants like McKinsey and KPMG, and how the sordid realities of political life mean that the government cannot be trusted when it promises that it is trying to save the NHS rather than destroy it.

The Tory-led coalition and its deeply untrustworthy ministers — up to and including the PM — are not the only politicians compromised by their business dealings, because the Labour government was, essentially, no different. But although, in a general sense, almost the entire political establishment is thoroughly discredited through the knowledge that money talks more than principles do, and that we the people (except the richest ten percent) are irrelevant to politicians’ plans (except every four or five years when they want us to vote for them), I find it difficult to sit idly by while the government pushes ahead with its monstrous plans to destroy the NHS in England as a universal healthcare provider. Read the rest of this entry »

As Pelican Bay Hunger Strikers Risk Death, Psychologist Testifies that Solitary Confinement is Torture

On Day 17 of the renewed hunger strike by prisoners in Pelican Bay State Prison, and other prisons in California, prisoners, their relatives and their supporters fear that there will soon be deaths amongst the hunger strikers, because, as SF Bay View reported yesterday, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) “has been treating the current strike, which began on Sept. 26, as a mass disturbance and has refused negotiations.”

As the article explained, prisoners have begun to report “grave medical issues.” A relative of a striker at Calipatria State Prison said, “Men are collapsing in their cells because they haven’t eaten in two weeks,” adding, “I have been told that guards refuse to respond when called. This is clearly a medical emergency.”

As I explained yesterday, in my article, Pelican Bay and American Torture: Prisoners in Long-Term Isolation Continue Hunger Strike Despite Authorities’ Brutal Response, in an attempt to stop the strike, the CDCR has been isolating prisoners regarded as leaders in Pelican Bay, moving them from the Security Housing Unit (SHU), where they have been in almost total isolation — some for years, some for decades — to Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg).

To give some sense of the horrors of the system, the hunger strikers have stated that “513 of the 1,111 prisoners held at Pelican Bay have been in solitary confinement for 10 or more years, and 78 have been held for more than 20 years without access to light or open space for prolonged periods of time.” Moreover, there are three other SHUs in California, and nationally at least 75,000 prisoners are currently held in solitary confinement, even though it is self-evidently a form of torture when used for more than a short period of time. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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