On Christmas Day 2008, a comment by someone identifying themselves as Hesham Abu Zubaydah was submitted on an article I had written many months earlier, entitled, The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts. This was the first of many articles I have written explaining how Abu Zubaydah, the “high-value detainee” for whom the Bush administration’s torture program was specifically developed, was not a senior al-Qaeda operative, as the administration claimed, but was instead the mentally damaged gatekeeper of a training camp, Khaldan, that was independent of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
The comment read, “Yes that is my brother and I live in Oregon. Do you think I should have been locked away for 2 years with no charges for a act of a sibling? I am the younger brother of Zayn [Abu Zubydah's real name, Zayn al-Abidin Mohamed Husayn] and I live in the USA. Tell me what you think.”
In response, from what I recall, I responded to the comment, but did not hear anything back. With hindsight, I should have pursued it further, but I’m glad to note that, eventually, my friend and colleague Jason Leopold stumbled across the comment, tracked down Hesham in Florida, where he lives with his wife Jody, and began a 14-month investigation that resulted in the publication, yesterday, of EXCLUSIVE: From Hopeful Immigrant to FBI Informant – the Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah, a 15,000-word article by Jason that was published by Truthout, where he is the lead investigative reporter, and where I am an occasional contributor. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was rung by a journalist from Press TV, asking me to discuss my recent article, US Judge Rules Against Military Detention of US Terror Suspects – But What About the Foreigners in Guantánamo?
My three and a half minute commentary is available here, and in it I reiterated that, while I fully understand the outrage in the United States about the provisions demanding the mandatory military of alleged terror suspects — including US citizens — that were included by dangerously deluded or cynical lawmakers in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), what has been largely missing from the conversation is a recognition that this assault on the rights of American not to be arbitrarily imprisoned by their own government would not have been possible without the existence of Guantánamo.
At Guantánamo, foreigners — but not Americans — have been arbitrarily detained for ten years, and opponents of the NDAA also need to recognize that the legislation that underpins al of these outrageous detention provisions (both at Guantánamo and in the NDAA) is the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), which urgently needs repealing, as I explained in an article last year, After Ten Years of the “War on Terror,” It’s Time to Scrap the Authorization for Use of Military Force. Read the rest of this entry »
Two years and two days since his arrest in Iraq on May 26, 2010, Pfc. Bradley Manning still awaits the start of his court-martial, as his lawyers and other sympathizers try to take the government to task for its secrecy regarding the 24-year old, who faces 22 charges, including “aiding the enemy,” a charge that, in theory, carries the death penalty, although prosecutors have said that they will not be pressing for his execution, if he is convicted.
Manning, a former US intelligence analyst, is the alleged whistleblower responsible for leaking thousands of classified US government documents to WikiLeaks, dealing with the Afghan and Iraq wars, and the prisoners in Guantánamo, as well as hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables. Held in damaging isolation for the first eleven months of his detention — in Kuwait and then at a military brig in Quantico, Virginia, he was then moved — after pressure was exerted by his many supporters, and by legal experts — to the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where he remains. His Article 32 hearing, preparing the way for his trial, took place last December, and he was referred to a general court-martial by the judge, Lt. Col. Paul Almanza. He was arraigned on February 23 this year, when he declined to enter a plea.
Now, as the Guardian reported last week, with hearings taking place prior to his court-martial, possibly in August, a coalition of lawyers and media outlets, led by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, “has petitioned the Army court of criminal appeals calling for the court-martial against Manning to be opened up to the press and public,” claiming that his military trial “is being conducted amid far more secrecy than even the prosecution of the alleged 9/11 plotters in Guantánamo.” Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.
Here at “Close Guantánamo,” in the latest article in our ongoing series telling the stories of prisoners cleared for release but still held at Guantánamo, we are focusing this week on Nabil Hadjarab, a 30-year old Algerian, who has been held for nearly a third of his life at Guantánamo, despite being cleared for release over five years ago — in April 2007 — when the US authorities acknowledged that he was not a threat, and had no useful intelligence.
Unfortunately, although Nabil spent much of his life in France, where most of his family members live, and are French citizens, he has been spurned by the French government, despite pleading for assistance from President Sarkozy in September 2010 — and being swiftly turned down.
Nabil’s connections to France are considerable. His grandfather, Mohamed Ben Said Ben Sliman, who was born in Algeria in 1894, spent three years during the First World War fighting for France, and his father, Saïd Hadjarab, fought for France during Algeria’s War of Independence, and was a member of General de Gaulle’s Republican Guard. Read the rest of this entry »
So I’m sure you’re all aware that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee this year. To mark the occasion, the Whitsun Bank Holiday has been moved from May 28 to June 4, and a Diamond Jubilee Holiday has been added on June 5, making a bumper four-day holiday, in which the emphasis will be on an expensive nationalistic back-slapping celebration of Little England myopia, and no one in government will be discussing how much this orgy of manipulative jingoism will be costing, both in terms of the celebrations, or the cost in lost productivity (which would cause outrage in government, if, for example, it came about through a strike). I also suspect that there will be little visible dissent, and certainly not my preference — hordes of anarchists on black-clad bicycles, flying black and grey Union Jacks, and with pedal-driven sound systems pumping out the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” on a permanent loop at street parties up and down the country.
One organization opposed to the jubilee celebrations are the theatrical anti-austerity activists of UK Uncut, who, on Saturday, held alternative street parties up and down the country, and, in London, took over Parkfields Road in Putney, where Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg lives. As they explained in a press release:
UK Uncut had previously only announced that their protest would directly confront the high profile ‘architects of austerity’, the politicians, bankers and tax avoiders they they see as responsible for the government’s cuts. The move to directly target politicians marks a significant change in tactics for the group which is well known for targeting tax avoiders, such as Vodafone, Sir Philip Green’s stores, Boots and Fortnum & Masons. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, in New York, a US judge, District Judge Katherine Forrest, took a stand against a contentious provision inserted into the current National Defense Authorization Act (PDF), ruling that it was unconstitutional for lawmakers to demand that, in future, those accused of involvement with terrorism — including US citizens and residents — must be subjected to mandatory military custody, and held indefinitely without charge or trial (PDF).
The provision (Section 1021), designed to allow detention without trial until the end of the hostilities in the “war on terror,” is meant to apply to anyone “who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks,” or anyone “who was a part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.”
Of particular concern to the plaintiffs in the case — led by the journalist Chris Hedges, and also including Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, the Icelandic parliamentarian and WikiLeaks activist Birgitta Jónsdóttir, Kai Wargalla of Occupy London, and the US journalists and activists Jennifer Bolen and Alexa O’Brien — was the inclusion of anyone who “has directly supported … hostilities in aid of such enemy forces,” because they perceived that it could apply to speech, or the written word, endangering journalists and activists, for example, and would contravene Americans’ First Amendment rights. Read the rest of this entry »
Regular readers may know that a friend of mine, the singer/songwriter Sarah Gillespie, has long taken an interest in tackling injustice, and regularly regales her audiences with the story of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay. This is a bold and commendable move in a world more generally characterized by the refusal of musicians either to engage with politics at all, or only to do so in a general “let’s make poverty history” kind of a way, which, although it may be worthwhile, is also uncontentious.
Championing an alleged “terror suspect” in Guantánamo is, however, a much more challenging stance, and one to be supported — and if any other musicians are reading this, who would like to be involved in campaigning to get Guantánamo closed, then please get in touch with me, as I am currently soliciting support for a video campaign to demand the closure of Guantánamo in January 2013, when the next President of the United States is inaugurated.
As I explained in an article last June, Sarah’s last album, “In the Current Climate,” specifically featured a song inspired by Shaker Aamer, entitled, “How the West Was Won,” and Sarah has now taken her interest in current and contentious politics one step further with a beautiful, powerful, four-part, 15-minute anti-war song, “The War on Trevor,” which also deals with the post-9/11 hysteria regarding terrorism. Featuring variations on a theme by Joseph Haydn, “The War on Trevor” is available from Amazon here, and also on video below, in an excellent film made by Tali Atzmon — which is, by turns, and as required by the songs, fractured, poignant, and darkly funny. Read the rest of this entry »
Three weeks ago, Jose Padilla, a US citizen and a notorious victim of torture by representatives of his own government, had a courtroom door shut firmly in his face, when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in California, reversed a lower court decision (PDF) allowing Padilla — held as an “enemy combatant” in a military brig on the US mainland from 2002 to 2005, and isolated and tortured so severely that he lost his mind — to pursue a lawsuit against John Yoo.
A law professor at UC Berkeley, Yoo worked for the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) in the early years of the “war on terror,” as part of Dick Cheney’s inner circle of lawyers pushing to eradicate existing laws preventing arbitary detention and torture, and it was for the OLC — which is supposed to provide impartial legal advice to the executive branch — that he wrote a notorious series of memos — the “torture memos” — in which he cynically attempted to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA. This was a decision that not only led to the CIA torturing prisoners in its own secret prisons, in Thailand, Poland, Romania, Lithuania and Morocco, but also infected the whole of the US military. Not uncoincidentally, Yoo’s boss at the OLC was Jay S. Bybee, who signed off on the “torture memos,” and is now a judge on — wait for it! — the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Analyzing this scandalous denial of justice (and also the D.C. Circuit Court’s equally unjust interventions to gut habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantanamo prisoners, most recently in the case of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a Yemeni whose story I covered here), Scott Horton of Harper’s Magazine wrote a powerful article in which, after noting that “one of the lasting challenges to America’s federal judiciary will be addressing American complicity in the tortures and disappearances of the past ten years,” he explained that Padilla v. Yoo and Latif v. Obama “show us how judicial panels are tackling these issues: by shielding federal officials and their contractors from liability, and even by glorifying the fruits of their dark arts. In the process, legal prohibitions on torture are being destroyed through secrecy and legal sleight of hand, and our justice system is being distorted and undermined.” Read the rest of this entry »
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 hopefully be completed by 2013, although that is contingent on finding new funding.
This is Part 34 of the 70-part series. 422 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.
In late April last year, 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.
This, as I explained, was the period in which, after the prisoners won a spectacular victory in the Supreme Court in June 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, when the Supreme Court granted them habeas corpus rights (in other words, the right to ask an impartial judge why they were being held), lawyers were allowed to meet the prisoners for the first time, and the secrecy that was required for Guantánamo to function as an interrogation center beyond the law was finally broken. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, an alleged “high-value detainee” in the “war on terror,” who was held in secret CIA prisons for four and a half years until his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006, submitted a letter to the Convening Authority for the military commissions at Guantánamo, Retired Vice Admiral Bruce MacDonald, asking for their client to be charged, after more than ten years in US custody. I followed up on this by writing an article pointing out that seven other “high-value detainees” held at Guantánamo — mostly since September 2006, but in two cases since 2007 and 2008 — have also not been charged, and asked, with regard to these eight men, “Are there any plans to try them? Or is the Obama administration happy for them to be held for the rest of their lives without charge or trial — a confirmation, if any were needed, that indefinite detention without charge or trial has, through Guantánamo, become normalized?”
Today, I had planned to publish the letter that Joe Margulies and the other lawyers for Abu Zubaydah wrote to Bruce MacDonald, which Marcy Wheeler made available on her website Empty Wheel, and I am proceeding with that plan, as the letter contains an important summary of the Bush administration’s disgraceful and illegal torture program, for which no one in authority has yet been held accountable, as well as summarizing the scandalous treatment of Abu Zubaydah, and how the claims about his significance have melted away with the passage of time. It also is an indictment of the Obama administration’s unwillingness to deal adequately with the toxic inheritance left by the Bush administration.
In addition, however, I am also publishing the response to the letter that Bruce MacDonald wrote on May 17, in which he pointed out that the decision on whether or not to prosecute lies with the Office of the Chief Prosecutor — and that therefore, by inference, it is a decision that also involves defense secretary Leon Panetta and President Obama as the Commander in Chief — and also pointed out that Abu Zubaydah can “challenge the legality of his detention by seeking a writ of habeas corpus.” Read the rest of this entry »
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