Dear friends and supporters, I hope you have time to read my latest article for Al-Jazeera, entitled, “At Guantánamo, a microcosm of the surveillance state,” in which I look at the latest scandal to derail the military commission trial system at Guantánamo, exposed in a pre-trial hearing in the case of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four the men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks — a computer problem that has led to over half a million confidential defense emails being handed over to the prosecution, and other files disappearing completely.
In light of the revelations of mass surveillance made public by Edward Snowden in June, the problems at Guantánamo can be seen as part of a bigger picture, even though the main tension at Guantánamo concerns torture — the government’s wish to hide its use on the “high-value detainees,” and the defense’s mission to expose it — rather than excessive surveillance as a matter of course.
I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to write for Al-Jazeera about the military commissions, which I’ve been writing about for seven and a half years. I got to briefly run through the history of the commissions in my article, reminding me that, when I first began researching Guantánamo in 2006, for my book The Guantánamo Files, the commissions were already regarded as a disgrace, a torture-laundering farce dragged from the history books by Vice President Dick Cheney, which had struggled to establish any credibility whatsoever. Furthermore, this situation didn’t improve after the Supreme Court found the commissions illegal, in June 2006, and Congress then brought them back to life with a raft of invented war crimes. My first article about the commissions was in June 2007, and the broken system exposed there continues to be broken, and to shame America.
In fact, the commissions have never had any credibility outside narrow pockets of the US establishment, and they have stumbled from one disaster to another, of which this episode — whose key anecdote involves defense lawyers using Starbucks wi-fi because they can’t trust the Pentagon — is another amusing but ultimately depressing example.
As I mention in my article, it is time for the commissions to be scrapped, and for the few men who can be tried — just a handful out of the 164 men still held — to be moved to the US mainland to face federal court trials. I hope you agree, and that you enjoy my article and will let others know about it.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted the link to the Al-Jazeera article on Facebook earlier today, I wrote:
Here’s my latest article for Al-Jazeera, looking in detail at the latest problems to plague the discredited military commissions at #Guantanamo – defense files lost, and defense emails made available to the prosecution, in an insecure online environment that brings to mind the concerns of Edward Snowden. It’s time for the commissions to be scrapped, and for trials to take place in federal court.
Hilary Homes wrote:
Spot on as usual Andy. Your articles are always wonderful to read.
Thanks, Hilary. That’s wonderful to hear! Really made my day!
Yanuel Morales Vélez wrote:
Aside from the US obvious failures at human rights, is the issue involving Guantanamo also a failure of international institutions?
To a certain extent the ongoing existence of Guantanamo reflects badly on international institutions, Yanuel, and this became apparent earlier this year, when, in response to the prison-wide hunger strike, international bodies like the UN and the EU directed criticism at President Obama. For the most part this was the first sustained criticism since Obama became president, so international bodies bear the blame for not tackling him sooner. However, there’s a limit to what other countries can do when the US isn’t interested, as there are no mechanisms obliging the US to change the way it behaves.
What’s needed is for renewed international criticism, as happened under George W. Bush in his second term, and I hope it will be possible to pull together a big international coalition in the months ahead.
Just in via the AP: Judge Pohl has said that pre-trial hearings should continue, “rejecting a bid to put the case on hold until the Pentagon resolves computer network security concerns.” One of the defense lawyers, James Connell, “said the main issues have not been resolved and the defense teams are still using external hard drives and personal email for sensitive case work,” as the AP put it. Connell said, “From our perspective, nothing has changed as of today.” The next pre-trial hearing is scheduled for the week of October 21.
What is wrong with putting the guilty on trial in the US and setting free the rest? Guantanamo Bay is a sore on America’s backside.
Yes, very well put, Thomas. Thanks.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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