Archive for November, 2013

Penny Lane: What We Learned This Week About Double Agents at Guantánamo

On Tuesday, out of nowhere, the Associated Press ran a story about a secret prison at Guantánamo that attracted a huge amount of attention from the media around the world — more attention, in fact, than at any time since the prison-wide hunger strike earlier this year, which, surprisingly, managed to retain much of the media’s attention for several months.

That, however, was a current story, whereas the AP’s story dealt with a secret facility that apparently existed between 2003 and 2006, in a now overgrown clearing at the end of a dirt road behind a ridge near the administrative offices of the prison.

There, in eight small cottages, the CIA housed and trained a handful of prisoners they had persuaded to become double agents, according to Adam Goldman and Matt Apuzzo, who spoke to around ten current and former US officials for their story. All spoke anonymously “because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the secret program.”

Goldman and Apuzzo described the program as “a risky gamble,” because although the double agents might locate terrorist leaders for them, they might also turn against their employers. That, of course, is always a problem with double agents, although the AP was correct to note the stench of hypocrisy when it came to recruiting double agents at Guantánamo. “At the same time the government used the threat of terrorism to justify imprisoning people indefinitely,” Goldman and Apuzzo wrote, “it was releasing dangerous people from prison to work for the CIA.” Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS and Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo: Protest Photos, October and November 2013

Free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo: the weekly vigil"Close Guantanamo" cupcakes (for Shaker Aamer)NHS protest outside the Department of Health, November 26, 2013Supporters of the Save Lewisham Hospital CampaignCharlie Chaplin and the Silent MajorityThe 4:1 Campaign for more nurses in the NHS
NHS: Not for Sale!

Save the NHS and Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, a set on Flickr.

I just wanted to make available a few photos — and a bit of explanatory text — from two of the campaigns that are closest to my heart: the campaign to close Guantánamo (and, specifically, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison), and the campaign to save the NHS from savage cuts and privatisation at the hands of both the Tory-led coalition government and senior NHS managers who have forgotten what the NHS is for.

The first photo in this set is from the regular weekly vigil outside Parliament for Shaker Aamer, held by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign on most Wednesdays, from noon until 2pm, and the second — of some Close Guantánamo cupcakes, featuring Shaker’s prison number, 239 — is from the recent march and rally for Shaker in Battersea, which I spoke at on Saturday.

Shaker Aamer is one of 84 men who are still held despite being cleared for release by a high-level, inter-agency task force established by President Obama shortly after he took office in 2009. These men are still held, however, because of obstruction by Congress, and an unwillingness on the part of President Obama to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Omar Khadr’s US Lawyer, Sam Morison, Explains Why His Guantánamo War Crimes Conviction is a Disgrace

If you have the time to watch a 46-minute video about Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner held at Guantánamo for 11 years, then I heartily recommend the recording of a recent talk in Canada by Sam Morison, a civilian lawyer working for the US Department of Defense, who recently submitted an appeal against Khadr’s 2010 conviction in his trial by military commission, as I explained in an article two weeks ago entitled, “‘He Didn’t Commit a War Crime’: Omar Khadr’s US Lawyer Challenges His Conviction at Guantánamo.”

The video of the talk, which took place at The King’s University College in Edmonton, was posted on the website of the Free Omar Khadr campaign, and is posted below, via YouTube. It was organized by the University of Alberta’s Chester Ronning Centre for the Study of Religion and Public Life and the Micah Centre at The King’s University College, and a previous talk (also posted below) featured Retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, MD, a psychiatrist who spent hundreds of hours with Omar Khadr at Guantánamo. Both events took place under the heading “Omar Khadr: The Man – The Law.”

Morison, who “has practiced law for more than 20 years and is a nationally recognized expert on federal executive clemency and the restoration of civil rights,” as his website describes him, delivered a compelling explanation for why Khadr is not guilty of war crimes, when the appeal was submitted. Khadr accepted a plea deal in October 2010, pleading guilty to five crimes, including killing a US soldier by throwing a grenade during the firefight in Afghanistan in July 2002 that led to his capture, but there is no evidence that he actually threw the grenade, and he only accepted the plea deal as a way to leave Guantánamo, receiving an eight-year sentence in exchange. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: Demonstrate in London to Save A&Es and Call for More Nurses

Rally for the NHS: the logo for a rally outside the Department of helath on Tuesday November 26, 2013.This is rather last minute, but I hope it will be useful. The nursing campaign group, the 4:1 Campaign, has organised a protest outside the Department of Health (on Whitehall, almost opposite 10 Downing Street), tomorrow lunchtime (Tuesday November 26, 2013), from noon until 2pm, and I am going to go along as one of the speakers.

The “Rally for the NHS” is described on Facebook as a response to “disastrous news about the NHS” in recent weeks, “from the RCN [Royal College of Nursing] revealing the NHS has over 20,000 nursing vacancies, to the Department of Health’s decision to downgrade (effectively close) 100 A&E departments.”

The campaigners add, “We believe those who support the NHS, its staff and patients need to provide an alternative vision for the future of the NHS. That’s why we are going to be outside the Department of Health on the 26th with our own proposals for how to protect and improve the NHS. The rally will last from 12-2 outside the DoH in Whitehall, with speakers and stunts to highlight different aspects of the crisis afflicting the NHS, while giving an opportunity for health workers and patients to give their solutions to the crisis being created in the NHS.” Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington: An Archive of Guantánamo Articles, Other Writing and Photos – Part 13, July to December 2012

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Next March it will be eight years since I gave my life over to chronicling Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, and campaigning to get the prison closed. I did this initially through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, for the last six and a half years, I have continued to seek the prison’s closure — and to educate people about the men held there and the lies told in the “war on terror” — as a full-time independent investigative journalist.

Nearly four years ago, I began to put together chronological lists of all my articles, in the hope that doing so would make it as easy as possible for readers and researchers to navigate my work — the 2100 articles and pages I have published since May 2007. Unfortunately, I have found it difficult to keep up to date with this project for the last two years, hence this belated entry covering all the articles I wrote from July to December 2012.

In this period, as well as relentlessly covering Guantánamo, I continued to be involved in campaigning to resist the age of austerity cynically introduced by the Tory-led government here in the UK, which is being used to wage a disgusting and disgraceful civil war against the poor, the unemployed and the disabled, and whose main aim is to destroy the state provision of services. In the period covered in this article, my previous efforts to save the NHS from privatisation fed into a campaign even closer to home, as the government and senior NHS managers proposed to severely cut services at Lewisham Hospital, my local hospital in south east London, to pay for the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust that had got into financial difficulties — in part because of ruinous private finance (PFI) deals, providing unjustifiable profits to private companies building hospitals for the government. Read the rest of this entry »

Senate Passes Bill to Help Close Guantánamo; Now President Obama Must Act

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.

It’s rare that there is good news about Guantánamo, and even rarer that the good news involves Congress. However, on Tuesday, the Senate accepted a version of the annual National Defense Authorization Act, which originated in the Senate Armed Services Committee, and was put forward by the chair, Sen. Carl Levin, along with Sen. John McCain.

The Levin-McCain version of the NDAA is intended to make it much easier than it has been for the last three years for President Obama to release cleared prisoners from Guantánamo, and to seriously revisit his failed promise to close the prison once and for all, and we note, with thanks, the efforts of Senators and officials in the Obama administration to secure this victory.

This important version of the NDAA contains provisions relating to Guantánamo which allow President Obama to release prisoners to other countries without the onerous restrictions imposed by Congress for the last three years. These restrictions have led to the number of released prisoners dwindling to almost zero, even though 84 of the remaining 164 prisoners were cleared for release from the prison in January 2010 by a high-level, inter-agency task force appointed by President Obama shortly after he took office in 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

From Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer Says, “Tell the World the Truth,” as CBS Distorts the Reality of “Life at Gitmo”

Please sign the petition, on the Care 2 Petition Site, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison.

In September 2013, a team from CBS News’ “60 Minutes” show traveled to Guantánamo, producing a 13-minute show, “Life at Gitmo,” broadcast on November 17, which was most notable for featuring the voice of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, who shouted out while the presenter, Lesley Stahl, and her guide, Col. John Bogdan, the prison’s warden, were walking though one of the cell blocks.

Shaker shouted out, “Tell the world the truth. Please, we are tired. Either you leave us to die in peace — or either tell the world the truth. Open up the place. Let the world come and visit. Let the world hear what’s happening. Please colonel, act with us like a human being, not like slaves.”

He added, “You cannot walk even half a meter without being chained. Is that a human being? That’s the treatment of an animal. It is very sad what is happening in this place.”

The video is below, and the segment featuring Shaker begins about three minutes in: Read the rest of this entry »

Award-Winning Soul Singer Esperanza Spalding Calls for Closure of Guantánamo in New Song, “We Are America”

In the long and ignoble history of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, those who have fought to secure its closure have generally labored without the kind of celebrity endorsement that tends to secure mass appeal for political causes. This year, however, celebrities began to take notice when the majority of the 164 prisoners still held embarked on a hunger strike to draw the world’s attention to their ongoing plight, and to remind people that over half of them — 84 men in total — had been cleared for release by an inter-agency task force that President Obama established shortly after taking office In January 2009.

The fact that these men were still held — and that justice appeared to have gone AWOL in the cases of the majority other prisoners still held — encouraged the best-selling novelist John Grisham to write an op-ed about Guantánamo for the New York Times on August (which I wrote about here), focusing on the case of Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian national, who, Grisham discovered, had been prevented from reading his books. Nabil was freed soon after, although sadly the decision by the British singer-songwriter P.J. Harvey to record a song about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, did not lead to his release, although nearly 100,000 people have listened to the song.

The latest celebrity to call for the closure of Guantánamo is Esperanza Spalding, a singer, songwriter and bassist who won a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011. Her song, “We Are America,” with its accompanying video that features cameos by Stevie Wonder, Harry Belafonte and Janelle Monáe, is posted below, and is excellent — a soulful call for justice that ought to be rallying cry for all Americans who believe in the law, and who ought to be appalled that men are being held indefinitely without charge or trial at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

Will A Rehabilitation Center Lead to the Release of the Cleared Yemeni Prisoners in Guantánamo?

Two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times ran an article about one of the enduring problems at Guantánamo — how to establish a situation in Yemen to reassure those who are concerned about the security situation in the country that it is safe to release the 56 Yemeni citizens still held at Guantánamo who were cleared for release nearly four years ago, in January 2010, by the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shorty after taking office in 2009.

It is ridiculous, of course, that men cleared for release are still held, but that is the reality on the ground in the United States today, as it has been since the end of 2010, when lawmakers began passing legislation designed to prevent the president from releasing prisoners or closing the prison, as he had promised.

In fact, 84 of the remaining 164 prisoners in Guantánamo were cleared for release by President Obama’s task force, but while some of the other men need third countries to be found that are prepared to take them in because it is unsafe for them to be repatriated, and others — like Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — only need President Obama to flex his political muscles to send them back home, the Yemenis are a slightly more complicated matter. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo’s 12th Anniversary and Accountability for Torture with Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins

On Wednesday (November 13), the media, inspired by an article for the Guardian by Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, who has become a formidable critic of the prison since his resignation six years ago, picked up on a baleful anniversary — the 12th anniversary of the creation of one of the main founding documents of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”

I subsequently spoke to Scott Horton on his hard-hitting political show, the latest in the dozens of interviews with Scott that I have taken part in over the last six years. The half-hour show is available here as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it.

Scott described the show as follows: “Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses how Dick Cheney helped make torture an official US government policy; former Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr’s fight for justice in a Canadian prison; and how torture has poisoned America’s soul.”

As Scott explained, we did indeed talk about how Omar Khadr, and his appeal against his outrageous 2010 conviction for war crimes (which I wrote about here), as well as also discussing the need for accountability for all of the senior Bush administration officials (up to and including George  W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) and their lawyers, who approved the use of torture. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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