Read My Latest Article for Al-Jazeera About the Problems with Guantánamo’s New Review Boards

11.12.13

Dear friends and supporters,

I do hope you have time to read my latest article for Al-Jazeera, “Guantánamo’s secretive review boards,” and to share it if you find it worthwhile. It was posted yesterday, and I’m glad to note that it has been in the top ten most viewed articles.

It deals with the Periodic Review Boards at Guantánamo, established to review the cases of the majority of the prisoners who have not been cleared for release. Of the 162 men still held, 82 were cleared for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office, while the other 80 were either recommended for ongoing detention without charge or trial, or for prosecution.

In March 2011, President Obama issued an executive order authorizing the ongoing detention without charge or trial of 48 men based on the task force’s recommendations, on the unacceptable basis that they were too dangerous to release but that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial — which meant, of course, that what purported to be evidence was no such thing, and consisted largely of dubious statements by the prisoners, produced in circumstances that were not conducive to truth-telling.

The president only sweetened his outrageous decision to issue an executive order authorizing indefinite detention by promising that these men would receive periodic reviews, to establish whether they should continue to be held. Shamefully, however, the review boards were not established until this summer (over three years later), and the first hearing only took place two weeks ago, of a Yemeni named Mahmud al-Mujahid (aka Mahmoud al-Mujahid), who, like many of the remaining prisoners, has spent over a third of his life at Guantánamo. 33 years old, he was first seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan in December 2001, when he was just 21. Ludicrously, the notion that he was in Afghanistan to support the Taliban — as many of the prisoners were, if they were not charity workers, missionaries or refugees –was replaced, in Guantánamo, with an absurd claim that he had been a bodyguard of Osama bin Laden, a claim made in a number of deeply unreliable statements by his fellow prisoners.

The review boards have barely been touched upon in the mainstream media, with the exception of the indefatigable Carol Rosenberg in the Miami Herald, and I hope you have the opportunity to read my article, as it contains new information about them, which, unfortunately, does not augur well for those still held — primarily, that the review process for the 46 survivors of the president’s executive order (after two died), plus 25 others who had been slated for prosecution until the military commission trial system began unravelling, is moving so slowly that it will take many years for all the men’s cases to be reviewed, even if — as is not yet clear — there is a willingness on the part of the authorities to critically examine whether the men do actually constitute any kind of threat.

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.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

26 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Yesterday, when I posted the link to the Al-Jazeera article on Facebook, Christopher Caster wrote:

    Andy, has anything at all transpired about the conditions in which Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and the other Hot Fifteen are held? It’s Camp 7, right? I’m sure they’re totally entombed, but still I wonder what unimaginable atrocities the Americans may have thought up for them. “Honor bound to defend F-f-f-freedom!” Someone must!

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    They are certainly entombed in silence, Christopher, and that’s the real scandal now, as opposed to, in the past, their torture in CIA “black sites.” Because they were tortured, the US prevents anything they say from being made public via their lawyers, and this blanket censorship is total. Not a single world that has been uttered between any of these men and their attorneys has been unclassified, and this has been the case since their arrival at Guantanamo (in most cases) in September 2006. The only opportunity any of them have to be heard is during their pre-trial hearings, in the cases of KSM and his four co-accused, and al-Nashiri. The others might as well be ghosts.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    Yes.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    The Americans are too ashamed, or rather, too brazen.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    Well, yet ANOTHER curse on the Americans and their supporters!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    “Who today is disgraced, tomorrow will be lost” –Afghan proverb.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s a good proverb, Christopher, although I doubt that most of those who have brought disgrace on the US understand what they have done.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Christopher Caster wrote:

    Their understanding is not required for the proverb to work.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Ha, yes, that’s right, Christopher!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Yesterday was Human Rights Day, and to mark the occasion I posted links on social media to the GTMO Clock website that I set, through the “Close Guantanamo” campaign, in summer: http://gtmoclock.com/

    On Facebook I wrote:

    Today is Human Rights Day, marking the UN’s adoption of the UN Convention on Human Rights in 1948, and it’s also 200 days since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantanamo. Since then, just four men have been released in Algeria, and two of them didn’t want to go home. Meanwhile, 82 other cleared prisoners are still held. Please visit, like, share and tweet the GTMO Clock, which I set up to hold Obama to his promise.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Solja Itstrue wrote:

    Try holding Congress responsible for blocking him.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Susan Chunco wrote:

    Try holding Obama responsible for his own actions.

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone liking and sharing this. I find it ironic that the 200th day of Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantanamo happened to fall on Human Rights Day, which marks the UN’s adoption, in 1948. of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I believe Articles 5-11 and 14 are particularly relevant: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Solja Itstrue wrote:

    “House Spurns Obama, Votes To Keep Gitmo Open”
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/14/guantanamo-bay-close_n_3438347.html

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Actually, that’s an old article from July, Solja. The situation is not as bad now. The Senate recently passed a version of this year’s NDAA that makes it easier for the administration to release prisoners, and on Monday the Senate and House Armed Services Committees reached a compromise: the easing of transfer restrictions still applies, but the ban on bringing prisoners to the US – for trial, or for detention – remains. If this compromise passes the last hurdle, Guantanamo won’t be closing anytime soon, although it will be easier to release prisoners. That said, President Obama needs to find the will to release prisoners, and he has had the ability to do so all along. I’ll be writing more about this soon, but in the meantime see my recent article: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/11/22/senate-passes-bill-to-help-close-guantanamo-now-president-obama-must-act/
    And RT on the latest news: http://rt.com/usa/obama-ndaa-gitmo-genital-search-969/

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    I meant to say, Susan, thank you for your comment. The buck stops with the president, however much Congress has complicated matters.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s an interesting comment from the Al-Jazeera website:

    Diane1976 wrote:

    It’s hard to imagine what secrets have to be kept hidden about the activities or suspicions about people who were captured over a decade ago. Also, a lot of old info on prisoners was released through Wikileaks years ago. If the concern is about revealing info about how prisoners were treated, especially in the early Bush years, a lot has already been revealed about that even through US government studies and investigations, and the few trials, let alone outside sources.

    For example, remember when reporters were banned from Gtmo during Omar Khadr’s trial. They were banned for writing about info that had already been made public and was well known to people like me who had followed the case closely. It was as if the people who decided to ban them didn’t know this, or it was more a case of not wanting the public to be reminded of this info, or not wanting it highlighted. The only possible reason was because the info was embarrassing, not security.

    Always appreciate the work you are doing Andy. Although it has to be discouraging when so little progress is made on closing Gtmo, I think you are creating an extremely valuable historical record that will contribute someday to gaining a better understanding of how Gtmo came to be, what mistakes or faulty decisions were made, what will be learned from it, and so on.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive comments, Diane. They’re much appreciated. I believe you are also correct to point out that the US is, in a rather devious manner, pretending that it has significant information to hide, when that is simply not true.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Emily Clement wrote:

    84 cleared for release from high level what is that? 7 facing trial and the rest 71 just waiting. bunch of shipe no charge or trial. one scored big with execution what is it “give me liberty or give me death” good for him and God bless his soul. shame shame shame obama

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Emily. Shame shame shame indeed.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Tenzin Angmo wrote:

    Even as an academic I am having to rely on journalists like you for accurate information.

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m glad to hear that I’m providing necessary information, Tenzin, although obviously it’s rather shameful that – with the exception of Carol Rosenberg at the Miami Herald – the mainstream media failed to cover the first Periodic Review Board. What does that say? That no one else in the mainstream media even cares about the start of a process, delayed for over three years, to decide whether 71 of the men being held indefinitely in Guantanamo should continue to be held indefinitely. Why is that not important?

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    Julien Arbor wrote:

    The shame is on the entire USA & fascist state that it’s become… set in motion a very long time ago.

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Julien. Yes, injustices build on previous injustices, and America has a dark history, as all the WASP empires do. People need to wake up to the significance of it, though. We are lied to, and we are not who we tell ourselves we are.

  25. Thomas says...

    What they should have done with KSM is give him a fair trial within six months after his capture, in an open court with no torture. He would surely have been convicted.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, absolutely, Thomas. I agree. I’ve searched a few times, but I can’t seem to find a quote President Obama came up with early on in his presidency; to paraphrase, that there was nothing obtained through torture that could not have been obtained through legal means.

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