Video: At New America, Andy Worthington, Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis Discuss the Closure of Guantánamo and the CIA Torture Report

17.1.15

A screenshot of Andy Worthington speaking about the need to close Guantanamo at New America in Washington D.C. on January 12, 2015, the day after the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison. Andy was with Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis, and the moderator was Peter Bergen.At lunchtime on Monday January 12, the day after the 13th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba (when I was speaking outside the White House), I took part in “Leaving the Dark Side? Emptying Guantánamo and the CIA Torture Report,” a panel discussion at New America.

With me at New America (formerly the New America Foundation) was Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners before the Supreme Court in their habeas corpus cases in 2004 and 2008, and with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, who resigned in 2007, in protest at the use of torture, and has since become an outspoken critic of the prison and the “war on terror.”

The moderator was journalist and author Peter Bergen, the Director of the International Security, Future of War, and Fellows Programs at New America, who I have known since the early 1890s, when we were both at Oxford together.

The video is below, via YouTube. It was a lively discussion, and if you have the time to spare, I hope you watch it and share it if you find it useful.

We all spoke about the progress made in recent years in releasing prisoners, since the prison-wide hunger strike two years ago, and President Obama’s response to international criticism of his inaction — his promise, in May 2013, to resume releasing prisoners. Since that promise, 44 men have been released, compared to just five in the preceding two and a half years, when Congress raised legislative obstacles to the release of prisoners, and the president was unwilling to spend political capital overcoming them.

This is significant progress. Just 122 men are now held, and 54 of those men have been cleared for release — most for at least five years. I spoke about how these men must be released, and my hope that, of the 68 others, more will be released through the Periodic Review Board process, which so far has approved six men for release after hearing nine cases. The PRBs began just over a year ago to review the cases of the men neither cleared for release nor facing trials (this latter group numbering only about ten men).

We also spoke about the CIA torture report, about the need for accountability, about the broken military commission trial system, about Shaker Aamer (and the We Stand With Shaker campaign), and about the thorny issue of what should happen to enable President Obama to close Guantánamo for good. This will mean having to bring some prisoners to the US mainland — for some to face trials, and some to be imprisoned in a new context, which, Tom and I believe, will be temporary, as they will successfully be able to mount legal challenges, on the basis that indefinitely imprisoning people without charge or trial on the US mainland has no precedent and is fundamentally unconstitutional and in violation of the laws on which the US prides itself.

We acknowledge, however, that this is contentious, because of dark forces who are enthusiastic about introducing the indefinite detention of people without charge or trial on the US mainland, and we hope that it is something that will be discussed as widely and openly as possible the months to come, as all of us who care about the need to close Guantánamo engage with what that might actually mean, now that it is finally something we can glimpse as a possibility.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, 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 six-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, the full military commissions 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.

4 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Sanchez Montebello wrote:

    Hey Andy…
    A big “thank you” for all your efforts. I will be watching your video later this evening. I just felt the need to say “thanks” and to belatedly wish you a happy 2015. Let’s hope Guantanamo is finally closed and the prisoners are finally freed this year.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sanchez. Closure this year would really be something, but I doubt it will happen that soon. I have more hope that it can be achieved before the end of Obama’s Presidency, but it will still require a lot of effort on our part to maintain it as a pressing moral, legal and ethical issue – and to fight back against Republican scaremongers.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    After my friend Jan Strain shared this, I wrote:

    Thanks for sharing, Jan. I just got back to the UK and have spent the afternoon sleeping. Slowly getting myself organized …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    You deserve a rest, Andy….Go rest. I only expect another story in, say, 10 hrs 🙂

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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