Video: On RT, Andy Worthington Discusses the Relaunched Gitmo Clock, the Countdown to Close Guantanamo and Whether Obama Will Close the Prison

25.4.16

A screenshot of Andy Worthington discussing the Gitmo Clock and Obama's chances of closing Guantanamo before he leaves office on RT on April 25, 2016.Watch me on RT here. Visit, like, share and retweet the Gitmo Clock here.

Today, I was delighted to appear on RT to discuss the Gitmo Clock that I relaunched yesterday to count down the days, hours, minutes and seconds left for President Obama to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The first version of the clock was launched in the summer of 2013 to count the number of days since President Obama’s May 2013 promise to resume releasing prisoners from  Guantánamo, and how many men had been released.

This new version of the Gitmo Clock is part of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo that I launched in January, as the co-director of the Close Guantánamo campaign. Below is a cross-post of the article I published on Close Guantánamo yesterday for the relaunch of the clock, preceded by a transcript of excerpts from the RT interview.

RT: Obama is surely aware that time is running out. Do you think your reminder will be what kicks him into action? Is the closure of Gitmo going to finally happen before he leaves office?

Andy Worthington: I very much hope so, as do all the people who have been working so hard for so many years to get this wretched place closed down. What I am trying to do with the campaign here is just to keep the pressure on, keep reminding the President — the clock is part of that. We’ve got a Countdown to Close Guantanamo, where every 50 days we’ve got people standing with posters. The numbers are going down; just reminding him that time is running out.

RT: But if that was so easy for him to do that, of course it would have been done. There is a lot more to it in the background. What are the sticking points here?

Andy Worthington: I have to say that President Obama has moved very slowly at various times during his presidency, when he’s been faced with pretty unprincipled, but pretty severe opposition in Congress. Congress is the main problem. Lawmakers have been doing everything they can to make it extremely difficult for him to close Guantanamo. But he hasn’t been willing to spend the political capital to overcome their resistance. And he has had the means to do that. What we’ve got now is clearly a concerted effort by the administration with time running out to actually move towards getting it closed…

RT: You said “towards.” You don’t actually think it’s going to happen?

Andy Worthington: It is really hard to know. He is reducing the number of prisoners there. He’ll say to Congress: Look, it’s costing an insane amount of money to hold a smaller and smaller amount of people, because the fixed costs for running the place are the same, whether you’ve got a few dozen people, or hundreds.

He may prevail in persuading Congress. Otherwise we’re not sure yet whether he can do it by an executive order, or whether he is going to be left to hand it over to his successor. If that is a Democrat, it looks less problematical about achieving it…

The obstacle he has is that the laws that are currently in place prohibit him from closing it by moving prisoners to the mainland, which is what would need to fulfill his promise. So will Congress play ball with him, or will he have to do it without Congress? We are still waiting to see.

For the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, We Relaunch the Gitmo Clock, Counting Days Obama Has Left to Close the Prison Before He Leaves Office
By Andy Worthington, Close Guantánamo, April 24, 2016

The logo for the Gitmo Clock, relaunched on April 24, 2016 to count down to the end of the Obama presidency.Yesterday, the Close Guantánamo campaign relaunched the Gitmo Clock,  which we first set up in the summer of 2013 to count the number of days since President Obama’s May 2013 promise to resume releasing prisoners from the prison at Guantánamo Bay (after several years of inaction, prompted by Congressional obstruction), and also to count the number of prisoners released. See this RT article for a screenshot of the first version of the clock.

This new version counts down how many days President Obama has left until he leaves office, to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made on his second day as president back in January 2009.

Please visit the Gitmo Clock, like it, share it and retweet it if you want to see Guantánamo closed.

The Close Guantánamo campaign was set up on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison, by myself and the attorney Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, when they successfully sought habeas corpus rights.

In January this year, Tom and I set up a new initiative, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, which Andy launched on Democracy Now! with the music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd), and the relaunched Gitmo Clock is part of this initiative. For the Countdown, celebrities (including the actors David Morrissey and Juliet Stevenson and the musician and producer Brian Eno), politicians, former prisoners and concerned members of the public across the US and worldwide have been taking photos of themselves with signs telling President Obama how many days he has left to close the prison before he leaves office.

Over 300 photos are on the website (here and here), with supporters holding up signs marking one year to go (on Jan. 20), 350 days (on Feb. 4), and 300 days (on Mar. 25).

The next milestone is 250 days to go (on May 14), and in the meantime the Gitmo Clock is counting down from today, with just 270 days left for President Obama to fulfill his promise. To take part in the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, take a photo with a poster and email it it to us for May 14.

80 prisoners are still held at Guantánamo, and 26 of those men have been approved for release — 15 since 2010, when President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force decided whether the prisoners held when Obama took office should be released or prosecuted, or whether they should continue to be held without charge or trial, and eleven since January 2014, as a result of the ongoing deliberations of Periodic Review Boards, established to review the cases of all the men not already approved for release or facing trials.

The administration has promised to release everyone approved for release by summer, and to ensure that all the Periodic Review Boards are completed before the end of Obama’s presidency, but it is still by no means clear whether or not the president will manage to persuade Congress to back his plan to move the remaining prisoners to the US mainland, so that Guantánamo can finally be closed. We know that many campaigners, activists and lawyers are troubled by the prospect of indefinite detention being moved to the US mainland, rather than being shut down once and for all, but as we have always maintained, we believe that, on the mainland, they will have new opportunities to challenge the basis of their detention that have been denied them at Guantánamo for too many years.

Note: Thanks to Justin Norman for designing the Gitmo Clock.

16 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting the Gitmo Clock I relaunched yesterday as part of the Countdown to Close ‪Guantanamo‬, linking to my interview on RT today, and cross-posting my Close Guantanamo article relaunching the clock. Please watch me on RT and visit, like, share and retweet the Gitmo Clock: http://gtmoclock.com/

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the latest newsletter I’ve just sent out to subscribers to the Close Guantanamo campaign, linking to my latest articles – about the relaunched Gitmo Clock (http://www.gtmoclock.com/), counting down how many days President Obama has left to close ‪‎Guantanamo‬, and about the latest Periodic Review Board: http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/?u=c0748d3f311618789d2b32209&id=d45612de4a
    There’s also a link to my RT interview today promoting the Gitmo Clock and the Countdown to Close Guantanamo. Please join us if you haven’t already. Just an email address is required to be counted as an opponent of Guantanamo and to receive two email newsletters a month: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/Join-Us

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    In response to RT’s headline, “Clock ticking for Obama to close Gitmo: Will he do it?” Rebecca Olsen wrote:

    No. He won’t. He never intended to. Its a lie and always has been.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    I don’t think the promise to close it when Obama first took office in 2009 was meant to be without substance, Rebecca, but I think he underestimated how difficult it would be for two particular reasons: firstly, because of obstacles raised by Congress that he didn’t initially foresee; and secondly, because his own review process identified some prisoners as dangerous, but also acknowledged that there was insufficient evidence to put them on trial. Working out what to do with these men is a process that is still ongoing, via the Periodic Review Boards, and has been painfully slow, as with far too much of Obama’s dealings with Guantanamo, so that we still don’t know how many men he wants to continue holding without charge or trial, to add to the ten who are facing or have faced trials.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Rebecca Olsen wrote:

    I think Obama is a liar. I think everything he said on the campaign trail was an intentional lie. I think he conned voters like me. He has broken every promise. By their fruits shall ye know them. Obamas fruits tell a grim tale.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Riene Sullivan wrote:

    No, your work still not finished Andy

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I think sadly that’s probably right, Riene.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Javier Rodriguez wrote:

    Thanks for all your great work continuously highlighting Guantanamo and keeping up pressure to get it closed. A great deal has been achieved. Shaker is home! 🙂 Keep up the great work.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Javier, for the kind and supportive words.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Stephen Laurence wrote:

    Do you have a Gitmo Clock that might be used as a profile photo, on Facebook and Twitter?

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    I just put this image together, Stephen. Is it OK? It can be resized.
    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10154189746098804&set=p.10154189746098804&type=3&theater

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Tenzin Wongmo wrote:

    Thank you for helping close this…

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tenzin. I am doing my best.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Pam Arnold wrote:

    Thanks ~Andy,maybe this is the last thing he wil do, on leaving, and then go away quietly and disappear, not a great president

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Javier Rodriguez wrote:

    I think it is easy to underestimate how little power US presidents actually have to make real change and how much power Congress has to block change and maintain the status quo of making the rich richer and the poor poorer. Obama has against great resistence implemented Obamacare. Unfortunately with hindsight he made a very bad decision at the beginning of his presidency to appoint Clinton as Secretary of State. Now we know she is as big a warmonger as Dubya……. #ShesNotWithYou #FeelTheBern

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    I agree with you, Javier, that presidents often have less power than they’re perceived to have, because of the bizarre situation where often the party of the president doesn’t control Congress. That said, Obama shouldn’t be let off the hook for his failure to close Guantanamo in his first term when he did have control of Congress. I must also mention that another problem early on was Rahm Emanuel, who had a big influence on Obama and didn’t care about Guantanamo.
    I hope you’re right about a last act, Pam, but I’m still not holding my breath on that one!

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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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