Please Read “Teaching Trump About Gitmo,” An Op-ed in the New York Daily News by Close Guantánamo Co-Founders Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington

10.1.17

A composite image of Donald Trump and Guantanamo, created after his comments last year about keeping Guantanamo open and filling it up with "bad dudes." Please support my work! I’m currently in the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 15th anniversary of its opening, and trying to raise $1000 (£800) to support my visit.

 

I’m delighted to report that yesterday, while I was crossing the Atlantic by plane and was offline, the New York Daily News published “Teaching Trump About Gitmo,” an op-ed that I wrote with my friend and colleague Tom Wilner, the US attorney with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign exactly five years ago.

The op-ed was a response to the president elect’s recent — and disgraceful — tweet, in which he stated, “There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”

In the hope of educating Mr. Trump, Tom and I pointed out that, of the 55 men still held, 19 have been approved for release by two inter-agency review processes — 2009’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, and the current Periodic Review Boards — which are “made up of our nation’s top security, defense and justice officials,” and just ten are facing — or have faced — trials, leaving 26 others whose cases should continue to be reviewed by the Periodic Review Boards, as it seems certain that some of them will also end up being approved for release, like 38 of the 64 men originally whose cases have been reviewed by the PRBs in the last three years.

What Mr. Trump needs to remember is that, when the 2009 task force reviewed the cases of these 38 men in 2009, they were found to be either “too dangerous to release,” or were recommended for prosecution, decisions that, with hindsight, can only be regarded as deriving from a position of extreme and, it must be said, unwarranted caution.

As Donald Trump’s troubling presidency nears, it is important for those opposed to the continued existence of Guantánamo to bear in mind that (1) holding firm on the need to release prisoners already approved for release, and (2) maintaining the Periodic Review Boards that were established as a result of presidential order by President Obama in March 2011 are not negotiable and are the key issues on which to immediately put pressure on him — whilst, of course, also reminding him of (3) the undying need to close the prison for good, (4) not to send anyone new there, (5) not to send US citizens there for military trials, and (6) not to reintroduce torture — all policies he embraced on the campaign trail.

In our op-ed, Tom and I also reminded Donald Trump of the failure of Guantánamo’s military commission trial system, which “is broken and has delayed justice rather than delivering it,” and also pointed out the unacceptable economic costs of keeping Guantánamo open. As we explained, “If President Obama leaves about 40 prisoners in Trump’s hands, we will be spending more than $11 million per prisoner each year to continue incarcerating them at Guantanamo. By contrast, the average cost of keeping a prisoner locked up on the U.S. mainland is less than $32,000 per year … There is simply no business or security justification for paying that difference.”

I hope you have time to read the op-ed, and will share it if you find it useful.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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.

2 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    I’m on the train from NYC to DC, and here’s my latest article, promoting “Teaching Trump About Gitmo,” the op-ed I wrote with my Close Guantanamo colleague Tom Wilner, in an effort to teach Donald Trump about why his approach to Guantanamo – most recently manifested in a tweet vowing not to release any more prisoners – is so misguided. Tom and I point out that 19 of the 55 men still held have been approved for release by high-level, inter-agency government review processes, which must be honored by Trump, that only ten men are facing – or have faced – trials, and that the rest of the men face ongoing reviews set up by President Obama which must also be honored by Trump. Please share it if you find the article useful.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the text of the article:

    President-elect Donald Trump recently tweeted: “There should be no further releases from Gitmo. These are extremely dangerous people.”

    The President-elect has been misinformed. Many of those at Guantanamo are not dangerous and should be released. Indeed, when he looks at the facts, Trump will realize that keeping the Guantanamo prison open makes no practical sense.

    It is a good time to examine these questions. Wednesday marks the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison — 15 years since we first saw men in orange jumpsuits and chains being herded into cages at a remote location on our Naval base in Cuba. President Obama has been trying mightily to clear out the prison before he leaves office, just as President Bush tried before him.

    The population at Guantanamo has been whittled down from 779 at its top to 55 today. Only 10 of the men there have been charged with any crime. The rest have not and will never be charged. And, most importantly, 19 of the men at Guantanamo have been unanimously approved for release by an interagency task force made up of our nation’s top security, defense and justice officials. As the task force concluded unanimously, there is no reason they should continue to be imprisoned.

    Who are these men? One, Mustafa al-Shamiri, a Yemeni, is simply a case of mistaken identity. He has been imprisoned at Guantanamo for more than 14 years. The Pentagon now concedes that, although he was “previously assessed” as “an Al Qaeda facilitator or courier, as well as a trainer, we now judge that these activities were carried out by other known extremists with names or aliases similar to (his). Further analysis of the reporting that supported past judgments that (he) was an Al Qaeda facilitator, courier or trainer has revealed inconsistent biographical, descriptive or locational data that now leads us to assess that (he) did not hold any of these roles.”

    In other words, after imprisoning him for more than 14 years, the Pentagon now admits that they got the wrong guy. Yet he is still at Guantanamo. Clearly, he should be released.

    Al-Shamiri’s case is by no means unique. He is just one of the 19 men still at Guantanamo who have been unanimously approved for release by our government’s interagency task force.

    The efforts to find homes for these men outside of Guantanamo should continue. And the task force’s important work should continue. It is now reviewing the cases of the other men at Guantanamo who have not been charged with crimes.

    Anyone whom it finds poses no threat to the security of the United States should be released. America should have no interest in incarcerating men who will never be charged with crimes and who pose no risk to our national security.

    Indeed, after he assumes office, we hope the new President will step back and undertake a clear-eyed business review of whether it makes sense to continue imprisoning anyone at Guantanamo.

    The few men charged with crimes are being kept in the detention facility so that they can be tried by special military commissions outside our federal court system. But the military commission system is broken and has delayed justice rather than delivering it. Under it, the trials of the key plotters responsible for the 9/11 attacks, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, are unlikely even to begin until 2020, nearly 20 years after the attacks occurred.

    That is outrageous. These men would have been tried and in all probability convicted and punished long ago in our efficient federal court system. That is where we should send them now, so that justice can finally be served.

    The remaining detainees, those not charged, should also be transferred to the U.S., where they can be held far more economically. The Guantanamo facility costs $450 million to operate in 2015. Those costs have gone up, and they do not even include $225 million more that the Pentagon has requested to renovate the prison to keep it operating.

    That is a lot of money. If President Obama leaves about 40 prisoners in Trump’s hands, we will be spending more than $11 million per prisoner each year to continue incarcerating them at Guantanamo. By contrast, the average cost of keeping a prisoner locked up on the U.S. mainland is less than $32,000 per year. The costs of locking someone uip in a supermax prison are about double that, still a relative bargain compared to Guantanamo.

    There is simply no business or security justification for paying that difference.

    For reasons of cost, and justice — and for the United States’ reputation, both at home and abroad, as a country founded on and committed to the rule of law — Guantanamo should be closed. And if he is open to evidence, Trump can be the President who finally gets the job done.

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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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