I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.
The problem with Guantánamo has never been what right-wingers delude themselves into thinking it is — that it’s a perfect acceptable, secure facility for holding terrorists whose existence is undermined by liberals constantly trying to close it down, endangering America’s national security.
Instead, the problem is Guantánamo itself, a place of arbitrary detention, where very few of the 779 people held there by the military over the last 15 years have genuinely been accused of any involvement with terrorism, but where, because of the Bush administration’s contempt for internationally recognized laws and treaties regarding imprisonment, the majority of the men held — overwhelmingly, foot soldiers for the Taliban, and civilians, many sold for bounties — have been deprived of any rights whatsoever, and can only be freed at the whim of the executive branch.
For a brief period from 2008 to 2010, those held could appeal to the US courts, where judges were able to review their habeas corpus petitions, and, in a few dozen cases, order their release, but this loophole was soon shut down by politically motivated judges in the court of appeals in Washington, D.C., and the Supreme Court has persistently refused to revisit the positive rulings it made regarding the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights in 2004 and 2008, hurling the men back into a disgraceful legal limbo in which their only hope for release lies, yet, again, with the presidential whim. Read the rest of this entry »
For the New York Times on Monday, in ‘Case of Captive in Yemen Could Test Trump’s Guantánamo Pledge,’ Adam Goldman, Matt Apuzzo and Eric Schmitt wrote about the case of Abu Khaybar, an al-Qaeda suspect, around 40 years of age, who was seized in Yemen last fall, and “is being held there by another country, according to four current and former senior administration officials.” The authors added that “[t]he circumstances of his detention are not clear, but he is wanted on terrorism charges in New York.”
However, Abu Khaybar may also be wanted by Donald Trump, to send to Guantánamo, to follow up on his pledge to send new prisoners to the prison. As the authors note, his “suspected affiliation with Al Qaeda gives the United States clear authority to hold him” at Guantánamo, where the detention of prisoners is approved by the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed in the days after the 9/11 attacks, which authorizes the president to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”
As the Times noted, the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, “has repeatedly said that terrorists should not be prosecuted in civilian courts,” a worrying stance given that the military commissions at Guantánamo have been a colossal failure, while federal courts have proven more than capable of successfully prosecuting terrorists, something they have done throughout the last 15 years, even when the Bush administration was most aggressively touting Guantánamo as a new paradigm of detention. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week was a particularly disastrous week for Parliament, when a horribly large majority of MPs voted to let Theresa May, the Prime Minister, do what she wants regarding Britain’s exit from the EU — and what she wants, as she has made clear, is as “hard” a Brexit as possible — one in which, in order to exercise some spurious control over immigration, we are forced to abandon the single market and the customs union, which will be insanely damaging to our economy.
The MPs’ unprovoked capitulation, by 494 votes to 122, in the vote allowing May to trigger Article 50, which launches our departure from the EU, came despite three-quarters of MPs believing that we should stay in the EU, and despite the narrow victory in last June’s referendum, which, crucially, was only advisory, although everyone in a position of power and authority has since treated it as though it was somehow legally binding.
The MPs’ capitulation was also disgraceful because, following the referendum, a handful of brave individuals engaged in a court battle to prevent Theresa May from behaving like a tyrant, and undertaking our departure from the EU without consulting Parliament. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court pointed out that sovereignty in the UK resides in Parliament, and not just in the hands of the Prime Minister, and that Parliament would have to be consulted. Read the rest of this entry »
As a Russia-related scandal engulfs the White House, with the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn, Donald Trump’s disgraceful immigration ban continues to attract condemnation in US courts. The ban, which bars entry to the US to anyone from seven countries with mainly Muslim populations (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) for 90 days, and refugees for 120 days (with a total ban on refugees from Syria) was first subjected to a nationwide stay nine days ago, when District Judge James Robart, a senior judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, declared that the ban was unconstitutional, and granted a temporary restraining order against it that applied nationwide. Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson had successfully argued in court that the ban “violated the guarantee of equal protection and the first amendment’s establishment clause, infringed the constitutional right to due process and contravened the federal Immigration and Nationality Act,” as the Guardian described it.
Last week, three judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld Judge Robart’s ruling, having found that the government had “pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States,” and added that, “[r]ather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all,” in the Guardian’s words.
Yesterday, in Virginia, a third blow for the government came when District Judge Leonie Brinkema, in Aziz v. Trump, issued a preliminary injunction against the order based specifically on the issue of religious discrimination. Read the rest of this entry »
24 days into the Trump presidency, the tsunami of disgraceful executive orders that Trump has unleashed has threatened to drown out the lingering injustice of Guantánamo, where President Obama left 41 prisoners — five approved for release, ten facing trials, and 26 others in a legal limbo; reviewable (via Periodic Review Boards), but a limbo nonetheless, regarded as “too dangerous to release” or as candidates for prosecution, but in a system that is so broken that all efforts to prosecute them have been abandoned.
Trump intends to get rid of Obamacare, intends to build a wall between the US and Mexico, has approved the resumption of work on a number of contested pipelines, has approved what may be a colossal program of deportations for undocumented immigrants, has pledged a severe reduction in the number of refugees accepted in the US (including a total ban on refugees from Syria), and has introduced a ban — initially for 90 days — on anyone arriving in the US from seven mainly Muslim countries (Syria again, plus Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen) that is so sweeping that it has provoked widespread protests, has sent shockwaves around the world, and, most crucially, has been blocked by a court in Washington State, a ruling upheld by the 9th Circuit Appeals Court in San Francisco.
In an effort to keep Guantánamo in the public eye, I set up a new page on the Close Guantánamo website (which I established five years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner) shortly after Donald Trump’s inauguration on January 20. The new page features photos of celebrities and concerned citizens from across the United States and worldwide, telling Donald Trump to close Guantánamo, and not to keep the prison open and “load it up with some bad dudes,” as he promised on the campaign trail, a position that he has continued to support via a number of draft executive orders that are currently circulating around the relevant government departments. Read the rest of this entry »
There was great news yesterday from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in California, as a panel of three judges unanimously upheld the stay on President Trump’s Executive Order barring entry to the US from seven countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen) whose populations are predominantly Muslim. The stay was issued five days ago by District Judge James Robart, a senior judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, and he is one of several high-level heroes resisting Trump’s racist contempt for the constitution, previously discussed in my articles, Trump’s Dystopian America: The Unforgivable First Ten Days and Disgraceful: Trump Sacks Acting US Attorney General Sally Yates, Who Refused to Support His Vile Immigration Ban.
As the Guardian reported, the court found that “the government has not shown a stay is necessary to avoid irreparable injury.” In particular, its ruling noted that “the government has pointed to no evidence that any alien from any of the countries named in the order has perpetrated a terrorist attack in the United States. Rather than present evidence to explain the need for the executive order, the government has taken the position that we must not review its decision at all.”
In a press release, the Constitution Project (a Washington-Based non-profit organization whose goal is to build bipartisan consensus on significant constitutional and legal questions) noted that the court rejected the Trump administration’s argument that “the president’s decisions about immigration policy, particularly when motivated by national security concerns, are unreviewable, even if those actions potentially contravene constitutional rights and protections,” and stated, “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewability, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.” The Constitution Project also noted that the court added that Fifth Amendment protection against “deprivation of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” applies to everyone within the United States, not just citizens. Read the rest of this entry »
What a disgrace the majority of MPs have shown themselves to be, as they have voted, by 494 votes to 122, to pass the government’s derisory little bill allowing Theresa May to “notify, under Article 50(2) of the Treaty on European Union, the United Kingdom’s intention to withdraw from the EU.”
Although numerous amendments were tabled — seven by Labour, others by other parties — all failed to be passed. On Tuesday, an amendment by Labour’s Chris Leslie, stating that “the government should not be allowed to agree a Brexit deal until it has been passed by both Houses of Parliament,” was defeated by 326 votes to 293 — a majority of 33 — including seven Tory rebels: as well as serial Brexit rebel Ken Clarke, the rebels were Heidi Allen, Bob Neill, Claire Perry, Antoinette Sandbach, Anna Soubry and Andrew Tyrie.
And last night, before the final vote, there was another blow — this one not to the hard-won sovereignty of Parliament, given away by MPs as though it was nothing, but to the three million EU nationals who live and work in the UK, when the amendment by Labour’s Harriet Harman, in her capacity as the chair of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, guaranteeing EU nationals the right to stay in the UK, was defeated by 332 votes to 290 — a majority of 42. On this amendment, there were three Tory rebels — Ken Clarke, Tania Mathias and Andrew Tyrie. Read the rest of this entry »
In shocking news from the Trump administration regarding Guantánamo, the New York Times has obtained a new draft executive order, “Protecting America Through Lawful Detention of Terrorist and Other Designated Enemy Elements,” directing the Pentagon to bring Islamic State prisoners to Guantánamo.
Two weeks ago, the Times published a leaked draft executive order, “Detention and Interrogation of Enemy Combatants” (which I wrote about here), calling for two executive orders issued by President Obama when he first took office in January 2009 to be revoked — one banning the CIA’s use of “black sites” and torture techniques, and the other ordering the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The draft order also called for new prisoners to be sent to Guantánamo, and for “any existing transfer efforts” to be suspended “pending a new review.”
After a huge outcry regarding the torture proposals, these were dropped from a revised order that Charlie Savage was told about, which he discussed in an article on February 4 — and which I mentioned yesterday in an article for the Close Guantánamo campaign looking primarily at opposition to the draft executive order from senior Democrats and rights groups.
Now, however, with the leaking of the new draft executive order, it has become clear that, although Trump has given up on his torture plans, he is close to telling defence secretary James Mattis to bring Islamic State prisoners to Guantánamo, “despite warnings from national security officials and legal scholars that doing so risks undermining the effort to combat the group,” as Charlie Savage described it. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I was delighted to speak to Chris Cook of Gorilla Radio, based in British Columbia, about life in Donald Trump’s America, and the current situation regarding the prison at Guantánamo Bay. The hour-long show is available here as an MP3, and my interview took up the first 24 minutes.
Chris and I have spoken many times before — generally at this time of the year, to reflect on the situation at Guantánamo around the time of the anniversary of its opening, on January 11. Check out our interviews in January 2014, January 2015 and January 2016.
For this year’s interview, I ran though the dying days of the Obama administration, pointing out how, despite President Obama’s promise, on his second day in office in January 2009, to close the prison, it remained open as he left office primarily because he had persistently failed to prioritize its closure throughout the previous eight years. Read the rest of this entry »
A week after Donald Trump issued his disgraceful executive order banning visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen), District Judge James Robart, a senior judge in the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington, appointed by George W. Bush, “granted a temporary restraining order … after hearing arguments from Washington State and Minnesota that the president’s order had unlawfully discriminated against Muslims and caused unreasonable harm,” as the Guardian described it.
In a second article, the Guardian explained that Judge Robart had “declared the entire travel ban unconstitutional,” noting that, although other states are also suing the government, Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson had “argued the widest case: that the Trump order violated the guarantee of equal protection and the first amendment’s establishment clause, infringed the constitutional right to due process and contravened the federal Immigration and Nationality Act.”
Outside the courtroom, Ferguson said, “We are a nation of laws. Not even the president can violate the constitution. No one is above the law, not even the president. This decision shuts down the executive order immediately — shuts it down. That relief is immediate, happens right now. That’s the bottom line.” Read the rest of this entry »
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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