Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo and Julian Assange on the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio

24.11.19

Guantánamo prisoners, on the day the prison opened, January 11, 2002, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

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On Wednesday, I was delighted to talk for 30 minutes to Bob Connors and Tom Walker of the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio on WSLR 96.5 FM, which describes itself as “cover[ing] local, state, national and international social justice issues.” featuring “a wide variety of guests whose views are underrepresented in the mainstream media.”

We spoke about Guantánamo, past, present and future, and also about the US torture program and the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, imprisoned in the UK and fighting his proposed extradition to the US to face espionage charges.

The show is embedded below:

Andy Worthington on the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio, November 20, 2019.

My interview started six minutes in and ended at 34:40, and in it I ran through Guantánamo’s history, and my involvement with it, and expressed my sorrow about how most people nowadays have completely forgotten about the prison, even though it continues to hold men indefinitely without charge or trial, which ought to be a source of profound shame to US citizens who respect the rule of law.

In the course of the show, I discussed how disgraceful it is that the men held at Guantánamo are not held according to any acceptable standards of detention, and cannot be released unless the president — and to some extent Congress — wants them to be. And, of course, with Donald Trump as president — who tweeted that “there must be no more releases from Gitmo,” even before he became president — it is clear that they have no prospect of ever being released.

This would be completely unacceptable even if the 40 men still held were all “the worst of the worst,” as the Bush administration claimed about all the men held (most of whom of course, have been released), but as it is — and as I explained in my most recent article — five of those 40 were approved for release by high-level review processes under President Obama, but are still held because Trump doesn’t want to release them, and there is no mechanism to force him to do so.

Only nine men — some accused of serious acts of terrorism, including the 9/11 attacks — are facing or have faced trials, in a broken system, the military commissions, that seems incapable of delivering justice, while the 26 others are “forever prisoners”, regarded as “too dangerous to release” by a high-level government review process established by President Obama. That process — the Periodic Review Boards — approved another 38 men for release, and is ongoing under Donald Trump, but not a single prisoner has been approved for release since Trump took office, and, over the last year, the prisoners have given up on PRBs, as I most recently explained in an article, No Escape from Guantánamo: Former Child Prisoner Boycotts Broken Review Process, Calls It “Hopeless”, which we discussed on the show, with reference to the subject of the article, Hassan bin Attash.

At one point, I was asked why I had embarked on this project of trying to get Guantánamo closed, pointing out that there are, for example, many miscarriages of justice in the US’s domestic judicial system. I didn’t disagree, of course, although I pointed out that, on the US mainland, “there is an existing judicial system that’s being abused, whereas at Guantánamo there’s no system at all.” As I also pointed out, “the behavior of the US at Guantánamo is exactly what we would expect from a brutal, lawless dictatorship, and yet the US claims to be a country founded on the rule of law, and which respects the rule of law.”

Towards the end of the show, we also discussed “The Report,” the new movie about the extraordinary creation of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA’s torture program, and the small group of American heroes, led by Pentagon staffer Daniel Jones, who researched and wrote it, which I wrote about recently in an article entitled, CIA Torture Report Author Says More Than 119 Prisoners Were Held in “Black Sites” and More Than Three Were Waterboarded

At the end of the show I was also asked to talk about Julian Assange, who I wrote about most recently in an article entitled, As a Frail and Confused Julian Assange Appears in Court, It’s Time For the UK to Stop His Proposed Extradition to the US, and Chelsea Manning, and I was pleased to close my interview by stressing to listeners that Assange is a publisher, and that the proposal to charge him with espionage for revealing embarrassing US government secrets is truly alarming, because there is, very fundamentally, no difference between WikiLeaks’ work and that of, for example, the New York Times or the Washington Post, and if Assange was to be successfully prosecuted, it could well spell the end of press freedom in the US.

It was a pleasure to talk to Bob and Tom, and I hope you have time to listen to the show.

* * * * *

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 music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

15 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my half-hour interview about Guantanamo, past, present and future, the US torture program and the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, with Bob Connors and Tom Walker on the Peace and Justice Report, a show on Sarasota Community Radio in Florida, which was broadcast on Wednesday.

    As I stated at one point in the interview, seeking to sum up quite why the continued existence of Guantanamo is such an abomination, “the behavior of the US at Guantanamo is exactly what we would expect from a brutal, lawless dictatorship, and yet the US claims to be a country founded on the rule of law, and which respects the rule of law.”

    The MP3 of the show is embedded in the article – that’s a first for me, following a re-design by WordPress, but I’m pleased, as many old interviews of mine have disappeared forever.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Valerie Jeans wrote:

    Andy, thank you for your tireless (and endless) works.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Valerie. Great to hear from you!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Shahela Begum wrote:

    Looking forward to hearing this Andy! You are absolutely right when the US claims to be the champion of law/rights but is very selective on who is deserving and acts more as a dictatorship. Thank you for sharing…

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Shahela, Nearly 18 years after Guantanamo opened, I can’t stress enough how we need to be saying loud and clear that only dictatorships hold people for 18 years without charge or trial.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Diana Murtaugh Coleman wrote:

    Thanks, Andy. I look forward to listening to your interview later today. Solidarity, my friend!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Diana. Great to hear from you!

  8. Tom says...

    What happens if you try to contact Congresspeople about Guantanemo? Some say don’t waste your time with faxing. Letters are screened for bombs and take at least one month to reach Congressional offices. This leaves calling.

    Some of the most powerful people don’t give out their office numbers. If you reach a live person, naturally they want to get rid of you as quickly as possible without being screamed at/fired by the boss for being rude. This means several options:

    Act like your listening and actually care but talk as quickly as possible. Many offices actually use a script.
    Read your script, but speed up as quickly as necessary to get rid of the caller.

    Right now, all of them are terrified of anything that remotely connects to “terrorism”. Will this be allowed to be asked about in the Presidential “debates’? No.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Tom. On Assange, I doubt any lawmakers are listening, but some Democrats may be amenable to hearing their voters’ concerns about Guantanamo. It’s also worth noting that some activists had success last year arranging meetings to discuss Guantanamo with House Committee members, in particular on the Armed Services Committee, so collectively, rather than individually, that looks like a good route to keep pursuing. It’s worthwhile, for those interested, to get in touch with Witness Against Torture: http://www.witnessagainsttorture.com

  10. Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | FBI Reform says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

  11. 1. US Security from Michael_Novakhov (88 sites): Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | Global Security Review says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

  12. FBI Reform: Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | News Links - news-links.org says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

  13. FBI Reform: Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | FBI News Review - fbinewsreview.com says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

  14. FBI Reform: Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | FBI Reform - fbireform.org says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

  15. FBI Reform: Eurasia Review: As 'The Report,' About CIA Torture Program, Is Released Online, Guantánamo Prisoner Ahmed Rabbani Urges People To Watch It – OpEd | FBI News Review Network - fbinewsreview.net says...

    […] site Rotten Tomatoes,  based on 178 reviews, with 83% approval from audiences too. Last week, I spoke about it on a US radio show, and in just three days’ time, on November 29, it will be released on Amazon […]

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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 (The State of London).
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