Radio: I Talk to Scott Horton About the Injustice of Julian Assange’s Extradition Case and the Importance of the Leaked Guantánamo Files

8.10.20

A supporter of Julian Assange outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020, the last day of his extradition hearing. The balloons were part of an initiative celebrating the 14th anniversary of the founding of WikiLeaks, on October 4.

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Last week, during the fourth and last week of hearings regarding the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, two statements I made in his defence (via the tireless Gareth Pierce and her colleagues) were read into the evidence at the Old Bailey in London. The two statements were subsequently made available by Antiwar.com — the first, from February, is here, and the second, made last week, is here. A decision on the extradition case is expected to be delivered by Judge Vanessa Baraitser on January 4, 2021.

It took a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing in court to get my statements accepted, and for some time efforts were made to get me to testify in person, and to be cross-examined by the prosecutor, but — perhaps mercifully — the latter course of action didn’t eventually transpire, as the prosecutor, James Lewis, had, throughout the hearings, maintained “very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating” expert witnesses, according to the human rights activist (and former Ambassador) Craig Murray, who attended the hearings for the whole month.

My statements related to my work with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011, in which I noted how much of the supposed evidence used to justify imprisonment at Guantanamo was, as I described it in my first statement, information extracted from “the Guantánamo prisoners’ fellow prisoners who had been subjected to torture or other forms of coercion either in Guantánamo or in secret prisons run by the CIA”, or information which was equally “unreliable because fellow prisoners had provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.”

This remains crucial information about the extent to which the supposed evidence iused to justify the Guantánamo prisoners’ ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial is in fact profoundly unreliable, and I am very pleased that it was entered into the evidence, although I wish more people knew about it, as it remains a largely unknown truth to a majority of Americans, despite the release of the files being, as I also described it in my statement, “the anatomy of a crime of colossal proportions perpetrated by the US government on the majority of the 779 prisoners held in Guantánamo.”

In my statements I also noted that WikiLeaks and all the media partners undertook publication in as responsible a manner as possible, refuting one of the prosecution’s key claims — that the release of the files leaked to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning had endangered lives.

Few mainstream media outlets gave the hearings the attention they deserved, so I am grateful to the independent journalists and commentators — like Craig Murray, and Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof, to name just two — who paid attention for the whole month, and made available detailed information about what took place.

To Craig Murray, in particular, I am grateful that, after both myself and Patrick Cockburn had our evidence read out, he wrote, “The rich and detailed evidence of Patrick Cockburn on Iraq and of Andy Worthington on Afghanistan [and Guantánamo] was, in each case, well worthy of a full day of exposition. I should love at least to have seen both of them in the witness box explaining what to them were the salient points, and adding their personal insights. Instead we got perhaps a sixth of their words read rapidly into the court record. There was much more.”

Murray also complained about how “some of the evidence is being edited to remove elements which the US government wish to challenge, and then entered into the court record as uncontested, with just a ‘gist’ read out in court. The witness then does not appear in person. This reduces the process from one of evidence testing in public view to something very different” — and obviously inferior.

Shortly after my statement was entered into evidence, the indefatigable Scott Horton asked me for a half-hour interview, which I was delighted to undertake, as Scott and I have been talking on and off for 13 years now, and it is always a pleasure to talk to him. The show is here, and the MP3 is also available here.

I began by discussing the broken extradition process, and how it is being used for political purposes in Julian Assange’s case, in explicit defiance of the rules preventing extradition for political purposes, and I also noted how the prosecution’s efforts to allege that WikiLeaks’ actions caused harm had already been discredited during Chelsea Manning’s trial.

I also spoke at length about the significance of the Guantánamo files — the Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) on 765 of the 779 prisoners held by the military at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. As I explained, the history of the prison is such that those seeking to shine light on its operations and the men — and boys — held there have, from the very beginning, had to “drag out secrets that the US government wanted to keep hidden,” while lawyers have had to fight to secure any rights whatsoever for the prisoners.

This led to the unusual position, in 2004, of the Supreme Court granting the prisoners habeas corpus rights, even though they were supposedly seized in wartime, because the Court recognized that the Bush administration had set up a system whereby there was absolutely no way that anyone held could seek release, even if, as many of them claimed, they had been seized by mistake.

In talking to Scott, I was able to elaborate on how the release by WikiLeaks of the Guantánamo files provided — for the first time in official US government documents — the names of prisoners who had told lies about their fellow prisoners; in some cases, on a prodigious basis. I was not blaming the prisoners themselves for doing so. Many of them were tortured, or otherwise abused, while others were bribed with the promise of better living conditions, of “luxury items” that must have been hard to resit in a prison with, in general, no luxuries whatsoever.

I explained how significant this information was, to add to information already unearthed by attorneys and investigators, to the documents released by the Pentagon through Freedom of Information legislation in 2006, which provided some of this information,but without any of the sources being named, and to reports by a handful of dedicated journalists.

One particular journalistic investigation I recall, from 2006, involved a military representative assigned to assist a prisoner in his Combatant Status Review Tribunal (a bureaucratic exercise in 2004, designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ prior designation as “enemy combatants” without rights) wondering why the man in question so vociferously denied an allegation that he had been seen in Afghanistan at a certain time. Checking the files of other prisoners accused by the same man, he found a pattern of allegations made about all of these men being in Afghanistan when none of them were even in the country at the time. The Guantánamo files put a name to this false informant, and to many others who did the same.

One day, I hope, more people will realize the truth about Guantánamo — that most of the supposed evidence used to justify the prisoners’ ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial is profoundly unreliable, and its extraction, through torture, abuse and bribery, is nothing short of a national scandal.

For now, however, I’m grateful to have had that information entered into the record in Julian Assange’s extradition case, and to have been able to talk to Scott Horton about it, and I hope you have time to listen to the show, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful. There was much more in it that I haven’t discussed above.

* * * * *

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 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 eight 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 the 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to, and discussing my recent half-hour interview with the indefatigable US radio host Scott Horton about my statements in support of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, which were read into the court’s evidence during his extradition hearings in London last week.

    My statements were based on my work with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantanamo in 2011, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain why the release of these files was so important, as they provided crucial information – in official US government documents – about the identities of unreliable informants amongst the Guantanamo prisoners, who were tortured, abused or bribed into making false statements about their fellow prisoners.

    As I described it in one of my statements, the release of the files provided “the anatomy of a crime of colossal proportions perpetrated by the US government on the majority of the 779 prisoners held in Guantanamo.”

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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