Guantánamo Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: Still Seeking $2000 (£1600) to Support My Reader-Funded Writing and Activism

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo near the White House on January 11, 2013 (Photo: Palina Prasasouk).Please support my work and my efforts to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

I’m posting a second request for donations for my quarterly fundraising appeal after my first post on Monday. I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) in total  — not a huge amount, I hope, for the 50+ articles I write every quarter — and so far, via ten supporters and some of my monthly sustainers, I’ve received around $500 (£400). I’m hugely grateful for those donations, but, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s not possible to live for 13 weeks on $500. That amount will, instead, only cover the hosting fee for my website for a year, and maintenance costs — I recently had to hire someone to satisfy Google that my site hadn’t been hacked.

If are able to help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). 

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Two Guantánamo Cases Make It to the Supreme Court; Experts Urge Justices to Pay Attention

Ali Hamza al-Bahlul and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Guantanamo prisoners who have submitted petitions to the Supreme Court.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

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.

Even before the Bush administration set up its “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, legal experts were profoundly alarmed by proposals for how those seized as alleged terrorists would be tried. On November 13, 2001, President Bush signed a military order prepared by Vice President Dick Cheney and his senior lawyer, David Addington, which authorized the use of military commissions to try prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” preventing any prisoner from having access to the US courts, and authorized indefinite detention without due process.

Under the leadership of Michael Ratner at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, lawyers prepared to challenge the proposals in the military order in the courts. The stripping of the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights and the prevention of their access to the courts eventually made it to the Supreme Court in June 2004, when, in Rasul v. Bush, the Court, for the first time ever in wartime, ruled against the government, granting the prisoners habeas corpus rights.

Lawyers were allowed into Guantánamo, piercing the veil of secrecy that had allowed a regime of torture and abuse to thrive unmonitored, although President Bush immediately persuaded Congress to pass new legislation that again stripped the prisoners of their habeas rights. Further legal struggles then led to habeas rights being reintroduced in another Supreme Court case, Boumediene v. Bush, in June 2008. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Please Help Me Raise $2500 (£2000) to Support My Guantánamo Work Ten Years After I Began

Andy Worthington singing 'Song for Shaker Aamer' in Washington, D.C. in January 2016 (Photo: Justin Norman).Please support my work! I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s that time of year when I ask you, if you can, to support my work on Guantánamo and related issues. No mainstream media outlet pays me a salary for what I do, and no educational institution or funding organization either, so I am largely dependent on your generosity to enable me to continue my work as a freelance investigative journalist, campaigner and commentator. Please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated.

It’s now more than ten years since, on an almost daily basis, I began writing and publishing articles about Guantánamo — and working to try to get the prison closed — and since then I have published over 2,000 articles about Guantánamo. Without your financial support, this would not have been possible. All I’m seeking over the next there months is $200 (£150) a week, not much for the 50 or so articles I will write in this three-month period, as well as maintaining the associated social media, and undertaking personal and media appearances, most of which are also unpaid. I cannot do what I do without your support, so I hope you will be able to help. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Sad, Forgotten Anniversary for Guantánamo’s Dead

Yasser-al-Zahrani, photographed at Guantanamo before his suspicious death in June 2006.

Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Today, June 10, is an important date in the Guantánamo calendar — the 11th anniversary of the deaths, in dubious circumstances, of three men at Guantánamo in 2006: Yasser al-Zahrani, a Saudi who was just 17 when he was seized in Afghanistan in December 2001, Mani al-Utaybi, another Saudi, and Ali al-Salami, a Yemeni.

According to the US authorities, the three men committed suicide, hanging themselves in their cells, after having stuffed rags down their own throats, but that explanation has never seemed convincing to anyone who has given it any kind of scrutiny. Even accepting that the guards were not paying attention, how did they manage to tie themselves up and stuff rags down their own throats?

An official investigation by the NCIS yielded an inadequate statement defending the official narrative in August 2008, and then, in January 2010, an article in Harper’s Magazine by Scott Horton presented the US authorities with a powerful critic of the official suicide narrative, Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, who was in charge of the guards in the towers overlooking the prison. On the night of June 9, 2006, just before the deaths were acknowledged, Hickman had noticed unusual movements by vehicles traveling to and from the prison, in the direction of a secret facility he and his colleagues identified as “Camp No,” where, he presumed, they had been killed — whether deliberately or not — during torture sessions. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years of Writing About Guantánamo: Please Support My Work!

Andy Worthington discussing Guantanamo at an event at Revolution Books in New York in November 2009.Please support my work! After ten years of writing about Guantánamo, I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Dear friends and supporters,

Exactly ten years ago, on May 31, 2007, I began writing full-time, here on AndyWorthington.co.uk, about Guantánamo and related issues, starting with the sad story of Abdul Rahman al-Amri, who died at the prison the day before. I had completed and delivered the manuscript for my book The Guantánamo Files just two weeks earlier, and had spent the intervening time in the bewildered fog that those who have written books may recall occurring when the birthing of a book is complete. However, when I saw the news of al-Amri’s death, I knew that I had to comment.

In researching and writing The Guantánamo Files, I had studied the publicly available information on all the prisoners— or as many as information was available for — and, as a result, was in a good position to know about al-Amri, a Saudi, and a former soldier. With hundreds of pages of notes on all the prisoners, I thought I’d contact a well-known, left-leaning newspaper to ask if they wanted an article about al-Amri, but was told that they’d take a wire from the Associated Press, and so, thwarted in my one attempt at going mainstream, I decided I would use the blog that my neighbour, Josh King-Farlow, had set up for me the year before, which, at the time, featured pages about my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield, and, if I recall correctly, my very first blog post, published in April 2006, a review of Mark Danner’s book, Torture and Truth, about the Abu Ghraib scandal.

Two days after publishing al-Amri’s story, I posted an update, after the Pentagon had, as I predicted in my first article, slandered him in death. As I noted: Read the rest of this entry »

Review Boards Approve Ongoing Imprisonment of Saifullah Paracha, Guantánamo’s Oldest Prisoner, and Two Others

Guantanamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha, in a photo taken several years ago by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

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.

Three weeks ago, in Under Trump, Periodic Review Boards Continue at Guantánamo, But At A Glacial Pace, I looked in detail at the current state of the Periodic Review Boards at Guantánamo, a parole-type process that quietly dominated Barack Obama’s detention policy at Guantánamo throughout his eight years in office, when, despite promising to close the prison on his second day, he left the White House with 41 men still held, and Donald Trump threatening to send new prisoners there.

Trump’s threats, have, fortunately, not materialized — hopefully, because wiser heads have told him that federal courts are more than adequate for dealing with captured terrorists — and the Periodic Review Boards are still functioning, despite a call for them to be scrapped by eleven Republican Senators in February, although they have not recommended anyone for release since before Trump took office.

After Obama took office in January 2009, he set up a high-level review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force, to assess what he should do with the 240 men he had inherited from George W. Bush. The task force recommended that 156 of the 240 should be released and 36 prosecuted, and that the 48 others should continue to be held without charge or trial because they were too dangerous to release — although the task force members conceded that insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial, meaning that the so-called evidence was actually unreliable.

Obama eventually released all but three of the 156 men recommended for release by the task force, and, in March 2011, authorized the ongoing imprisonment of the 48  “forever prisoners” via an executive order, in which he also promised to set up periodic reviews to regular reassess their cases. Those reviews — the PRBs — didn’t begin until November 2013, by which time 41 of the 48 were left at Guantánamo, and 23 of the 36 men recommended for prosecution had been added to the tally of those eligible for PRBs, after the trial system at Guantánamo — the military commissions — suffered the most critical blow to its legitimacy when appeals court judges ruled that, for the most part, it had been trying men for war crimes (in particular, providing material support for terrorism) that were not recognized war crimes at all, and had been invented by Congress.

Over the next three years, the 64 men eligible for PRBs had their cases reviewed by the high-level review board panels — consisting of representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Office of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — and 38 were recommended for release. All but two of the men were freed before Obama left office, leaving 26 to face further reviews — purely administrative file reviews every six months, and full reviews, with the prisoners interviewed by video link from a secure facility on the US mainland by the board members every three years.

In reality, what has happened with the reviews is that file reviews have, in 14 cases, recommended prisoners for second full reviews within a much shorter time scale — generally within a year of their initial review — if new information, from their lawyers, for example, has suggested that “a significant question is raised as to whether [their] continued detention is warranted.”

In the first eight of these second full reviews — all under Obama — the men had their release recommended, and were all freed. However, in the five most recent decisions taken, the men’s ongoing imprisonment has been upheld. I wrote about two of these decisions — in the cases of Said Nashir (ISN 841) and Uthman Abd al-Rahim Muhammad Uthman (ISN 27) — in an article in February, but the other three decisions have only been made public in the last few weeks.

The recent decisions

In the first decision, taken on April 20, but only made public around May 18, the board upheld the ongoing imprisonment of Saifullah Paracha (ISN 1094), Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner. A 69-year old Pakistani businessman, Paracha met Osama bin Laden and was allegedly involved in plotting with al-Qaeda to attack US targets, although he has been unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, which has counted against him in the board members’ assessment.

As the board members stated, in making their determination, they “considered the detainee’s past involvement in terrorist activities, including contacts and activities with Usama Bin Laden [sic], Kahlid Shakyh Muhammad [sic] and other senior al-Qa’ida members, facilitating financial transactions and travel, and developing media for al-Qa’ida.”

They also, crucially, “considered [his] continued refusal to take responsibility for his involvement with al-Qa’ida,” described their “inability to assess [his] mindset due to his complete lack of candor, and the significant inconsistencies between written submissions to the Board and [his] testimony concerning family support and future plans.” They also “considered [his] indifference to the impact of his prior actions and the lack of evidence of significant mitigation measures.”

In the second decision, taken on April 27, but only made public around May 23, the board upheld the ongoing imprisonment of Haroon al-Afghani (ISN 3148), an Afghan, and the penultimate prisoner to arrive at Guantánamo in 2007. At the time of his first review, in June 2016, he had only just secured the assistance of an attorney, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis of Reprieve, who made a detailed submission on his behalf for his second full review on March 28, discussing his business plans and his preoccupation with being reunited with his daughter.

However, in making their determination, the board members stated that they had “considered [his] past involvement in terrorist activities, including [his] membership and leadership position in Hezb-e-lslami Gulbuddin (HIG), his extensive time spent fighting Coalition forces, and his prior associations with al Qaida.” They also considered what they described as his “continued refusal to acknowledge his involvement in hostilities after 2001 and his repeated attempts to minimize his role within the HIG despite facts to the contrary,” and also noted that he “was not credible in his responses to questions from the Board, and often provided internally inconsistent and evasive responses.” In their final point, the board members also “determined that [he] is susceptible to reengagement given his prior motivations for fighting and his inability to convey a change of mindset.”

In the third decision, taken on March 30, but only made public around May 26, the board upheld the ongoing imprisonment of Sharqawi Abdu Ali Al Hajj (ISN 1457), a Yemeni long regarded as a facilitator for al-Qaeda.

In making their determination, the board members stated that they had “considered [his] history as a career jihadist, to include acting as a prominent financial and travel facilitator for al-Qa’ida, and his close ties to Usama Bin Laden and Khalid Shaykh Muhammad.” They also noted their “inability to determine the credibility of [his] claims of a change in his extremist mindset due to his refusal to fully answer questions about pre-detention activities and motivations,” and “also considered [his] recent statements in support of extremism and that [his] age, health, and length of detention do not sufficiently mitigate his current threat level.” In conclusion, however, the board members “encourage[d] further compliance” and stated that they look forward to “hearing details regarding [his] activities and associations between his time in Bosnia and his capture.”

One more decision following a second full review has yet to be taken — in the case of Omar al-Rammah (ISN 1017), a Yemeni seized in Georgia in 2002, who has only recently managed to get in touch with his family. His review took place on February 9, and it is not known why it is taking so long for a decision to be announced, although it is difficult not to conclude that it is because the board members could not reach a unanimous decision. Al-Rammah, as I have previously noted, was seized by Russian forces and apparently sold to the US, and he appears to have only been connected wth the conflict in Chechnya and not to have had anything whatsoever to do with al-Qaeda.

In addition, two more file reviews — the purely administrative six-month reviews —  have reached decisions in the last three weeks, upholding the imprisonment of Mohammed Ahmad Rabbani (ISN 1461), one of two Pakistani brothers alleged to have been al-Qaeda facilitators, and Hassan bin Attash (ISN 1456), the younger brother of the “high-value detainee” Walid bin Attash, who is one of five men facing a trial for their alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Hassan bin Attash was just 17 when he was seized in Pakistan and sent to Jordan for torture.

Two more file review decisions have yet to be taken — in the cases of Suhayl Abdul Anam al Sharabi (ISN 569), reviewed on April 19, and Khalid Ahmed Qasim (ISN 242), reviewed on May 24 — and Sanad Ali Yislam Al Kazimi (ISN 1453) is having a file review tomorrow, May 31.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is important to note that an unfortunate by-product of the PRBs failing to approve anyone for release since Donald Trump took office is to create the impression that indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is somehow acceptable, when, of course, that is completely untrue, and it is thoroughly depressing that, over 15 years after Guantánamo opened, the fundamental crime of its founders remains intact — the dangerous and mistaken suggestion that, in a country that claims to respect the rule of law, prisoners can be held indefinitely without either being charged and tried in federal court or held as prisoners of war with the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

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.

Witness Against Torture Launch “Forever Human Beings,” a 41-Day Campaign for the 41 “Forever Prisoners” Still Held at Guantánamo

Protestors with Witness Against Torture outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Since Donald Trump became president just over four months ago, the aggressive, and often unconstitutional incompetence emanating from the White House every day, on so many fronts, has unfortunately meant that long-standing injustices like the prison at Guantánamo Bay are in danger of disappearing off the radar completely, even more comprehensively than during the particular lulls in the presidency of Barack Obama, who largely sat on his hands between 2011 and 2013, when confronted by cynical obstruction in Congress to his hopes of closing the prison, doing very little until the prisoners forced his hand, embarking on a prison-wide hunger strike that drew the world’s attention, and embarrassed him into renewed action.

Through the Close Guantánamo campaign that I established with the attorney Tom Wilner in 2012 I have tried to keep Trump’s responsibility for Guantánamo in the public eye. Since his inauguration, opponents of Guantánamo have been sending in photos of themselves holding posters calling for Trump to close Guantánamo, which I’ve been posting on the website, and on social media — particularly through Facebook — ever since. Over 40 photos have now been published, with many more to come. Please join us. This Wednesday marks 125 days of Trump’s presidency, a suitable occasion to remind him that Guantánamo must be closed.

I’m pleased also to endorse a new initiative by Witness Against Torture, the campaigning group whose work is very close to my heart. Every January, on my annual visits to call for the closure of Guantánamo on an around the anniversary of its opening (on January 11), I spend time with members of Witness, many of whom have, over the years, become my friends, and I was delighted, a few days ago, to receive an email notifying me about “Forever Human Beings,” a 41-day campaign for the 41 “forever prisoners” still held at Guantánamo, launching this Friday, May 26. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: “Zone of Non-Being: Guantánamo,” Featuring Andy Worthington, Omar Deghayes, Clive Stafford Smith, Michael Ratner

A screenshot from 'Zone of Non-Being: Guantanamo', a documentary film released in 2014.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Several years ago (actually, way back in December 2012), I was interviewed at my home for a documentary produced by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, which was directed by the filmmaker Turab Shah. For some reason, I never heard about the film being completed (I think its initial screening was in January 2014, when I was in the US), but after Donald Trump became president of the United States, I received an email from the IHRC stating that they were screening the film, which prompted me to look it up, and to discover that it had been put online in July 2014.

The film features a fascinating array of contributors, including myself, former prisoners including Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Martin Mubanga, Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, the late Michael Ratner, the founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights, the author and academic Arun Kundnani, Ramon Grosfoguel, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the journalist Victoria Brittain, the writer Amrit Wilson, and Massoud Shadjareh of the ICRC.

The ICRC described the film as follows: Read the rest of this entry »

Abu Zubaydah Will Not Testify at Guantánamo Military Court Because the US Government Has “Stacked the Deck” Against Him

Abu Zubaydah at Guantanamo, in a photo taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross. His lawyer Mark Denbeaux released the photo in May 2017, and stated that it was a recent image.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Yesterday, for Close Guantánamo, the campaign I co-founded in January 2012 with the attorney Tom Wilner, I published an article, Abu Zubaydah Waives Immunity to Testify About His Torture in a Military Commission Trial at Guantánamo, explaining how Zubydah (aka Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), a Saudi-born Palestinian, an alleged “high value detainee,” and the unfortunate first victim of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 torture program, was planning to appear as a witness today a pre-trial hearing at Guantánamo involving Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of five men accused of involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Zubaydah was planning to discuss bin al-Shibh’s claims that “somebody is intentionally harassing him with noises and vibrations to disrupt his sleep,” as Carol Rosenberg described it for the Miami Herald, but as Mark Denbeaux, one of his lawyers, explained, by taking the stand his intention was for the truth to emerge, and for the world “to know that he has committed no crimes and the United States has no basis to fear him and no justification to hold him for 15 years, much to less subject him to the torture that the world has so roundly condemned.”

Denbeaux also explained how “the Prosecution here in the Military Commissions is afraid to try him or even charge him with any crime,” adding, “The failure to charge him, after 15 years of torture and detention, speaks eloquently. To charge him would be to reveal the truth about the creation of America’s torture program.” Read the rest of this entry »

Prior to Chelsea Manning’s Release on Wednesday, Here’s What She Wrote to President Obama

Free Chelsea Manning posters, via torbakhopper on Flickr.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

This Wednesday, May 17, Chelsea Manning — formerly known as Bradley Manning — will be released from prison, in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where she has been held for the last seven years. her role as a whistleblower was immense. As a private, she was responsible for the largest ever leak of classified documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians and two Reuters reporters in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the Guantánamo files, released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, on which I worked as a media partner. See my archive of articles based on those files here.

By that time, Manning was already in US custody in a military brig in Quantico, Virginia, which I first wrote about in December 2010, in an article entitled, Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”? I continued to follow her story closely into 2011 (see here and here), which included President Obama’s indifference to criticism by the United Nations, and when Manning’s trial finally took place, in 2013, I made a particular point of dealing with those parts of the trial in which the significance of the Guantánamo files was examined.

As I stated just before the trial began, “Bradley’s key statement on the Guantánamo files is when he says, ‘the more I became educated on the topic, it seemed that we found ourselves holding an increasing number of individuals indefinitely that we believed or knew to be innocent, low-level foot soldiers that did not have useful intelligence and would’ve been released if they were held in theater.’” Read the rest of this entry »

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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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