Quarterly Fundraiser: Still Seeking $2000 (£1200) to Support My Work on Guantánamo, Shaker Aamer and Torture

Andy Worthington (R) with the actor-director Mark Rylance (L) and Joanne MacInnes (C) during an event for Shaker Aamer in Parliament Square on December 10, 2014 as part of the We Stand With Shaker campaign (Photo: Benedick Tranchell).Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

Can you help to support my work on Guantánamo and torture — including the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison?

My work — my writing, my campaigning, my media appearances and personal appearances — is largely unfunded: or, to put it another way, is only funded if you, my readers and supporters, provide donations to support me.

If you can 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). Read the rest of this entry »

Prosecutions Now! Please Read My New Article for Al-Jazeera About the Release of the Senate Torture Report

A screenshot of Andy Worthington's Al-Jazeera article about the CIA torture program, published on December 10, 2014.Dear friends and supporters,

I hope you have time to read my new article for Al-Jazeera English, “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report” looking at yesterday’s release of the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s 6,700-page report into the CIA’s “Detention and Interrogation Program,” which took five years to complete, and cost $40m; or, in other words, the release of the summary of the Committee’s report about the Bush administration’s torture program, as run by the CIA.

In the article, I run through the history of the secretive program and how knowledge of it became public, from 2004 onwards (and including a mention of the report on secret detention for the UN in 2010, on which I was the lead writer and researcher), and I also look at a few of the genuinely shocking stories that emerge from the executive summary, some of which are shocking even for those of us who have spent years — in my case nearly nine years — researching and writing about the torture program.

I remain worried, however, that the Committee’s important work will be swept under the carpet, and that no one will be held accountable — by which I don’t just mean CIA officials, and James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the former SERE psychologists who designed the program (and earned $81m as a result!), as much as those who gave them their orders in the first place; namely, President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, and the various lawyers around them — David Addington, William J. Haynes II, John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales, for example — who did so much to initiate the torture program and to attempt to justify it. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Please Help Me Raise $2500 to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington, in a photo for the We Stand With Shaker campaign.Please support my work!

Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months I ask you, if you can, to support my work on Guantánamo and the “war on terror” by making a donation. Most of the work I do to educate people about Guantánamo, and to campaign to get the prison closed, is unpaid — or, rather, it is unpaid unless it is funded by you, my readers — and this quarter is no exception.

I recently launched a campaign called We Stand With Shaker, specifically to try and secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. With a colleague, Joanne MacInnes, we launched it two weeks ago, and we seem to be getting noticed, in particular through our photos of celebrities — including actors, comedians, politicians, journalists and musicians — standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker. Some of you may also be surprised to discover that I also wrote and sang the campaign song, featured in the official video for the campaign.

This project has been taking up a huge amount of time, although, like so much of my work, it is completely unfunded, so any assistance you can provide will be very gratefully received, as the campaign continues, with new initiatives planned for the next few months, as well as the daily updates of celebrities standing with Shaker. Read the rest of this entry »

Who Are the Six Men Freed from Guantánamo and Given New Homes in Uruguay?

Photos of five of the six men released to Uruguay from Guantanamo - from L to R: Ali Hussein al-Shaaban, Ahmed Adnan Ahjam, Abdelhadi Faraj, Mohammed Taha Mattan and Abu Wa'el Dhiab. The photos are from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011, and the collage is by LeaNoticias.com.Great news regarding Guantánamo, as yesterday the Pentagon announced that six men, long cleared for release from the prison — four Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian — have been resettled in Uruguay as refugees.

Back in March, President José Mujica of Uruguay — a former political prisoner — announced that he had been approached by the Obama administration regarding the resettlement of Guantánamo prisoners and had offered new homes to a number of men, cleared for release from the prison in 2009 by President Obama’s high-level Guantánamo Review Task Force, who could not be safely repatriated.

In May, President Mujica’s offer was confirmed, as I explained in an article entitled, “Uruguay’s President Mujica Confirms Offer of New Home for Six Guantánamo Prisoners,” but the releases were then delayed. The Obama administration ran into problems with Congress after releasing five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the sole US prisoner of war in Afghanistan, and, according to various reports, defense secretary Chuck Hagel dragged his heels when it came to notifying Congress of any proposed releases, as required by law. In addition President Mujica ran up against hostility from his political opponents — which was particularly difficult in an election year. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Says Force-Feeding at Guantánamo Constitutes Ill-Treatment in Violation of the Convention Against Torture

A powerful image from Witness Against Torture in the US.I’ve been so busy lately with the launch of We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, that I haven’t had time to write anything — until now — about the United States’ recent appearance before the United Nations Committee Against Torture to explain its position on the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners in its custody.

The session — which took place on November 12 and 13, and was the first US report to the Committee Against Torture since 2006, when George W. Bush was president — led to numerous criticisms in the Committee’s response, adopted on November 20; in the Guardian‘s words, of “indefinite detention without trial; force-feeding of Guantánamo prisoners; the holding of asylum seekers in prison-like facilities; widespread use of solitary confinement; excessive use of force and brutality by police; shootings of unarmed black individuals; and cruel and inhumane executions.”

The Committee was also concerned about the US record on torture, expressing “its grave concern over the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and interrogation programme operated by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) between 2001 and 2008, which involved numerous human rights violations, including torture, ill-treatment and enforced disappearance of persons suspected of involvement in terrorism-related crimes” — concerns expressed in a 2010 UN report about secret detention on which I was the lead author (and also see here, here and here) — and reminded the US about “the absolute prohibition of torture reflected in article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention [Against Torture], stating that ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.'” The Committee also called for the long-delayed Senate Intelligence Committee torture report — or, more accurately, its executive summary — to be issued without further delay. Read the rest of this entry »

More Guantánamo Releases Planned Despite Hostility in Congress

"President and Congress: Close Guantanamo" - a banner from the protest calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

In a hopeful sign of ongoing progress on Guantánamo, following the recent release of six prisoners, Julian Barnes of the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday that defense and congressional officials had told him that the Pentagon was “preparing to transfer additional detainees” from Guantánamo “in the coming weeks.”

After four Yemenis and a Tunisian were given new homes in Georgia and Slovakia, and a Saudi was repatriated, defense officials “said there would be more transfers in December, but declined to detail their numbers or nationalities.”

Laura Pitter, the senior national security counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in response, “There does seem to be a renewed effort to make the transfers happen,” which, she added, seems to indicate a desire on the president’s part to continue working towards closing the prison, as he promised when he took office in January 2009, before Republicans raised obstacles that he has, in general, not wished to spend political will overcoming. Read the rest of this entry »

Former Guantánamo Military Defense Attorney Todd Pierce Interviewed by the Talking Dog

Former US military defense attorney Todd Pierce speaking at the presentation of the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to Chelsea Manning in Oxford in February 2014 (Photo: Andy Worthington).I’m delighted to be cross-posting below an interview conducted by my good friend The Talking Dog (functioning below the radar under a pseudonym in New York City) with another good friend, Army Maj. Todd Pierce (retired), who, as a Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer, was part of the defense team for two Guantánamo prisoners charged in the military commissions — Ali Hamza al-Bahlul (still held) and Ibrahim al-Qosi (released in 2012).

Todd became fascinated by the philosophical origins of the Bush-Cheney military commissions in the Nazi era, and efforts to justify the commissions through a warped interpretation of US Civil War precedents. Since retiring, he has continued to pursue these interests, and has also become part of Sam Adams Associates, who describe themselves as “a movement of former CIA colleagues of former intelligence analyst Sam Adams, together with others who hold up his example as a model for those in intelligence who would aspire to the courage to speak truth to power,” and who, every year since 2002, have presented the Sam Adams Associates Award for Integrity in Intelligence to whistleblowers — most recently to Chelsea Manning, at an event in Oxford that I attended in February.

I do hope you have time to read the interview — which also includes Todd’s latest thoughts on the case of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who has been successfully appealing against his 2008 conviction and life sentence — with profound repercussions for the entire military commissions project, which, it should be noted, should never have been revived by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney in the first place.

If you enjoy it, please share it, and please also follow the links I’m posting at the end of this article to the Talking Dog’s extensive archive of interviews about Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Promotes We Stand With Shaker on George Galloway’s Sputnik Show on RT

Joanne MacInnes and Andy Worthington of We Stand With Shaker with George Galloway and Gayatri for the Sputnik show broadcast on RT on November 29, 2014.Today (November 29), We Stand With Shaker, the new campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, got a big boost when campaign coordinator Joanne MacInnes and I were invited onto George Galloway’s Sputnik show on RT to discuss the campaign with George — and his co-host Gayatri. Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and watch the campaign video here.

We were on the first half of the show, which was about 13 minutes in total, and as well as giving us the opportunity to promote the campaign and to tell Shaker’s story to a global audience, the interview also featured clips of music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell speaking at the launch on Monday.

I do hope you have time to watch the show, which is posted below via YouTube:

This is how George described the program on the RT website: Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington Speaks at the Launch of We Stand With Shaker, the Campaign to Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo

Andy Worthington and Joanne MacInnes of We Stand With Shaker with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd) at the launch of the campaign outside the Houses of Parliament on November 24, 2014 (Photo: Stefano Massimo).Below is a short video, on Vimeo, of me (Andy Worthington) talking to doctor and filmmaker Saleyha Ahsan about the launch of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, which took place outside Parliament on Monday. Please also follow us on Facebook and Twitter, and watch the campaign video here. [Click on the photo of me at the launch with Roger Waters and campaign co-ordinator Joanne MacInnes to enlarge it].

Saleyha filmed me after the launch, and I explained who had been there — Roger Waters, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell, Jeremy Hardy and Peter Tatchell — and I also explained why the campaign is so important: because Shaker has twice been approved for release by the US (in 2007 and 2009), and his return to the UK has been requested by successive governments since August 2007, and therefore his ongoing imprisonment is completely unacceptable.

He continues to be held, it seems certain, because he is eloquent, and has always resisted the injustices of the US-led “war on terror” — with its torture, rendition, and indefinite detention without charge or trial — and because he is a fount of information about the crimes committed in the name of this “war,” but as both the US and UK governments have proven adept at preventing any court from holding them accountable for their actions, it would seems clear that he continues to be held solely because, on release, he may embarrass both governments.

Although the US appears to want to return him to Saudi Arabia, the country of his birth, where he will be silenced, that is not an option, as he was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and the British government has a non-negotiable obligation to secure his return to his family in the UK. We call on David Cameron to call Barack Obama immediately to demand that he give 30 days’ notice prior to Shaker’s release, as required in US law (in legislation passed by cynical Republican politicians), and then send a plane to bring Shaker back. With immediate action Shaker could be back in the new year.

Andy at Stand With Shaker Launch from saleyha ahsan on Vimeo.

Also, this week, I spoke about We Stand With Shaker with Bay Area radio host Peter B. Collins, for his show “Processing Distortion” on whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post website. The show is only available to subscribers (for a minimum payment of $6, for which listeners get a whole month of broadcasts), but I can recommend it. Peter and I have spoken many times before, and he is a particularly well-informed host. A 90-second preview of me talking about the British government’s evasion regarding Shaker’s case is here.

This is how Peter described the show:

In the second of two reports on Guantánamo prisoners [the first was with Jon B. Eisenberg, one of the lawyers for hunger striking prisoner Abu Wa'el Dhiab], Andy Worthington details the new campaign to bring home Shaker Aamer, the last Briton at Gitmo. With a large, inflatable “Shaker” and a heartfelt endorsement from Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, activists are demanding that the Cameron government negotiate the immediate release of Aamer, who has been held for 13 years without charge or trial, and was cleared for release 5 years ago. We talk about the recent transfer of 6 prisoners, with 10 more reported to be imminent, and the disappointing recent ruling about force feeding by Judge Gladys Kessler. Roger Waters makes a cameo appearance.

I made other media appearances in the week, but sadly most of them are not online. I was on RT’s main news at 6pm on Monday, and a film crew from the Islam Channel interviewed me at my house on Wednesday for a show broadcast on Wednesday evening that also featured my colleague on the campaign, Joanne MacInnes, and Katie Taylor of Reprieve‘s Life After Guantánamo project. As I say, though, neither is online.

However, a third appearance will definitely be online soon — mine and Jo’s appearance on RT’s Sputnik show with George Galloway, which we recorded on Thursday, and which is broadcast today (Saturday November 29) — at 1.30, 7.30 and 11.30pm.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — 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.

Who Are the Five Guantánamo Prisoners Given New Homes in Georgia and Slovakia and Who Is the Repatriated Saudi?

Abdel Ghalib Hakim, a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo who was released to start a new life in Georgia in November 2014. Hakim is seen in a photograph from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.On November 20, five men — long cleared for release — were freed from Guantánamo to begin new lives in Georgia and Slovakia. Four of the men are Yemenis, and the fifth man is a Tunisian. Two days after, a Saudi was also released, repatriated to his home country. The releases reduce the prison’s population to 142, leaving 73 men still held who have been approved for release — 70 by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established to review all the prisoners’ cases in 2009, and three this year by Periodic Review Boards, a new review process that began in October 2013. Of the 73, it is worth noting that 54 are Yemenis.

The Yemenis given new homes in Georgia and Slovakia are the first Yemenis to be freed in over four years — since July 2010, when Mohammed Hassan Odaini, a student seized by mistake, was released after having his habeas corpus petition granted by a US judge. Until Thursday’s releases, he was the only exception to a ban on releasing any Yemenis that was imposed by President Obama in January 2010 (and was later reinforced by Congress), after a Nigerian man recruited in Yemen, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, tried and failed to blow up a plane from Europe to Detroit with a bomb in his underwear. Last May, President Obama dropped his ban on releasing any Yemenis, stating that their potential release would be looked at on a case by case basis, but it took until last Thursday for any of them to be released.

The release of these four Yemenis to Georgia and Slovakia strongly indicates that the entire US establishment’s aversion to releasing any Yemenis to their home country remains intact, which cannot be particularly reassuring for the 54 other Yemenis approved for release, because most third countries persuaded to take in former Guantánamo prisoners don’t take more than a handful. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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