The Rule of Law Oral History Project: How the Guantánamo Prisoners Have Been Failed by All Three Branches of the US Government

Two days ago I posted excerpts from an interview about Guantánamo and my work that I undertook as part of The Rule of Law Oral History Project, a five-year project run by the Columbia Center for Oral History at Columbia University Library in New York, which was completed at the end of last year.

In this follow-up article I’m posting further excerpts from my interview — with Anne McClintock, Simone de Beauvoir Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison — although, as in the previous article, I also encourage anyone who is interested in the story of Guantánamo and the “war on terror” — and the struggle against the death penalty in the US — to visit the website of The Rule of Law Oral History Project, and to check out all 43 interviews, with, to name but a few, retired Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court; A. Raymond Randolph, Senior Judge in the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit; Ricardo M. Urbina and James Robertson, retired Senior Judges in the US District Court for the District of Columbia; Lawrence B. Wilkerson, Former Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; Joseph P. Hoar, Former Commander-in-Chief, United States Central Command (CENTCOM); former military commission prosecutor V. Stuart Couch and former chief prosecutor Morris D. Davis; Brittain Mallow, Commander, Criminal Investigation Task Force, and Mark Fallon, Deputy Commander, Criminal Investigation Task Force. Also included are interviews with former prisoners, lawyers for the men, psychologists and a psychiatrist, journalists and other relevant individuals.

In this second excerpt from the interview, I explain how, at the time Anne and I were talking (in June 2012), the situation for the Guantánamo prisoners had reached a new low point, as the Supreme Court had just failed to take up any of the appeals submitted by seven of the men still held. These all related to the men’s habeas corpus petitions, and the shameful situation whereby, for ideological reasons, primarily related to fearmongering, a handful of appeals court judges, in the D.C. Circuit Court, had effectively ordered District Court judges to stop granting habeas corpus petitions submitted by the prisoners (after the prisoners secured 38 victories), by demanding that anything that purported to be evidence submitted by the government — however risible — be given the presumption of accuracy unless it could be specifically refuted. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Interview about Guantánamo and Torture for Columbia University’s Rule of Law Oral History Project

Read my full interview here.

On Independence Day in the US, I’d like to direct readers to a wonderful resource, The Rule of Law Oral History Project, undertaken by the Columbia Center for Oral History at Columbia University Library in New York. The project’s website explains that The Rule of Law Oral History Project was “initiated in 2008 to explore and document the state of human and civil rights in the post-9/11 world. In its first year, the project conducted a series of interviews with attorneys in order to document legal challenges against capital punishment in the United States. Recognizing important intersections between litigation challenging the administration of capital punishment and the legal architecture of post-9/11 detention policies and practices, the Rule of Law Oral History Project expanded in 2010 to study the statutory and constitutional challenges of the use of the detention facilities at Guantánamo Bay.”

I was interviewed for this project two years ago by Anne McClintock, a delightful interviewer who is Simone de Beauvoir Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and who was very generous in support of my work, as this exchange shows:

Q (Anne): [D]o you know Adam Hochschild?

Worthington: No.

Q: A wonderful writer. He wrote a fabulous book called King Leopold’s Ghost. He’s a historian; he’s a journalist at [University of California] Berkeley. But he talks about the great forgettings of history, and I think U.S. history is a history that’s based on cultural amnesia. That’s why I think your work is so extraordinarily important because you’re taking this forgotten history, the great forgettings, and you’re insisting in recalling it to memory. Read the rest of this entry »

An Interview with Guantánamo Expert Andy Worthington for The Prisma, An Online Multi-Cultural Newspaper

Recently, I was interviewed by a young Spanish journalist, Francisco Castañón, for The Prisma, an online multicultural newspaper. The interview is here, and in it I explained how I came to write about Guantánamo, for my book The Guantánamo Files, and I also ran through aspects of the story of Guantánamo, past, present and future to help to explain why the prison is still open, and why its continued existence is so monstrously unjust. I hope you find it useful.

Andy Worthington, Guantánamo and the survivors
By Francisco Castañón, The Prisma, October 13, 2013

Since Obama took power in 2009, he has freed 73 of the prisoners in Guantánamo, of the 240 prisoners who were held when he took office. Three others have died. But in the last three years Congress approved new laws which made the promise to close the prison even more difficult to fulfill.

Former prisoners like Omar Deghayes, Moazzam Begg and Murat Kurnaz have made public the extreme conditions which the prisoners are still suffering.

Kurnaz told how difficult it was to live in a solitary confinement cell, to keep himself alive in such a small space with just enough air to breathe. Read the rest of this entry »

TV and Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Ongoing Guantánamo Hunger Strike on Press TV and on KBOO FM

On Tuesday evening, I responded to a last-minute request for a brief interview about Guantánamo, and the ongoing hunger strike that is now on its 135th day, with Press TV. That interview is available here, and below is a rather helpful transcript, produced by Press TV, to which I have made a few corrections.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to link to a radio interview I undertook last week with Linda Olson-Osterlund on her show A Deeper Look on KBOO FM, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon. Linda first approached me for an interview back in May 2008, and we have since spoken many times. It is always a pleasure to speak to her, as she is a well-informed host, passionate about exposing injustice. The half-hour show is available here, and the MP3 is here.

The show was entitled, “Guantánamo Bay Prison Camp: Will It ever Close?” and this is how Linda described it:

With 104 men on hunger strike, 41 of them being force fed and 4 hospitalized, White House officials and Senators Feinstein and McCain paid a surprise visit last Friday. At the same time there is a mini troop surge going on at the prison. Join me, Linda Olson-Osterlund, for A Deeper Look, this Thursday morning at 9:30am. My guest will be Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files. He’ll help make sense of the changing political landscape about the prison camp and bring us up to date on efforts to have men released. Read the rest of this entry »

“It’s Going to End in Men Dying”: Carlos Warner, Guantánamo Attorney, Discusses the Hunger Strike

As the hunger strike continues to rage at Guantánamo, with at least 130 of the remaining 166 prisoners involved, I’m delighted to have the opportunity to cross-post an interview with Carlos Warner, an attorney with the Office of the Federal Defender for the Northern District of Ohio, who represents ten prisoners at Guantánamo — including a number of Yemeni prisoners, a “high-value detainee,” one of the last five Tunisians in Guantánamo, the only Kenyan, and Fayiz al-Kandari, one of the last two Kuwaitis in the prison.

The interview was conducted by my friend The Talking Dog, a New-York based independent journalist who has conducted dozens of interviews with lawyers, journalists and former prisoners over the last eight years — which someone should publish as a book, at some point!

I am enormously grateful to The Talking Dog for putting me up on my generally annual visits to New York to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo, which began as a result of the friendship that we struck up after he interviewed me, back in September 2007, just as my book The Guantánamo Files was being published, and I hope you have time to read and publicize this interview. The hunger strike began because of aggression by the guards and the perceived abuse of the prisoners’ Korans, but as time has gone on, it has become a sustained protest against the men’s indefinite detention, and the fact that, having been abandoned by President Obama, they may die at the prison, even though 86 of them were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established just after taking office in 2009.

Read the rest of this entry »

Revolution Interview: Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike and the Prison’s Horrendous History

Last week, Frank Harper, an activist with the campaigning group World Can’t Wait interviewed me by phone (via Skype) for Revolution newspaper. An edited version of the transcript of that interview has been published on Revolution‘s website, and is published in the latest issue of Revolution, cover date April 7.

Below, for readers who want a more detailed analysis of Guantánamo past and present — and, in particular, the prison-wide hunger strike that is about to enter its third month (and which I have written about here, here, here, here and here) — I’m reproducing the full text of the interview, in which I discussed the hunger strike and the reasons for it, as well as, more broadly, the failure of all three branches of the US government to bring anything resembling justice to the 166 prisoners who are still held — the Obama administration and Congress for blocking the release of 86 prisoners cleared for release by the President’s own inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and the Supreme Court for failing to overturn the ideologically motivated decision by judges in the court of appeals, in Washington D.C., to gut habeas corpus of all meaning for the prisoners, who were granted habeas rights by the Supreme Court on two occasions under President Bush — in 2004 and 2008.

Revolution Interview with Andy Worthington
Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Bay: “Respect us or kill us”
Revolution Newspaper, April 7, 2013

For almost two months now, prisoners at the US’s Guantánamo torture center have been on a hunger strike. Lawyers for some of the prisoners reported that the strike began because of “unprecedented searches and a new guard force.” In particular, prisoners were angry and anguished at the way the guards handled the prisoners’ Korans. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Discusses the Urgent Need to Close Guantánamo with Peter B. Collins

As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches (on January 11, 2013), I wanted to make sure that I made available an interview I undertook recently with the respected progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, in San Francisco. Peter’s site is here, and our 50-minute interview is here, as an MP3.

Peter and I have spoken many times over the years, and it is always a pleasure to talk to him, as he is such a well-informed host, and his shows allow complex issues — like Guantánamo — to be discussed in depth.

Out latest conversation followed the reelection of Barack Obama, and gave us an opportunity to catch up on where we stand nearly four years on from the President’s failed promise to close Guantánamo within a year. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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