On Friday, I received an alarming message from inside Guantánamo, from a reliable source who described the impact of the prison-wide hunger strike, now nearing the three-month mark, by stating that the the guards were “putting people in isolation and all day long making lots of noise by speaking loudly, running on the metal stairs and leaving their two-way radios on all day and night. People cannot sleep.”
The source added, “There are at least four people that are at the very edge and one named Khiali Gul from Afghanistan is in a bad shape and cannot move and cannot talk or eat or drink. When other detainees tell the guards about him, they say, ‘When he is completely unconscious, then we will take him.’ The chances are that he will die.”
I have been reporting on the hunger strike since it first became public knowledge in February, and it is reports like the one above, and the statements that have been featured in prominent newspapers — by Samir Moqbel, a Yemeni, in the New York Times, and Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, in the Observer — that have helped to put the spotlight back on Guantánamo, after several years in which most people had lost interest. Read the rest of this entry »
I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 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.
Even in death, injustice stalks former Guantánamo prisoner Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, who died at the prison in September, six years after he was cleared for release. At “Close Guantánamo,” we covered Adnan’s story at the time of his death, and quoted his lawyers, who stated, “However he died, Adnan’s death is a reminder of the injustice of Guantánamo, and the urgency of closing the prison. May this unnecessary tragedy spur the government to release the detainees it does not intend to prosecute.”
We continue to believe that the death of Adnan Latif is the most powerful reminder of why President Obama must take the lead on releasing the 86 surviving prisoners cleared for release by his interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which issued its report in January 2010, and, in particular, the 55 cleared prisoners whose names were publicly made available for the first time ever by the government in a court case in September, as we explained in our exclusive report, “Who Are the 55 Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners on the List Released by the Obama Administration?” Read the rest of this entry »
Now that the all-consuming, and insanely expensive Presidential election is over for another four years, President Obama’s in-tray still contains Guantánamo, where, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force. Consisting of officials from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies, the Task Force analyzed the cases of all the remaining prisoners in 2009, and recommended them for trial, continued detention, or release.
These men have now been held for at least three years since the Task Force reached its conclusions, and many were previously cleared for release by military review boards under the Bush administration — in many cases in 2006 or 2007, and in 2004 in others.
Although the public’s interest in the long-term injustices of George W. Bush’s horrendous experimental prison has dwindled, some people still remember that the President promised to close the prison within a year, when he first came to office in January 2009, but failed to do so. That is a failure that those concerned with justice will not let him forget, not least because it perpetuates the notion, introduced by the Bush administration, that certain people — those labelled as “terrorists” — can be subjected to indefinite detention. Read the rest of this entry »
Ten and a half years into the Guantánamo experiment, as it becomes ever harder for those who are still appalled by the prison’s existence, and by the failures of all three branches of the US government — under Barack Obama — to close it, my friends and colleagues Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold are to be commended for not giving up, and for digging away at the secrets that still shroud Guantánamo, and that, moreover, are still capable of providing a shock when uncovered, even if they are generally ignored by the mainstream media.
On Wednesday, the mainstream media decided to pay attention for a change, and Jeff and Jason’s report on a drugging scandal at Guantánamo, published on Truthout, where Jason is the lead investigative reporter and Jeff, a full-time psychologist, is also a regular contributor, was picked up by mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, AFP and Britain’s Daily Mail.
Their article was based on the release of a Pentagon report, “Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees” that they requested through Freedom of Information legislation two years ago, and it paints a depressing story of prisoners at Guantánamo being given given powerful anti-psychotic medication and then, on occasions, interrogated, even though they were in no fit state to answer questions competently. Read the rest of this entry »
San Francisco and Chicago, January 2012, a set on Flickr.
Earlier this week, I posted the first two sets of photos on my new Flickr account. The first set was of of my wanderings in New York in January, at the start of my two-week US tour to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison, and the second was of the protests in Washington D.C. on the 10th anniversary, January 11, when it poured with rain, but our spirit was strong.
This third set concludes the photos of my trip, taken in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley during a one-day visit to the Bay Area, and in Chicago during another brief visit (my first ever to the Windy City), before flying back to New York, and 24 hours in Brooklyn preceding the long flight home. Read the rest of this entry »
On Christmas Day 2008, a comment by someone identifying themselves as Hesham Abu Zubaydah was submitted on an article I had written many months earlier, entitled, The Insignificance and Insanity of Abu Zubaydah: Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Confirms FBI’s Doubts. This was the first of many articles I have written explaining how Abu Zubaydah, the “high-value detainee” for whom the Bush administration’s torture program was specifically developed, was not a senior al-Qaeda operative, as the administration claimed, but was instead the mentally damaged gatekeeper of a training camp, Khaldan, that was independent of al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
The comment read, “Yes that is my brother and I live in Oregon. Do you think I should have been locked away for 2 years with no charges for a act of a sibling? I am the younger brother of Zayn [Abu Zubydah's real name, Zayn al-Abidin Mohamed Husayn] and I live in the USA. Tell me what you think.”
In response, from what I recall, I responded to the comment, but did not hear anything back. With hindsight, I should have pursued it further, but I’m glad to note that, eventually, my friend and colleague Jason Leopold stumbled across the comment, tracked down Hesham in Florida, where he lives with his wife Jody, and began a 14-month investigation that resulted in the publication, yesterday, of EXCLUSIVE: From Hopeful Immigrant to FBI Informant – the Inside Story of the Other Abu Zubaidah, a 15,000-word article by Jason that was published by Truthout, where he is the lead investigative reporter, and where I am an occasional contributor. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last few years, my friends and colleagues Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye have been doing some excellent work for Truthout exposing the Bush administration’s torture program, and human experimentation at Guantánamo, and last week they produced another excellent article for Truthout, examining the significance of a recently released US military training manual for the development of George W. Bush’s torture program.
The development of Bush’s torture program was triggered by the capture of the alleged “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in March 2002, and formalized when John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, wrote two memos — the “torture memos” — signed by his boss, Jay Bybee, on August 1, 2002, which purported to redefine torture so that it could be used by the CIA, and approved the use of ten torture techniques on Abu Zubaydah, including waterboarding, an ancient torture technique and a form of controlled drowning.
As Jason and Jeff explain, the manual “was prepared by the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) and used by instructors in the JPRA’s Survival Evasion Resistance Escape (SERE) courses to teach US military personnel how to withstand brutal interrogation techniques if captured by the enemy during wartime.” It has long been known that the Bush administration actively sought the advice of JPRA operatives — including James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen — who proposed reverse engineering the torture techniques taught in US military schools to enable captured personnel to resist torture if captured, and using them in real-life situations with captured “terror suspects.” Read the rest of this entry »
In January, when I visited the US for events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to renew calls for the prison to be closed, as President Obama promised on his second day in office, I paid a flying visit to San Francisco to take part in a conversation about Guantánamo past, present and future with my friend and colleague Jason Leopold, the lead investigative reporter for Truthout. Our hour-long conversation was filmed, and I posted an unedited version last month, but now I’m delighted to present an edited, 20-minute version, along with an insightful commentary, which was posted on Truthout yesterday.
The video was filmed and edited by Hans Bennett, a multi-media journalist whose work focuses on the movement to free Mumia Abu-Jamal and all political prisoners, and was produced in association with Angola 3 News, a project of the International Coalition to Free the Angola 3. As Angola 3 News noted, “In 2007 and 2011, Amnesty International issued statements in support of Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two members of the Angola 3 who remain in prison today, after more than 39 years of solitary confinement.”
I’m very pleased with the analysis of our conversation, which is posted below. I don’t want to flag up too much of it in this introduction, as I hope you have the time to read it — and to watch the video — but I was delighted with the explanation about Guantánamo’s “True Secret,” which was my response to a journalist suggesting, at a press conference in Washington D.C. on January 11, that “perhaps President Obama has not shut Guantánamo down because of some ‘dark secrets’ that cannot be made public for legitimate reasons of national security.” As I explained at the press conference, and again in San Francisco: Read the rest of this entry »
During my ten-day US tour last month to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, all the events I took part in, and the TV and radio interviews I undertook, were worthwhile, enjoyable, and an opportunity to provide important information and to urge those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo to keep campaigning for its closure.
This is not an easy task, given President Obama’s failures, cynical Congressional opposition, and the obstruction of right-wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court — and it is compounded by a recent poll showing that a majority of Americans are apparently content for Guantánamo to remain open — but the 10th anniversary provided an opportunity to launch a new campaigning website, “Close Guantánamo” with the attorney Tom Wilner (and supporters can sign up here), and also to hook up with many other friends.
One of these is Jason Leopold, the lead investigative reporter for Truthout, who is a colleague and a friend with whom I spent some time in the fall of 2010, during “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and in the third of the four cities on my recent visit — San Francisco — Jason and I took part in an hour-long conversation, at UC Hastings Law School on January 13, which was one of the most satisfying of all my engagements, as Jason and I work well together, and had enough time to cover all the issues that need discussing, on this baleful anniversary when all three branches of the US government have failed to close Guantánamo, and too few people seem to care. Read the rest of this entry »
Over the last few years, my colleague Jason Leopold at Truthout has been doggedly pursuing a number of important stories about the Bush administration’s torture program, and the lack of accountability for those who authorized or implemented aspects of the program. Working sometimes with the psychologist and blogger Jeff Kaye, Leopold has investigated human experimentation at Guantánamo, and has also worked tirelessly to shine a light on the story of the alleged “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah.
As Jason and I have spoken about repeatedly, the story of Abu Zubaydah is one of the most crucial in the “War on Terror.” Zubaydah was seized in Pakistan in March 2002, and flown to a secret prison in Thailand, where he was the first victim of the Bush administration’s “high-value detainee” torture program. Subsequently held in other locations, including Poland, he was finally sent to Guantánamo in September 2006, along with 13 other “high-value detainees,” including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
In the five years since the transfer of the “high-value detainees,” almost every attempt to officially pierce the veil of secrecy surrounding these 14 men — and two others transferred to Guantánamo in 2007 and 2008 — has been resisted, first by the Bush administration, and, since January 2009, by President Obama. Read the rest of this entry »
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