Nine Years Ago, Julian Assange and WikiLeaks Released the Guantánamo Files, Which Should Have Led to the Prison’s Closure

The logo for Wikileaks’ release of the previously classified Guantánamo military files in 2011, on which I worked as a media partner.

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Just over ten years ago, Pfc. Bradley Manning, stationed in Iraq as an intelligence analyst, undertook the largest leak in US history of classified government documents. These documents included 482,832 Army reports from the Afghan and Iraq wars, 251,287 US diplomatic cables from around the world, and classified military files relating to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, as well as the “Collateral Murder” video, which showed US military personnel killing civilians from helicopters and laughing about it.

Manning leaked the files to WikiLeaks, founded by Julian Assange, which published the documents in 2010 and 2011. The last releases were of the Guantánamo Files, on which I worked as media partner, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso.

WikiLeaks began publishing these files nine years ago today, on April 25, 2011, introduced by an article I had written about their significance, “WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Files on All Guantánamo Prisoners,” posted on my own website that same day as WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies.

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Judge Orders Chelsea Manning’s Release From Jail for Not Cooperating With WikiLeaks Grand Jury, But Won’t Waive $256,000 Fines

Chelsea Manning, after her release from prison in 2017, and before her re-imprisonment in 2019, for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury investigation into Wikileaks and its founder Julian Assange.

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Good news from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, where, on Thursday (March 12), District Judge Anthony J. Trenga ordered the immediate release from jail of whistleblower Chelsea Manning (formerly Pfc. Bradley Manning), who has been imprisoned since last March for refusing to cooperate with a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange.

While serving as an Army intelligence analyst in 2009, Manning was responsible for the largest leak of military and diplomatic documents in US history, and received a 35-year sentence — described by Charlie Savage in the New York Times as “the longest sentence by far in an American leak case” — in August 2013.

After her conviction, as Savage also explained, “she changed her name to Chelsea and announced that she wanted to undergo gender transition, but was housed in a male military prison and twice tried to commit suicide in 2016.” After these bleak experiences, it came as an extremely pleasant surprise when, just before leaving office in January 2017, President Obama commuted most of her sentence, as I explained in an article at the time, entitled, Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning’s 35-Year Sentence; Whistleblower Who Leaked Hugely Important Guantánamo Files Will Be Freed in May 2017, Not 2045.

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A Call for the Mainstream Media to Defend Press Freedom and to Oppose the Proposed Extradition of Julian Assange to the US

A screenshot from a video of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in a prison van, as he was returned to Belmarsh maximum security prison from Westminster Magistrates Court after a hearing regarding his proposed extradition to the US. His full extradition hearing begins on February 24, 2020 at Belmarsh.

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Check out the opening paragraphs of ‘Press freedom is at risk if we allow Julian Assange’s extradition’, an excellent article written for the Guardian two weeks ago by Roy Greenslade, a Guardian columnist and academic, who was the editor of the Daily Mirror from 1990-91:

Later this month, a journalist will appear at a London court hearing in which he faces being extradited to the United States to spend the rest of his life in prison. The 18 charges against him are the direct result of his having revealed a host of secrets, many of them related to the US prosecution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

They included the “collateral murder” video which showed a US helicopter crew shooting 18 people in Baghdad in 2007, including two Reuters war correspondents, Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Among the files were thousands of military dispatches and diplomatic cables that enabled people in scores of countries to perceive the relationships between their governments and the US. They also showed the way in which American diplomats sought to gather personal information about two UN secretary generals.

Unsurprisingly, the revelations were gratefully published and broadcast by newspapers and media outlets across the world. “Scoop” is far too mundane a term to describe the staggering range of disclosures. By any journalistic standard, it was a breathtaking piece of reporting, which earned the journalist more than a dozen awards.

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Radio: Unauthorized Disclosure – I Discuss Guantánamo and Julian Assange with Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek

Andy Worthington and a quote from the “Unauthorized Disclosure” show he featured on in January 2020, speaking about Guantánamo and Julian Assange.

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My thanks to Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek for interviewing me for 40 minutes on Friday for their “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, which was made available on Sunday. As the dust settled on my return to the UK from a ten-day trip to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, it was a good opportunity to reflect on what I had done and what I had learned during my trip, as well as providing enough time for me to explain some crucial aspects of the prison’s long and unjust history in depth.

As I explained when I posted a link to the show on Facebook, it is crucially important for people to remember that “the remaining 40 prisoners — and especially the three-quarters of them who are held indefinitely without charge or trial — are ‘entombed’ in the prison by Donald Trump, who has no intention of releasing any of them under any circumstances, and against whom no mechanism exists to oblige him to do anything that he doesn’t want.”

As I explained during the show, “Whoever has control of Guantánamo can do what they want with it,” and as I also explained, under Trump “the prison is sealed shut, entombing the men remaining in this pointless and cruel facility which defies American values, where the prisoners for the most part are held without charge or trial, and where they’re warehoused awaiting death, whenever that may come — 10, 20, 30, 40 years from now.”

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo on the Project Censored Show with Mickey Huff, on WBAI in New York, and with Michael Slate in L.A.

Andy Worthington discussing Guantánamo on RT on January 15, 2020, in the only news feature marking the 18th anniversary of the prison’s opening in the whole of the US broadcast media.

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I’m now back in the UK after an inspiring ten-day visit to the US to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 18th anniversary of its opening, when I took part in a prominent rally in Washington, D.C. on the actual anniversary (January 11), two subsequent speaking events with lawyers representing prisoners, one TV interview (the sole TV feature marking the anniversary in the whole of the US broadcast media) and six radio interviews.

My visit was important, I think, because, although Guantánamo ought to be a source of permanent shame for all decent Americans, it has fallen so far off the radar under Donald Trump that many people don’t even know that it exists, and many of those who do don’t care, even though the continued existence of the prison, where the US government holds foreign Muslims without charge or trial, and, in many cases, with no genuine effort made over 18 years to establish who they are, is like a virus infecting America’s soul.

Although few people care, my efforts to remind people of the prison’s existence, and my shared events with lawyers who still visit prisoners (and particularly Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who carries the weight of their horrendous isolation and despair under Donald Trump), was easily enough to persuade me that, despite America’s amnesia, this work is still of extraordinary importance.

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Over 70 Doctors Write to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel Expressing Fears That Julian Assange May Die in Belmarsh Prison

Julian Assange photographed after his most recent extradition hearing in October 2019.

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It’s three days now since over sixty medical professionals from around the world (now over seventy) published an open letter to the British home secretary Priti Patel (and shadow home secretary Diane Abbott) warning of their fears that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange — who is being held in Belmarsh maximum-security prison as he fights plans to extradite him to the US to face espionage charges that carry a 175-year prison sentence — may die in British custody, and urging her to allow him to have “urgent expert medical assessment of both his physical and psychological state of health”, and that, if any medical treatment is required, for it to be “administered in a properly equipped and expertly staffed university teaching hospital.”

I’m pleased to note that the letter was picked up on by a number of significant mainstream media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian.

However, because I think that, in particular, the detailed list of assessments of Assange’s condition, included in the letter, which have been made by numerous organizations and individuals between July 2015 and this month are worth reading in full, I’m cross-posting the letter below, as published on Medium, and credited to “Doctors for Assange,” and I’m hoping that, as a result, it will reach some new readers, and also that it will provide another reference point online for this comprehensive catalog of how, since he first sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in June 2012, Julian Assange has been deprived of proper medical and psychological treatment, leading to the terrible situation whereby now over seventy medical professionals fear for his life.

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo and Julian Assange on the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio

Guantánamo prisoners, on the day the prison opened, January 11, 2002, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

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On Wednesday, I was delighted to talk for 30 minutes to Bob Connors and Tom Walker of the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio on WSLR 96.5 FM, which describes itself as “cover[ing] local, state, national and international social justice issues.” featuring “a wide variety of guests whose views are underrepresented in the mainstream media.”

We spoke about Guantánamo, past, present and future, and also about the US torture program and the plight of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, imprisoned in the UK and fighting his proposed extradition to the US to face espionage charges.

The show is embedded below:

Andy Worthington on the Peace and Justice Report on Sarasota Community Radio, November 20, 2019.

My interview started six minutes in and ended at 34:40, and in it I ran through Guantánamo’s history, and my involvement with it, and expressed my sorrow about how most people nowadays have completely forgotten about the prison, even though it continues to hold men indefinitely without charge or trial, which ought to be a source of profound shame to US citizens who respect the rule of law.

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As a Frail and Confused Julian Assange Appears in Court, It’s Time For the UK to Stop His Proposed Extradition to the US

A WikiLeaks image calling for Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to the US from the UK to be stopped, and for Assange to be freed.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! 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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

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.

On Monday, at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, looked frail and, at times, appeared confused as his lawyers sought a delay to a hearing regarding his proposed extradition to the US to face dubious — and potentially punitive — espionage charges relating to WikiLeaks’ work as a publisher of classified US government information; in particular, “Collateral Murder,” a “classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad — including two Reuters news staff,” war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, a vast number of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and, in 2011, classified military files relating to Guantánamo, on which I worked as media partner, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Daily Telegraph and others.

Assange has been imprisoned in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in south east London since April, when the government of Ecuador, in whose embassy he had been living for nearly seven years, revoked the political asylum granted to him by the country’s former president, the democratic socialist Rafael Correa, who called his replacement, the right-winger Lenin Moreno, “[t]he greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history” for his betrayal of Assange, declaring, “Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget.”

In May, a British court sought to justify Assange’s imprisonment with a 50-week sentence for having broken his bail conditions back in 2012, when he first sought asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy, fearing that he would be extradited to Sweden to face unsubstantiated sexual assault allegations, and would then be handed over to the US.

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Stop the Extradition: If Julian Assange Is Guilty of Espionage, So Too Are the New York Times, the Guardian and Numerous Other Media Outlets

An undated photo of a billboard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, criticizing efforts by the US to punish Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange for having leaked and published classified US government documents.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! 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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

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.

Nearly seven years ago, when WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, sought asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (on June 19, 2012), he did so because of his “fears of political persecution,” and “an eventual extradition to the United States,” as Arturo Wallace, a South American correspondent for the BBC, explained when Ecuador granted him asylum two months later. Ricardo Patino, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, spoke of “retaliation that could endanger his safety, integrity and even his life,” adding, “The evidence shows that if Mr. Assange is extradited to the United States, he wouldn’t have a fair trial. It is not at all improbable he could be subjected to cruel and degrading treatment and sentenced to life imprisonment or even capital punishment.”

Assange’s fears were in response to hysteria in the US political establishment regarding the publication, in 2010 — with the New York Times, the Guardian and other newspapers — of war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and a vast number of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and, in 2011, of classified military files relating to Guantánamo, on which I worked as media partner, along with the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Daily Telegraph and others. All these documents were leaked to WikiLeaks by former US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning. 

Nearly seven years later, Assange’s fears have been justified, as, on May 23, the US Justice Department charged him on 18 counts under the Espionage Act of 1917, charges that, as the Guardian described it in an editorial, could lead to “a cumulative sentence of 180 years.” 

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Radio: As Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing Begins, I Discuss Guantánamo and WikiLeaks with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

WikiLeaks’ logo and the logo for the 2011 release of the Guantánamo files.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! 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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On Thursday, I was delighted to take part in a half-hour interview with Chris Cook for his Gorilla Radio show in Victoria, Canada to talk about the recent eighth anniversary of the release, by WikiLeaks, of the “Guantánamo Files” leaked by Chelsea Manning, on which I worked as a media partner, and which I wrote about here.

Our interview is here, as an MP3 (or here via Chris’s website), and it took up the first half of the show, lasting 30 minutes.

As I explained when I posted a link to the show on Facebook, “Despite the fact that Guantánamo is still open, that 40 men are still held there, and that Donald Trump has no interest in closing it, even though it is a legal, moral and ethical abomination with no redeeming features whatsoever, I rarely get asked to discuss it anymore, so I’d like to thank Chris Cook for having me on his Gorilla Radio show.”

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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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