Dear friends and supporters,
I’m delighted to be writing to you from Heathrow Airport — despite a seriously disruptive Tube strike in London — awaiting a flight to New York City, for what will be my seventh annual visit at this time of year, to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the anniversary of its opening, on Jan. 11.
I’m not delighted to have to keep calling for Guantánamo’s closure, of course, and this year, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening is a particular difficult occasion: simultaneously, a definitive black mark against President Obama for having failed to fulfill the promise to close the prison — within a year! — that he made when he first took office eight years ago, and the introduction to Guantánamo under a third president, the worryingly unpredictable Donald Trump, who has vowed to keep Guantánamo open, and to “load it up with bad dudes,” and who, just days ago, tweeted that there should be no more releases from Guantánamo.
Trump’s comments came in spite of the fact that 19 of the 55 men still held have been approved for release by high-level, inter-agency review processes, and others may well be approved for release in future by the latest review process, the Periodic Review Boards, unless he decides, unwisely, to scrap them.
I will be talking about these topics, and reflecting on Guantánamo’s history, what it means, who is held, and why the closure of the prison remains so essential, during my visit. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve recently posted two sets of photos from my US visit last month to call for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, shamefully, is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it within a year on his second day on office in January 2009. The visit, as with my January visits every year since 2011, was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, where 91 men are still held, almost all without charge or trial, in defiance of the values the US claims to uphold.
The two photo sets I have previously posted were of my first ever visit to Florida — a lightning visit to attend a protest outside the gates of the headquarters of US Southern Command — and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, involving groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait. My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, as she has every January since 2011.
I was representing two other groups I co-founded, Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which played a part in securing Shaker’s release in October. To celebrate, I brought the giant inflatable figure of Shaker that was at the heart of the campaign to the US for the very first time. Read the rest of this entry »
This Friday (January 8), I’m flying from London to Miami for a short US tour to coincide with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11. I’ll be flying up to Washington, D.C. on the 10th, protesting outside the White House on the 11th, and moving on to New York City on the 13th, where I have an event lined up in Harlem on the 14th, and where I will be staying until the 18th.
I’m traveling as an expert on Guantánamo, with nearly ten years of experience as a researcher, writer, campaigner and public speaker about the prison and the men held there, the author of The Guantánamo Files, the co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and the co-founder and co-director of two campaigns: Close Guantanamo and We Stand With Shaker. I’m also hoping to return to the US later in the year with a new book, collection the nest of my writing about Guantánamo over the last eight years, and if you’re a publisher, or have funding ideas, or would like to stage an event for me as part of a tour when the book is published, then please get in touch.
Please also get in touch if you want to contact me on my forthcoming tour, either to interview me (for TV, radio or online) or to arrange a last-minute event. You can also contact Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who, as in previous years, is organizing my visit. And while I’m in New York, I’ll have a guitar, and will be delighted to play some of my political songs, including “Song for Shaker Aamer” and “81 Million Dollars,” about the US torture program, which I normally play with my band The Four Fathers. If any musician would like to play with me, do get in touch. Read the rest of this entry »
January 11, 2015 is the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba for prisoners seized in the brutal and fundamentally lawless “war on terror” that the Bush administration declared after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
779 men have been held at the prison — plus at least one other, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, in the “black site” that the CIA ran briefly at Guantánamo. Over the years, that population has been reduced significantly. 532 men and boys were released by President Bush, and 110 have been released by President Obama. Nine others died at the prison, and one was transferred to the US mainland to face a trial, leaving 127 men still held.
This is still 127 men too many, because everything about Guantánamo is fundamentally unjust, and has been since the day the prison opened, and although President Obama has released 28 men in the last year, 59 of the 127 men still held have been approved for release (all but four by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009), and the other 68 men must either be tried or released. Read the rest of this entry »
On Tuesday, in a courtroom in New York City, a long-running chapter in the “war on terror” came to an end, when Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, 48, a Kuwaiti-born cleric who appeared in media broadcasts as a spokesman for Al-Qaeda the day after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, received a life sentence based on the three counts for which he was convicted after his trial in March: conspiracy to kill Americans, providing material support to terrorists and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists.
The life sentence came as no surprise, as it is permissible for the main conspiracy charge, although Abu Ghaith’s lead defense lawyer, Stanley L. Cohen, had, as the New York Times described it, “sought a sentence of 15 years, saying in a court submission that his client was facing ‘the harshest of penalties for talk — and only talk.'” The Times added that Cohen had likened Abu Ghaith to “an outrageous daytime ‘shock-radio’ host, or a World War II radio propagandist for a losing ideology.”
In court, as the Times also noted, Cohen “emphasized that his client had played no role in specific acts of terrorism,” but the government had argued otherwise, stating in a sentencing memorandum that there was “no fathomable reason to justify a sentence other than life.” Read the rest of this entry »
In the Belly of the Beast: A Walk through Lower Manhattan, a set on Flickr.
Regular readers will recall that, last month, I visited the US to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 11th anniversary of its opening, taking part in events in Washington D.C. and McLean, Virginia from January 10 to 12, and in New York on January 13, which I made available in photo sets here, here and here. An archive of various articles relating to my visit — and videos of my appearances — can be found here.
However, as I explained in an article two weeks ago, An Englishman in New York: Photos of a Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I actually arrived in New York on the evening of January 7, and didn’t leave until the evening of January 16, so I had plenty of time to wander around the city — and specifically Manhattan and Brooklyn, the former because, of course, it draws the visitor like an irresistible magnet, and because I had appointments there with various friends and colleagues: with Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait, with various friends and associates at the Center for Constitutional Rights, with the dancer and activist Nancy Vining Van Ness, and with the journalist and researcher Anand Gopal, as well as my rendezvous for a panel discussion at Revolution Books on January 13 with the Guantánamo attorney Ramzi Kassem, who represents Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, after which a big group of World Can’t Wait supporters went out for dinner before I ended up down an alley in Chinatown being filmed for a forthcoming documentary. Read the rest of this entry »
An Englishman in New York: A Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, a set on Flickr.
Last month, when I visited the US to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 11th anniversary of its opening, I took part in events in Washington D.C. and McLean, Virginia from January 10 to 12, and in New York on January 13, which I made available in photo sets here, here and here. An archive of various articles relating to my visit — and videos of my appearances — can be found here.
However, I arrived in New York on the evening of January 7, and didn’t leave until the evening of January 16, so I had plenty of time to wander around New York — specifically Manhattan and Brooklyn, where I was staying with my friend, the secretive blogger known as The Talking Dog, and his family. The ‘Dog has been my friend since September 2007, when we first met over the phone, as he interviewed me for his excellent ongoing series of interviews with people involved with the Guantánamo story, just after the publication of my book The Guantánamo Files, and I first visited him and stayed with him in March 2008, during my first ever visit to America. Read the rest of this entry »
New York, January 2012, a set on Flickr.
Regular readers will be aware that, since the start of this year, some of my articles have featured photos I have taken (see Photos: The “Austerity Isn’t Working” Protest Outside Downing Street and Parliament, Photos: May Day Celebrations in London, Including Occupy London Protestors, Occupy London, May 12: Photos from St. Paul’s Cathedral Protest and Occupy London, May 12: Photos from the Bank of England Protest and a Call for Global Solidarity, for example).
Photography has been a love of mine since I was a teenager, but it is something that I largely let slip after Guantánamo took over my life six years ago, and my last analogue camera broke and I failed to buy a new digital replacement. Fortunately, my wife gave me a great digital camera at Christmas, which has now become my constant companion, and, as a result, I’ve now set up a Flickr account, and will regularly be uploading photos on Flickr and then providing notification here. Read the rest of this entry »
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.
Email Andy Worthington
Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist: