Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination, Has a Dangerous Track Record of Defending Guantánamo and Unfettered Executive Power

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and a close-up of Guantanamo prisoners photographed on the day the prison opened, January 11, 2002. The photo on the left is an edit of a photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.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.

 

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.

Disgraceful though Donald Trump’s presidency is, it will at least be over at some point in the imaginable future, with the potential that his most outrageous policy changes, enacted in legislation by a Republican majority in Congress, can be reversed should Congress end up with a Democratic majority instead.

When it comes to interpreting the law, however, his impact will last for decades, through his nominations to the nation’s District Courts, appeals courts (the Circuit Courts), and, most crucially, the Supreme Court.

Shamefully, although Barack Obama successfully nominated two of the Supreme Court’s nine justices during his eight years in office (Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), Congress — where Republicans had a majority, as they did throughout most of Obama’s presidency — refused to consider his third nomination, Merrick Garland, nominated in March 2016. Garland’s appointment would have given Democratic appointees a majority on the Supreme Court for the first time since 1970, but Garland’s nomination expired in January 2017, when Obama left office, and when Donald Trump took over he wasted no time in nominating Neil Gorsuch instead, a dangerous right-winger whose nomination was subsequently approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Today Marks 6,000 Days of Guantánamo: Rights Groups, Concerned Citizens and Former Prisoner Shaker Aamer Urge Donald Trump to Close It

Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer urges Donald Trump to close Guantanamo on June 15, 2018, the 6,000th day of the prison's existence.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.

 

Please join us in urging Donald Trump to close Guantánamo. Take a photo with a 6,000 days poster, either by printing it, or on a tablet or even on your phone, and send it to us to post on the Close Guantánamo website — or post it on Facebook and tag us, joining former prisoner Shaker Aamer, pictured here (click on the image to enlarge it), who says:

“Tell Donald Trump:
As long as Guantánamo is open, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is committing injustice, America will never be great again.
And as long as America has military posts all over the world, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is supporting and helping dictators all over the world, America will never be great again.”

Today, June 15, 2018, is a depressing milestone in the long history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo Bay. Today the Guantánamo prison, set up after the 9/11 attacks, has been open for 6,000 days.

Most of the men held at Guantánamo over the last 6,000 days (16 years, five months and four days) have been held without charge or trial, in defiance of international laws and treaties governing the treatment of prisoners. There are only two acceptable ways to deprive an individual of their liberty: either as a criminal suspect, to be tried in a federal court; or as a prisoner of war, held unmolested until the end of hostilities. The men at Guantánamo are neither. Instead, after 9/11, the Bush administration conceived of a novel category of prisoner — one without any rights whatsoever — and implemented this at Guantánamo.

Although the prisoners were granted constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights by the Supreme Court in June 2008, those rights were eviscerated by a number of appeals court decisions between 2009 and 2011, effectively gutting habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners. The unacceptable reality of Guantánamo now is that the men still held can only be freed at the whim of the president, a statutory change by the U.S. Congress, or a landmark judicial decision. None of these possibilities are remotely plausible at present.

Donald Trump inherited 41 prisoners from Barack Obama, but he has only released one man, a Saudi repatriated to ongoing imprisonment as part of a plea deal he agreed in the military commission trial system in 2014. Of the 40 men still held, only nine are facing, or have faced trials. Five were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama, but are still held, while the other 26, accurately described as “forever prisoners” by the media, are being held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Every day that Guantánamo remains open is a black mark against America’s notion of itself as a nation founded on the rule of law, which respects the rule of law. We call on Donald Trump to close it without further delay, and to charge or release those still held.

[Below is a great photo of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ staff and interns in New York united in calling for the closure of Guantánamo on its 6,000th day of existence. Staff also held up placards for three prisoners CCR represent: Sufyian Barhoumi, approved for release by a high-level review process under President Obama,but still held, and “forever prisoners” Sharqawi al-Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran].

A great photo of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ staff and interns in New York united in calling for the closure of #Guantanamo on its 6,000th day of existence on June 15, 2018. Staff also hold up placards for three prisoners CCR represent: Sufyian Barhoumi, approved for release by a high-level review process under President Obama,but still held, and "forever prisoners" Sharqawi al-Hajj and Guled Hassan Duran.Andy Worthington, the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign, said: “6,000 days is far longer than the two world wars combined. It is outrageous that the U.S. government continues to perpetuate the myth of an ‘endless war,’ as a supposed justification for holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial, when this is, in fact, a policy for which there is no justification whatsoever.”

Sue Udry, Executive Director of Defending Rights & Dissent said: “Guantánamo Bay prison is a living symbol of America’s refusal to live up to the promise of our Constitution. Although President Trump has made clear his disinterest in human rights, due process, and the rule of law, we call on him to choose justice over inhumanity and close the prison immediately.”

Helen Schietinger of Witness Against Torture said: ”It is significant — and not accidental — that all the men who have been imprisoned at Guantánamo are Muslim. How many holy months of Ramadan have they missed during these 6000 days? How many more must they endure, never being allowed visits by their families?”

Close Guantánamo
Defending Rights & Dissent
Dorothy Day Catholic Worker
London Guantánamo Campaign
No More Guantánamos
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
TASSC International (Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition)
The Tea Project
Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Witness Against Torture
World Can’t Wait

The above was issued as a press release by all the groups above. The poster is a Close Guantánamo initiative, via the Gitmo Clock which counts in real time how long Guantánamo has been open. Throughout the year, supporters of the campaign have been taking photos with posters counting how long the prison has been open, and urging Donald Trump to close it. Those photos can be found here.

As published on Close Guantánamo.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

It’s Ten Years Since the Supreme Court Granted Habeas Corpus Rights to the Guantánamo Prisoners, a Legal Triumph Until a Lower Court Took Them Away

Protestors with Witness Against Torture outside the Supreme Court calling for the closure of Guantanamo on Jan. 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the prison's opening (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.

 

Exactly ten years ago, I was briefly working for the human rights organization Reprieve, when a wonderful ruling came out of the US Supreme Court. In Boumediene v. Bush, the Court held that efforts by Congress to quash the habeas corpus rights that they had granted the prisoners in 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, had been unconstitutional, and asserted that the prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

We were overjoyed with the result, and for good reason. Although the Rasul ruling had allowed lawyers into Guantánamo, a derisory response by the Bush administration — the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, administrative military reviews designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ blanket designation, on capture, as “enemy combatants” — and Congress’s obstructions, via the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, had prevented habeas cases from proceeding to the courts, as I explained at the time in my article, The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean?

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy, delivering the Court’s majority opinion, ruled that the “procedures for review of the detainees’ status” in the DTA “are not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus,” and that therefore the habeas-stripping component of the MCA “operates as an unconstitutional suspension of the writ.” Read the rest of this entry »

June 15 Marks 6,000 Days of Guantánamo: Join Us in Telling Donald Trump, “Not One Day More!”

20 of the people who have supported the campaign to tell Donald Trump to close Guantanamo in 2018, via the Gitmo Clock, which counts how long the prison has been open in real time.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.

 

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.

Next Friday, June 15, 2018, is a bleak day for anyone who cares about justice and the rule of law, because the prison at Guantánamo Bay, where men are, for the most part, held indefinitely without charge or trial, will have been open for 6,000 days; or, to put it another way, 16 years, five months and four days. We hope you will join us in making some noise to mark this sad milestone in America’s modern history.

All year we’ve been running the Gitmo Clock, which counts, in real time, how long Guantánamo has been open, and in connection with that, we’ve made posters available every 25 days showing how long the prison has been open, and inviting suporters of Guantánamo’s closure to take photos with them, and to send them to us. The poster for 6,000 days is here. Please print it off, take a photo with it, ask your family and friends to do the same, and send the photos to us. We will add them to the photos we’ve been publishing all year, which can be found here. 

How long is 6,000 days?

To give you some idea of how long 6,000 days is, try to remember what you were doing on January 11, 2002, when the prison opened. Perhaps you weren’t yet born, or perhaps, like me, you have sons or daughters who were just toddlers when those first photos of orange-clad, sensorily-deprived prisoners kneeling in the Caribbean sun as US soldiers barked orders at them were first released. My son is now 18 years old — nearly 18 and a half, in fact — but he was just two when Guantánamo opened. Read the rest of this entry »

With Transfer of Ahmed Al-Darbi to Saudi Arabia, Guantánamo’s Population Drops to 40; No New Arrivals on Horizon

Guantanamo prisoner Ahmed al-Darbi, with a photo of his children, in a photo taken several years ago by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.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.

 

So there was good news on Wednesday, when the Pentagon announced that Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi citizen in Guantánamo, had been repatriated, to serve out the rest of a 13-year sentence that he was given as the result of a plea deal that he agreed in his trial by military commission in February 2014.

Under the terms of that plea deal, al-Darbi acknowledged his role in an-Qaeda attack on a French oil tanker off the coast of Yemen’s coast in 2002, and was required to testify against other prisoners at Guantánamo as part of their military commission trials, which he did last summer, and was supposed to be released on February 20 this year.

However, February 20 came and went, and al-Darbi wasn’t released, a situation that threatened to undermine the credibility of the military commission plea deals. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Lawyers Urge International Criminal Court to Investigate US Torture Program

An image produced by AMICC (the American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court), which advocates for US participation in the ICC. The image was produced in 2016, in an article about the ICC's possible investigation into war crimes in Afghanistan, including those in which US forces were involved.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.

 

Ever since evidence first emerged of the US’s post-9/11 torture program — most conspicuously, via the photos of abuse in Abu Ghraib that were revealed in 2004, and the network of CIA “black sites” that were first revealed in the media in late 2005 — opponents of torture have sought to hold accountable those responsible for implementing torture in its various forms: in the CIA’s global network of “black sites,” in proxy prisons in other countries, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at Guantánamo.

Their efforts have persistently been thwarted. President Obama, notoriously, used the “state secrets doctrine” to prevent torture victims from having their day in the US court system (check out the Jeppesen case in 2010, for example), and, earlier that year, after an internal Justice Department investigation into John Yoo and Jay Bybee, who wrote and approved the notorious “torture memos” of 2002 that purported to re-define torture so that it could be used by the CIA, concluded that they were guilty of “professional misconduct,” the Obama administration allowed a DoJ fixer to override that conclusion, deciding instead that they had merely exercised “poor judgment.”

In December 2014, an important step towards the truth came with the publication of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA’s post-9/11 detention program (the Senate torture report, as it is more colloquially known), which delivered a devastating verdict on the program, even if it was not empowered to hold anyone accountable. And last August, there was good news when James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, former military psychologists who had developed the torture program for the CIA, settled out of court — for a significant, but undisclosed amount — with several survivors of the rendition and torture program, and the family of another man, Gul Rahman, who had died in Afghanistan. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hideous Pointlessness of Donald Trump’s Executive Order Keeping Guantánamo Open

Images of Donald Trump and Guantanamo.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.

 

Reading Donald Trump’s pompously-entitled “Presidential Executive Order on Protecting America Through Lawful Detention of Terrorists,” which officially keeps the prison at Guantánamo Bay open, reversing a policy of closing it that was held by both of his predecessors, Barack Obama, and, in his second term, George W. Bush, is to step back in time to when Bush and his administration sought to defend their lawless escapade — back in his first term, before the novelty soured.

Straight after the 9/11 attacks, in the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), Congress authorized the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”

That document underpins the detention of prisoners at Guantánamo, a detention power the Supreme Court defended in June 2004, in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, approving imprisonment until the end of hostilities for the men held at Guantánamo, and, as I have frequently noted, essentially setting up, as a result, a parallel version of the Geneva Conventions, a bizarre development without precedent. Read the rest of this entry »

Leak Reveals How, In Counter-Productive, Backwards Move, Donald Trump Plans to Issue New Executive Order Keeping Guantánamo Open

Collage of Donald Trump and Guantanamo prisoners on the first day of the prison's operations, January 11, 2002.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.

 

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.

The first responses that occurred to me when I saw the news, via Politico, that a leaked State Department cable revealed that Donald Trump was planning to issue an executive order keeping the prison at Guantánamo Bay open — in other words, rescinding President Obama’s unfulfilled 2009 executive order pledging its closure — was, firstly, how leaky this administration is, and, secondly, how Trump seems obsessed with overturning anything associated with his predecessor.

Just a week into Trump’s presidency, last January, the New York Times obtained a leaked executive order in which he proposed to keep Guantánamo open, to prevent further prisoner releases, and to reintroduce torture and “black sites,” rescinding not only Obama’s executive order regarding the closure of Guantánamo, but also his executive order banning the use of torture and ordering “black sites” closed.

He was shouted down on the latter, by everyone within the US establishment who had been stung by how close they had come to prosecution over the brutal and unnecessary post-9/11 CIA torture program, which the Senate Intelligence Committee witheringly dismantled in its 2014 report. However, his desire to keep Guantánamo open never went away, even though advisers surely told him that sending anyone there was impractical, as the courts have a solid track record of successfully prosecuting those accused of terrorism, and Guantánamo’s history reveals it as little more than a place of torture and abuse, intended to be beyond the reach of the US courts, which wrecks viable prosecutions, and, throughout its existence, has routinely warehoused insignificant prisoners at colossal expense. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: This is NOT the Face of America – Resistance to Donald Trump on the Women’s March in New York, Jan. 20, 2018

Some of my photos from the Women's March in New York on January 20, 2018, via Flickr.

See my photos on Flickr here!

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.

 

Last month, when I was discussing with Debra Sweet, the national director of the campaigning group the World Can’t Wait, how long to stay in the US on my annual trip to call for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening on January 11, we decided that it was worth staying for the Women’s March on January 20. Debra has been coordinating my January visits to the US since 2011, and I had stayed until January 21 last year, and took part in the colossal 500,000-strong march in New York, and we both felt that there was no good reason to miss it this year, as it promised yet again to be an opportunity for millions of women — and men — to tell Donald Trump what they think of him.

Last year, there was a huge outpouring of anger at the arrival in the White House of Trump, who had somehow become president despite his extraordinary unsuitability for the role: his complete lack of political experience, and his very public deficiencies — his rudeness, his vindictiveness, his inability to complete even a simple coherent sentence, his sordid history as a sexual predator, and the groundless illusion of his success as a businessman. This thoroughly unpleasant figure had particularly appalled women because of his “grab ‘em by the p*ssy” comment that had been revealed during the election campaign, but that had somehow failed to derail him.

A year on, the anger against Trump is surely more palpable, and more based on experience, than a year ago. This president is a bitter joke, the dysfunctional head of a dangerously right-wing version of the Republican Party, who governs by tweet, and constantly threatens,and tries to deliver on policies that reveal a profound and troubling racism: his attempted Muslim travel ban, for example, and the marked increase in his assault on the most vulnerable members of US society — the immigrants on whom the US economy depends, but whose presence, as with Brexit and immigrants in the UK, is perceived by self-pitying white people as being the source of their economic woes, rather than the truth: that it is the fault of the neoliberal machinery of political and big business, a world which, fundamentally, Donald Trump is as much a part of as the “elites” for which his supporters have nothing but contempt. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Has Been Open 5,845 Days on Jan. 11: Please Join the New Close Guantánamo Campaign – Take a Photo With a Poster And Send It To Us

Andy Worthington launching the new Close Guantanamo initiative for 2018, showing how long the prison has been open - with the first poster showing 5,845 days on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of its opening. Throughout the year, the Gitmo Clock website will count exactly how many days, hours, minutes an seconds Guantanamo has been open, and posters can be printed from the page for people to take photos with and send to the Close Guantanamo campaign.

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, including my current visit to the US.

 

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.

Please print off the poster here for 5,845 days on Jan. 11, and send it to us. After Jan. 11, please print the Gitmo Clock, which counts exactly how many days, hours, minutes and seconds Guantánamo has been open. Send them to us to put up on the website and on social media.

January 11, 2018 is the 16th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, when it will have been open for 5,845 days, and to mark this grim occasion — which ought to be a source of shame for all decent Americans and citizens of the world who respect the rule of law — the Close Guantánamo campaign, set up by journalist Andy Worthington and attorney Tom Wilner exactly six years ago, is launching a new initiative: inviting opponents of Guantánamo’s continued existence to take a photo of themselves holding a poster telling Donald Trump to close the prison, and marking how long it has been open.

Regular readers will, we are sure, know exactly why it is so important for Guantánamo to be closed, but if you’re new to the site — and we hope some of you are — the reason it needs to be closed is because the men held at the prison (41 now, but 779 in total over the last 16 years) were almost all the victims of a horrendous experiment in detention — held not as criminal suspects, to be charged swiftly and prosecuted in federal court, nor as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Conventions, who can be held unmolested until the end of hostilities.

Instead, the Bush administration decided that the Guantánamo prisoners had no rights whatsoever. Guantánamo — the site of an existing US naval base, in Cuba —was chosen because it was presumed to be beyond the reach of the US courts. As such, hidden from outside scrutiny, they were open to being abused when, as it transpired, most of them had no useful information to impart. What made this situation even more shocking is that many of them had no useful information because they were insignificant. The truth only later emerged — and is still generally unknown — that there was no effective screening in Afghanistan, where all the prisoners were processed, before their arrival at Guantánamo, and, in addition, the majority of the prisoners were not “captured on the battlefield” by US forces, as the Bush administration alleged, but were handed over or sold by their Afghan and Pakistani allies, with the US paying bounties averaging $5,000 a head for prisoners who could be packaged up as being members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban. They were then tortured or otherwise abused in an effort to get them to provide useful intelligence, even though most of them had no such information. Read the rest of this entry »

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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