A few days ago, I was delighted to be interviewed by Scott Horton for his radio show. Scott and I first spoke about six and a half years ago, and have spoken numerous times since. Our latest half-hour interview is here, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful.
This time around, Scott was interested in hearing the latest news from Guantánamo, but had also picked up on my recent article highlighting the fact that, on February 7, it was 12 years since President Bush issued a memo explaining that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to Taliban and al-Qaeda prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” a memo that opened the floodgates to the use of torture.
This only officially came to an end after the Supreme Court reminded the Bush administration, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld in June 2006, that all prisoners — with no exceptions — are entitled to the protections of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit “cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment.” Even then, although the CIA’s torture program came to an end, torture techniques migrated immediately to the Army Field Manual, which was reissued with the addition of Appendix M, containing those techniques. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, during the West Coast leg of my 12-day “Close Guantánamo Now” tour (supported by the World Can’t Wait), I was first in San Francisco, a visit that involved being reunited with a number of old friends, including Stephanie Tang and Curt Wechsler of World Can’t Wait, Joey Johnson, who does community work in San Francisco neighbourhoods, the academic and anti-torture activist Rita Maran, lawyer Sharon Adams (with whom I spoke on Rose Aguilar’s “Your Call” show on KALW Public Radio) and Michael Kearns, the former instructor in the SERE program, which trains US personnel to resist interrogations if captured by an enemy that uses torture, who was appalled to discover, several years ago, that his former colleagues Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell and Roger Aldrich had played a key role in reverse-engineering these techniques for the torture of supposed “high-value detainees” seized in the “war on terror.”
I had met many of these good people for the first time in October 2010, when World Can’t Wait brought me over to Berkeley for “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and was reunited with many of them two years ago, as part of a short US tour on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in which I also visited New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago.
On this occasion, I first met up with some of my old friends in Oakland, at the house of other old friends, Ruth and Zeese, who had put me up on previous visits, where we had an inspiring anti-torture salon experience, of a kind that would be difficult to achieve outside of those involved in “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week. This was on the evening of my arrival, after a few hours in the afternoon spent exploring and photographing Mission Street in San Francisco, and the next morning I recorded the “Your Call” show with Rose and Sharon (and CUNY law professor and Guantánamo attorney Ramzi Kassem in New York), and then walked along Ocean beach, saw the Bay Area from Twin Peaks and ate delicious lamb shwarma with Joey Johnson, soaking up the radiant sunshine everywhere we went. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m currently in southern California — on the campus of Cal Poly (aka California Polytechnic State University) in San Luis Obispo, about 40 miles north of Los Angeles. As I wait for the last public event of my 12-day “Close Guantánamo Now” tour, with the support of the World Can’t Wait, I have some time, while hiding from the sun — which alarmingly, is currently hotter than the hottest day in summer in the UK — to catch up on some of the events in which I’ve taken part.
I recently posted videos from my first event — a panel discussion in New York — and a video of the creative protests in Washington D.C. last Saturday, January 11, on the 12th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo.
The morning after, I flew out to San Francisco, where I stayed for three days, and after a gathering of like-minded individuals at the house of friends in Oakland on the Sunday evening, Monday began with a visit to KALW Public Radio, high up on San Francisco’s hills, for an interview with Rose Aguilar, as part of her “Your Call” show from 10-11am.
The 53-minute show, entitled, “What’s the state of Guantánamo today?” is available here, and I do hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. I’ve spoken to Rose on my visits before, and it’s always good to spend some time with her, and with her indefatigable producer, Malihe Razazan. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday evening in Canada (early on Tuesday morning in London), I was delighted to speak to Chris Cook for his well-respected and long running Gorilla Radio show in British Columbia, in Canada. The MP3 of the hour-long show is here, and Chris and I spoke for the first half-hour.
In reviewing my activities, I see that Chris and I spoke for the first time three years ago, in January 2011, when we spoke about Bradley Manning, WikiLeaks, and, of course, Guantánamo, and this week we were revisiting Guantánamo, on the eve of the 12th anniversary of its opening (On Saturday January 11), as I prepared to fly out to the US for a two-week tour to call for the prison’s closure, and, hopefully, to help people understand why it is so important that the prison is finally closed, five years after President Obama first took office, promising to close it within a year. My itinerary, for my visit from January 8-21, is here.
Even putting aside the torture that was official policy at Guantánamo from 2002 to 2004, the Indefinite detention without charge or trial that is at the very heart of Guantánamo’s operations is an affront to the values that America claims to believe in, and this is true every second that the prison remains open.
Chris and I talked about the progress made recently — the action promised by President Obama last year after a prison-wide hunger strike awakened the world to the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo, and the release, in the last few months, of eleven prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »
Just before Christmas I took part in a show about the threat to the NHS from the Tory-led coalition government (and from senior managers within the NHS) on the excellent community radio station Radio Free Brighton, which is based in Brighton, funnily enough, and was set up by my good friend Jackie Chase. I spoke about the Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign, and its success, over the last 15 months, in preventing the government’s plans to severely downgrade services at the hospital as part of proposals for dealing with the debts of a neighbouring NHS trust, although it is impossible to talk about Lewisham in isolation, as the threats we faced in south east London are echoed around the country.
The half-hour show, which is available here, was presented by Davy Jones, the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Kemptown, and the other guest was Madeleine Dickens of Brighton Save the NHS (part of the “Keep Our NHS Public” network of campaigning groups). Jackie also provided some insights from her time as a nurse. What brought us all together was not only our concern for the NHS, which faces an unprecedented threat (from the Tories who are privatising it at an alarming rate, and from its own senior managers, who have talked themselves into believing that savage cuts to services can somehow improve clinical outcomes), but also our mutual interest in the role played in these developments by Matthew Kershaw.
When the plans for Lewisham were sprung upon us last October, just before Halloween, the suitably ghoulish figure elevated to the role of chief executioner (or the NHS Special Administrator, as he was known) was Matthew Kershaw, and when his work at Lewisham was done (and his proposals approved by Jeremy Hunt, only to be overturned in summer by a high court judge following two judicial reviews), Kershaw moved to Brighton, where he was appointed the Chief Executive of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals (BSUH), which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath.
Unsurprisingly, given his experience of taking a hatchet to services, one of Kershaw’s first acts as the new CEO last spring was to announce £30 million of cuts, prompting widespread alarm in Brighton and Haywards Heath. Read the rest of this entry »
On Monday and Tuesday, as I explained in a subsequent article, “an important step took place in the quest for those who ordered and undertook torture in the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ to be held accountable for their actions,” when a ground-breaking hearing took place in Strasbourg. For the first time since the start of the “war on terror” and the abuses that, in particular, took place between 2002 and 2006, the European Court of Human Rights listened to evidence about the role of the Polish authorities in the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture of two men currently held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Both men were held at a secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty in the northeast of the country, between December 2002, when they were moved from a previous CIA “black site” in Thailand, until October 2003, when they were moved for five months to “Strawberry Fields,” a secret facility in Guantánamo, until the Bush administration realized that the Supreme Court was about to grant the Guantánamo prisoners habeas corpus rights, thereby allowing lawyers to visit and to shatter the secrecy that was necessary for torture abuse to take place unchallenged. They were then shunted around other “black sites” in Romania, Lithuania and Morocco, until they were returned to Guantánamo in September 2006, with 12 other “high-value detainees” held in “black sites” for several years.
Writing about the hearing, Crofton Black, an investigator with Reprieve, one of the organizations representing Abu Zubaydah, stated that the court had “heard overwhelming and uncontested evidence that the CIA was running a secret torture prison on Polish soil, with the Polish government’s knowledge.” As I wrote in my article, “although I am prepared for disappointment, I certainly hope that the European Court of Human Rights will find that the Polish authorities acted unlawfully in hosting a CIA ‘black site’ on their territory.” Read the rest of this entry »
On Saturday, I was delighted to talk about Guantánamo past, present and future with Chuck Mertz, who hosts an excellent four-hour radio show, “This is Hell,” every Saturday on WNUR 89.3FM Chicago. Chuck and I have spoken several times in the seven and a half years since I began researching and writing about Guantánamo on a full-time basis, and we had a very thorough discussion on Saturday, which is available here. Scroll down to listen to my 45-minute interview, after interviews with Ann Jones, Juan Cole and Dana Becker, or listen to the whole show here, which also includes Jim Naureckas, Trevor Ewen and Jeff Dorchen.
Our latest discussion was triggered by Chuck’s horrified appreciation of my most recent article for Al-Jazeera, “At Guantánamo, a microcosm of the surveillance state,” in which I discussed the latest scandal to rock the permanently troubled military commission trial system at Guantánamo — a technical upgrade that, through incompetence, or through an aspect of the sweeping surveillance state exposed by Edward Snowden earlier this year, led to 540,000 confidential emails sent by military defense attorneys at Guantánamo ending up with prosecutors, and seven gigabytes of files disappearing completely.
This, for the record, is how Chuck described the show:
If Franz Kafka had access to 21st century technology, we could have booked him on the show to talk about the military commission trials of Guantánamo detainees. Defense files are given to the prosecution, the FBI spies on meetings between lawyers, and charges are sought against only 2.5% of total detainees at the site. Kafka wasn’t available to comment, but investigative journalist Andy Worthington knows the alienation and farcical nature of authority better than anyone outside Camp X-Ray’s walls. Read the rest of this entry »
Please sign and share the petition, “EU leaders: Stop mass surveillance,” which, shamefully, has just under 5,000 signatures at the time of writing.
Last week, as the European Parliament’s Office of Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs released what Index on Censorship described as “a notably pointed briefing paper arguing for Europe to stop trusting American Internet services,” and Index on Censorship launched a petition on Change.org, entitled, “EU leaders: Stop mass surveillance,” which was also sponsored by numerous other organizations including Amnesty International, English PEN, Article 19, Privacy International, Open Rights Group and Liberty UK, I was called by Nima Green for the radio station Voice of Russia, and asked my thoughts.
Nima’s four and half minute broadcast is available here, and below is a transcript of the broadcast, in which I was pleased to be able to get my point across that blanket surveillance is unacceptable, and that our governments should only be allowed to specifically target those they regard as suspicious in a carefully managed manner with a clear command responsibility and legislation to back it up. I don’t agree with the other speaker in the broadcast, Margaret Gilmore of the Royal United Services Institute, who tries to play down the extent to which surveillance is used. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday, I was delighted to speak to Michael Slate on his show on KPFK in Los Angeles, as the monstrosity that is Guantánamo reached another horrible milestone — Day 150 of the prison-wide hunger strike that began in early February. Michael and I have spoken many times before (most recently here and here), and our 20-minute interview is here, at the start of the hour-long show.
According to the authorities, 106 of the remaining 166 prisoners are taking part in the hunger strike (the prisoners claim the true total is around 120). Moreover, 45 of these men are being force-fed, a horrible process whereby they are strapped down into restraint chairs twice a day, and have liquid nutrient pumped into their stomachs through tubes inserted up their noses.
For recent discussions of this process by two of the men being force-fed — who, shockingly, are amongst the 86 men cleared for release who are still held — see “Guantánamo Hunger Strike: Nabil Hadjarab Tells Court, ‘I Will Consider Eating When I See People Leaving This Place‘” and “In Court Submission, Hunger Striker Ahmed Belbacha Tells Obama, ‘End the Nightmare that is Guantánamo.’” Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday, I took part in a fascinating conversation on Voice of Russia about Edward Snowden, the role of whistleblowers and the surveillance state. The discussion was entitled, “How far can politicians go to protect our security?” and I was with Brendan Cole in London, while, in Moscow, Dmitry Medvedenko’s guest was Dr. Boris Martynov, Deputy Head of the Institute of Latin America in Moscow, and in Washington Rob Sachs’ guest was Bruce Zagaris, a partner with Berliner, Corcoran & Rowe LLP.
The 40-minute show is available here, and in it I made a particular point of explaining how far too much of the mainstream media is obsessively focusing on Edward Snowden’s search for asylum, rather than focusing on the aspect of the story that is much more significant — the fact, as I put it, that “he felt compelled to sacrifice his career because he wanted to reveal the extent that people were being spied on by their governments.”
I also explained why that is so important — because, instead of governments regarding their citizens as “innocent until proven guilty,” they have revealed themselves — with America in the driving seat — as “massively obsessed with trawling for information about all of us,” and having “an obsession with power and a sense of paranoia that is very inappropriate.” Read the rest of this entry »
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