That manufactured scandal, as I hope everyone reading this realizes, is the feigned outrage of lawmakers and media pundits regarding President Obama’s decision to rescue a captured US soldier from Afghanistan by exchanging him for five Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo, who were sent to Qatar, which I first wrote about here, and followed up with an article entitled, “Missing the Point on the Guantánamo Taliban Prisoner Swap and the Release of Bowe Bergdahl.” Yesterday, I was invited to discuss the manufactured scandal on Democracy Now! and in the last few days I have also spoken about it on the Scott Horton Show (just days after my previous appearance on the show), and with Peter B. Collins on his show from the Bay Area.
My 20-minute interview with Scott is here, and my 40-minute interview with Peter is here. Although it is for subscribers only, you can pay just $1 for a day pass, although other subscription offers, from $5 a month, are also available.
According to the unprincipled, opportunistic lawmakers and commentators laying into the Obama administration regarding the prisoner exchange, the rescued US soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network in Afghanistan for the last five years, is a deserter who should have been abandoned, even though no objective investigation has established the truth — or otherwise — of this claim.
With regard to the five Taliban officials released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, it is true that these are men who, to varying degrees, held leadership positions with the Taliban and who had not been cleared for release from the prison — unlike 78 of the remaining 149 prisoners, cleared for release for years but still held — but while the critics have been wailing about how they were too dangerous to release, the facts and the justifications for the deal say otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday, just after President Obama had spoken about Guantánamo, for the first time since the global protests on May 23 (the first anniversary of his promise to resume releasing prisoners after two year and eight months in which just five men had been released), the ever-indignant radio host Scott Horton asked if I was free to talk.
As one of the first radio hosts to take an interest in my work (back in August 2007), Scott is someone I always like to talk to, especially as we hadn’t spoken since February, and there was much to discuss. Our half-hour interview is available here, or see here for the link to the show on Scott’s own website. For the first time we used Skype for the interview, and I have to say that the sound quality is wonderfully clear.
President Obama had spoken about Guantánamo in a speech about America’s foreign policy at the US Military Academy at West Point, in which he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions. That’s why I will continue to push to close GTMO — because American values and legal traditions don’t permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.” Read the rest of this entry »
Last Thursday, on the eve of a global day of action on Guantánamo, I spoke to Linda Olson-Osterlund on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. Linda and I have spoken many times over the years, and it’s always a pleasure to speak to her. The half-hour show is available here, as an MP3, and the page on the KBOO FM site is here.
The day of action (see my photos of the London protest here, and my report here) was called to mark the first anniversary of President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners, after a 32-month period in which just five men were released from the prison. The release of prisoners almost ground to a halt because Congress raised significant obstacles, which President Obama chose not to overcome, even though a waiver in the legislation allowed him to do so.
Since the promise, President Obama has appointed two envoys to work towards the closure of Guantánamo, and 12 men have been freed from the prison, but much more needs to be done. On the anniversary, half of the men still held — 77 of the 154 men still imprisoned — are still detained even though all of them have been cleared for release. 75 of them were told in January 2010 by President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that the US no longer wanted to hold them, and two others had their release approved in the last few months by Periodic Review Boards. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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