Eight years ago, on June 10, 2006, the world awoke to the news that three men — Yasser Al-Zahrani, Ali Al-Salami and Mani Al-Utaybi — had died at the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The authorities claimed that the three men had committed suicide, and, notoriously, as I explained in an article last year, “The Season of Death at Guantánamo,” the prison’s commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., “attracted widespread criticism by declaring that the deaths were an act of war. Speaking of the prisoners, he said, ‘They are smart, they are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.’”
Doubts were immediately expressed about whether it was possible, in a facility well-known for the persistent monitoring of the prisoners, for three men to manage to kill themselves without any guards noticing, and questions were also asked about how, even if the men had evaded surveillance, they had actually managed to kill themselves when they were allowed almost no possessions in their cells.
It took until August 2008 for the official report on the deaths, conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), to be made available, but as I explained in an article at the time, the investigators “unreservedly backed up the suicide story” by reporting that “Autopsies were performed by physicians from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Naval Hospital Guantánamo on June 10 and 11. The manner of death for all detainees was determined to be suicide and the cause of death was determined to be by hanging, the medical term being ‘mechanical asphyxia.’” Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
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 »
On Wednesday (November 13), the media, inspired by an article for the Guardian by Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, who has become a formidable critic of the prison since his resignation six years ago, picked up on a baleful anniversary — the 12th anniversary of the creation of one of the main founding documents of the Bush administration’s “war on terror.”
I subsequently spoke to Scott Horton on his hard-hitting political show, the latest in the dozens of interviews with Scott that I have taken part in over the last six years. The half-hour show is available here as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it.
Scott described the show as follows: “Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses how Dick Cheney helped make torture an official US government policy; former Guantanamo inmate Omar Khadr’s fight for justice in a Canadian prison; and how torture has poisoned America’s soul.”
As Scott explained, we did indeed talk about how Omar Khadr, and his appeal against his outrageous 2010 conviction for war crimes (which I wrote about here), as well as also discussing the need for accountability for all of the senior Bush administration officials (up to and including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld) and their lawyers, who approved the use of torture. Read the rest of this entry »
A few days ago, I was delighted to talk to Scott Horton, who I’ve been talking to, on a regular basis, for nearly six years, about the ongoing horrors of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, in a few weeks’ time, will have been open for its appalling business of arbitrary detention and torture for eleven and a half years. The half-hour interview is available here as an MP3.
In the show, Scott and I discussed the hunger strike at Guantánamo, now on its 143rd day, in which 106 of the remaining 166 prisoners (by the military’s own account) are on hunger strike, and 44 are being force-fed.
As I always explain, although it is horrible that men are being force-fed, which medical experts regard as a form of torture, this should not distract us from the reasons that the men are starving themselves and risking their lives — because they have reached a point of despairing at ever being released or provided with anything resembling justice, and with good reason.
Over half of the 166 men still held — 86 in total — have been cleared for release for at least three and a half years, after the inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama when he took office, issued its report recommending whether the prisoners should be released, prosecuted or held indefinitely without charge or trial — recommendations that, just two weeks ago, through FOIA legislation, were finally accompanied by a full list of the prisoners and which categories they had been placed in by the task force, which I wrote about in my article, “The Guantánamo Review Task Force’s Decisions on Who to Release, Try and Hold Indefinitely Are Finally Released.” Read the rest of this entry »
With the prison-wide hunger strike at Guantánamo nearing the end of its third month (on Sunday), and even President Obama finally breaking his silence at a news conference on Tuesday — condemning the ongoing existence of the prison, but offering little in the way of solutions — I have been very busy with media appearances, as the mainstream media has woken up to the chronic injustice of Guantánamo in a convincing manner that — dare I say it — shows no sign of going away, as has the general public.
If you haven’t already signed it, please sign the petition calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo, which was launched this week by Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions, who resigned in protest at the Bush administration’s use of torture. In just a few days, the petition has already secured over 125,000 signatures, showing a depth of concern for the ongoing injustice of Guantánamo that has been imaginable for the last few years.
This is entirely appropriate, of course, as 166 men languish in Guantánamo, abandoned by all three branches of the US government — President Obama and his administration, Congress and the courts — including the 86 who were cleared for release at least three years ago by an inter-agency task force established the President Obama himself. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, following the publication of my article “America’s Disappeared” on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, I was interviewed by Scott Horton, with whom I have been talking since August 2007, when he first picked up on my Guantánamo work, and then followed up via an article about Jose Padilla, the US citizen imprisoned as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland, and tortured until he lost his mind.
Scott and I have mostly discussed Guantánamo in the last five and a half years, although we have also dealt with related issues — the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan, for example — and on Friday the initial topic of our discussion was torture, the CIA’s “black sites” and the lack of accountability for the Bush administration’s torture program — all of which was dealt with in my article. This followed the publication, by the Open Society Justice Initiative, of “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” the first major report identifying the prisoners subjected to torture and disappearance since a UN report on disappearances in 2010, on which I was the lead author of the sections on disappearances in the “war on terror.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s four days since I came back from a ten-day trip to the US to join other campaigners, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in calling for President Obama to revisit the promise to close Guantánamo that he made when he took office exactly four years ago, and this time to fulfill his promise, and not cave in to criticism, failing the prisoners as thoroughly as they have also been failed by the other branches of the US government.
As well as being failed by the President, the 166 men still in Guantánamo have been failed by Congress, where opportunistic lawmakers, bent on selling a message of fear to the US public, have imposed onerous restrictions on the President’s ability to release prisoners, and the courts, where pro-Guantánamo ideologues in the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., who have gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and have discovered that they are able to dictate detainee policy to the Supreme Court, which has refused to consider a single appeal from the prisoners.
As a result, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, on January 11, those of us protesting the prison’s ongoing existence — and the inertia and indifference towards it that is more marked than ever before — found ourselves bound together closely by our concern for those still held, and for the system of indefinite detention without charge or trial that Guantánamo has become. We also discovered new levels of righteous indignation — see, for example, my speech outside the White House here (on the anniversary), and, earlier that day, the panel discussion I was part of, with the attorney Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, at the New America Foundation. Also check out my photos here and here. Read the rest of this entry »
This week the legacy of George W. Bush’s “war on terror” is under the spotlight, as is the response to it of his successor, Barack Obama. Tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that first prompted George W. Bush and his administration to discard all domestic and international laws and treaties regarding the treatment of prisoners, and to hold those seized in its “war on terror” not as prisoners of war, according to the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects, but as “enemy combatants,” who could, the administration contended, be held without them having any rights whatsoever.
Today is also significant for the fallout from the first war on which the Bush administration embarked — the invasion of Afghanistan, which began a month after the 9/11 attacks. As has been extensively reported, this morning US officials handed over formal control of the Parwan Detention Facility, the replacement for the notorious Bagram prison, where several prisoners were killed in the early days of the “war on terror,” to Afghan control.
This morning I was delighted to be asked by the BBC World Service to comment on the Bagram handover on the “Newshour” program with Robin Lustig, which was live at 1 pm, but is repeated regularly, and is available online. Although it was announced that the US had transferred 3,082 prisoners to Afghan control since reaching an agreement in March, I was particularly interested in commenting about those still held by the US, including recently captured prisoners, who will not be handed over until the US has screened them, and, more particularly, the foreign prisoners — thought to number around 50 — who will continue to be held by the US. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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