In Final Counter-Terrorism Speech, Obama Targets Trump But Fails to Acknowledge His Own Mistakes on Guantánamo and War

President Obama and a quote about Guantanamo from a speech he made on January 5, 2010.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.

On Tuesday, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the home of US Special Operations Command and Central Command, President Obama made what is expected to be his final speech on counter-terrorism before he leaves office in just six weeks’ time.

As Jessica Schulberg noted for the Huffington Post, in his speech he “defended his legacy ― both from hawks who have accused him of withdrawing from the Middle East, and from liberals who have criticized his reliance on expansive surveillance and drones to fight wars,” and “sought to convince the country that he had struck the correct balance.”

Spying and drones

However, as Spencer Ackerman noted for the Guardian, this was “a highly selective account of his record, particularly about the mass surveillance architecture he embraced and the drone strikes that will be synonymous with his name.” Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Talks to Voice of Russia About the Perils of Blanket Surveillance

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 »

Audio: Andy Worthington Speaks about Guantánamo at the “Independence from America” Protest at RAF Menwith Hill, July 4, 2013

Last week, I had the opportunity to join up with a phenomenal collection of activists — from the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB) — on top of the Yorkshire Dales at Menwith Hill, an RAF base that acts as a front for the NSA (the US National Security Agency), which has been in charge of the base since 1966 — a very topical arrangement, given the recent revelations about the NSA by former analyst Edward Snowden.

I had been invited — to speak about Guantánamo — by Lindis Percy, a tireless campaigner against militarism, who has been arrested and imprisoned on numerous occasions, and my talk — just over 20 minutes in total — is available here, as an MP3.

An Indymedia page reporting on the event — including the photo above — is here, and it also includes links to some of the other guests, including Salma Yaqoob, psychotherapist, Chair of Birmingham Stop the War and a spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque, who gave a great speech.

My talk was, I believe, a useful explanation of why Guantánamo is still open, and why it remains, as it has always been, a moral, legal and ethical abomination, and a place that should be a source of shame to anyone with a shred of decency.

I spoke about the prison’s history, about the ongoing prison-wide hunger strike, now in its sixth month, about the obstacles raised by Congress to prevent the closure of the prison and the release of prisoners, and about the generally lesser-known obstacles raised by President Obama. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Attends Protest Against US Bases in UK and Discusses Guantánamo at Menwith Hill Base on July 4

Several months ago, I responded to a request to attend the annual “Independence From America” protest on July 4, the American Day of Independence, outside RAF Menwith Hill near Harrogate in Yorkshire. The event is organised by the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), and I was invited by Lindis Percy, a veteran activist who has been arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned on numerous occasions, to speak about Guantánamo. I was, of course, delighted to accept the invitation, and I look forward to the brief return to my roots, as I grew up in the north of England.

The protest will be from 5 to 9 pm, and other speakers are Salma Yaqoob, psychotherapist, Chair of Birmingham Stop the War and a spokesperson for Birmingham Central Mosque, and the journalist Martin Wainwright of the Guardian. Other guests include Mizan the Poet, the folk singers Ziggurat, and the East Lancs Clarion Choir, “Quaker Walkers celebrating 100 years of the Northern Friends Peace Board,” and there will also be a drumming workshop with Steve Hill of the Daftasadrum Drum Circle group.

At the time I accepted the invitation, none of us knew how the existence of an alarmingly overreaching surveillance state would be in the news at the time of the protest, as a result of the revelations of the US whistleblower Edward Snowden, because there are few places that symbolize this problem as powerfully as Menwith Hill. Nominally an RAF station that provides communications and intelligence support services to the UK and the US, it has actually been controlled by America since its establishment in 1954, and has been in the control of the NSA (the National Security Agency, the organisation at the heart of Snowden’s complaints) since 1966. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Edward Snowden, Whistleblowers and the Overreach of Surveillance on Voice of Russia

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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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 (The State of London).
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