Will the End of War in Afghanistan Spur Obama to Close Guantánamo?

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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 short answer to the question, “Will the End of War in Afghanistan Spur Obama to Close Guantánamo?” is probably no, for reasons I will explain below, although it is, of course, significant to numerous interested parties that the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan next year provides an opportunity for new discussions about the ongoing detention of 164 prisoners at Guantánamo, and, probably, new legal challenges on their behalf.

On October 18, the Washington Post discussed these issues in an article entitled, “Afghan war’s approaching end throws legal status of Guantánamo detainees into doubt,” in which Karen DeYoung suggested, “The approaching end of the US war in Afghanistan could help President Obama move toward what he has said he wanted to do since his first day in office: close the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.”

The article described how officials in the Obama administration were “examining whether the withdrawal of US troops at the end of 2014 could open the door” for some of the remaining 164 prisoners “to challenge the legal authority of the United States to continue to imprison them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Wilner: President Obama Could Close Guantánamo Tomorrow If He Wanted To

The following article was published yesterday on the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we are sad to report that, since the release of two Algerian prisoners two weeks ago, no further prisoners have yet been freed, even though 84 of the remaining 164 prisoners were cleared for release in January 2010 by an inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama when he first took office.

Moreover, some of these men were cleared for release many years before, by military review boards under the Bush administration, and yet they are all still held, because of Congressional obstruction, and because President Obama is unwilling to spend political capital to overcome those obstacles, and do what is necessary to show that America can still believe in justice.

Guantánamo has been back in the news this year, because the prisoners, risking their lives, embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike to show their despair at ever being released or given any form of justice, and the world’s media picked up on it. The pressure forced President Obama to promise, in a major speech on national security issues on May 23, to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, but, as is shown by the GTMO Clock we established to show how long it is since the promise, and how many men have been freed, it is now 114 days, and just two men have been released. In Guantánamo, meanwhile, seven months after the hunger strike began, 18 men are still being force-fed. Read the rest of this entry »

Closing Guantánamo: Obama Administration Responds to Calls for Action by Carl Levin, Harold Koh and 200,000 Concerned Citizens

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

As the prison-wide hunger strike continues at Guantánamo, one of the key demands of campaigners — including myself and Tom Wilner, here at “Close Guantánamo” — has been for President Obama to appoint an official to oversee the closure of the prison, to replace Daniel Fried, the State Department official who oversaw the release of dozens of prisoners in 2009 and 2010, before Congress — and the President himself — raised obstacles to the release of prisoners.

Fried was reassigned in January this year, and no one was appointed to take his place, a message that was easily interpreted as a sign that President Obama and his administration had decided that the closure of Guantánamo was no longer a priority.

Yesterday, however, Attorney General Eric Holder told a news conference that, as Reuters reported it, the government “intends to revive a vacant position coordinating policy” for the prison at Guantánamo Bay. “We’re in the process of working on that now. We’re looking at candidates,” Holder told a news conference. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike with Scott Horton, Dennis Bernstein and Pippa Jones

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 »

As Hunger Strike Continues, Tom Wilner Calls for the Closure of Guantánamo in the Washington Post

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

As the hunger strike continues at Guantánamo — which we publicized here in two previous articles, “How Long Can the Government Pretend that the Massive Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Doesn’t Exist?” and “Voices from the Hunger Strike in Guantánamo” — we’re delighted to report that Tom Wilner, the co-founder of “Close Guantánamo” with Andy Worthington, had an opinion piece published in the Washington Post last week, which we’re cross-posting below.

Tom, who is on the steering committee of “Close Guantánamo” with Andy, was counsel of record to the Guantánamo prisoners in Rasul v. Bush and Boumediene v. Bush, the two Supreme Court cases that established the prisoners’ right to habeas corpus.

In his opinion piece, “Get serious about closing Guantánamo,” Tom ran through the reasons why the prisoners are in despair, after eleven years of imprisonment, in almost all cases without charge or trial, and four years after President Obama promised to close the prison, and established an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, who recommended that 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners should be released. They are still held, as Tom pointed out, because of Congressional opposition — and also, it should be noted, because of President Obama’s own inaction. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Close Guantánamo – Andy Worthington, Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis Lay into President Obama at the New America Foundation

On Friday, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, myself and the attorney Tom Wilner, the steering committee of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, held our annual reunion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. with Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions, who resigned in 2007, the day after he was placed in a chain of command under William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s senior lawyer and one of the Bush administration officials most involved in developing the administration’s notorious torture program. The event was moderated by Peter Bergen, the director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.

For three years now, we have gathered on the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made on taking office in January 2009.

This year our call was more passionate, intense, and driven by righteous indignation than ever before. Read the rest of this entry »

Eleven Years of Guantánamo: Andy Worthington Visits the US to Campaign for the Prison’s Closure

Contact me from 10am Eastern Time on January 9 (until January 16) on 347-581-2677.

It’s over 24 hours since I arrived in the US, with the support of Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait and Close Guantánamo, for a series of events to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a shameful anniversary that should not have come to pass. Four years ago, when he took office, President Obama promised to close the prison within a year, but he failed to fulfil that promise. His lack of courage has been matched by opportunistic intervention from Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to thwart any efforts to close Guantánamo. To complete the failures of all three branches of the US government, the courts too have added their own contribution, with the D.C. Circuit Court gutting the habeas corpus rights of the prisoners, which lawyers spent many years fighting for, and the Supreme Court refusing to revisit the prisoners’ cases, when given the opportunity last year.

As I — and others who still care about the closure of Guantánamo — continue to point out, the ongoing existence of Guantánamo is an affront to all notions of justice and fairness. Distressingly, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and yet, through the combination of cowardice, indifference, opportunism and scaremongering outlined above, they remain held, even though one long-cleared prisoner, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, died at Guantánamo last September, and even though President Obama won reelection in November, and is now free to act to secure his legacy rather than focusing all his attention on campaigning — and not mentioning anything contentious. If he wants a legacy that doesn’t describe him, amongst other things, as the man who promised to close Guantánamo but then failed to do because it was politically inconvenient, he needs to act now. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Me in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to Tell President Obama to “Close Guantánamo”

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with 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. 

CORRECTION: Please note that the panel discussion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. On January 11 will now take place at 10am, and not at 3pm, as listed below.

As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches, we at “Close Guantánamo” are making our preparations for being in Washington D.C. to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made four years ago, when he took office, to close the prison for good.

At 12 noon on Friday January 11, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the attorney Tom Wilner and the journalist Andy Worthington, who make up the steering committee of “Close Guantánamo,” will be joining members of 24 other groups outside the Supreme Court to call for the closure of Guantánamo. See Amnesty International’s page here, and the flyer here. Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: Visiting Kuwait to Campaign for the Last Two Kuwaiti Prisoners in Guantánamo

Welcome to KuwaitHotel foyer, KuwaitCooking breakfast in KuwaitServing breakfast in KuwaitBread and cakes for breakfastJuice for breakfast
Luxury restroomsThe Gents, Arab styleDowntown KuwaitLiberation Tower, KuwaitAt a dewaniya in KuwaitThe Kuwait Towers
Kuwait skylineKuwait's shorelineA beautiful oasis becomes a dead landLe cafe and the total destructionDewaniya with Fayiz al-Kandari's family (1)Dewaniya with Fayiz al-Kandari's family (2)
Lamb kebabs with the al-KandarisCooking kebabs at the al-Kandaris' houseThe brainstorming suite, KuwaitLeaving Kuwait

Visiting Kuwait to Campaign for the Last Two Kuwaiti Prisoners in Guantánamo, a set on Flickr.

In the six months following the opening of the Bush administration’s cruel and lawless ”war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, on January 11, 2002, twelve Kuwaitis joined the hundreds of other “detainees” deprived of their rights as “enemy combatants.” In Guantánamo, these men were subjected to torture and abuse that was supposedly designed to produce “actionable intelligence,” but that, in reality, was a house of cards constructed of false statements made under duress  — not only in Guantanamo, but also in other “war on terror” prisons, including those where “high-value detainees” were held and tortured — or made by those who, having had enough of the abuse, volunteered false statements in exchange for better living conditions. (For more, see “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” my ongoing analysis of the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011).

Of the twelve Kuwaitis, ten were eventually released, between 2005 and 2009, but two remain — Fayiz al-Kandari and Fawzi al-Odah. Both men are victims of the false statements that plague the government’s supposed evidence, as I have repeatedly reported (see here, here and here, for example), but they are also victims of the legal fallout of the “war on terror”; namely, the limited opportunities for a review of their cases, through their habeas corpus petitions, which they and the other prisoners struggled to secure for many years.

Although the Guantánamo prisoners secured major victories in the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008, when they were granted habeas corpus rights, the impact of those rulings has suffered from imprecise terms of reference, from an all-out assault by right-wing judges in the court of appeals in Washington D.C., who have conspired to gut habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners, and, most recently, through the complete indifference of the Supreme Court, which has refused to wrest control from the Circuit Court judges. Despite the absence of evidence against them, both Fayiz and Fawzi had their habeas petitions turned down (see here and here). Read the rest of this entry »

My Photos on Flickr: Campaigning to Close Guantánamo, Washington D.C., January 2012

Guantanamo comes to the Supreme CourtDebra SweetOccupy D.C.I need work now!Col. Morris DavisFree our clients!
"Close Guantanamo" bannersWhat does torture teach our children?Guantanamo cageHooded and shackledWhite House protestFree Shaker Aamer
Never too young to call for justiceTom WilnerDaniel LakemacherStephen OleskeyAndy WorthingtonFree Shaker Aamer v.2
Where habeas corpus died

Close Guantanamo, Washington D.C., January 2012, a set on Flickr.

In the small hours of this morning, I posted the first set of photos on my new Flickr account, of my wanderings in New York in January, at the start of my two-week US tour to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

My tour — my fifth visit to the US to call for the closure of Guantánamo, and to publicize the stories of the men held there — was organized by the campaigning group The World Can’t Wait, and in New York and Washington D.C., I spent a lot of time with The World Can’t Wait’s National Director, Debra Sweet, a relentless  campaigner for justice, who, very deservedly, recently won an American Humanist Award as a “Humanist Heroine.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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