ACLU podcast: Andy Worthington discusses Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List


A few weeks ago, following my publication of the first definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) arranged for me to be interviewed by Jonathan Hafetz, National Security Project Staff Attorney, for a podcast on the ACLU’s website.

My working relationship with Jonathan goes back several years, to June 2007, when I first began writing about one of his clientsAli al-Marri, the last “enemy combatant” held on US soil — and I was delighted that Jonathan also agreed to be part of a panel discussion on “The Future of Guantánamo” — with Wells Dixon of the Center for Constitutional Rights and Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch — when I visited the United States to promote my book The Guantánamo Files last year.

In the podcast, Jonathan was kind enough to describe me as “one of the most important chroniclers and commentators on Guantánamo and related detention issues over the past years,” and called the prisoner list “an incredible resource.” I then explained how the list had come into being — as the result of three years’ research — and why I hoped that it would prove particularly useful as a research tool: essentially, because my work has focused on humanizing the prisoners and on providing a context for their capture and imprisonment.

Without this context, it is, I believe, almost impossible to appreciate the extent to which prisoners were seized because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time (in Pakistan, for example, far from the battlefields of Afghanistan), and how bounty payments played a major role in securing mainly Arab prisoners who could be dressed up as “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects.”

We also talked about how the entire “War on Terror” detention project attempted to justify itself by building up allegations against prisoners based largely on the dubious confessions of other prisoners — I explained how the military “basically had blank slates as prisoners, and then had to graft allegations onto them” — and we also talked about the plight of the Afghan prisoner and ACLU client Mohamed Jawad, seized as a juvenile, tortured into making a false confession and put forward for a trial by Military Commission. I have covered Mohammed’s story in depth over the last year and a half, in a series of articles that includes a guest post for the ACLU in January.

I’d like to thank Jonathan and Suzanne Ito at the ACLU for conducting the interview and making it available. The ACLU has also put together a page about The Guantánamo Files, and a transcript is available here.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed.

5 Responses

  1. Jerry Northington says...

    Thanks as always, Andy, for your continuing hard work. Jonathan was right in his description of you as “an important chronicler and commentator.” Where else would we turn for this continuing information?

    Keep up the good work and many of us will watch your back.


  2. Frances Madeson says...

    Predators prey on the weak–the lamb before the ewe, the ewe before the ram–and shatter everyone’s heart in the process.

    I don’t know about the eye of the world, Andy. Is it shut sometimes? Does it tear? Get infected? Spasm? Cloud over? Simply refuse to see? Refuse to transmit the messages it does see to the mind like a malfunctioning camera? Have pirates covered it with a patch?

    In 1973, when I was visiting wounded soldiers in Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem, there was one boy whose eyes had been scorched by sand in an artillery blast in the Sinai. So much sand had entered his eyes in the nano-second before he reflexively closed them that months later the grains were still working their way out. He could still see, and we were all grateful for that, but only through a chronic haze of saline and grit.

    Was his the eye of the world?

  3. Connie L. Nash says...

    The CIA Memos Just Revealed

    Find the best I’ve seen in terms of commentary on World Can’t Wait by Debra Sweet or go to oneheartforpeace dot blogspot dot com

    All your documented torture & harassment will surely come back to haunt the West & the treatment of our own military detained by other countries, innocent or not, unless the Obama administration will be pressured to prosecute!

  4. Connie L. Nash says...

    How timely for you, Andy, to be featured on the ACLU podcast! Any who wish to continue to press for a Special (independent) Prosecutor can do so quite easily by signing the letter offered on the national ACLU dot org website. (Of course, this need is all the greater what with the memos finally out – first time in history? Yet with our US leaders offering protection for the perpetrators)

    Spokesman for Cageprisoners, Moazzam Begg, said of the publication (of the formerly secret CIA Memos)

    “The decision not to prosecute torturers is not only disappointing but it is the projection of illegality which most people would have thought the US administration would have recognised. The lessons from Nuremberg clearly have not been applied and, whilst the belated admission that the previous US administration sanctioned and practiced torture is welcome, prosecuting those responsible is an international obligation that remains unfulfilled.”

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Jerry, Frances and Connie.
    I’m glad you’re watching my back, Jerry, and Frances, the eye of the world could well be as you so poetically describe — or the cataracts that we in the West ignore, or Omar Khadr’s shrapnel-damaged eye, or the eye that Omar Deghayes lost during an assault by an ERF team in Guantanamo.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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