Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now!


Today I was delighted to be invited into a London studio for an interview about Guantánamo on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. The show, which airs on over 750 stations, is described as “pioneering the largest community media collaboration in the US,” and it was, therefore, a great pleasure to be able to talk about the case of Abdul Rahim al-Ginco (or al-Janko), the al-Qaeda torture victim whose release from Guantánamo was ordered yesterday following a habeas corpus review by Judge Richard Leon. Memorably, Judge Leon (an appointee of George W. Bush) lambasted the government for attempting to claim that, despite being tortured by al-Qaeda to admit to being an American spy, and then being imprisoned for 18 months by the Taliban, al-Ginco retained some sort of connection with either group that justified his indefinite detention. This was, he said, a sign that the government’s position “defies common sense.”

Here’s the video (in two parts):

The timing of this story allowed me to talk more about how President Obama has failed to seize the initiative on Guantánamo, despite sweeping into office and promising to close the prison within a year, and it would, indeed, be hard to find a story that demonstrated the Bush administration’s ineptitude — and Obama’s inability to deal decisively with the mess he has inherited — than the story of Abdul Rahim al-Ginco, and the refusal of anyone overseeing the case to realize that it should never have been put before a judge in the first place.

Touching on these and other issues, Amy also asked me about the case of the Uighurs from Guantánamo who were recently released in Bermuda, about the three Saudis who were also released (and especially Ahmed Zuhair, Guantánamo’s longest-term hunger striker), and about my world exclusive published last week, “New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi,” in which I presented new information about the CIA’s most notorious “ghost prisoner,” who died in a Libyan jail last month, but who, in 2002, while being tortured in Egypt, produced a false confession about a connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq.

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, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

26 Responses

  1. Heard on the public airwaves « Mercury Rising 鳯女 says...

    […] segment on the innocence of many Guantanamo detainees added some important detail to what we know. Andy Worthington delivered such a solid exposition that I’m adding him to the links. The case of Abdul Rahim, […]

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    After the interview was broadcast, I received the following message:

    Hi Andy,

    Just a quick comment.

    The orange shirt that you wore during this interview had two feet on the front of it. Your words are too important to have this possible insult put some people off.

    Regards, Owen MacDonald
    Nelson, BC., Canada

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    This was my reply:

    Hi Owen,
    Thanks for reminding me abut cultural sensitivities. I must admit that, on a very shallow basis, I hadn’t got further than thinking it was clean and a nice colour. I shall try to be more aware in future.
    P.S. May I post your comment on my site, so that I can also post my apology?

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Andy,

    Feel free to post my comment. Keep up the good work because I think it is going to be up to people like you to call world governments on their actions.

    Regards, Owen

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I also received the following message (via Facebook), which I thought was worth posting:

    Hello Andy,

    I write you to tell you about some good friends of mine who are very interested in your work.

    They established recently a press agency focused on defending human rights through journalism. The director is Javier Bauluz (the only Spanish Journalist who has won a Pulitzer Prize) and they have a simple but quite sensible manifesto that they follow scrupulously (see link below). So far, they have published some good articles about different subjects like the situation of the inmigrants in the North of Africa, the protests in Perú or the international jurisdiction laws in Spain. They make a kind of journalism in the same lines of your work.

    They also organize a nine days-long workshop about Journalism which will take place in Gijón next month and will host some of the best Spanish and Latin American Journalists and press photographers.

    They told me that they wanted to do something about Guantánamo now that the Spanish government is going to accept some prisoners and I inmediately thought about you. When I talked to them about you and I suggested to try to get an interview they were enthusiastic about it and left it in my hands.

    Thus, I would like to ask you if you could give me an interview about Guantánamo, your work covering this and other related issues and the inmates that are going to be sent to third countries, Spain among them. The interview would be published in Spanish in their web site.

    Best Wishes

    Carlos Sardiña Galache


    Press agency Piraván (in Spanish):

    Web page “Periodismo más derechos humanos” (in Spanish):

    Manifesto (in English):

    Workshop (in Spanish):

  6. Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] by Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad 23 June 2009 […]

  7. Beverly says...

    Towards the end of the interview when asked to sum up Obama’s performance on the Gitmo situation, you seemed most pained to admit the failings of Obama. No need to parse words or temper criticism of the man.

    This is the problem since he came on the scene. The Left has remained silent or tempered their concerns to get Obama elected. What have they got in return? A corporatist warmonger in poser progressive clothing who is continuing much of the Bush/military industrial complex/Wall Street agenda. His campaign team, advisers, and, cabinet selections chock full of hawks, Zionist cheerleaders, Wall Street/big business water carriers, and labor haters leave no doubt that most of those promises made were/are damn sure not going to be honored.

    He promised to close Gitmo but due process in a court of law for detainees is slow to nonexistent. Obama has also approved re-opening military tribunals as opposed to processing prisoners in US court system. As you and Goodman discussed on Democracy Now, the charges against many prisoners are beyond flimsy. These cases should be quickly afforded due process and if detainee cannot return to home country, he should be allowed to remained in the US or go to another country of his choosing. Obama came into office and still rides a wave of unquestioning, infatuated, lobotomized idolation and support. If he is so keen on change and doing right, he is missing a golden oppty to make changes and right wrongs that don’t require months or years of legislative mulling over. Releasing those detainees who clearly are innocent would be a good start – as opposed to kowtowing to right wing/war on terror zealots.

    Don’t forget the US is building Gitmo II, er, Bagram and one can be sure that a crapload of Gitmo I detainees will end up there. Reason #101 not to temper criticism of Obama is fact his Justice Dept filed a legal brief arguing president has authority to hold terror suspects w/o criminal charge. The administration also favors indefinte detention and renditions. Obama says he will not torture. Holding someone indefinitely and renditioning sould torture-like to me.

    The kid gloves need to come off. Media and especially advocacy groups such as those for anti-war, poverty, working class, education have got to be less deferential and more demanding that Obama cater to their interests – not just the interests of the financial/war industry/power broker cabal who vetted and approved his ascent to power.

  8. pointus says...

    Hello, Andy–
    I was just introduced to your analysis on Democracy Now. It is very encouraging to find such an articulate voice criticizing our president’s horrendous embrace of the previous administration’s thuggish disregard of our constitutional rights.
    I look forward to reading your future work.

  9. Connie L. Nash says...

    Always, also – I remain gratefully amazed at Andy’s huge body of work with all the many small details of fact and concern for EACH person he writes concerning as well as his mention of so many in this entire saga.

    Since I follow and send many items to Bob Herbert for many years – how might any here (including Andy) recommend we “enlarge” his reporting on GTMO, Rendition and other related issues? Here’s his first, I believe, since the election on US torture issues? (By the way, Bob covered Maher Arrar story quite well when it first came out with a number of follow-ups) Who Are We?
    Bob Herbert NYTimes Op-Ed Columnist

    IE I want to make sure I give him any additions – even possibly corrections with the expertise and updated finesse known on this site by Andy as well as so many who comment.

    Thanx Ahead!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Beverley,
    Part hesitation, I admit, but also I had an off-putting echo in the studio, and was also wondering what to tackle given that I had a short amount of time. I should, on balance, have responded with a rapid-fire list of failings: habeas obstruction in the Justice Department; not bringing the Uighurs to the US; resisting habeas corpus for foreign prisoners in Bagram; using the “state secrets” privilege to protect Jeppesen, the CIA’s torture travel agent; giving Cheney room for maneuver instead of pressing Holder to prosecute him; not making clear if the US military’s capture and detention policies have genuinely returned to pre-Rumsfeld days.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Pointus,
    Welcome on board, and thanks for the kind and insightful words. Hope to hear from you again.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    This from the Talking Dog:


    Way to go with Democracy Now! I once counted: Amy Goodman was the only person on Earth who has done more “war on terror” related interviews (at least as measured by Cageprisoners) than I have… yes, it’s her job and all…

    It seems clear to me the Obama Administration is hellbent on being corporate whore turkeys… personnel really is destiny, and Hillary “We’ll obliterate Iran” Clinton and Bob “Poppy’s Guy” Gates and Eric “Follow the Money” Holder and Tim “What, Me Pay Taxes” Geithner and all really do add up to a most un-change-like Administration… I readily admit I f**ked up, and should have gone with Hillary Clinton over a member of a college class I never really liked anyway… Of course, she’d have done the same sh*t, so it makes little difference… but, you know, buyer’s regret and all… of course, you couldn’t be elected President because you’re so… British… and I couldn’t get elected because the thought of American politics makes me have to take showers several times an hour…

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Today’s T-shirt slogan, then, TD:
    “Not a corporate whore turkey”

    Thanks, as ever. The request came out of the blue, which must mean I’m getting the word out …

    As for your prognosis, I’m inclined to agree after watching the clips of Obama joking about the Uighurs. I’m sorry, but that was about as far from principles as it’s possible to get …

  14. Connie L. Nash says...

    Where are those clips with Obama joking about the Uighurs?

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    After the broadcast, I received the following message:

    Dear Andy Worthington,

    Thank you for all of the fine work you are doing.

    I just finished watching you on Democracy Now.

    I have one question: Why not address the Guantanamo prisoners as political prisoners?

    It would seem to me that the Bush administration used these people (people the CIA paid $25,000 a head) for political purposes. Mainly to stay in power and gain more power and justify the war in Iraq.

    Jose Padilla was not at Gitmo, but he is a fine example.

    Thank You,

    Bruce Miner

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    This was my reply:

    Hi Bruce,
    It’s a good point, and I’m having a good think about it, as it might explain what happens when prisoners who should be either prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, or criminal suspects, to be put forward for trial, are caught in some nebulous legal netherworld in between, where they are part-PoWs, part-criminal suspects, but neither in any comprehensive sense.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    And this was Bruce’s reply:


    I started thinking about Gitmo prisoners as political prisoners when members of the “coalition of willing” were able to get their nationals out of Gitmo. Britain promptly set theirs free. If the Gitmo prisoners were the worst of terrorists, I doubt the Gov would release them.

    What’s the old Bob Dylan song title, “Only a pawn in their game”.

    Keep up the good work,


  18. Andy Worthington says...

    They’re just a few minutes into the show …

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    After I replied to Beverley, she sent the following message:

    Any chance of you getting a regular spot on the BBC? The more I listen to them, the more I discover they are little better than US media when it comes to providing all sides of the story, not just what the corporment (govt + corporations) want us to believe. Their coverage on Iran this past week has been shamelessly one-sided.

    Your website looks interesting; I will add it to my list of indy media to read. May I also put in a good word for Black Agenda Report:
    This is an excellent site for info and critical analysis of Obama. BAR editors have covered him since his Chicago beginnings. Further, BAR does top notch coverage, calling out, and analysis of national and international issues. Please check out this site and encourage others to do so. Many thanks.

    P.S. Please spread the word in the UK about two other good indy news sources, and UKers are probably aware of counterpunch because Alex Cockburn is the editor.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    My reply:

    Thanks for the comments, Beverley, and for the links. I’ve been writing for CounterPunch for two years, and could tell early on that it had a global reach when a friend of mine here in south London mentioned my name to a friend of hers in connection with The Guantánamo Files, and the friend replied that she’d just been reading an article by me on CounterPunch. It was an early sign, to me, of how the Internet was making the news international — at least for those who read English.

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    And this from the Talking Dog:


    You know, the Iranians, who can only aspire to have a political system like ours, as fatally flawed as our respective nation’s systems are, would assuage their feelings of personal powerlessness via poetry… and of course, opium. Well, they’ve finally had it… there’s hope for us all, methinks. The free-market Stalinists are likely going to push our countrymen over the edge too… just you wait! Or so I tell myself to avoid the need for prozac.

    I looked at the Democracy Now! piece… I have problems hearing on my computer’s faint volume, but I got the gist… my God– it was right out of Dubya’s looking under the chair for WMDs… if I were king, er, President, I would refuse to attend such events, and threaten to fire any member of my Administration who did attend them. The regime and the 4th estate should just not be that chummy… it does give me the creeps.

    Well, keep up the good work…

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    My reply:

    The Obama jokes are just embarrassing — for him demeaning himself, and for the smug audience, and their response, once they realized where he’d taken them. No wonder he let Cheney and the fearmongers take the initiative on Guantanamo …

    But this, I suppose, is politics. If he manages not to alienate the real people — those millions and millions of ordinary voters — his ability to please those in powerful positions will keep him popular where he thinks it counts. I guess the Democrats are in less danger than New Labour, here in the UK, which dismayed its base to such an extent that the actual party barely exists any more.

  23. Connie L. Nash says...

    Well, I was SHOCKED and so sad! There seems to be so much good at core which is sweepingly being corrupted day by day.

    I worked hard today for this UN Day to honor and care for the Victims of Torture…see some of what I put together here – the TOP TWO on

    Thanks for providing the many items you do right ON TIME!

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    And the Talking Dog’s reply to 22, above:


    Whether it be Mark Sanford and his crying game in South America (I’m not sure it’s not going to prove to be “THE Crying Game”, btw), or my own state’s esteemed former governor, or our former President or Senator Edwards, or the Republican clowns Ensign and Vitter, et al…. it’s not the sex, it’s the Narcissism. And it’s the Narcissism that drives policy: you have ego-maniacs with over-the-top self-opinions making policy that involves… self-aggrandizement and self-enrichment, and a courtier class all too willing to embrace them when they leave the revolving door… and that’s just the elected ones.

    Don’t really know how to combat it, other than to have respected institutions acting as counterbalances (you know: one of the functions the press was supposed to fulfill until it too stepped up to get outfitted for its courtier livery).

    Yes, our young ‘uns is pretty smart, and pretty resourceful, because it seems clearer and clearer to me that they are going to have to be: the great circle of being is not advancing in a nice straight pretty line right now, but is going a bit retrograde… not sure whether I more fear the likely economic collapse and social decay following it, or the less likely economic/social business as usual followed by the inevitable environmental catastrophes that will bring… best… stop… now… or… prozac… will …be… needed…

    Barack is clearly very good at what he does– which is get elected. And he clearly wants to be elected once more; the thing is, he got elected because he was perceived as having a pair of cojones on the campaign trail; if he chooses to revert to Mr. Cautious now that he’s elected (for which he’s being criticized from the right on Iran and from all directions on health care), he may not get that chance (though the Mark Sanfords of the world may make it easier for him…)

    We’ll see; we really do need another political party– maybe a “this is what the realistic options are so stop bullshitting about the rest of your Santa Claus and tooth fairy fantasies party”… not likely to be popular in societies that worship Santa and the Tooth Fairy, but our respective populaces need to be told to eat their vegetables while there’s still time… it is amazing, otherwise, how debased the discourse has become… while we obsess about Tory MPs and their moat-cleanings… I clean out my own moat, thanks!!!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Hey TD,
    Took me until today to post this, and now, of course, the courtiers have moved on. So tell us again, what was your favorite Michael Jackson song?

  26. Palau President Asks Australia to Offer Homes to Guantánamo Uighurs « says...

    […] To Bermuda? (June 2009), Guantánamo’s Uighurs In Bermuda: Interviews And New Photos (June 2009), Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo on Democracy Now! (June 2009), Guantánamo And The Courts (Part One): Exposing The Bush Administration’s Lies (July […]

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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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