Andy Worthington Discusses the Urgent Need to Close Guantánamo with Peter B. Collins


As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches (on January 11, 2013), I wanted to make sure that I made available an interview I undertook recently with the respected progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, in San Francisco. Peter’s site is here, and our 50-minute interview is here, as an MP3.

Peter and I have spoken many times over the years, and it is always a pleasure to talk to him, as he is such a well-informed host, and his shows allow complex issues — like Guantánamo — to be discussed in depth.

Out latest conversation followed the reelection of Barack Obama, and gave us an opportunity to catch up on where we stand nearly four years on from the President’s failed promise to close Guantánamo within a year.

As Peter described it, “Journalist Andy Worthington updates us on Guantánamo, where 86 men cleared for release are still held … Worthington wrote The Guantánamo Files and continues to provide the best coverage of our island dungeon at his website.” As part of our discussion of the 86 cleared prisoners — out of 166 prisoners in total who are still held — we spoke specifically out the importance of the list providing the names of 55 of these cleared men, which was released by the government for the first time in September, and which I analysed in depth in my article, Who Are the 55 Cleared Guantánamo Prisoners on the List Released by the Obama Administration?

We also spoke about “the September death of Adnan Latif, the Yemeni who had languished for 8 years since being cleared by Bush-era officials,” as Peter put it — a terrible indictment of US injustice and complacency that my colleague Jason Leopold has been pursuing relentlessly, and which I have most recently written about here and here.

As Peter put it, I also spoke about “the almost 100% denial rate for habeas corpus suits from Gitmo prisoners by the DC Court of Appeals in recent years” — a shameful story, also involving the Supreme Court, last June, which has never received the serious media attention it deserves — and we then followed up by discussing the surprising ruling by this same deeply Conservative court in favor of Salim Hamdan, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, whose 2008 conviction for providing material support for terrorism was overturned in October, on the basis that “material support” was “not a defined crime prior to 2006,” as Peter described it. I wrote about the Hamdan ruling in my article, Conservative Judges Demolish the False Legitimacy of Guantánamo’s Terror Trials.

Peter also explained how I provided “an update on the last British detainee still held, Shaker Aamer,” and also explained, “You can show your support to close Guantanamo here” — via the “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website that I established a year ago with the attorney Tom Wilner.

My thanks again to Peter, and I hope you have time to listen to the show.

Note: Peter’s show also included an interview with Sam Banning, who spoke about his new documentary, “Cruel and Unusual,” dealing with the unjust “three strikes” law in California.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

10 Responses

  1. Tom says...

    As fighting the system on many fronts continues to be frustrating, here’s a suggestion that I hope helps.

    While you singlehandedly can’t close Guantanemo, get Blair and Bush tried for war crimes and more, the important thing obviously is to do something. What’s the best reason to? IMO, if you do you’ll have a sense of inner peace. The issue may not be solved overnight. But you’ll be able to go to sleep at night and feel good about yourself.

    Break it down into a small section that you can work on, and then go to it. Also, be as creative with your tools as possible. Multimedia is there to be used. Have fun and be effective, all at the same time.

    Happy Xmas.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Interesting points, but I’ll have to continue working to secure the release of the cleared prisoners – and those held indefinitely without charge or trial, and those recommended for trials but not tried (in other words, almost everyone still held) – because it’s a simple matter of resisting the notion that indefinite detention without charge or trial is acceptable under any circumstances, when it isn’t. That’s my campaign – that and the horrific injustice of torturing and abusing people, who were largely bought or seized through inept intelligence, to create a house of cards of thoroughly unreliable information masquerading as evidence. Sometimes it gets tiring and frustrating, but I’ll persevere.

    And happy Christmas to you too!

  3. Tom says...

    I have my outlets to be heard as well. Like a lot of people, I had my “Chomsky” moment where I just thought, hang on a minute. I have to do SOMETHING. Which means use your tools as creatively as possible.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I agree about the need to pursue all kinds of avenues, Tom. I have a few plans for 2013!

  5. Tom says...

    Just listened to this, and nice job. Also, if the fiscal cliff cuts happen Jan. 2nd, does this mean Guantanemo will lose its funding? The Defense Dept. is one of the biggest agencies to get their budget cut.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. It would be wonderful if money finally became an issue. It costs around $800,000 a year to hold each prisoner at Guantanamo, and with 86 cleared prisoners still held, that’s an outrageous waste of $69 million a year.

  7. Tom says...

    Just came up with one of those “why hasn’t anybody else thought of this before” ideas. You know there’s a gun control PSA On You Tube with about 50 different celebs in it. Yet, nobody has ever done the same thing for closing Guantanemo.

    Why? Because if you use celebs, most who are politically involved tend to keep it quiet unless they’ve financially set. Then they can do whatever they want with no negative consequences. This means for a UK ad, why not avoid this problem by using activists (unless you could get artists as well)?

    Now, how do you get production services donated? I’m not sure. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived in London. Also, I don’t know any agents, production houses or others that could help. On the other hand, you’re not exactly an unknown name in UK activism. If you call around, I can’t believe that people ranging from John Pilger to Tariq Ali (hope I’m spelling that correctly) and others wouldn’t take you seriously.

    The point is, we all know we live in a 24/7 global celeb megahype society. Why else would the Gangnam clip get 1 billion hits? Tell me if you disagree, but I can’t see any reason why you can’t make it go viral. It’s a matter of backing. Part of it also is staying relevant in a good way. Nothing personal against Assange. Having said that, you have an advantage over him in the sense that you don’t have any extra baggage to deal with. Why not use that to your advantage?

    You’re a well known name with contacts. The key would be literally do something that’s never been done before to stand out in a sea of sameness.

    Just an idea.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s a great idea, Tom, and it may be that well-known people in the field of human rights would speak out in support of the closure of Guantanamo. The problem, for me, would be financing a project like this, although I’m also aware that, in nearly 11 years, no major NGOs have managed to attract a well-known personality to front an anti-Guantanamo campaign. I fear that no Americans would want to be involved, such is the negative power of the black propaganda used to establish and maintain Guantanamo, and without prominent American support it wouldn’t have any real impact in the US.
    Anyone interested in proving me wrong, however, is encouraged to get in touch!

  9. Tom says...

    I’d agree about getting names to front something like this. As I mentioned before, unless a celeb here is set, almost no one will go near anything “controversial”. If you talk to activists instead, you then have the problem of clashing egos. In any group that’s to be expected. However, the competition for donations for non profits here is still frankly cut throat. There are even non profit campaign “strategists” that will design a marketing campaign for your cause (in return for a commission).

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    If you come across anyone interested, send them my way, Tom!

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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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