Video: Andy Worthington, Todd Pierce and Steven Reisner Discuss Guantánamo and Torture in New York, January 9, 2014


Andy Worthington speaking outside the White House on January 11, 2013.I’ve now been in the US for a week, on the “Close Guantánamo Now” tour organized with the campaigning group the World Can’t Wait, and I’m writing this on after only a few hours’ sleep, an early morning flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, a reunion with my old friend and colleague Jason Leopold, an inspiring lunchtime inter-faith event in L.A., and a few moments of relaxation with my L.A. hosts in the Hollywood Hills.

I’ll be reporting more details soon about events in Washington D.C. on the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison (on Saturday January 11), and about my subsequent stay in San Francisco and the events there, as well as today’s lunchtime event, but to start my coverage of the tour I’m posting below videos of the first event I took part in, at All Souls Church on Lexington Avenue in New York City, where I took part in presentations and a Q&A session following a screening of the documentary film, “Doctors of the Dark Side,” about medical complicity in the torture of prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” which was directed by Martha Davis, a clinical psychologist who also attended the screening.

This powerful film addresses the torture programs introduced by the CIA, at their “black sites,” and by the military at Guantánamo, looking at important events like the reverse-engineering of the SERE program (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape), which is used to train US personnel to resist interrogation if captured, for the actual torture of US prisoners. Throughout, the film retains an unerring focus on the medical personnel needed to monitor torture, to ascertain how to break prisoners, and to advise how far the torturers could go not to kill the men.

In my presentation, posted below, I addressed the ongoing complicity of medical personnel in the abuse of prisoners undergoing a new and growing hunger strike as the only manner they have of protesting about — and showing their despair about — their ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial. When a prison-wide hunger strike erupted last year, the authorities responded to it by force-feeding the men, an abusive procedure requiring the involvement, yet again, of medical personnel.

International outrage about the hunger strike, and the horrors of indefinite detention without charge or trial led to President Obama promising to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo after three years of inaction, prompted by his refusal to overcome restrictions raised by Congress, even though it was in his power to do so.  That has led, so far, to 11 prisoners being released in the last five months, but 76 more — out of the 155 remaining prisoners — were cleared for release by a high-level, inter-agency task force appointed by the president when he took office in 2009, and they need to be released immediately.

Sensing, perhaps, that despite progress last year, only permanent protest will secure their release, the prisoners are embarking on another significant hunger strike. 33 men are currently refusing food, and 16 of those men are being force-fed.

I urge you please to keep these men in your thoughts, and hope you have the time to watch and share the videos posted below — the presentation by my friend and colleague Todd Pierce, the recently retired military defense attorney who was part of the teams representing two Guantánamo prisoners in their trials by military commission — Ibrahim al-Qosi and Ali Hamza al-Bahlul. Todd spoke about the harrowing case of the tortured Afghan child prisoner Mohamed Jawad, discussed in the film, and about his powerful analogies between the ideology of the Nazis and the current US empire.

Unfortunately, the video of the presentation by the psychologist Steven Reisner, who spoke about the determined but unsuccessful efforts to hold professional medical and psychiatric bodies accountable for their involvement in torture, is not embeddable, but it is available to watch here.

Also posted below is the Q&A session (which includes Steven), and a conversation I had afterwards with a member of the public, which was filmed. Please also see here for a presentation made before the screening by Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

8 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    I landed in L.A. today after a week in the US on the “Close #Guantanamo Now” tour with the World Can’t Wait. Here are videos from the first event in New York last Friday, featuring myself, former military defense attorney Todd Pierce and psychologist Steven Reisner talking after a screening of the documentary film, “Doctors of the Dark Side.” I hope you have time to watch the videos, and to share them if you find them useful.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Kathy Guruwaya wrote:

    It was great getting to meet you last nite, Andy. I have such admiration and respect for you. Thank you for your excellent work.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Just recently back from a night with Jason Leopold, walking Hollywood Boulevard prior to delivering a great double act at Revolution Books. The last two days of my US tour are tomorrow. Details here:
    Then it’s back to NYC for 48 hours before the flight back to beleaguered Blighty. It was 90 degrees today in LA. That can’t be right …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to meet you too, Kathy. Glad you could make it.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    David Knopfler wrote:

    I’m just watching the Doctors of the Dark Side documentary. I wonder who built all this torture apparatus and what their responsibility and culpability is too? I’m remembering the memo sent from the Third Reich to Volkswagon (I think it was?) asking if they could strengthen the back axles as “the merchandise aboard displays during the operation a natural tendency to rush to the rear doors, and is mainly found lying there at the end of the operation.” [as the Zylklon B or carbon monoxide went in]. This whole abomination of the reintroduction of torture has set human rights back decades.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, David. Yes, that certainly hasn’t been looked into enough, although I suppose the apparatus isn’t exactly readily available to examine for evidence about suppliers and manufacturers. Perhaps destroyed along with all the videotapes of the torture …

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Brian Brooks wrote:

    Another recommendation, if you don’t already know about it, is ‘Dirty Wars’ – both the book and the documentary. Eye-opening stuff, indeed.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, I wholeheartedly recommend “Dirty Wars” too, Brian. I wrote about the film here:
    I think Americans need to start a campaign uniting as many groups as possible dedicated to one single cause – reining in the military-industrial complex.

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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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