Radio: Andy Worthington Talks About Guantánamo with Dennis Bernstein, Michael Slate and Margaret Prescod in San Francisco and L.A.


Last week, during the West Coast leg of my 12-day “Close Guantánamo Now” tour (supported by the World Can’t Wait), I was first in San Francisco, a visit that involved being reunited with a number of old friends, including Stephanie Tang and Curt Wechsler of World Can’t Wait, Joey Johnson, who does community work in San Francisco neighbourhoods, the academic and anti-torture activist Rita Maran, lawyer Sharon Adams (with whom I spoke on Rose Aguilar’s “Your Call” show on KALW Public Radio) and Michael Kearns, the former instructor in the SERE program, which trains US personnel to resist interrogations if captured by an enemy that uses torture, who was appalled to discover, several years ago, that his former colleagues Bruce Jessen, James Mitchell and Roger Aldrich had played a key role in reverse-engineering these techniques for the torture of supposed “high-value detainees” seized in the “war on terror.”

I had met many of these good people for the first time in October 2010, when World Can’t Wait brought me over to Berkeley for “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and was reunited with many of them two years ago, as part of a short US tour on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in which I also visited New York, Washington D.C. and Chicago.

On this occasion, I first met up with some of my old friends in Oakland, at the house of other old friends, Ruth and Zeese, who had put me up on previous visits, where we had an inspiring anti-torture salon experience, of a kind that would be difficult to achieve outside of those involved in “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week. This was on the evening of my arrival, after a few hours in the afternoon spent exploring and photographing Mission Street in San Francisco, and the next morning I recorded the “Your Call” show with Rose and Sharon (and CUNY law professor and Guantánamo attorney Ramzi Kassem in New York), and then walked along Ocean beach, saw the Bay Area from Twin Peaks and ate delicious lamb shwarma with Joey Johnson, soaking up the radiant sunshine everywhere we went.

In mid-afternoon, a group of us set of for Stanford University, where a panel discussion had been arranged for myself, my friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, a psychologist who has done some groundbreaking and genuinely pioneering work on the Bush administration’s torture program, former student and journalist Adam Hudson, who recently visited Guantánamo, and Stephanie Tang standing in for World Can’t Wait’s national director Debra Sweet, who missed all the action unfortunately because of an injury she had received in New York just before my arrival. This was a wonderful event, also attended by other old friends, the author Barry Eisler (another “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week veteran), Almerindo Ojeda from UC Davis, who runs the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas, which focuses on Guantánamo and torture, and Michael Kearns, and I’ll be posting a video of this important panel discussion very soon. I’d like to thank Stanford Says No To War and the Progressive Christians at Stanford for organizing the event, and, in particular, Eric Sapp of Stanford Says No To War, without whom the event would not have happened.

Tuesday was a busy day. At lunchtime I spoke with Stephanie at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, in an event sponsored by the Hastings chapters of the National Lawyers Guild and the American Constitution Society, and the Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, and introduced by Professor of Law Hadar Aviram, who also moderated the Q&A that followed our presentations (a video will, I hope, be forthcoming). In the evening, there was a screening of the powerful documentary film, “Doctors of the Dark Side” at Revolution Books in Berkeley, followed by presentations by myself and Stephanie and a Q&A session (which I also expect to be available on video in the near future), and in the afternoon I recorded two radio interviews which I hope you have time to listen to.

The first was with veteran broadcaster Dennis Bernstein on his “Flashpoints” show on KPFA in Berkeley. Our 12-minute interview, in which I provided a concentrated rundown of the situation at Guantánamo, is available here, beginning 48 minutes into the show, following news from Thailand and from the water poisoning story in West Virginia, and about police violence against young people in Santa Rosa, following the police murder, last October, of 13-year old Andy Lopez. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Dennis, and he and I have spoken many times over the years, either in the studio when I’m in town, or by phone.

Soon after, at Revolution Books, I pre-recorded an interview with another veteran broadcaster, Michael Slate for KPFK in L.A. Michael and I  have also spoken many times over the years, and it was ironic that, as I was preparing to arrive in L.A. for the first time, he was away for the weekend, hence the pre-record in Berkeley.

The half-hour show, which also featured Debra Sweet on the line from New York, is available here (or here) and Michael described the show as “focus[ing] on the need to close the Guantánamo torture camp. The ‘Close Guantánamo NOW’ tour is happening throughout January, 2014. Andy Worthington, a London-based journalist, filmmaker and author, who is one of the foremost experts on Guantánamo, and Debra Sweet, the national director of World Can’t Wait, address how and why the US has kept this prison open for twelve years, and our responsibility to close it.”

On Wednesday morning, I was up at the crack of dawn for a flight to L.A., where I was met by another old friend and colleague, Jason Leopold, for the events described in my article here. Although desperate for a lie-in on Thursday morning, it was not to be, as Margaret Prescod of KPFK in L.A. was interviewing me for her “Sojourner Truth” show, which begins at 7am. I hadn’t spoken to Margaret before, and was delighted to do so, despite the early hour, and you can listen to the half-hour interview here (it begins 25 minutes in and runs to the end of the show), or here and here on SoundCloud.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to mention another radio interview that I undertook in London, just before my departure for the US, with Linda Olson-Osterlund on KBOO FM, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon. Linda and I have also spoken many times, and I was not only pleased to do a show with Linda about Guantánamo for the 12th anniversary, but also pleased that she broadcast it on the anniversary itself, Saturday January 11, while I and hundreds of other protestors were in Washington D.C., reminding President Obama that we have not forgotten about the prison or the men being held there. The half-hour interview with Linda is available here.

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.

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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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