Gitmo Clock: 500 Days Since Obama’s Promise to Resume Releasing Prisoners; 79 Cleared Men Still Held


Please visit, like, share and tweet the Gitmo Clock, marking 500 days since President Obama’s promise to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo.

On May 23, 2013, President Obama promised, in a major speech on national security issues, to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, after a period of nearly three years in which just five prisoners were released.

The slow-down in prisoner releases came about because of Congressional obstruction to the release of prisoners for largely cynical reasons (in passages in the annual National Defense Authorization Act), and because President Obama was unwilling to spend political capital overcoming those obstructions, even though a waiver in the legislation allowed him to do so.

The slow-down was unacceptable because over half of the remaining prisoners had been approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in January 2009 — and yet they were held, year after year, making a mockery of America’s claims that it believes in justice.

This was such an intolerable situation that a majority of the remaining prisoners embarked on a prison-wide hunger strike last year. This attracted widespread domestic and international criticism of the situation at Guantánamo, prompting President Obama to make the speech last May in which he promised to resume releasing prisoners.

Via the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, I launched the Gitmo Clock last summer, to mark how many days it is since President Obama’s promise, and how many prisoners have been released, and while I’m glad to note that 17 men have been freed since the speech, I am profoundly disappointed that 79 of the remaining 149 prisoners have been approved for release — 75 by the Guantánamo Review Task Force, and four since January this year by a new review process, the Periodic Review Boards — but are still held.

In addition, it is worth noting that 58 of these men are Yemenis, and that their release continues to be justified, throughout the US political establishment, because of fears about the security situation in Yemen, fears which impose on the men still held the unjustifiable status of men who are held solely because of their nationality.

Yesterday it was 500 days since President Obama’s promise, and to mark the occasion we are asking you to please visit the Gitmo Clock, to like it, share it and tweet it, and to contact the White House and the Pentagon to ask for renewed action in releasing prisoners from Guantánamo.

Please contact the White House and the Pentagon

Call the White House and ask President Obama to release all the prisoners who have had their release approved by the Guantánamo Review Task Force or by Periodic Review Boards. Call 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.

Call the Department of Defense and ask Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to issue certifications, as required by Congress, for the prisoners cleared for release: 703-571-3343.

Note: This article was published yesterday — as “Gitmo Clock Marks 500 Days Since President Obama’s Promise to Resume Releasing Prisoners; 79 Cleared Prisoners Still Held” — on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I established in January 2012 with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

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 six-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, the full military commissions 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.

4 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks to everyone who has been visiting the Gitmo Clock, and liking, sharing and tweeting it – as well as everyone who has been liking and sharing this article. It all helps to educate people about the ongoing injustice of Guantanamo, which far too many people don’t know about.

  2. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy!

    Can I share something important that strongly erodes the meme that Guantanamo captives get excellent medical care?

    The wonderful Carol Rosenberg reported on how using olive oil to lubricate the force-feeding tubes could skew the results of tests for tuberculosis. She quoted an expert who said only water-soluble lubricants should be used on force-feeding tubes.

    I think this is important, since, as you noted when you reviewed the formerly secret JTF-GTMO assessments WikiLeaks published in 2011, lots of the captives are said to have tuberculosis. Now we have to wonder whether they received medically unnecessary TB treatments when what they had instead was the after effects of improperly administered force-feedings.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Very interesting, arcticredriver. I’m about to write something about this week’s revelations in Abu Wa’el Dhiab’s trial.
    I do recall that Dr. Steven Miles’ first declaration about the detrimental effects of olive oil as a lubricant was in a court submission on June 20 in Dhiab’s case – and in Emad Hassan’s case as well – which Jason Leopold wrote about for VICE News in July:

    I just noticed that, in his June declaration, Steven Miles not only mentioned lipoid pneumonia, but TB as well – and as you note, it is now important to ask whether the many reported incidents of TB in the Detainee Assessment Briefs (the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011) were the result of force-feeding.

    Here are excerpts from Jason’s article:

    For years, nurses at Gitmo have offered hunger-striking detainees a choice of lubricants for their nasal passages while they’re being force-fed a liquid nutritional supplement …

    “We will use olive oil or some type of lubricant,” a medical officer told VICE News last December, during a tour of the detention hospital. “It seems that the detainees prefer the olive oil. We want to make sure we keep them as healthy as possible.”

    But last week, olive oil was abruptly removed from the list of lubricants nurses use to grease up nostrils. That’s because the military found out inhaling fatty oils irritates the lungs and causes a serious illness called lipoid pneumonia. The disclosure undercuts the military’s assertion that it provides exemplary medical care to Guantanamo detainees …

    “The decision to use olive oil is a remarkable instance of negligent medical care in reckless disregard of standard medical practice which was defined to minimize risks,” wrote Dr. Steven Miles, an internist and professor of medicine at the University of Minnesota. He was writing a scathing declaration submitted on June 20 in the cases of Syrian national Abu Wa’el Dhiab and Yemeni Imad Abdullah Hassan, Guantanamo detainees challenging the legality of the detention facility’s force-feeding protocols. “The fact that olive oil is listed … as a routinely used lubricant suggests that other prisoners, including [Hassan and Dhiab], have been placed at risk of lipoid pneumonia.”

    Miles, who reviewed Hassan’s medical records, said lipoid pneumonia causes respiratory distress that cannot be treated with antibiotics and can result in markings on an x-ray that can “either mimic or conceal cancer, tuberculosis, or pneumonia.”

    “All the literature on the procedure of inserting nasogastric tubes say that lubrication should be done with a water soluble solution,” he said. “Olive oil … is not water soluble.”

  4. -Memo to Mississippi and New York: Trial by Jury Is NOT Optional! | Chicago Activism says...

    […] which is for now confined to far off places like Guantanamo and for non-U.S. citizens like the 149 remaining Guantanamo prisoners, 79 of whom are cleared for release. To some people, such abuses seem […]

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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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