Video: Andy Worthington Speaks at “Guantánamo At 13: How Obama Can Close the Illegal Prison” in Northampton, Massachusetts


Andy Worthington speaks at a meeting in Northampton. Massachusetts on January 14, 2015 (Photo: Debra Sweet for Andy Worthington).Since my return from my US tour nearly three weeks ago — after nearly two weeks traveling around the East Coast talking about Guantánamo and campaigning for the prison’s closure on and around the 13th anniversary of its opening — I’ve been steadily making available videos of the various events I took part in (in New York, outside the White House, at New America in Washington D.C., and at Western New England School of Law), links to the various radio interviews I undertook (see here and here), and photos of some of the events I was involved in — in particular, the invasion of Dick Cheney’s house and a protest outside CIA headquarters on January 10, and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11.

Unless video surfaces of my last event, in Chicago, on January 15, the video below — at the Friends Meeting House in Northampton, Massachusetts on January 14 — will be the last video I can provide from this particular tour. It was filmed by Ari Hayes, and made available through the website, and it was a great event — with friends old and new; including many Witness Against Torture activists, who I’d been with in Washington D.C., the lawyer and radio host Bill Newman, and the lawyer Buz Eisenberg, who had been presented with a human rights award before my talk and yet insisted on lavishing such praise on me that I thought “This Is Your Life” had been revived and I was the star of the show.

Nancy Talanian of No More Guantánamos, who I stayed with while I was in western Massachusetts, introduce the event, and then Debra Sweet, the national director of the World Can’t Wait, who organized my tour (as she has been doing every January since 2011) introduced me. My talk starts at eight minutes in and for the first ten minutes I spoke about how I had started researching and writing about Guantánamo, and had come to write my book The Guantánamo Files.

I then began speaking about the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in January 2009, and the significance of its decisions about what to do with the prisoners, which were embraced by the president. The task force made recommendations about who to release, who to prosecute and — alarmingly — who to continue holding without charge or trial, on the basis that they were considered too dangerous to release but insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial.

I then spent some time explaining why this is so alarming, because, of course, this means that the supposed evidence is no such thing, and unfortunately, the history of Guantánamo and the “war on terror” is such that the information that fills the prisoners’ files (as revealed in WikiLeaks’ release of classified files in 2011) largely consists of profoundly unreliable statements made by the prisoners, about themselves or their fellow prisoners, as a result of torture, other forms of coercion, bribery or an exhaustion with the whole process of never-ending interrogations.

Just before the 27-minute mark, I started speaking about the 122 men still held, and what will happen to them, thanking the Obama administration for its recent releases, promoting the We Stand With Shaker campaign that I launched (with the activist Joanne MacInnes) in November, to try to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and discussing the plight of the Yemenis, who make up the majority of the 54 men approved for release who are still held. I explained how it is reassuring that 12 Yemenis, long cleared for release, have been given new homes in third countries in recent months, finally breaking through the refusal, across the entire US establishment, to repatriate any of the Yemenis, because of apparently insuperable fears about the security situation in Yemen.

I expressed my hope that these men will continue to be released, and that, of the 68 others, those not facing trials — 58 men in total — will have their cases reviewed as swiftly as possible, through the Periodic Review Boards established in 2013, and that the review boards will take into account quite how worthless most of the supposed evidence is, so that, perhaps, before the end of the Obama presidency, the last men held can be brought to the US mainland so that the facility at Guantánamo can be closed — and, I would hope, the small number of trials still underway will be moved to federal court, and everyone else will have to be freed, because there is no precedent for holding foreign citizens indefinitely without charge or trial on the US mainland (although I understand that this is a source of profound worry for some people, who believe that Republicans — and possibly some Democrats — will use it as an opportunity to establish indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial on the US mainland).

My talk ended at 38 minutes, but there was then a fascinating Q&A session, following up on many of the topics I’d discussed in my talk, and introducing new angles, which lasted for a further 40 minutes, and was very professionally recorded, as members of the audience asking questions were given a microphone.

I do hope you have time to watch the video, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, 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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m posting this early, because I’m out this evening, taking my talented son to the first class of the Beatbox Academy he got into at Battersea Arts Centre. I also meant to post it last night, but my WordPress account was broken, and I had to wait for my tech support guy to mend it. Anyway, normal service is now resumed – and I updated my “About me” page once my website was up and running again:

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Willy Bach wrote:

    Australia must never forget what our so-called ally is doing. Guantanamo must be closed. Thanks, Andy.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for sharing, Willy, and for your support, as ever.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I would like to buy one of those GCHQ tee shirts, I dare say I will need to explain it to some Australians – but that too could be useful.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Willy​. Yes, the shirt is here:
    I had meant to post a link in the article. And a version mentioning the NSA would be helpful, wouldn’t it?

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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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