Blast from the Past: “Reckoning with Torture,” Video of Andy Worthington, Mimi Kennedy, Ray McGovern and Others in Berkeley in 2010


Andy Worthington reading out the testimony of Abu Zubaydah at a reading of "Reckoning With Torture" in Berkeley in October 2010.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.


I’ve recently been going through my (nearly) ten-year archive of articles about Guantánamo and related issues, in an effort to work out what to include in a forthcoming book compiling the best of my writing about Guantánamo. One of the duller aspects of this work has been to fix broken links, in particular to radio shows and videos of TV appearances and other live events, but along the way I was reminded of a exhilarating, if rather exhausting trip that I made to Berkeley in October 2010 — my first ever visit to the West Coast of the US — for Berkeley Says No To Torture Week.

The week of events was put together by the World Can’t Wait, the National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco), Progressive Democrats of America, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, National Accountability Action Network, Code Pink,, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee and the Rev. Kurt Kuhwald, and Berkeley was chosen as the venue because John Yoo, the author of the Bush administration’s notorious “torture memos,” is law professor at Berkeley, even though, under George W. Bush, when he was a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is supposed to provide the executive branch with impartial legal advice, he attempted to redefine torture so that the CIA could use it on “high-value detainees” in the “war on terror.”

Berkeley City Council had adopted a Resolution to hold a week of public educational events to educate the community about torture in September 2010, and Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait then arranged my visit, which involved me taking part in what I remember as several events a day during that week, culminating in a performance of “Reckoning With Torture,” in which I read out passages relating to Abu Zubaydah, the first official victim of the US’s post-9/11 torture program, and which I’m cross-posting below, via YouTube:

“Reckoning With Torture” involves readings of official documents that reveal the scope of America’s post-9/11 torture program. The ACLU and PEN American Center staged the first “Reckoning With Torture” at The Cooper Union in New York  in September 2009, and in March 2010 a second performance was staged in Washington, D.C., and more recent details of performances can be found on a dedicated website here.

In Berkeley, on October 15, 2010, those taking part in the performance included myself, retired CIA officer and peace activist Ray McGovern, the actress, author and activist Mimi Kennedy, Pamela Merchant of the Center for Justice & Accountability, Marjorie Cohn of the National Lawyers Guild, Renee Saucedo of La Raza Centro Legal, the journalist Jason Leopold, Peter Selz of Berkeley Art Museum, activist and musician Shahid Buttar, the psychologist and activist Jeffrey Kaye, Devorah Major, the poet laureate of San Francisco, and Col. Ann Wright, peace activist and former US State Department official.

I hope you enjoy this blast from the past.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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.

17 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s a blast from the past that I found while going through my archive of work from the last ten years, as I work out which articles to feature in a book I’m working on that will contain the best of my writing about Guantanamo – the video of a performance of “Reckoning With Torture,” which features the testimony of victims of the US torture program, during a week of events in Berkeley in October 2010 aimed at discrediting “torture memo” author John Yoo, who is a law professor at Berkeley. Others featured in the performance include Ray McGovern, Mimi Kennedy, Ann Wright, Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the full archive of my articles from that fascinating week I spent in Berkeley in October 2010:
    It was my third US visit. In March 2008, my publishers (Pluto Press) flew me over from the UK to promote my book “The Guantanamo Files”, then in the fall of 2009 I did a tour courtesy of the Future of Freedom Foundation and the World Can’t Wait, and then, in January 2011, Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait organized the first of my January visits, to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo, and I’ve now made seven of those visits.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

  4. Andy Worthington says...

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Hey, Jason Leopold, Barry Eisler, Michael S. Kearns, Justine Sharrock – just checking in with you. I was briefly revisiting Berkeley Says No to Torture week and was remembering our time together. Jeffrey Kaye too, of course, although you’re not in this photo:

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Jeffrey Kaye wrote:

    Funny, I just came across the DVD of the panel. Was that really 6-1/2 years ago?

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, how time flies when you’re trying to close an immoral prison and/or demand accountability for torturers, Jeffrey. I wish this was like Dylan’s ‘My Back Pages’ – “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now”, but that’s the sort of clever allusion someone can only make in their 20s, I think. At my time of life, I just find myself more and more pondering aging, the passage of time, what life means …

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Barry Eisler wrote:

    That was a good night, but yes, holy shit, six and half years ago?! Mind-boggling…

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Justine Shamrock wrote:

    Great to hear from you. Can’t believe that was that long ago!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you both, Barry and Justine. I hope you’re coping with the rapid degeneration in the political situation in both our countries right now. Not that I’m trying to gloss over how dreadful Bush’s “war on terror” years were, or Obama’s largely forgettable eight years, but Trump and Brexit? Our fellow citizens seem to be taking leave of their senses to an unprecedented degree …

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael S. Kearns wrote:

    Well, I’m proud I’ve joined you all as an author!

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Michael S. Kearns wrote:

    Here’s a nice interview we did:

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Michael. I do hope you’re well.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Betty Goodman-Barcikowski wrote:

    Very informative. Thank you.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Betty. Good to hear from you.

  16. Tom says...

    While you’re work is important Andy, be aware of something that’s happening here. I don’t know how much US media you follow. But there’s an increasing trend for more and more outlets to turn conservative. The reasoning? Trump thinks we’re the enemy. If we turn conservative, we’ll have a better chance to have access. Otherwise, the White House will call and try to get our reporters fired. This trend is even happening in places like RT, Pacifica Radio and Democracy Now. Which means that (just like Ray McGovern says), there is no Fourth Estate anymore. What does it say when someone like Dan Rather or Dennis Kucinich regularly turn up on Fox? Fox is trying to market Kucinich as the “token liberal” (kind of like what Alan Combs was). Rather has the idea that if he’s perceived as “too liberal”, that’s the kiss of death. What has MSNBC done? Fire all of their on-air people of color (minus 1), and become a copy of CNN. It’s the old thing of turn on your TV. Close your eyes and click from one cable channel to another. They’re literally all the same. Even the BBC now thinks that Briebart and Alex Jones are “legitimiate news sources”.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, you make some very valid points, Tom, and the rightwards drift of the mainstream media is one of the real problems with the world we live in. I hadn’t specifically been thinking about how some US media outlets would do that to maintain access to Trump, and that’s specifically very worrying, of course, but in general the media have been failing to do what they should be doing for quite a long time now. The rise of the right-wing media is one problem, but another is the liberal media’s obsession with being “objective,” which is something the right-wing doesn’t even pretend to do, and which, unfortunately, prevents decent people from having any major outlet whereby wrongdoing can be exposed clearly and unambiguously.

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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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