Archive for December, 2020

Joe Biden’s Guantánamo: New York Times Highlights Decaying Prison Cells and Broken Judicial System; Observer Notes Return of Hope

A composite image of President-elect Joe Biden and the prison at Guantánamo Bay.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

In the guessing game that is the incoming Biden administration’s policy regarding the moral stain on the US that is the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, which will mark the 19th anniversary of its opening just two weeks’ time, three New York Times reporters — Carol Rosenberg, Charlie Savage and Eric Schmitt — recently highlighted some of the issues that Joe Biden will have to address when he take office, in an article entitled, “‘In Bad Shape and Getting Worse,’ Guantánamo Poses Headaches for Biden.”

The Times largely sidestepped the glaring injustice of the entire facility — where 40 men are still held, for the most part, in open-ended indefinite detention without charge or trial, in defiance of domestic and international norms regarding imprisonment — focusing instead on the prison’s “decaying infrastructure” and its broken judicial system, the military commissions.

On the bigger picture, the reporters noted only that Biden “has yet to lay out plans for Guantánamo,” but that, “according to people familiar with transition deliberations,” his administration “is not expected to repeat President Barack Obama’s splashy but ultimately unmet promise in 2009 to close the prison within a year.”

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Torture Victims Lead Call for Torture Apologists Avril Haines and Mike Morell Not to be Confirmed as Director of National Intelligence and CIA Director

Avril Haines and Mike Morell, who both have a troubling history as torture apologists. In an open letter, opponents of torture, myself included, urge President-elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell as CIA Director, and urge the Senate not to confirm Biden’s appointment of Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

I’m delighted to be a signatory to an open letter, initiated by Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America and CODEPINKCONGRESS, urging President-elect Joe Biden not to nominate Mike Morell as CIA Director, and asking the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence (the head of the 16 branches of the US Intelligence Community) — and I’m particularly gratified that I was able to reach out to a number of former Guantánamo prisoners to encourage them to sign the letter.

Both Morell and Haynes have a troubling history of defending torture. Morell, who was a CIA analyst under George W. Bush, and Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Barack Obama, defended the use of torture when speaking to VICE in 2015. “I don’t like calling it torture for one simple reason: to call it torture says my guys were torturers,” he said, adding, “I’m gonna defend my guys till my last breath.” As Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd explained in an article for Common Dreams yesterday, Morell “put his CIA buddies above truth, the law and basic decency.”

Hopefully, as they also noted, “Morell’s traction may be on the wane with the Biden administration … after progressives launched a campaign against [him], and Senator Ron Wyden — a powerful Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee — called him a ‘torture apologist’ and said his appointment to head the CIA was a ‘non starter.’”

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Radio: I Discuss Hopes for Guantánamo’s Closure Under Joe Biden, and Julian Assange’s Extradition, with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

A composite image of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the day it opened, January 11, 2002, and WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Chris Cook, in Victoria, British Columbia, hosts a great weekly progressive radio show, Gorilla Radio, and I’m delighted to have been talking to him on a regular basis — mostly about Guantánamo — for many years now.

I spoke to Chris recently for an hour, and you can find the show on his website here, and also here as an MP3. A shorter version of the interview was included in the show that was broadcast on December 17, featuring journalist and author John Helmer in the first half (and the MP3 of that show is here).

I began by providing a brief history of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which will mark the shameful 19th anniversary of its opening in just three weeks’ time, and I stressed how, under Donald Trump, the prison has essentially been sealed shut for the last four years. Bearing that in mind, there is now hope that, at the very least, some of the remaining 40 prisoners will be freed, and there will progress towards the prison’s closure.

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In Trump’s Dying Days, Guantánamo Review Board Approves Yemeni Prisoner for Release

On the left: Said Salih Said Nashir (aka Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah), a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo who has just had his release approved by a Periodic Review Board. The other men are Moath al-Alwi and Omar al-Rammah, who, unfortunately, had their ongoing imprisonment upheld by PRBs, nearly three and four years respectively since their hearings took place.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

In the three years and eleven months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been — until now — no good news from Guantánamo. That first piece of good news, reported by NPR on December 11, is that Said Salih Said Nashir, a 46-year old Yemeni held at Guantánamo without charge or trial for 18 years, has been unanimously approved for release from the prison by a Periodic Review Board.

Consisting of a panel of military and intelligence officials, the Periodic Review Boards were established by President Obama, to review the cases of men held at Guantánamo who had not been recommended for release by Obama’s first high-level review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force.

The task force’s report — recommending 156 prisoners for release, 36 for prosecution, and 48 for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial — was issued in January 2010, but by the time the PRBs took place, beginning in November 2013, just 41 of the 48 men recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial remained: two had died, and five others — high-ranking Taliban officials — were freed in a prisoner swap.

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Radio: My One-Hour Interview With Peter B. Collins About Closing Guantánamo, and Julian Assange’s Extradition Hearing

Andy Worthington marking 6,900 days of the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and calling on President Elect Joe Biden to close it, on December 1, 2020, and a campaigner calling for an end to the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! This week is my latest quarterly fundraising week, and I’m trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Last week I was honoured to be asked by the veteran talk radio host Peter B. Collins to take part in what is being billed as his ‘Last Interview’ series, as he retires from regular broadcasting after a 47-year career which began with him covering Watergate when he was just 19.

The show is available here, and here as an MP3 — and as this is my quarterly fundraising week, please be aware that I don’t receive any payment for my various TV and radio appearances, so if you can help with a donation, to enable me to keep writing about, campaigning about and talking about Guantánamo (and other human rights issues) across a variety of media, it will be very greatly appreciated!

Peter first interviewed me about Guantánamo — if I recall correctly, gazing back into the mists of time — back in 2009, and we have spoken many times since, as he largely moved from hosting talk radio shows into running his own subscriber-based podcasts.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) For My Work Campaigning to Get Guantánamo Closed in 2021

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020, the 18th anniversary of its opening, and interviewed on RT, in what was the only US broadcast media coverage of the anniversary.

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2,500 (£2,000) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo into 2021.




 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s 15 years since I first began researching, writing about, and campaigning to get the shameful and disgraceful prison at Guantánamo Bay closed, and every three months I ask you, if you can, to support my work. Over the last 15 years, I’ve written over 2,300 articles about Guantánamo, had a book published, set up two campaigns, co-directed a film, worked with the UN and WikiLeaks, and made numerous TV, radio and personal appearances as part of the long struggle to free men from the prison — almost all held indefinitely without charge or trial — and, ultimately, to get the prison closed.

As a freelance journalist and campaigner, I’m reliant on your support, as I have no institutional backing. After four long and hard years of hopelessness under Donald Trump, who sealed Guantánamo shut, and entombed the 40 men still held without any prospect of either justice or release, Joe Biden’s victory in last month’s Presidential Election means that hope — of some sort — has returned. It is now reasonable to hope that the release of prisoners — halted under Trump — will resume, and that steps can be taken to revive Barack Obama’s sadly failed policy of closing Guantánamo once and for all.

It may well be that positive progress will not happen without significant pressure being exerted on the Biden administration to do the right thing, but where there is hope — as there really wasn’t under Trump — there is the possibility for meaningful action, and I am looking forward to finding ways to publicize the need for Guantánamo to be closed — hopefully including some sort of film project, and a book collecting the best of my writing about Guantánamo since 2007 — and also to find ways to get you involved, in addition to the ongoing photo campaign via the Close Guantánamo campaign, which I set up in 2012 with the attorney Tom Wilner.

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“A Big Black Stain That Provides No Benefit Whatsoever”: Lawyers Urge Joe Biden to Close Guantánamo

An unidentified prisoner in the recreation yard of Camp 6 at Guantánamo Bay, probably photographed in 2015 (Photo: AFP).

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

One month since the Presidential Election, and with less than seven weeks until Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, it’s reassuring that the need for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be closed is being discussed in the US media. 40 men are still held at Guantánamo — five approved for release by high-level government review process under President Obama; nine facing or having faced trials in the military commissions; and 26 others officially held indefinitely without charge or trial.

For the Associated Press — in a story entitled, “Biden’s win means some Guantánamo prisoners may be released,” which was widely picked up on and reported across the US and around the world — longtime Guantánamo watcher Ben Fox began by speaking to attorney Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, who was at  Guantánamo for her client Saifullah Paracha’s latest Periodic Review Board hearing.

Guantánamo’s oldest prisoner, Paracha, 73, whose case I have covered extensively, has diabetes and a heart condition, and is one of the 26 “forever prisoners,” held on an ongoing basis without charge or trial because the US authorities allege that they pose some kind of “threat” to national security. However, as Ben Fox explained, he “went to his latest review board hearing with a degree of hope, something that has been scarce during his 16 years locked up without charges at the US base in Cuba,” because, as he added, he “had two things going for him that he didn’t have at previous hearings: a favorable legal development and the election of Joe Biden.”

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Celebrating 1,300 Days of My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

Recent photos from The State of London photo-journalism project by Andy Worthington.

Please support my work on ‘The State of London’, a labour of love that has no funding except from you. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.




 

Sunday marked 1,300 days — over three and a half years — since I first began posting a photo a day (plus an accompanying essay) on my Facebook page ‘The State of London.’

The Facebook project began on May 11, 2017, the fifth anniversary of the day I first consciously began cycling around the 120 postcodes of the London Postal District (the postcodes beginning  E, EC, N, NW, SE, SW, W and WC), intending to capture, in photos, the changing face of the city, and its different manifestations based on the weather and the seasons.

My thanks to everyone taking an interest in the project, which has just reached 3,800 followers — plus many more who follow the photos on my own Facebook page, and also those who follow ‘The State of London’ on Twitter.

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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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