Archive for November, 2021

I Discuss the Significance of WikiLeaks’ Release of ‘The Guantánamo Files’ in a Primary Sources Podcast with Clive Stafford Smith

“WikiLeaks and ‘The Guantánamo Files'”: a screenshot of the ‘Primary Sources’ podcast featuring Andy Worthington and Clive Stafford Smith in conversation with Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights and Dissent.

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I’m delighted to be sharing with you an hour-long podcast about the significance of the formerly classified military files from Guantánamo (the “Detainee Assessment Briefs”), which were released by WikiLeaks as “The Guantánamo Files” in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner. I took part in the podcast along with Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, and both Clive and I were invited to speak with the podcast’s host Chip Gibbons because of our long involvement with Guantánamo, and because we had both testified on behalf of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at his extradition hearing in the UK in October 2020.

Chip works for Defending Rights and Dissent, formed in 2016 through the merger of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), founded in 2001 to resist the draconian post-9/11 Patriot Act, and the Defending Dissent Foundation, originally formed in 1960 as the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee. They describe their mission as being to “strengthen our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression.”

Defending Rights and Dissent recently set up a podcast series, “Primary Sources,” in which, over the last six months, Chip Gibbons has interviewed the “Pentagon Papers” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, James Goodale, General Counsel of the New York Times when the “Pentagon Papers” were published, human rights attorney Carey Shenkman discussing the Espionage Act, whistleblower and attorney Jesselyn Raddack, whistleblowers Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou and Matthew Hoh, and drone program whistleblowers Lisa Ling, Keagan Miller, Cian Westmoreland, and Christopher Aaron, and it was an honor and a privilege to be invited to join this extraordinary line-up of witnesses exposing the crimes of the US government over many decades.

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The Evil Heart of Brexit Britain Under Boris Johnson’s Bigoted Government and the UK’s Rabid Right-Wing Media

A dinghy carries migrants to the UK from France across the Channel (Photo: Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images).

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For the last five and a half years, since bigotry, racism and xenophobia became official UK government policy following the disastrous EU referendum in June 2016, I have frequently been ashamed to be British; I might almost say, in fact, that I have carried with me a perpetual shame at the way in which the Brexiteers’ narrow victory in the referendum brought racism and intolerance out of the shadows, where decent people had been striving for decades to keep it at bay.

On occasion, events have conspired to make that shame flare up into full-blown anger and despair, and the deaths of 27 refugees in the Channel three days ago is one of those occasions. That these 27 people — men, women and children — were so desperate to get to the UK, in the hope of a better life, that they had become involved with people-traffickers, and ended up in a dinghy that couldn’t cope with the perils of the Channel crossing, ought to elicit, first of all, compassion for the plight in which they found themselves, and for their tragic deaths. However, the rhetoric regarding refugees has become so vile and so toxic in Brexit Britain that the knee-jerk reaction of far too many people has been to dismiss them as “illegal migrants” or “economic migrants”, and to revel in their deaths.

In this, the mainstream media and the government bear huge responsibility for having cynically encouraged racism, xenophobia and cold-heartedness as part of their various agendas for damagingly isolating Britain from the rest of the world in order to stay in power or to secure a pliable populace that will soak up their venom in an unquestioning manner.

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Former Guantánamo Prisoner Kidnapped in Yemen, Held at an Unknown Location

Abdulqadir al-Madhfari (identified by the US as Abdel Qadir Hussein al-Mudhaffari, and given the prisoner number ISN 40), in a photo taken at Guantánamo and included in his classified military file, released by WikiLeaks in 2011.

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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 disturbing news from Yemen, reported by the Intercept, a former Guantánamo prisoner, who had only just been reunited with his family after 14 years in Guantánamo, and five subsequent years in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he had been imprisoned despite having been promised his freedom, has been seized by Houthi militia, and is being held an undisclosed location.

The disappearance of Abdulqadir al-Madhfari (identified by the US as Abdel Qadir Hussein al-Mudhaffari, and given the prisoner number ISN 40) is one of the more depressing examples of how the “taint” of having been held at Guantánamo, despite never having been charged with a crime or put on trial, dogs former prisoners. It also provides a vivid example of the US government’s almost complete lack of interest in the welfare of men released after long years of unjustifiable imprisonment in the US’s notorious offshore prison in Cuba.

Al-Madhfari’s long ordeal began almost 20 years ago, when he was seized crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Whilst it was likely that the “young physician’s assistant who dreamed of becoming a doctor,” as the Intercept described him, had been a foot soldier with the Taliban, there was no reason to suppose, as the US alleged, that he had been part of what his captors described as the “Dirty Thirty,” a group of bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, because most of the men in question were young men, who had been in Afghanistan for only a short amount of time, and would not, therefore, have been trusted to guard Al-Qaeda’s leader.

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Quarterly Fundraiser for My Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’: Can You Help Me Raise £1,000?

The latest photos in Andy Worthington’s ongoing photo-journalism project ‘The State of London.’

Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation to support my photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’.




 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s now over four and a half years since I first began to post photos — and accompanying essays — on Facebook, as ‘The State of London’, from the archive of photos that I’d been building up since I first began cycling with a camera and a curious eye throughout London’s 120 postcodes five years before, in May 2012.

This has, from the beginning, been a labour of love. No one asked me to do it, and no one was paying me to do it either, but as time has gone on and the project has become more popular (with nearly 5,000 followers now on Facebook), I have also devoted more and more time to it — particularly through the research I undertake into the subjects of my photos, and the essays I write to accompany my daily posts, which I know many of you appreciate.

As a result, earlier this year I began posting quarterly fundraisers asking you to make a donation, if you can, to support ‘The State of London.’ If you can help out, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s £5, £10, £20 or more!

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Reflections on ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After,’ a Powerful Online Conference on Nov. 12 and 13

A screenshot of the website of ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After,’ an online international conference hosted by the University of Brighton on Nov. 12 and 13, 2021.

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.





 

Many thanks to everyone who attended the international online conference ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’ on Friday and Saturday, and who made it such a success, and thanks also to Sara Birch, a law lecturer at the University of Brighton, for having organized it, for having sought my help in organizing it, and for having asked me to be a keynote speaker. Thanks also to the university for agreeing to host it, and to all the staff and students who also worked on it.

The whole event  — which took place via Zoom — was recorded, and we’ll be making videos available over the coming weeks, as well as videos of interviews with the participants that were undertaken by a number of the students in the week before the conference began.

Day One

I opened the conference at 4pm GMT on Friday with my keynote speech, ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years of Lawlessness and Tyranny,’ running through, in particular, the story of how the prison, which was established by the Bush administration to be outside the law, has, in the two decades since, largely defeated efforts to make it conform with international and domestic laws and treaties, despite a number of resounding court victories in the Supreme Court in 2004, 2006 and 2008, and despite a period of two years, from 2008 to 2010, when the prisoners were able to exercise habeas corpus rights, and 32 of them were released following decisions by judges.

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Majid Khan Describes Years of Torture and Abuse in CIA “Black Sites” and at Guantánamo in His Sentencing Statement (Part Two)

Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, photographed at the prison in 2009, after he had finally been allowed to meet with his lawyers, and to start making arrangements for the plea deal that he agreed to in 2012.

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Yesterday, I posted a transcript of the first part of the extraordinary statement that Guantánamo prisoner and CIA “black site” torture victim Majid Khan read out at his sentencing hearing two weeks ago, in which he recounted his early life, how he was preyed on by al-Qaeda supporters following the death of his mother, and the horrendous torture to which he was subjected in the “black sites,” despite having made it clear from the time of his capture that he intended to be as cooperative as possible.

Today, I’m posting the rest of his statement, which covers his time in his final CIA “black site,” another facility in Afghanistan, code-named “Orange,” where, despite having already cooperated with his interrogators, his hunger strikes in protest at his seemingly unending imprisonment without charge or trial, or access to a lawyer, were dealt with by what he describes as being “raped by the CIA medics,” who “inserted tubes or objects into my anus against my will.”

Majid explained how the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA torture program, released in December 2014, accurately described what happened to him as follows: “Majid Khan was then subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration, which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray’, consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.” When the executive summary  was released, this was one of the new and shocking details that I picked up on in an article for Al-Jazeera. Majid proceeded to explain how this vile abuse led to him still experiencing “extreme discomfort from the hemorrhoids as a result of my treatment.”

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Majid Khan Describes Years of Torture and Abuse in CIA “Black Sites” and at Guantánamo in His Sentencing Statement (Part One)

Guantánamo prisoner and former CIA “black site” torture victim Majid Khan, photographed as a student before his capture, and shortly after his arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006, evidently suffering after over three years of torture.

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It’s nearly two weeks since Majid Khan, held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for over three years before his transfer to Guantánamo, where he has been held since September 2006, was allowed to read out a detailed statement at his sentencing hearing, held nearly ten years after he agreed to a plea deal in his military commission, in which, in exchange for assisting in a number of ongoing cases, both at Guantánamo and elsewhere, he was promised his eventual freedom. I wrote about his sentencing and his statement last week, in an article entitled, Is This Justice? After 18 Years of Torture, Isolation and Unprecedented Co-Operation, CIA and Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan Should Be Released in Feb. 2022.

Majid’s statement combined an account of his early life, including his life in the U.S. as a teenager and a young man, with a graphic account of his torture and abuse, and with effusive apologies on his part for having been recruited by Al-Qaeda when he was at a particularly low point in his life, distraught at the death of his mother, and it was noticeable that, at his sentencing, seven of the eight military jurors signed a hand-written letter to the commissions’ Convening Authority calling for clemency, decrying the torture to which he was subjected, which they compared to “torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history,” and clearly expressing disgust at how he was treated when, throughout his long imprisonment, he has made a point of being as cooperative as possible.

In the interests of keeping Majid’s testimony in the public eye — to expose the depravities of the torture program, and the way so much of its focus seemed to be on torture for its own sake, rather than for any practical outcome, and to contrast this with Majid’s own compliance, for which he doesn’t seem to have been adequately rewarded — I’m posting his entire statement in two articles; this and one to follow.

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‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’ — Mohamedou Ould Salahi and I Are Keynote Speakers at Brighton University Online Conference on Nov. 12-13

A screenshot from the website of the conference, ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, taking place on Nov. 12-13, 2021.

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.

I’m delighted to announce a two-day online conference about Guantánamo — ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After‘ — on Friday November 12 and Saturday November 13, hosted by the University of Brighton, which I’ve been organizing with Sara Birch, a lecturer in law at the university and, like me, a longtime advocate for the prison’s closure.

Covid-19 has made the conference an online affair, but what it has also done is to allow us to bring together people who might not have been able to travel for a physical conference; in this case, in particular, former Guantánamo prisoners who, in common with everyone who has been released from the prison over the unforgivably long years of its existence, face restrictions on their ability to travel freely, either because they aren’t allowed to have passports, or because they face often insurmountable problems getting visas.

I’m honoured to have been asked to open the conference on Friday as a keynote speaker, followed by former Guantánamo prisoner and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi, and on Saturday we’re delighted to have former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi and his collaborator Antonio Aiello — on Adayfi’s recently published memoir ‘Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo’ — as guest speakers.

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Is This Justice? After 18 Years of Torture, Isolation and Unprecedented Co-Operation, CIA and Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan Should Be Released in Feb. 2022

Majid Khan, photographed as a student in 1999, and in recent years at Guantánamo.

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.





 

On Thursday evening, in a military courtroom at Guantánamo Bay, Majid Khan, a Pakistani national who was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for three years and four months after his initial capture in Pakistan in March 2003, and has been held at Guantánamo since September 2006, was finally allowed to tell the world the gruesome details about his treatment in the “black site” program, and at Guantánamo, in a statement that he read out at a sentencing hearing.

Some of the details of the torture to which Khan was subjected were made public nearly seven years ago, when the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was made public — in particular, the shocking revelation that he was one of several prisoners subjected to “rectal feeding,” whereby, as the report described it, his “‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”

In his sentencing statement, however, which, as his lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights explain, made him “the first so-called ‘high-value detainee’ at Guantánamo who has been able to speak publicly about the CIA torture program,” he revealed much more than was ever previously known publicly. As Vince Warren, CCR’s Executive Director, said, “We knew about some of the horrors he was subjected to, like the so-called ‘rectal feeding,’ from the Senate torture report, but the new details in his own words were chilling. From the ice-bath waterboardings to the ‘Torture Doctor’ who put hot sauce on the tip of his IV, the acts committed by our government shock the conscience — yet no one has ever been held accountable.”

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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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