Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s Discredited Torture Trials with Scott Horton


Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a courtroom sketch by Janet Hamlin during his arraignment at Guantánamo nearly 12 years ago, on November 9, 2011. (Image copyright Janet Hamlin Illustration). Interestingly, his clean-shaven appearance was not a one-off. As the Spanish journalist Macarena Vidal Liy noted for El Pais after attending recent hearings, one of his lawyers, Anthony Natale, told her that, as she described it, he “loves pop music — he is a fan of Dua Lipa — which has helped him learn to communicate in English,” and, “[u]nlike other prisoners, he is not religious, generously hugs his defenders and has no problem with female prison staff.”

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Last week, hot on the heels of my interview about Guantánamo with Kevin Gosztola and Rania Khalek for their “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast, I was delighted to speak again to Scott Horton, the indefatigable interviewer, author and libertarian, who I’ve been talking to on and off for the last 16 years. Scott works so hard that this was, astonishingly, his 5,935th interview!

The focus of our half-hour interview was my recent article, Trial Judge Destroys Guantánamo’s Military Commissions, Rules That “Clean Team” Interrogations Cannot Undo the Effects of Torture, about the recent devastating ruling by Col. Lanny Acosta, the trial judge in the military commission pre-trial hearings (now in their 12th year) for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of being the mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000, who was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for nearly four years before his transfer to Guantánamo in September 2006.

Al-Nashiri had made self-incriminating statements under torture, but the government knew that these could not be used in court, and so, four months after his arrival, a so-called “clean team” of interrogators interviewed him non-coercively, apparently securing voluntary self-incriminating statements. It is these statements, however, that Col. Acosta has just ruled inadmissible, because, as he established, the regime of torture and confession in the “black sites” was so enduring that al-Nashiri had essentially been “conditioned” to believe that, if he didn’t tell his interrogators what they wanted to hear, he would inevitably be subjected to horrendous torture.

The interview is available here on Scott’s website, and is also posted below via YouTube:

As I explained in my article, and as I discussed with Scott, this ruling really ought to sound the death knell for the broken military commission system, but it remains to be seen how the US government will respond. Since last year, we’ve been hearing that plea deals have been under discussion with the five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, to which al-Nashiri’s case ought now to be added.

However, although plea deals seem to be the only viable way forward, progress seems to have stalled, as NPR noted in March, and recently a letter sent to 9/11 victims’ families from the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions “has generated confusion and dissent within the victim family member community,” as Terry Rockefeller, a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, noted in a perceptive article for Just Security, in which he defended plea deals as the only way ”to end the failed 9/11 military commission, answer our questions, and assure us of judicial finality.” Similar views were expressed by Elizabeth Miller, who lost her father on 9/11, in an article for Teen Vogue.

Scott and I covered all this and much more on the show, and I hope that you have time to listen to it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (see the ongoing photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison 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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

8 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to, and discussing my recent interview with the prolific radio host and author Scott Horton about the recent damning ruling against the government by the trial judge, Col. Lanny Acosta, in the military commission case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, accused of being the mastermind of the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.

    The ruling specifically prohibits the use of self-incriminating statements made by al-Nashiri to a so-called “clean team” of interrogators at Guantanamo after he had been held and tortured for nearly four years in CIA “black sites,” and Col. Acosta’s devastating conclusion was that al-Nashiri’s torture and “conditioning” in the “black sites” was so severe that he was incapable of delivering any kind of self-incriminating statement on a voluntary basis.

    This ought to spell the end of the government’s efforts to prosecute al-Nashiri, for whom plea deal discussions should now begin — although it is interesting to note that the government doesn’t even seem to have much other untainted evidence against him. As Carol Rosenberg pointed out in the New York Times, prosecutors considered his so-called “clean team” confessions “to be among the best evidence against him.”

    It also ought to ensure the resumption of plea deals in the cases of the five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which began last year but have apparently stalled, as they were also subjected to “clean team” interrogations that were, presumably, as fundamentally unreliable as al-Nashiri’s.

    Whether that will happen or not remains to be seen, however, as the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Military Commissions recently sent out letters about the plea deals to 9/11 victims’ families, which Terry Rockefeller, a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, described as having “generated confusion and dissent within the victim family member community.”

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Hester wrote;

    Good work Andy, thanx for your diligence.
    Torture can never, ever be justified. Testimony obtained with torture has zero credibility.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kevin. A great news clip there from 12 years ago. I put a similar roll call of war criminals together in my song ’81 Million Dollars’ (the amount Mitchell and Jessen were paid for running the torture program):

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Pam Hardy wrote:

    Wow … I had forgotten that story … damn.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m not surprised, to be honest, Pam. Where else but Guantanamo could pre-trial hearings go on for nearly 12 years without those responsible accepting that the system is irrevocably broken – and that it’s broken very specifically because of the horrendous torture that they’ve spent all that time trying to hide?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    David Barrows wrote:

    Thanks for the update.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, David. Thanks for your persistent interest in bringing to an end the crimes of Guantanamo.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish version, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Radio: Platiqué acerca de los desacreditados juicios de tortura de Guantánamo con Scott Horton’:

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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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