Retired Admirals Urge Biden to Release Everyone at Guantánamo Not Charged With a Crime — 28 of the 40 Men Still Held

Retired Rear Admirals Donald J. Guter and John Hutson, who recently wrote an op-ed for the Nation calling on President Biden to release all the men at Guantánamo who have not been charged with a crime — 28 men out of the 40 still held.

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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.

Since Joe Biden became president five months ago, there have been numerous high-profile calls for him to fulfill a promise that President Obama failed to fulfill (when Biden was vice president) and that Donald Trump had no interest in whatsoever; namely, closing the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay.

A week after President Biden’s inauguration, 111 organizations, including Close Guantánamo, sent a letter to the new president urging him to close the prison, around the same time that seven former prisoners — all authors —  wrote an open letter to Biden, urging the prison’s closure, which was published in the New York Review of Books. Other calls for the prison have come from Bill Clinton advisor Anthony Lake and our co-founder, the attorney Tom Wilner, from Lee Wolosky, former Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure under Barack Obama, and from former CIA analyst Gail Helt.

The most seismic shift, politically, came in April when 24 Senators wrote a letter to the president, not only urging him to close the prison, but also providing details of how that can be achieved — through the appointment of a senior White House official to oversee the closure process, and also though the re-establishment of the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, established by Obama but shut down under Trump, which was responsible for “identifying transfer countries and negotiating transfer agreements.”

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Biden’s Slow Progress on Closing Guantánamo

A composite image of President Biden and a tattered US flag at Guantánamo.

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An article last week by NBC News — “Biden quietly moves to start closing Guantánamo ahead of 20th anniversary of 9/11” — was widely shared by opponents of the continued existence of the shameful prison at Guantánamo Bay, but frustratingly failed to live up to the promise of its headline.

40 men are still held at Guantánamo, and nine of these men have been approved for release by high-level US government review processes — three in 2010, two in 2016, one in 2020, and three just last month, in decisions taken by the Periodic Review Boards set up under President Obama that show a willingness on the part of the Biden administration to recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with a system that continues to hold, indefinitely, men who have been held for up to 19 years, and have never been charged with a crime.

The PRBs reviewed the cases of 64 men under Obama, and approved 38 of them for release, but since then the process of reviewing the other 26 men has largely ossified into rigid threat assessments based on the initial decisions taken under Obama. That has finally changed with the recent decisions to approve three men for release, and it is to be hoped that further recommendations for release will be forthcoming in the PRBs, although none of this will mean anything if these men are not actually freed.

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Lee Wolosky, Former Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, Calls on President Biden to Close the Prison

A composite image of former Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure Lee Woloskwy, and Camp 6 at Guantánamo, photographed in 2010.

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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.

It’s now two weeks since the end of the first 100 days of the Biden presidency, when there was a short flurry of mainstream media interest in the prison at Guantánamo Bay, which has been largely ignored by the Biden administration since taking office, except for brief mentions of embarking on a “robust” review of the prison’s operations, and an “intention” to secure its closure.

To mark Biden’s first 100 days, I cross-posted an op-ed written for The Hill by Anthony Lake, national security adviser to President Clinton from 1993 to 1997, and Tom Wilner, who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, and with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012.

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24 Senators Send a Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening (Photo: Susan Melkisethian via Flickr).

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 long struggle to try to secure the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, there has rarely been adequate support from lawmakers, so it was extremely reassuring, on April 16, to see that 24 Democratic Senators — almost half of the Democrats in the Senate — have written a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison once and for all.

Led by Senate Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, and including Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the 24 Senators not only urged President Biden to close the prison, but also provided detailed proposals for how that can be achieved.

These proposals involve re-establishing the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, which we discussed in an article just last week, and also appointing a “senior White House official” to be “accountable for the closure process.”

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The Shameful Human Cost of Inertia at Joe Biden’s Guantánamo

Lutfi bin Ali, a Tunisian held at Guantánamo, who recently died in Mauritania, having been unable to secure the medical treatment he needed, which he had also been unable to secure in Kazakhstan, the country to which he was first released in 2014.

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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.

Today, the prison at Guantánamo Bay has been open for 7,033 days — that’s 19 years and three months — and Joe Biden has been president for 84 days, and yet, apart from some hopeful murmurings from a handful of administration officials regarding a “robust” inter-agency review of the prison, and aspirations for its closure, no concrete proposals have been issued to indicate that any movement is imminent that will break the inertia of Donald Trump’s four lamentable years as commander in chief, when just one prisoner was released, leaving 40 men still held when Biden took office, mostly held indefinitely without charge or trial.

It may be that President Biden is unwilling to discuss Guantánamo in any detail until he has firm plans for dealing with all of the men still held, and if this is the case, then it is, sadly, understandable, because the merest mention of Guantánamo tends to provoke cynical and unbridled opposition from Republicans in Congress — although if this is the case then it only shows the extent to which, as under Barack Obama, political pragmatism — and fear of unprincipled opposition from those who cynically use Guantánamo for cheap political advantage — are considered much more important than telling Americans the truth about the prison:, that every day it remains open, holding men indefinitely without charge or trial, ought to be a source of profound national shame.

Beyond political maneuvering, however, Biden’s inertia also prolongs the grinding injustice experienced on a daily basis by the men still held at Guantánamo — as well as having dangerous, and sometimes life-threatening repercussions for some of the men already released.

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A Celebration of Guantánamo Activism Past and Present by Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon

Witness Against Torture activists occupy the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on January 11, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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The following cross-posted article, with my introduction, was originally published on 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.

Two weeks ago, we marked 7,000 days of Guantánamo’s existence as part of our ongoing photo campaign, with supporters sending in photos of themselves holding up posters marking how long the prison had been open, and urging President Biden to close it.

Since President Biden’s inauguration two months ago, his administration has thrown only a few crumbs of hope to campaigners for the closure of the prison, with which we have had to sustain ourselves — defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin telling the Senate that it’s “time for Guantánamo to close its doors,” and press secretary Jen Psaki announcing a “robust” review of the prison, in the 20th year of its operations, and the administration’s “intention” to close it.

As we await further news, we’re delighted that a great friend of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Jeremy Varon, has written a detailed article for Waging Nonviolence, “an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world.”

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Quarterly Fundraiser Marking the 15th Anniversary of My Writing and Campaigning to Close Guantánamo

Andy Worthington outside the White House, singing and playing guitar in Washington, D.C., and campaigning in London with a megaphone.

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 for the next three months.




 

Dear friends and supporters — and any charitable passers-by,

Every three months, I ask you — if you can — to make a donation to support my ongoing work trying to get the prison at Guantánamo Bay closed.

As a freelance journalist and campaigner, I’m reliant on your support, as I have no institutional backing, so if you can make a donation to support my ongoing efforts to close Guantánamo, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s $10, $25, $100, or even $500 — or the equivalent in any other currency.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and filling in the amount you wish to donate every month. If you are able to do so, a regular, monthly donation would be very much appreciated.

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Radio: I Discuss the Possible Closure of Guantánamo under Joe Biden on the Peace and Justice Report on WSLR in Florida

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020.

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On Wednesday (February 24), I was delighted to talk for half-an-hour about Guantánamo with Bob Connors and Tom Walker on their show, the Peace and Justice Report, on WSLR 96.5, a community radio station in Florida. I’ve appeared on the show previously, in 2018 and 2019, after Bob and Tom came across my work, but both of those occasions were during the heavy miasma of despair of the Trump years, and so it was refreshing to talk in a post-Trump world in which there is, at least, some hope of progress on Guantánamo.

The interview is available on the WSLR archive here. Scroll down to “Wednesday, February 24, 2021 9:00 am,” where it’s available for the next two months.

We began by discussing Trump’s four dismal years as president, in which, even before he took office, he tweeted, “There must be no more releases from Gitmo,” and was true to his word, with the one exception of a Saudi prisoner who had previously agreed a plea deal that involved his repatriation to continued imprisonment in his home country.

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Biden Administration Announces “Robust” Review of Guantánamo, and “Intention” to Close the Prison

President Biden, and a screenshot of the Gitmo Clock website run by the Close Guantánamo campaign, founded by Andy Worthington and Tom Wilner in 2012, showing how long the prison has been open today, Feb. 15, 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.

On Friday (Feb. 12), campaigners hoping that the Biden administration will commit to the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay were further reassured when White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “[a]sked whether Biden would shut” the prison “by the time his presidency ends,” as Reuters described it, told reporters, “That certainly is our goal and our intention.”

“There will be a robust interagency policy,” Psaki added, also noting that “[t]here are many players from different agencies who need to be part of this policy discussion about the steps forward.”

The comments were the first to be made publicly by administration officials since defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Senate in written testimony during his confirmation hearing, “I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantánamo to close its doors,” although, as the Associated Press noted, “The announcement of a closure plan was not unexpected. Biden had said as a candidate he supported closing the detention center.”

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111 Organizations, Including Close Guantánamo, Sign A Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close the Prison and End Indefinite Detention

President Biden and the entrance to Camp 6 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.




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.

We’re delighted that, two days ago, a letter we signed urging President Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to bring to an end the process of indefinite detention without charge or trial that has typified its aberrations over the last 19 years, was delivered to the White House, signed, in total, by 111 organizations.

We’re grateful to the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture for initiating the letter, and to everyone who signed on, from old friends and colleagues including Amnesty International USA, CODEPINK, Reprieve US, Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Witness Against Torture, to other organizations that are new to us.

As CCR and CVT explained in a press release, “The letter is signed by organizations ranging from those working to end anti-Muslim discrimination and torture to immigrant rights organizations and organizations working broadly on civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice at the national and local level.”

The letter aptly describes Guantánamo as “the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law,” and “the most expensive prison in the world,” noting that, while the prison “continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there,” it also “continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma” both at home and abroad, as exemplified, under Donald Trump, by his proposal to send undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants,” by “his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism,” and by the “militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people.”

In conclusion, the letter urges President Biden “to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.”

Publicizing the letter, Scott Roehm, Washington director at the Center for Victims of Torture, said, “The president has supported closing Guantánamo since his days as a senator, and now he has the power to do it. This isn’t an intractable problem, but it’s also not one that lends itself to perfect solutions. If the president is determined to close the prison, he can, and in relatively short order. Unless and until he does, Guantánamo’s corrosive impact — both literally and for what it represents — will continue to deepen and spread.”

Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, added, “There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

The letter is posted below, and we hope you have time to read it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Letter to President Biden urging the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay by 111 NGOs

February 2, 2021

President Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden:

We are a diverse group of non-governmental organizations working at both the local and national level and on issues including immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and combatting anti-Muslim discrimination. We write to urge you to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to end indefinite military detention.

Among a broad range of human rights violations perpetrated against predominantly Muslim communities, Guantánamo — designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture — is the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law. Nearly eight hundred Muslim men and boys were held at Guantánamo after 2002, all but a handful without charge or trial. Forty remain, at the astronomical cost of $540 million per year, making Guantánamo the most expensive prison in the world.

Guantánamo embodies the fact that, for nearly two decades following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. This is not a problem of the past. Guantánamo continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there, and the approach it exemplifies continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma. Guantánamo entrenches racial divisions and racism more broadly, and risks facilitating additional rights violations.

For example, President Trump proposed sending undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants.” He further built upon the discriminatory animus, policies, and practices that Guantánamo represents through his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism. And the Trump administration’s militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people was fueled by the war-based post-9/11 security architecture and mindset that Guantánamo epitomizes.

It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.

Please contact Aliya Hussain at the Center for Constitutional Rights (ahussain@ccrjustice.org) and Scott Roehm at the Center for Victims of Torture (sroehm@cvt.org) with any questions or to discuss.

Sincerely,

Action Center on Race & the Economy
Adalah Justice Project
Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
American Friends Service Committee, Colorado
American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)
Amnesty International USA
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture
Birmingham Interfaith Human Rights Committee
Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project
Borderlands for Equity
Bridges Faith Initiative
Capital District Coalition Against Islamophobia, Albany, NY
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for International Policy
Center for Victims of Torture
Central American Martyrs Center
Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – IWP
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN
CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility)
Cleveland Catholic Worker, Ohio
Cleveland Jobs with Justice
Close Guantánamo
Coalition for Civil Freedoms
CODEPINK
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Detention Watch Network
EarthSong
Going Beyond Sustainability
Government Information Watch
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC
Hope House
Human Rights First
Immigrant Advocacy Project
Immigrant Defense Project
Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants
International Refugee Assistance Project
InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF Cleveland)
Islamophobia Studies Center
Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism
Justice for Muslims Collective
Kairos Community, NY
Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention
MADRE
MoveOn
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Justice League
Muslim Solidarity Committee
Muslim Solidarity Committee, Albany, NY
Muslims For Liberty
Muslims for Social Justice
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
No More Guantanamos
NorCal Resist
North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
NWI Resistance
Oak Grove Church of God
Open Society Foundations
Pakistan Association of New York Capital District
Palestinian Rights Committee, Upper Hudson Peace Action
Peace Action
Peace Action: The New School
Peacemakers of Schoharie County, NY
Physicians for Human Rights
Project SALAM, Albany, NY
Project South
Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)
Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ
Refugee Council USA
Reprieve US
Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment
Rural Awakening
School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)
School of the Americas Watch, Illinois Chapter
Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute (SAMI)
T’ruah
Tea Project
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Feminist Front (FF)
Tsuru for Solidarity
Transformations CDC
UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
United Stateless
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
USC Gould International Human Rights Clinic
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 10
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
Washington Office on Latin America
Win Without War
Witness Against Torture
Witness at the Border
Witness for Peace Southeast
Women Against War
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Yemeni American Merchants Association

* * * * *

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 (and see the latest 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 here for the US, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55).

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 he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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.

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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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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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