“The Endless Shame of Guantánamo Bay”: Close Guantánamo Co-Founders Tom Wilner and I Are Profiled in an Article in The New Republic

A screenshot from a video of Tom Wilner and Andy Worthington discussing the closure of Guantanamo at the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2013.

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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.

We’re honored that The New Republic magazine has profiled Tom Wilner and I, as the co-founders of the Close Guantanamo campaign, in their latest issue, in an article entitled, “The Endless Shame of Guantánamo Bay,” following interviews with Tom and I that were conducted in April by reporter Jordan Michael Smith.

When Smith first approached us, he stated that the intention of the article would be “focusing on people waging the lonely campaign to close Guantánamo, when so many Americans have forgotten about it,” and the finished article effectively weaves our recollections and reflections into a timeline of the prison’s unforgivably long history — 20 and a half years and counting.

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As Majid Khan Asks a Court to Order His Release from Guantánamo, 100 Days Since Completing His Sentence, 20 Other Prisoners, Never Charged or Tried, Also Await Their Freedom

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

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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.

On paper, the prospects for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay are better now than they have been at any other time in its unforgivably long and bleak 20-year history.

Just 37 men are still held (less than five percent of the total number of prisoners held by the US military since the prison opened on January 11, 2002), and 21 of these men have been approved for release.

The problem, however, is that there is absolutely no sense of urgency within the Biden administration when it comes to freeing them.

20 of these men have been approved for release by high-level government review processes, and I’ll be discussing them in the second part of this article, but the most newsworthy aspect of this story right now concerns Majid Khan, the other man approved for release.

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“A Good Man With A Lot to Offer This World”: Khaled Qassim’s Attorney Urges Periodic Review Board to Approve His Release from Guantánamo

Khaled Qassim (aka Khalid Qasim), in a photo taken at Guantánamo around 15 years ago, and included in his classified military file released by WikiLeaks in 2011.

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.

Two weeks ago, in an article entitled, The U.S.’s Ongoing “Forever Prisoner” Problem at Guantánamo, I discussed the last five men held at Guantánamo as “forever prisoners,” the only men out of the 37 still held who have not been either charged with a crime (eleven of the 37), or approved for release (the remaining 21).

Most of those approved for release had those recommendations made by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process established under President Obama, with 16 of those decisions taking place since President Biden took office. The men in question demonstrated to the board members — comprising representatives of the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security, Justice and State, and the offices of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence — that they were contrite, and had plans for a peaceful life if released, with the board members also concluding that they did not pose a significant security threat.

For a variety of reasons, however, the five “forever prisoners” have been unable to persuade the boards to approve their release, generally through a failure to engage with the review process, and/or because of ongoing concerns about the threat they purportedly still pose.

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Videos: Speeches at the Close Guantánamo Protest in London, Jan. 8, 2022, Including Andy Worthington and John McDonnell MP

Screenshots from videos of Andy Worthington and John McDonnell MP speaking at a rally in Trafalgar Square calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 8, 2022.

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Back in January, campaigners in the UK, calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, put up with torrential rain while marching from Parliament to Trafalgar Square, where a rally was held, with speakers including John McDonnell MP and myself, calling for the closure of the prison just days before the 20th anniversary of its opening on January 11.

The protest was coordinated via the Guantánamo Network, a coalition of concerned groups including Amnesty International, Close Guantánamo, Freedom From Torture, the Guantánamo Justice Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign, and it was also attended by a number of Julian Assange supporters. Particular thanks are due to Sara Birch, the Guantánamo Network’s convenor, who is part of the Lewes Amnesty Group, and “under whose energetic leadership”, as I have previously explained, “Lewes has become something of an epicentre for Guantánamo activism.”

39 campaigners, hooded and dressed in orange jumpsuits, represented the men still held in the prison at the time, and, despite the rain, created an eye-catching protest, as I recorded in photos I took on the day.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) to Support My Work to Get Guantánamo Shut Down and to Hold Accountable Those Responsible for Its Existence

Andy Worthington holding up a poster marking 7,306 days of the existence of the prison at Guantánamo  Bay on Jan. 11, 2022, the 20th anniversary of its opening. The poster is part on an ongoing Close Guantánamo photo campaign, and today, Mar. 7, the prison has been open for 7,361 days.

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, and/or for my London photo-journalism project ‘The State of London’.




Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months, I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work on Guantánamo — telling the stories of the men still held, and campaigning to get the prison shut down. As a reader-funded journalist and activist, I rely on your support to enable me to keep running three websites (Andy Worthington, Close Guantánamo and the Gitmo Clock), maintaining the associated social media, and engaging in public speaking and media events.

It’s now 16 years — over a quarter of my life — since I began working on Guantánamo on a full-time basis, inspired by three particular events in March 2006: the publication of former prisoner Moazzam Begg’s memoir, Enemy Combatant, the release of the documentary-drama ‘The Road to Guantánamo’ (about the three British prisoners known as ‘The Tipton Three’), and the release — after the Pentagon lost a Freedom of Information lawsuit — of thousands of pages of documents relating to the prisoners.

When the names and nationalities of the prisoners were finally released in the months that followed, I was able to begin analyzing them, to work out who the prisoners were, and to compile a timeline of their capture, for my book The Guantánamo Files, which was published in September 2007.

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Please Write to the Guantánamo Prisoners, Let Them Know They’ve Not Been Forgotten Under President Biden

Eight of the 39 men still held at Guantánamo. Top row from L to R: Khaled Qassim, Sufyian Barhoumi, Asadullah Haroon Gul, Moath al-Alwi. Bottom row from L to R: Saifullah Paracha, Abu Zubaydah, Tawfiq al-Bihani, Mohammed al-Qahtani. Of these eight, all but Khaled Qassim and Abu Zubaydah have been approved for release.

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.

It’s 12 years since two Muslim activist friends in the UK initiated a project to get people to write to the Guantánamo prisoners still held at that time — 186 in total — and I adopted it, and have been running it ever since, generally once or twice a year, although this is the first time I’ve asked people to write to the prisoners since May 2020.

Under President Biden, there has been little progress in releasing prisoners — just one man has been freed since he took office over a year ago — but there has been significant progress in approving prisoners for release. 15 men have been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards (a parole-type review process established under President Obama) since Joe Biden became president, bringing to 20 the number of men still held who have been approved for release.

This is over half of the 39 men still held, but approving men for release means nothing unless the men are actually freed, and on that front we seem constantly to be awaiting news that these men have finally been granted their freedom. Moreover, although these men now have some sort of future beyond Guantánamo to imagine — after the last five years, in which just two of their fellow prisoners were released — life at Guantánamo is still extraordinarily isolated.

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Video: Mansoor Adayfi, Shelby Sullivan-Bennis and I Discuss Guantánamo’s 20th Anniversary and Its Chronic and Persistent Lawlessness at Revolution Books

A screenshot of “America’s Torture Chamber: 20 Years of Guantánamo … It Must Be Closed NOW!”, an event hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, featuring Mansoor Adayfi, Andy Worthington and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, and moderated by Raymond Lotta.

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On Sunday (January 30), I was delighted to take part in a powerful online discussion, hosted by Revolution Books in Harlem, about the prison at Guantánamo Bay, marking the 20th anniversary of its opening, on January 11, with former prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, in Serbia, and Shelby Sullivan-Bennis, an attorney who represents a number of the men still held.

Until Covid hit, I visited the US every January, to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the anniversary of its opening, and one of my regular events was a discussion at Revolution Books — in 2016, for example, discussing the successful campaign for the release of Shaker Aamer, in 2017, with the attorney Ramzi Kassem, in 2018, with Carl Dix, and in 2020, with Shelby.

Last year, as a resurgence of Covid shut down foreign travel, the event took place online, and I was again joined by Shelby, and so this year, as another Covid variant again shut down foreign travel, we again turned to Zoom to facilitate an online event. And while I miss my friends and colleagues in the US, and the thrill of a live event, Covid — and Zoom — have enabled us to hear directly from former prisoners, in a way that was not previously possible. This is particularly powerful when it comes to Guantánamo, as former prisoners are prevented from setting foot on US soil, and yet Zoom has now effortlessly dissolved that prohibition.

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Video: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Elizabeth Miller and I Discuss 9/11 and Guantánamo in a WVIA/Bloomsburg University Show, “Conversations for the Common Good”

A screenshot of “Reaction to 9/11: Dialing Back Civil Rights, Violation of Human Rights,” a discussion about 9/11, Guantánamo and the US’s post-9/11 torture program with former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Elizabeth Miller, a Rule of Law Fellow for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, broadcast by WVIA, a PBS-affiliated channel in Pennsylvania, as part of an ongoing series of shows, “Conversations for the Common Good,” produced in conjunction with Bloomsburg University. The moderator was Larry Vojtko.

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 Wednesday (January 26), I was delighted to take part in “Reaction to 9/11: Dialing Back Civil Rights, Violation of Human Rights,” a discussion about 9/11, Guantánamo and the US’s post-9/11 torture program with former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, and Elizabeth Miller, a Rule of Law Fellow for September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, which describes itself as “an organization founded by family members of those killed on September 11th who have united to turn our grief into action for peace.” Miller lost her father, a firefighter, on 9/11, but like all the other Peaceful Tomorrows members, believes fervently that the U.S. lost its way in its response to the attacks.

The show was broadcast by WVIA, a PBS-affiliated channel in Pennsylvania, and is part of an ongoing series of shows, “Conversations for the Common Good,” produced in conjunction with Bloomsburg University. The moderator was Larry Vojtko, and the show — 72 minutes in total — is available here on WVIA’s website. I’d like to thank William Hudon, a history professor at the university, and a long-time supporter of the Close Guantánamo campaign, for first approaching me last year about this event, and for helping to make it happen.

It’s always good to hear Mohamedou talk, especially when he discusses the power of forgiveness, and I was pleased to finally meet Elizabeth, who articulated well the feeling of betrayal when her government embarked on a program of kidnap and torture after 9/11, betraying the values her father held dear. It was also interesting to hear about the friendship that developed between Mohamedou and Elizabeth, who found common ground in how the US government failed them after 9/11, and, for my part, I was pleased to have been given the opportunity to explain in detail quite why the prison is, and always has been such a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and why it must be closed.

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TV and Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s 20th Anniversary on Turkish TV, and with Scott Horton and Rebecca Myles

A screenshot from my appearance on TRT World’s program, “20 Years On: What Will It Take to Close Guantánamo Bay?” on January 11, 2022.

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.





 

In the third of a series of articles linking to and promoting videos and recordings of events held to mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2022 (see the first two here and here), I’m posting links to two radio shows in which I was interviewed, and also to a Turkish TV show in which I was joined by other critics of the prison’s ongoing existence.

On January 11 itself — the 20th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo — I was delighted to be part of a discussion, “20 Years On: What Will It Take to Close Guantánamo Bay?” on “The Newsmakers,” a regular feature on TRT World, the English language channel of the Turkish national broadcaster TRT.

I appeared with Mark Fallon, the author of Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, and Tracy Doig of the UK-based Freedom from Torture (formerly the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture). From 2002 to 2004, Fallon was the director of the Criminal Investigative Task Force (CITF) at Guantánamo, whose organization tried to build criminal cases against prisoners using non-coercive interrogations, while other agencies were engaged in the use of torture and other forms of abuse, which he strongly opposed. He was also one of the authors of a report, “13 Recommendations to Close the Guantánamo Bay Detention Facility,” which was published on the anniversary by the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law (CERL) at theUniversity of Pennsylvania.

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Five More Prisoners Approved for Release from Guantánamo: 18 of the 39 Remaining Men Are Now Waiting to Be Freed

The five “forever prisoners” approved for release from Guantánamo by Periodic Review Boards in November and December 2021. From L to R: Suhayl al-Sharabi, Guled Hassan Duran, Moath al-Alwi, Omar al-Rammah and Mohammed Abdul Malik Bajabu.

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 run-up to the shameful 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, I had the sneaking suspicion that President Biden would seek to divert attention from his general inaction on Guantánamo in his first year in office by announcing that more of the facility’s “forever prisoners” had been approved for release.

In his first year in office, President Biden released just one prisoner, even though he inherited six men approved for release from the previous administrations, but crucially, via the Periodic Review Boards, the review process established by President Obama, he has also now approved an additional 13 men for release — one-third of the remaining 39 prisoners — bringing to 18 the total number of men still held who the US government has conceded that it no longer wants to hold.

This is definitely progress — although it means nothing until the men in question are actually released — but it does show a willingness to move towards the prison’s closure, and also indicates that the administration has taken on board the criticism of numerous former officials, and, in particular, 24 Senators and 75 members of the House of Representatives, who wrote to President Biden last year to point out how unacceptable it is that the government continues to hold men indefinitely without charge or trial.

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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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