Never-Ending Injustice: State Secrets and the Torture of Abu Zubaydah

An illustration featuring Abu Zubaydah by Brigid Barrett from an article in Wired in July 2013. The photo used is from the classified military files from Guantánamo that were 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.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case of the notorious torture victim and Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah, for whom the US’s post-9/11 torture program was invented. Zubaydah, whose real name is Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for four and a half years, after his capture in a house raid in Pakistan in March 2002, until his eventual transfer to Guantánamo with 13 other so-called “high-value detainees” in September 2006, and he has been held there without charge or trial ever since.

Wednesday’s hearing was the result of an appeal by the government against a ground-breaking ruling two years ago, by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, in which the judges openly declared that Abu Zubaydah had been tortured. It was, as Abu Zubaydah’s attorney, Cornell University law professor Joseph Margulies, explained, “the first time an appellate court” had “come right out and said that the enhanced interrogation techniques were torture.”

While this was significant, it wasn’t the main topic of the case, which involved the state secrets privilege, whereby government officials can argue that sensitive information whose disclosure, they claim, might endanger national security, must not be disclosed in a court. Abu Zubaydah’s lawyers were — and still are — seeking permission for the architects of the torture program, the contractors James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, to be questioned about the details of his torture while he was held in a “black site” in Poland, in 2002-03, after his initial torture in a “black site” in Thailand in 2002, for use in the Polish government’s ongoing investigation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Celebrities Fasting With the Hunger Striking Guantánamo Prisoners That Donald Trump Is Allowing to Die

Some of those fasting in solidarity with the hunger striking prisoners at Guantanamo, who are at risk of dying under a new policy implemented by the Trump administration on September 20, 2017. Clockwise from top left: Roger Waters, Tom Watson MP, Sara Pascoe, David Morrissey, Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry.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 of the Trump administration.





 

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 two weeks since the international human rights organization Reprieve let the world know that, under Donald Trump, the military at Guantánamo has come up with a disturbing new way of dealing with hunger strikers — allowing them to die. Previously, long-term hunger strikers who lost one-fifth of their body weight but refused to stop hunger striking were force-fed — a barbaric process that experts view as tantamount to torture, and a view that I endorse. However, although experts also state that competent hunger strikers must be allowed to die if they wish, that has always struck me as an unacceptable option for prisoners who have never been convicted of a crime. The third option, which should be implemented, is for the US government to do what the hunger strikers want — which is to be charged or released.

I broke the news of this disturbing policy change on my website on October 7, and followed up with an analysis of the New York Times’ coverage four days after. Since then there have been op-eds by the two prisoners represented by Reprieve, Ahmed Rabbani (in Newsweek) and Khalid Qassim (in the Guardian), and to accompany the coverage — finally shining a light back on Guantánamo after, for the most part, silence on the topic since Donald Trump took office — Reprieve launched a petition to Donald Trump, asking for him to allow independent medical experts to assess the health of the hunger strikers, and to close Guantánamo for good, which currently has nearly 22,000 signatures, and also encouraged supporters to fast in solidarity with the hunger strikers.

Reprieve’s founder, Clive Stafford Smith, led the way with the fasting (for five days straight), and was soon joined by others. Over a thousand days have been pledged so far, with some well-known people joining in, like music legend Roger Waters, formerly of Pink Floyd, who wrote on Facebook: Read the rest of this entry »

Photos: Close Guantánamo with Roger Waters and Justice for Tamir Rice with Witness Against Torture

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture, and The Peace Poets, from the Bronx, call for justice for Tamir Rice, the 12-year old black boy killed by police in Ohio in November 2014. No one has been held accountable for Tamir's death. (Photo: Andy Worthington).

See my photos on Flickr here!

I’ve recently posted two sets of photos from my US visit last month to call for the closure of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, which, shamefully, is still open, despite President Obama’s promise to close it within a year on his second day on office in January 2009. The visit, as with my January visits every year since 2011, was timed to coincide with the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, where 91 men are still held, almost all without charge or trial, in defiance of the values the US claims to uphold.

The two photo sets I have previously posted were of my first ever visit to Florida — a lightning visit to attend a protest outside the gates of the headquarters of US Southern Command — and the annual protest outside the White House on January 11, the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, involving groups including Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Witness Against Torture and the World Can’t Wait. My thanks to Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait for organizing my trip, as she has every January since 2011.

I was representing two other groups I co-founded, Close Guantánamo, the campaign and website I set up four years ago with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which played a part in securing Shaker’s release in October. To celebrate, I brought the giant inflatable figure of Shaker that was at the heart of the campaign to the US for the very first time. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On Democracy Now! Roger Waters and Andy Worthington Discuss the Countdown to Close Guantánamo and the Campaign to Free Shaker Aamer

Andy Worthington, Roger Waters and 16-year old cellist Alexander Rohatyn on Democracy Now! on January 22, 2016. Andy and Roger were launching the Countdown to Close Guantanamo, and Roger and Alexander played Roger's version of "We Shall Overcome."Last Friday, during my brief US tour to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison (on Jan. 11), I was invited onto Democracy Now! with my friend and supporter, the music legend Roger Waters, the chief songwriter with Pink Floyd.

We were asked on the show to discuss, with Amy Goodman, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, the new campaign I’ve just launched to get Guantánamo closed for good before President Obama leaves office next January, and the successful campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo.

The video of our discussion — plus Roger playing his version of “We Shall Overcome” with 16-year old cellist Alexander Rohatyn — was the lead item on today’s show, and is now online and posted below (the song is here), via YouTube. Please share it widely!

The Countdown to Close Guantánamo is a new initiative, launched via the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner (who represented the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008). We set up the website and campaign to call for the prison’s closure and to educate people about why it must be closed — because it is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and because indefinite detention without charge or trial is unacceptable — and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo is our effort to keep pressure on President Obama, in his last year in office, to get Guantánamo closed, once and for all, before his presidency ends next January.

With one year to go, we are encouraging people to print off a poster calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo, to take a photo with the poster, and to email it to us, or post it on our Facebook page or via Twitter. All the photos will go up on our website — see Celebrity Photos and Public Photos — and on social media. if you want to send a message, and if you want to identify where in the world you are, then please do so as well.

UPDATE Jan. 31: Here’s the latest poster — telling President Obama he now has just 350 days to close Guantánamo.

We are following up on the success of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, launched by myself and the activist Joanne MacInnes in November 2014, which featured celebrities and MPs standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, and which also featured members of the public, from around the world, holding signs in solidarity with Shaker, an initiative we repeated just before Shaker’s release with the Fast For Shaker.

On Democracy Now! Roger spoke eloquently about how he became involved in the campaign to free Shaker, via a letter sent to him by Shaker’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, in which Shaker quoted from Roger’s Pink Floyd song, “Hey You,” and he explained how he then became involved in the We Stand With Shaker campaign. I also spoke about how We Stand With Shaker added to the pressure exerted by the long-running Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, and how MPs — from across the political spectrum — became involved, as did the media, and, in particular, the Daily Mail, helping to secure Shaker’s release last October. Roger brilliantly describes Shaker’s spirit, and many photos from the campaign are also shown, plus some rare footage of the inflatable in action.

I hope you will watch the video, and will share it, and I also hope that you will get involved in the Countdown to Close Guantánamo. We need to make sure that this is the year that Guantánamo is finally shut for good.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) 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).

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, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see 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.

On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Cynical Hysteria About the Guantánamo Prisoners Released in Exchange for Bowe Bergdahl

The logo for "Democracy Now!"I was delighted to be invited onto Democracy Now! today to discuss the ongoing hysteria in the US about the Obama administration’s decision to release five Taliban prisoners at Guantánamo in exchange for the sole US prisoner of war in Afghanistan, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl.

This hysteria — in Congress and the media — has involved outrageous claims that Bergdahl should have been abandoned because he was a deserter, even though this claims has never been proven, and that the Taliban prisoners should not have been released (to monitored freedom in Qatar), because they pose a phenomenal threat to the US (there is absolutely no evidence of this).

Some of the cynical opportunists attacking the president are also calling for him to be impeached because he failed to observe a Congressional requirement to give lawmakers a 30-day notification prior to the release of any prisoners (even though the administration has explained why it failed to do so — primarily because of immediate fears for Bergdahl’s life). Depressingly, those attacking the president are also threatening to try to prevent him from releasing any more prisoners from Guantánamo, even though the majority of the men still held have been cleared for release. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On Democracy Now! Andy Worthington Discusses the Failure of Every Branch of the US Government to Deliver Justice to the Prisoners at Guantánamo

Yesterday, I made my way to a TV studio opposite the Houses of Parliament to take part in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! — my first since last April, when the classified military files released by WikiLeaks, on which I worked as a media partner, were first published.

I was joined by Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and I was delighted that the story was the main feature on yesterday’s show, and that so much time was devoted to it, and to analyzing the sweeping failures, across the entire US administration, that have led to a situation in which, although 87 of the remaining 169 prisoners have been cleared for release, only two prisoners have been freed in the last 18 months, and there are no signs of when — if ever — any of these 87 men will be released.

The interview, like my interview with RT on Monday, was scheduled last week, following the publication of my report, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, but it assumed alarming new significance on Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to consider any of the appeals that had been submitted over the last year by seven of the 169 remaining prisoners in Guantánamo. It’s posted below, via YouTube: Read the rest of this entry »

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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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