On Gorilla Radio, Chris Cook Plays ‘Warriors’, and We Discuss Julian Assange, Guantánamo, Genocide in Gaza and George Galloway

The cover of ‘Warriors’ by The Four Fathers, and the poster showing the 16 men approved for release from Guantánamo who are still held.

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Thanks to Chris Cook for having me on his Gorilla Radio show in Victoria, in western Canada on Wednesday to talk about a number of topics. The one-hour show is available here, on Chris’s Substack account, and my interview took part in the first half.

Chris began by asking me about the recent by-election victory, here in the UK, of George Galloway, the former Labour MP, who destroyed both Labour and the Tories on a platform opposing their unconditional support for Israel’s genocide in Gaza, which, of course, is also opposed by a majority of the population. As he stated in a tweet after his victory, “Gaza is the moral centre of the world right now.”

Chris asked me about the government’s hysterical response, with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak delivering a special address to the nation to complain about the threat posed by a democratically-elected MP, but with, of course, a darker undercurrent of groundless suggestions that British democracy is under threat from “Islamist extremists” — all part of the desperate, flailing efforts of the British establishment to criminalize all criticism of Israel’s actions as anti-semitic.

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The Four Fathers Release New Song, ‘Warriors’, About Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, To Coincide With Julian’s Last UK Appeal Against Extradition to the US

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Yesterday, The Four Fathers released ‘Warriors’, my song about Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, which we released to coincide with the first of two days of hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, marking Julian’s last UK appeal against his extradition to the US. If extradited, he will face espionage charges relating to the classified US files, leaked by the US whistleblower Chelsea Manning, which were released in 2010 and 2011, in conjunction with some of the world’s most prominent newspapers.

It’s available below via Bandcamp, where you can listen to it for free, and buy it as a download if you like it.

I worked with Julian and WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011, which were hugely important, as they revealed the shocking extent to which the US’s so-called “intelligence” was based on statements made by profoundly unreliable witnesses — prisoners subjected to torture and other forms of abuse, or bribed with better living conditions.

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“Publishing Is Not a Crime”: Finally, the New York Times, the Guardian and Three Other Newspapers Urge the US to End the Prosecution of Julian Assange

An image created by WikiLeaks after the five newspapers published their open letter to the Biden administration on November 28, 2022, calling for his prosecution to be dropped.

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On Monday November 28, the 12th anniversary of the “Cablegate” release of over 250,000 US diplomatic cables leaked to Wikileaks by Chelsea Manning, the editors of the New York Times, the Guardian and three other newspapers who worked on the cables as media partners — Le Monde, Der Spiegel and El País — sent an open letter to the Biden administration calling on the US government “to end its prosecution of Julian Assange for publishing secrets,” because “[p]ublishing is not a crime.”

As the editors stated, “The Obama-Biden Administration, in office during the Wikileaks publication in 2010, refrained from indicting Assange, explaining that they would have had to indict journalists from major news outlets too. Their position placed a premium on press freedom, despite its uncomfortable consequences. Under Donald Trump however, the position changed. The DOJ relied on an old law, the Espionage Act of 1917 (designed to prosecute potential spies during World War I), which has never been used to prosecute a publisher or broadcaster.”

As they added, “This indictment sets a dangerous precedent, and threatens to undermine America’s First Amendment and the freedom of the press. Holding governments accountable is part of the core mission of a free press in a democracy. Obtaining and disclosing sensitive information when necessary in the public interest is a core part of the daily work of journalists. If that work is criminalized, our public discourse and our democracies are made significantly weaker.”

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Radio: I Discuss 20 Years of Guantánamo and the Proposed Extradition of Julian Assange with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on Jan. 11, 2020, and the logo for Chris Cook’s ‘Gorilla Radio’ show in Victoria, British Columbia.

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Last week, I was delighted to be interviewed by Chris Cook for his weekly show ‘Gorilla Radio’ in Victoria, in British Columbia. Chris and I have spoken many times before, and it’s always a great pleasure to be on his show. Our interview is available here as an MP3, and the whole show, broadcast later, and also featuring eco-poet Kim Goldberg, is here. The interviews can also be accessed via the Gorilla Radio website here and here.

We began by talking about Abu Zubaydah, and the US torture program, prompted by my recent article, “The Forever Prisoner”: Alex Gibney’s New Documentary About CIA Torture Victim Abu Zubaydah, and I briefly summarized the whole horrible story of his four and a half years in CIA “black sites”, his 15 years (to date) in Guantánamo, and his status as one of Guantánamo’s “forever prisoners” — 14 of the 39 men still held, none of whom have ever been charged with a crime.

Chris also asked me about who has been held at Guantánamo throughout its history, enabling me to explain how, far from being “the worst of the worst”, as alleged, most of the men — and boys — held at Guantánamo over the last 20 years were nothing more than foot soldiers or, in many cases, civilians seized by mistake. I didn’t mention it, but I could have repeated my assertion, which I first made many years ago, that no more than three percent of the 779 men held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison first opened have had any connection with the leadership structures of al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated groups.

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UK Judges Rule That WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange Can Be Extradited to the US, Accepting Risible US Assurances Regarding His Mental Health and Suicide Risk

A protestor opposing WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to the US outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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In a depressing but predictable ruling in the High Court in London today, two judges have overturned a lower court ruling preventing the extradition to the US of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, accepting US assurances that he will not be held in conditions that, as a result of his fragile mental state, would result in him committing suicide. The previous ruling, made in January this year by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, prevented his extradition because of the perceived suicide risk.

I happen to agree with his lawyers that the US assurances are fundamentally untrustworthy, as I explained in an article in October, Like a Wheedling Abuser, the US Makes Groundless Promises in Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeal, but what is particularly dispiriting about today’s ruling is how it wasn’t allowed to focus on the key reason why Assange shouldn’t be extradited, which had already been dismissed by Judge Baraitser; namely, that prosecuting a publisher for publishing confidential government documents (in this case leaked by Chelsea Manning) that highlight government wrongdoing — and even involvement in war crimes — is a necessary prerequisite for press freedom.

It is also worth noting, of course, that if Assange is to be prosecuted for publishing the material leaked by Chelsea Manning, then so too should the New York Times, the Washington Post, McClatchy, the Guardian, the Daily Telegraph and numerous other newspapers that worked with Assange on the publication of these documents.

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Like a Wheedling Abuser, the US Makes Groundless Promises in Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeal

Campaigners in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange outside the High Court in London on October 28, 2021, the second day of the US government’s appeal against a ruling by a judge in January, preventing Assange’s extradition on mental health grounds (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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In January this year, when a British judge refused to allow Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, to face espionage charges — and a potential 175-year sentence — for the work of WikiLeaks in helping to expose US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the groundless basis of most of the US’s supposed reasons for holding men indefinitely without charge or trial at Guantánamo, the US government should have backed down and allowed him to be freed to be reunited with his family.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling, sadly, avoided the heart of the case — whether publishing damaging material in the public interest is a crime (which it isn’t, and mustn’t be allowed to be, if freedom of the press is to mean anything) — but homed in unerringly on the considered opinion of a psychiatrist that, if transferred to a maximum-security prison in the US, awaiting trial, Assange, because of his mental health issues, would take his own life.

The ruling was a valid condemnation both of the brutality of the US prison system in general, and of its particular unsuitability for those with mental health issues, and it was a vivid reminder that, back in October 2012, Theresa May, when she was home secretary, had refused to allow the extradition to the US of Gary McKinnon, a hacker with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, on the very same basis, and that the extradition of Lauri Love, another hacker with Asperger’s, had been refused by two High Court judges in February 2018.

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A Call to Free Julian Assange on the 10th Anniversary of WikiLeaks’ Release of the Guantánamo Files

A composite image of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in British custody, and the logo for “The Guantánamo Files,” released ten years ago today.

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Ten years ago today, I was working with WikiLeaks as a media partner — working with the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso — on the release of “The Guantánamo Files,” classified military documents from Guantánamo that were the last of the major leaks of classified US government documents by Chelsea Manning, following the releases in 2010 of the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, and the Cablegate releases.

All the journalists and publishers involved are at liberty to continue their work — and even Chelsea Manning, given a 35-year sentence after a trial in 2013, was freed after President Obama commuted her sentence just before leaving office — and yet Julian Assange remains imprisoned in HMP Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in south east London, even though, in January, Judge Vanessa Baraitser, the British judge presiding over hearings regarding his proposed extradition to the US, prevented his extradition on the basis that, given the state of his mental health, and the oppressive brutality of US supermax prisons, the US would be unable to prevent him committing suicide if he were to be extradited.

That ought to have been the end of the story, but instead of being freed to be reunited with his partner Stella Moris, and his two young sons, Judge Baraitser refused to grant him bail, and the US refused to drop their extradition request, announcing that they would appeal, and continuing to do so despite Joe Biden being inaugurated as president. This is a black mark against Biden, whose administration should have concluded, as the Obama administration did (when he was Vice President), that it was impossible to prosecute Assange without fatally undermining press freedom. As Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation stated in April 2019, “Despite Barack Obama’s extremely disappointing record on press freedom, his justice department ultimately ended up making the right call when they decided that it was too dangerous to prosecute WikiLeaks without putting news organizations such as the New York Times and the Guardian at risk.”

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Video: I Discuss the Right to Protest, Guantánamo and the Plight of Julian Assange with Team Assange

A screenshot of Andy Worthington being interviewed by Alison Mason of Team Assange on March 20, 2021, discussing the UK government’s attempts to suppress peaceful protest, Guantánamo and the case of Julian Assange.

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I’m pleased to be posting a video of an interview I undertook recently with the London-based activists of Team Assange, who have a primary focus on the case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but are also concerned with many other issues of social justice in the UK and around the world.

The interview came about after I met some of those involved with Team Assange in Parliament Square as part of the protests that followed the heavy-handed and astonishingly insensitive behaviour of the police at a peaceful vigil on Clapham Common for Sarah Everard, and that also coincided with the second reading, in the House of Commons, of the government’s horrible Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, with its intention of criminalising non-violent protest, and its assault on the rights of Gypsies and Travellers. For my recent articles on these topics, see The Dangerous Authoritarian Threat Posed by Priti Patel to Our Right to Protest and Dissent and Rise Up! How Protest Movements Define the Limits of Covid Lockdowns, and the Perils of Covid Denial.

My interview, with Alison Mason of Team Assange, starts 15 minutes into the one-hour programme, which also features an interview with Action4Assange activist Misty in Washington, D.C., and lasts for 20 minutes. I’ve posted it below, via YouTube, and I hope you have time to watch it, and will share it if you find it useful.

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Video: I Talk to Kevin Gosztola About Guantánamo on the 19th Anniversary of Its Opening — and Julian Assange

A screenshot of Andy Worthington’s interview with Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof on Jan. 11, 2021, the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo.

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Yesterday, on the 19th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, I was delighted when Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof got in touch to request an interview to be livestreamed on his YouTube channel.

We spoke for just over half an hour, covering Guantánamo for the first 24 minutes, in which I had the opportunity to explain in detail where we are, 19 long and shameful years since the prison opened, and four depressing years since Donald Trump promised there would be no releases from Guantánamo, and, with one exception, was true to his word.

For the 40 men still held at Guantánamo, it is impossible for their situation to be worse under Joe Biden than it was under Trump, and Kevin and I discussed what progress there might be under Biden after he takes office in a week’s time — releasing the six men already approved for release, and, with his control of both the Senate and the House, being able to reverse Republican prohibitions on bringing anyone to the US mainland for any reason — whether for urgent medical treatment that is unavailable at Guantánamo, or to face trials, in the federal court system, as opposed to the broken military commissions at Guantánamo.

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As UK Judge Denies Julian Assange Bail, It’s Time for Joe Biden to Drop the US Extradition Request

A supporter of Julian Assange outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020, the last day of his extradition hearing. The balloons were part of an initiative celebrating the 14th anniversary of the founding of WikiLeaks, on October 4 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Today, at Westminster Magistrates Court, just two days after ruling that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange cannot be extradited to the US, District Judge Vanessa Baraitser refused to grant him bail, consigning him to ongoing imprisonment in the maximum-security Belmarsh prison in south east London.

On Monday, at the Central Criminal Court (the Old Bailey), Judge Baraitser refused to allow the extradition to proceed, ruling that his life would be at risk in a US supermax prison. Judge Baraitser accepted expert testimony and evidence, given during his extradition hearings in September and October, that Assange has Asperger’s Syndrome and has expressed suicidal ideations, and that the US authorities would be unable to prevent him from committing suicide in a supermax prison, a decision with precedents in the cases of Gary McKinnon and Lauri Love, whose extradition was also prevented by British judges.

Assange must now await a possible appeal against Monday’s ruling, with Judge Baraitser recognizing the US government’s right to do so when she stated today that, “As a matter of fairness, the US must be allowed to challenge my decision.”

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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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