Closing Guantánamo, the Democrats and the NDAA

Campaigners calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay walk past Congress on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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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.

In the long and dispiriting story of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, where, in defiance of its purported values, the US is holding men indefinitely without charge or trial, the role of Congress is not always well understood.

Under George W. Bush, lawmakers were largely compliant with the shameful innovations introduced after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, passing the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the week after the attacks, which allowed the president to pursue anyone that he felt was associated with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces, and to imprison them at the Guantánamo prison, which was deliberately established on the US naval base in Cuba to be beyond the reach of the US courts.

From the beginning, the men — and boys — held there were held without rights, and although long legal struggles led to them eventually securing habeas corpus rights, Congress fought back. However, when their habeas rights were eventually gutted of all meaning, the responsibility lay with ideologically malignant appeals court judges rather than Congress.

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Reprieve and MPs Dan Jarvis and David Davis Challenge Government’s Refusal to Launch Official Inquiry Into British Complicity in Torture

Protestor – and US veteran – Bob Meddaugh with a powerful universal message at a protest vigil in Des Moines, Iowa, in December 2010 (Photo: Justin Norman).

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Last week, largely lost in the Brexit fog that engulfs almost all other political activity in the UK these days, the NGO Reprieve, and two principled MPs — Labour’s Dan Jarvis and the Conservative David Davis — launched a legal challenge against the government in connection with a recent ministerial decision to “abandon a promise to hold a judge-led inquiry into torture and rendition involving British intelligence agencies after 9/11,” as the Guardian described it.

Jarvis, Davis and Reprieve have submitted an application for a judicial review in the High Court as the latest step in a decade-long struggle to secure transparency about the UK’s involvement in the Bush administration’s CIA-led program of rendition and torture.

Back in July 2010, shortly after taking office in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats, David Cameron — pushed by the foreign secretary William Hague — announced a judge-led inquiry, as I reported here, telling the House of Commons that he had asked Sir Peter Gibson, a retired judge, to “look at whether Britain was implicated in the improper treatment of detainees held by other countries that may have occurred in the aftermath of 9/11,” and noting that, although there was no evidence that any British officer was “directly engaged in torture,” there were “questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.”

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Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo on Portland’s KBOO FM with Linda Olson-Osterlund

A composite image of KBOO FM’s logo, and the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the day it opened.

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The prison at Guantánamo Bay —- and the plight of the 40 men still held there — has, in general, fallen so far off America’s radar that it is unsurprising that many in the US think that it has closed down.

So little interest is there in Guantánamo that the days when I was regularly asked to discuss it on US radio stations are, sadly, long gone, and so I was delighted last week to be asked to discuss it with Linda Olsen-Osterlund, on KBOO FM, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon.

The one-hour show is here as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and will share it if you find it useful.

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No Escape from Guantánamo: Former Child Prisoner Boycotts Broken Review Process, Calls It “Hopeless”

Former Guantánamo child prisoner Hassan bin Attash, in a photo 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 of the Trump administration. 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.

For the 40 men still held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, the wheels of justice have, fundamentally, ground to a halt under Donald Trump.

It’s now nearly ten years since a high-level government review process established by President Obama — the Guantánamo Review Task Force — issued its recommendations about what to do with the prisoners inherited from George W. Bush. The task force recommended that 156 men should be released, that 36 men should be prosecuted, and that 48 others should continue to be held without charge or trial — on the basis that they were regarded as “too dangerous to transfer but not feasible for prosecution” (a self-evidently dubious designation, as it accepted that there were fundamental problems with the so-called evidence used to establish these men’s guilt).

Throughout the rest of his presidency, Obama managed to release all but three of the 156 men that the task force recommended for release, but an evolving crisis in the military commission trial system (which basically involved convictions being overturned because the war crimes for which prisoners had been prosecuted were not internationally recognized war crimes, but had been invented by Congress), meant that half of those originally deemed eligible for prosecution were, instead, lumped in with the 48 men recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial.

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In Abu Zubaydah Court Case, US Judges Admit That He Was Tortured

An image of Abu Zubaydah by Brigid Barrett for an article in Wired in 2013. The original photo is from the classified US military files 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 of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

When it comes to the disgraceful US prison at Guantánamo Bay, where men are held — on a seemingly endlessly basis — without charge or trial, and where many of the 40 men still held were the victims of torture in CIA “black sites” before their arrival at the prison, the dominant reaction, from the mainstream US media and the American people in general, as Guantánamo nears the 18th anniversary of its opening, is one of amnesia.

With the valiant exception of Carol Rosenberg, who has been visiting the prison since it opened, and who, these days, is often the only journalist visiting and paying attention to its despairing prisoners and its broken trials, the mainstream media largely pays little or no attention to Guantánamo, as was apparent in June, when a significant court victory for the prisoners — challenging the long-standing nullification of the prisoners’ habeas corpus rights, dating back to 2011 — was completely ignored. I wrote about it here for Close Guantánamo, and also posted it here, where it secured significant interest from the small community of people who still care about the injustices of Guantánamo, but it was dispiriting that no one else noticed.

Two weeks ago, the mainstream US media once more largely failed to notice a significant court ruling relating to Guantánamo — and the US torture program — which was delivered by judges in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in relation to Abu Zubaydah, held at Guantánamo since September 2006, and the prisoner for whom the CIA’s torture program was first developed back in 2002.

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14 Million Dollars Per Prisoner Per Year: The Absurd Cost of 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 of the Trump administration. 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.

Thanks to Carol Rosenberg of the New York Times for exposing what the US no longer wants to remember: that the prison at Guantánamo Bay is, per capita, by far and away the most expensive prison in the world.

According to figures obtained by the Times, “the total cost last year of holding the prisoners,” and of “paying for the troops who guard them, running the [military commissions] war court and doing related construction, exceeded $540 million.”

With 40 men still held (and one released during the year to which the figures refer*), that’s over $13 million per prisoner, but In fact it seems to be even more costly. Rosenberg noted that, for the year to September 2018, the Defense Department stated that it cost $380 million “for Guantánamo’s detention, parole board and war court operations, including construction.”

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18 Years After 9/11, the Endless Injustice of Guantánamo is Driving Prisoners to Suicidal Despair

The terrorist attacks on New York on September 11, 2001, and the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the day it opened, January 11, 2002.

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. 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.

18 years ago, on September 11, 2001, the world changed irrevocably, when terrorists, using hijacked passenger planes, attacked the US mainland, killing nearly 3,000 people. In response, the administration of George W. Bush launched a brutal, global “war on terror,” invading Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda and to topple the Taliban government, and embarking on a program of kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”), torture and the indefinite detention without charge or trial of alleged “terror suspects.”

18 years later, the war in AfghanIstan drags on, the battle for “hearts and minds” having long been lost, a second occupied country — Iraq — illegally invaded on the basis of lies, and of false evidence obtained through torture, remains broken, having subsequently served as an incubator for Al-Qaeda’s savage offshoot, Daesh (or Islamic State), and the program of indefinite detention without charge or trial continues in the prison established four months after the 9/11 attacks, at Guantánamo Bay on the US naval base in Cuba.

Torture, we are told, is no longer US policy and the CIA no longer runs “black sites” — although torture remains permissible in Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, and no one can quite be sure what the US gets up to in its many covert actions around the world.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) to Support my Guantánamo Work, My Housing Activism and My London Photography

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on September 9, 2019, two days before the 18th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, when the prison had been open for 6,451 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 over the next three months of the Trump administration, and/or for my housing activism and London photography.





 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s just two days until the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, in response to which the Bush administration launched a brutal, global “war on terror” that led to the US and other Western countries jettisoning core values that they claimed to uphold — a ban on torture, and a recognition that only dictators imprison people indefinitely without charge or trial.

14 years ago — more or less on the fourth anniversary of 9/11 — I became extremely concerned about the most bleakly enduring icon of the US’s post-9/11 lawlessness — the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay — and I subsequently embarked on a project that has largely come to define my life ever since: finding out who has been held at Guantánamo, telling their stories, and campaigning to get the prison closed.

Little did I realize, 14 long years ago, that George W. Bush would eventually be replaced by a Democratic president, Barack Obama, but that Guantánamo would remain open, and that Obama would, eight years later, hand the prison on to Donald Trump, whose contempt for the law, and whose animosity towards Muslims, is so extreme that he doesn’t even acknowledge that the continued existence of Guantánamo is a stain on the values that America claims to hold dear, and who has no intention of releasing anyone from the prison under any circumstances.

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Guantánamo Torture Victim Mohamedou Ould Salahi and the Extraordinary Power of Forgiveness

Former Guantánamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi photographed by Amandla Thomas-Johnson for Middle East Eye.

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

In the long and dispiriting history of the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, few of the 729 men and boys released have become household names, but one who has is the Mauritanian citizen Mohamedou Ould Salahi, best known as the author of the acclaimed memoir Guantánamo Diary, written while he was at the prison.

A victim of the US’s global network of torture prisons, and subjected to a special torture program at Guantánamo that was approved by then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Salahi (generally identified at Guantánamo as Slahi) was mistakenly regarded as a significant player in Al-Qaeda, but was finally approved for release in July 2016, and was released in Mauritania three months later, almost 15 years since his own government, as he so memorably put it, “turned me over, short-cutting all kinds of due process, like a candy bar to the United States.”

Despite being freed, Salahi is trapped in Mauritania, as his government has broken a promise to return his passport to him after two years, a situation that I wrote about in March, when, as I also pointed out, everyone released from Guantánamo — all those men and boys described by the US as “enemy combatants” — are forever tainted by the experience, and continue to live fundamentally without rights.

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Lawyers’ Fears for Guantánamo “Forever Prisoner” Sharqawi Al-Hajj “After Rapidly Declining Health and Suicidal Statements”

Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), representing her client Sharqawi al-Hajj outside the White House on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Shelby Sullivan-Bennis).

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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

Disturbing news from the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), who report that one of their Guantánamo clients, Sharqawi al-Hajj, “stated on a recent call with his attorney that he wanted to take his own life.” CCR described this, in a press release, as “a first” in CCR’s long representation of al-Hajj, adding that their attorneys have responded to it “with the utmost seriousness.”

As they further explain, “His suicidal statements follow a steady and observable deterioration of his physical and mental health that his legal team has been raising the alarm about for two years. They are monitoring his condition as best they can, and will provide any further information as soon as they are able.”

In an eloquent statement, CCR’s lawyers said, “When things are in a state of perpetual crisis, as they seem all around today, it is easy to lose sight of just how extreme a situation is, and grow numb to it. We have lost sight of just how extreme the situation in the Guantánamo prison is. We have grown numb to it.”

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer (The State of London).
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