An Assessment of the Importance of the Classified Guantánamo Military Files Released by WikiLeaks and My Role in Analyzing Them

A screenshot of the front page of WikiLeaks’ publication of the classified military files from Guantánamo that were released in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner.

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I’m currently waiting to be called as a witness in the notorious extradition case of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, currently taking place in the Old Bailey, and, as a result, I haven’t been posting about the hearings, which began three weeks ago, and have one week left to run, since the hearings began, when I wrote an article entitled, The Ongoing and Unjustifiable Persecution of Julian Assange. For information about disagreements in court regarding my testimony, see this post by Craig Murray, and for detailed information about the events of the last three weeks, see his daily reports, and those of Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof. Gosztola has also produced this guide to all the journalists and organizations covering the hearings in the absence of dedicated daily coverage by any mainstream media.

My involvement with Assange’s extradition hearing came about because, nine and a half years ago, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo that had been leaked by US soldier Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning. The release of the files followed the release, in 2010, of the “Collateral Murder” video, showing US helicopter pilots killing civilians, including two Reuters journalists, and laughing about it, extensive war logs from the Afghan and Iraq wars, and over 250,000 US diplomatic cables.

Julian Assange is now fighting to prevent his unjustifiable extradition to the US, to face charges under the Espionage Act that would mean life in prison if he were to be convicted. And what’s profoundly alarming about this, as should not even need saying at all, is that Assange’s alleged crimes are not crimes at all.

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The New York Times’ Linda Greenhouse on Guantánamo: “Born in Fear and Sustained Through Political Cynicism and Public Indifference”

Guards in a watchtower at Guantánamo Bay.

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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.

Two weeks ago, the 18 year-long struggle by lawyers, NGOs and all decent people to bring justice to the men held at Guantánamo reached a new low point in the court of appeals (the D.C. Circuit Court) in Washington, D.C., as I explained at the time in an article entitled, Trump-Appointed Appeals Court Judge Rules That Guantánamo Prisoners Don’t Have Due Process Rights.

The judge in question, Judge Neomi Rao, appointed by Donald Trump last year, is an enthusiastic supporter of the opposition, by various judges in the court, to the landmark Supreme Court case Boumediene v. Bush, decided in June 2008, which granted constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights to the Guantánamo prisoners.

That ruling led to the only time in Guantánamo’s history when the law has successfully applied at the prison. From 2008 until 2010, 38 prisoners had their habeas corpus petitions granted by District Court judges, and the majority of those men were released.

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Quarterly Fundraiser: Seeking $2500 (£2000) for my Guantánamo Work and Photo-Journalism Project ‘The State of London’

Andy Worthington appearing on RT in January 2020, and the most recent photos published on his Facebook page, ‘The State of London.’

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, 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 support my ongoing work as a reader-funded journalist, activist and photo-journalist. It’s now 15 years since I first began researching the prison at Guantánamo Bay, writing about it and campaigning relentlessly to get it closed, and eight years since I began a photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’, consisting of photos and accompanying essays taken on daily bike rides through London’s 120 postcodes.

On Guantánamo, it was, I recall, September 2005 when I became appalled that the administration of George W. Bush had refused to even let the world know the identities of the men held there, and set about trying to find out who was held there.

That quest, as some of you will know, led to me being the only person to review all the documents released through freedom of information legislation in the spring of 2006, when the Pentagon was finally obliged to release the identities of the prisoners, and 8,000 pages of supporting documents — unclassified summaries of what the US alleged to be evidence against them, and transcripts of the lawless tribunals the US had held to, for the most, perfunctorily assess and confirm that they were correctly held as “enemy combatants” who could be imprisoned without charge or trial forever.

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Video: Moazzam Begg and I Discuss Guantánamo, Torture and Endless War on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11 on Salaamedia

A screenshot of Moazzam begg and Andy Worthington discussing the legacy of 9/11 on its 19th anniversary with Inayat Wadee of Salaamedia in South Africa.

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.





 

On Friday, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I was delighted to be asked to take part in a discussion, “Unpacking 9/11 19 Years Later,” broadcast on Salaamedia in South Africa, along with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, now the outreach director of CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners).

The show was hosted by Inayat Wadee, who used to interview me regularly about Guantánamo for Radio Islam International, also based in South Africa, although we had lost touch in recent years, probably because Guantánamo — and the fate of the 40 men still held — has so largely slipped off the radar under Donald Trump, rather sadly confirming the truth of the motto, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Trump has largely ignored Guantánamo, sealing it shut, and refusing to even contemplate releasing the five men unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes that he inherited from President Obama, or the limbo of the 26 other men who are not amongst the nine facing (or having faced) trials, and in response most people have behaved as though they have forgotten that Guantánamo ever existed.

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9/11 at 19: Endless Wars, Guantánamo and 37 Million People Displaced

The 9/11 attacks on New York City, and prisoners at Guantánamo on the day that the prison opened, exactly four months later, on 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.





 

It’s 19 years today since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 on the US mainland, in New York City and Washington, D.C., and I’m shocked to discover that one-third of my life has elapsed since the attacks took place. I was 38 years old when 9/11 happened, and now I’m 57. Even more shocking is the realization that my son, who is 20 now, was just one year old at the time.

On the morning of 9/11, my partner, Dot, called me to urgently come and watch the TV after the first plane had hit, and together we watched as the second plane hit. I remember thinking that it was blowback for American imperialism, and worrying how George W. Bush and his administration would react, but I had no idea what was to come. Instead, I got on with my life. Our baby son had been very ill, so I proposed marriage to his mother as a positive event to unite us, on Boxing Day 2001, just 16 days before the prison at Guantánamo opened, when the Marines were preparing the cages of Camp X-Ray.

We got married in July 2002, just before the “torture memos” prepared by John Yoo and signed by Jay S. Bybee were issued (in secret, of course), and in September I began work on what would be my first book, Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion, a counter-cultural history of Stonehenge that was published in June 2004, after the first British prisoners had been released (and whose accounts massively piqued my curiosity about just what was going on at Guantánamo), and just before the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rasul v Bush, establishing that the prisoners had habeas corpus rights.

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The Ongoing and Unjustifiable Persecution of Julian Assange

A van bearing the message ‘Don’t extradite Assange’, photographed today, September 9, 2020, in Waterloo (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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A hugely important struggle for press freedom is currently taking place in the Old Bailey in London, where, on Monday, three weeks of hearings began regarding the proposed extradition to the US of Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. In 2010 and 2011, WikiLeaks published documents leaked by a serving member of the US military — Bradley, now Chelsea Manning — that exposed evidence of war crimes committed by the US and, in the case of my particular area of expertise, Guantánamo.

The Guantánamo revelations were contained in classified military files relating to almost all of the 779 men held at the prison by the uS military since it opened in January 2002, which, for the first time, explicitly revealed how profoundly unreliable the supposed evidence against the prisoners was, much of it having been made by prisoners who had made numerous false statements against their fellow prisoners. I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the release of the Guantánamo files, and my summary of the files’ significance can be found in the article I wrote when they were first published entitled, WikiLeaks Reveals Secret Guantánamo Files, Exposes Detention Policy as a Construct of Lies.

I should add that I am one of the witnesses for the defence, and will be appearing in court sometime over the next few weeks to discuss the significance of the Guantánamo files. See this post by Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof listing those taking part, who include Professor Noam Chomsky, Jameel Jaffer, the executive director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, journalists John Goetz, Jakob Augstein, Emily Dische-Becker and Sami Ben Garbia, lawyers Eric Lewis and Barry Pollack, and Dr. Sondra Crosby, a medical doctor who examined Assange while he was in the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he lived for almost seven years after claiming asylum in 2012.

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Trump-Appointed Appeals Court Judge Rules That Guantánamo Prisoners Don’t Have Due Process Rights

Judge Neomi Rao (left), a Donald Trump appointee to the D.C. Circuit Court, who recently wrote a contentious opinion for the court in the case of Yemeni businessman and Guantánamo prisoner Abdulsalam al-Hela (right), ruling that the Guantánamo prisoners do not have due process rights; in other words, that they can neither see nor rebut any evidence held by the government that purportedly justifies their detention.

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.

In the long and profoundly dispiriting story of the Guantánamo prisoners’ efforts to challenge their imprisonment without charge or trial through legal means, their victories — in Rasul v. Bush in 2004, and Boumediene v. Bush in 2008, when they were granted habeas corpus rights — evaporated through a number of appeals court rulings from 2009 to 2011, which ended up with the prisoners’ habeas rights being gutted of all meaning.

Between 2008 and 2010, 38 prisoners had their habeas corpus petitions approved, meaning that, even though the government had been given a very low evidentiary hurdle, they couldn’t even demonstrate to a range of District Court judges that the men in question were involved, in any meaningful sense at all, with either Al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Since 2010, however, not a single prisoner has had his habeas corpus petition granted, and efforts to persuade the Supreme Court to take back control of the prisoners’ fate have also come to nothing.

Finally, however, last June, the prisoners secured a significant victory in the D.C. Circuit Court (the court of appeals in Washington, D.C.), in a case argued by Close Guantánamo’s co-founder Tom Wilner, as I explained in an article entitled, A Rare Court Victory Offers Hope for Guantánamo’s “Forever Prisoners”, when a panel of three judges ruled, in the case of Khalid Qassim, an insignificant prisoner, and yet one who has been held now for over 18 years without charge or trial, that he should be able to see and rebut the evidence purportedly justifying his detention.

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Judge Upholds Ruling Ordering Independent Medical Review for Tortured Guantánamo Prisoner Mohammed Al-Qahtani

A composite image of Guantánamo prisoner and torture victim Mohammed al-Qahtani and District Judge Ellen Huvelle.

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Back in March, as I explained in an article at the time, District Judge Rosemary Collyer made history when she ordered the US government to allow independent medical and psychiatric experts from outside the US to assess a prisoner at Guantánamo.

The prisoner in question is Saudi national Mohammed al-Qahtani, who had pre-existing serious mental health issues that the US authorities failed to disclose when, at Guantánamo, they came to regard him as the intended 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks, and subjected him to a torture program involving months of sleep deprivation and sexual humiliation.

Judge Collyer’s ruling involved her, as Carol Rosenberg explained for the New York Times, stating that “she was granting a request” by al-Qahtani’s lawyers “to compel the United States to apply an Army regulation designed to protect prisoners of war and to create ‘a mixed medical commission’ made up of a medical officer from the US Army and two doctors from a neutral country chosen by the International Committee of the Red Cross and approved by the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

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“I Am Not Even Allowed To Hear My Own Story”: A Letter from Guantánamo by Abdul Latif Nasser, Cleared for Release But Still Held By Donald Trump

A composite image produced by Esquire Middle East to accompany their recent publication of a poignant and powerful letter from Guantánamo by the Moroccan prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, cross-posted below.

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.

Since the vocal British resident Shaker Aamer and the best-selling author and torture victim Mohamedou Ould Salahi were released from Guantánamo, in 2015 and 2016, the prison population has lacked a prominent and well-known face to illuminate its continuing injustice.

This has been particularly unfortunate because, for the last three and a half years, Guantánamo has been largely forgotten by the mainstream media, demonstrating, to anyone paying attention, that a dangerous and unprincipled leader (in this case, Donald Trump) can, in a supposedly liberal democracy, make people forget about a gross and lingering injustice largely by pretending that it doesn’t exist — or, in Guantánamo’s case, by metaphorically sealing it shut and largely ignoring it.

This is particularly shameful because Guantánamo is not just a symbol of injustice; it is also the place where the United States’ notion of itself as a country that respects the rule of law was sent to die on January 11, 2002, and has been dead ever since. At Guantánamo, 40 men are still held, but the majority of those men are still held in the same despicable conditions of lawlessness that first prevailed on that winter morning over 18 and a half years ago when the Bush administration first released photos of the prisoners it intended to hold, without any rights whatsoever, and quite possibly for the rest of their lives.

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Shamima Begum: Appeals Court Tells UK Government It Was Unlawful to Strip Citizenship of ISIS Child Bride

British citizen Shamima Begum, photographed in the Al Hawl camp in Syria in 2019, where captured ISIS brides and children were being held. She is holding her week-old son, who subsequently died.

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.





 

It’s a sign of the extent to which commonly accepted standards of justice and decency have fallen that I even have to write the headline for this article, but the sad truth is that, in the UK, government officials, at the highest level, believe that it is entirely appropriate to strip a British citizen of her citizenship, making her stateless, if, as a 15-year old, she took the decision to travel to Syria to become a “jihadi bride.”

On one level, this is completely wrong because all countries that claim to respect the rule of law, Britain included, have signed up to treaties recognising that juveniles (those under 18) should not be held responsible for their actions. In my main line of work over the last 14 years — writing about the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, and campaigning to get it closed — one of the most shocking aspects of that whole sordid story is the way that the US government ignored its obligations to treat juveniles as distinct from adults, and, in fact, denied that such distinctions even existed.

“These are not children”, foreign secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed when the story first broke that children were being held at Guantánamo. At least 23 of the prisoners were juveniles — under 18 — when they were first seized, including the most famous Guantánamo child of them all, Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen who was 15 when he was seized after a firefight with US soldiers, and whose rights were not only denied by the US, but also by his own government in Canada, which eventually had to be told by Canada’s Supreme Court that Canadian agents had deprived him of his rights when they visited him at Guantánamo to interrogate him.

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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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