Video: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing Powerfully Endorses Closure of Guantánamo, But Republicans Still Mired in “War on Terror” Hysteria

A screenshot of Sen. Dick Durbin introducing the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” on December 7, 2021.

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Last Tuesday (Dec. 7), the Senate Judiciary Committee held a powerful hearing, “Closing Guantánamo: Ending 20 Years of Injustice,” which presented an unerring case for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be closed. The committee’s chair, Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, and the second most influential Democrat in Congress, is a longtime opponent of the existence of Guantánamo, and has been doing all he can to ensure its closure since Joe Biden became president in January.

in April, Sen. Durbin was the lead signatory of a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison, which was also signed by 23 other Democratic Senators (a House version, in August, was signed by 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives). The letters were particularly significant because the lawmakers recognized that holding prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial is unacceptable, and urged the Biden administration to release everyone still held who has not been charged (27 of the remaining 39 prisoners), with plea deals to be negotiated for the prisoners charged with crimes, to bring to an end the irredeemably broken military commission system in which they are currently trapped.

The lawmakers also called for a senior White House official to be appointed to be accountable for the prison’s closure, and for the role of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, responsible for prisoner releases and post-release monitoring, to be revived, and they also urged the Justice Department to abandon its long-held position of resisting every legal challenge submitted by the prisoners, even in cases where the administration itself has endorsed their release. As the Senators explained, “If the Justice Department were not to oppose habeas petitions in appropriate cases, those detainees could be transferred more easily pursuant to court orders.”

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Quarterly Fundraiser: $2500 (£2000) Needed to Support My Work to Close Guantánamo As We Approach the 20th Anniversary of Its Opening

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020 (Photo: Witness Against Torture).

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Dear friends and supporters,

Every three months, I ask you, if you can, to make a donation to support my ongoing work on Guantánamo — researching and writing about the shameful lawlessness of the prison and the plight of the men still held, and campaigning to get it closed down. I’ve been doing this work for nearly 16 years now, and, 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 events.

Shamefully, we’re just a month away from an anniversary that all of us opposed to Guantánamo’s existence hoped would never arrive — the 20th anniversary of the prison’s opening, on January 11, 2022. And sadly, despite huge efforts this year to push Joe Biden to take decisive action (including by Senators and Representatives in his own party), very little has actually happened. Just one man has been freed, and while eight of the 39 men still held have been approved for release by Periodic Review Boards (a high-level US government review process) since he took office, none of them have been freed, and five others approved for release before he took office are also still held.

As the anniversary approaches, I’m working on a number of online events to highlight the need for Guantánamo to be closed (and I’d also like to ask you to take photos with the Close Guantánamo campaign’s posters marking 7,300 days of the prison’s existence on Jan. 5, and 7,306 days on Jan. 11, and to send them to us), and I’ll let you know more about these plans as they develop.

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Join Me on Dec. 9 for an Online Discussion About Guantánamo with Mansoor Adayfi, Author and Former Prisoner

Promotional material for Andy Worthington’s online interview with former Guantánamo prisoner and author Mansoor Adayfi, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective on Thursday December 9, 2021.

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I’m honored to be interviewing former Guantánamo prisoner Mansoor Adayfi in an online event this Thursday, Dec. 9, hosted by the Justice for Muslims Collective. This free event is taking place on Zoom, and if you’re interested, please register here. The event is intended primarily as a fundraiser for Mansoor, so if you can help out at all, please visit this page.

Mansoor, a Yemeni, is the talented writer of an extraordinary Guantánamo memoir, Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo, which I reviewed on its release in August, when I described it as “a devastating account of Guantánamo’s cruelty, but one suffused with hope, humor and humanity.”

I’ll be asking Mansoor to talk about his experiences as one of the “red-eyes,” a group of a dozen young Yemenis, who resisted the brutality and injustice of their imprisonment through persistent hunger strikes and non-compliance, for which they were made to suffer through repeated isolation and considerable violence, all of which was fundamentally unrelated to whatever it was that they were — or were not — alleged to have done before they got to Guantánamo.

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Sen. Dick Durbin Files Amendment to National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Calling for the Closure of Guantánamo

Sen. Dick Durbin calling for the closure of Guantánamo in the Senate on Nov. 30, 2021, and campaigners for the closure of Guantánamo outside the Capitol on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

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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 Tuesday (November 30), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), the US Senate Majority Whip, and the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke in the Senate “about the importance of closing the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and announced he had filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to close the facility once and for all”, as he explained on his website. Sen. Durbin has a long history of opposing the existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and in April was the lead signatory of a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison, which was also signed by 23 other Democratic Senators (a House version, in August, was signed by 75 Democratic members of the House of Representatives). In addition, in July, Sen. Durbin wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, urging him to bring to an end the Justice Department’s persistent efforts “to rationalize indefinite detention at Guantánamo.”

The annual NDAA has cynically prevented the use of government funds to close the prison — as well as the transfer of prisoners to the US mainland for any reason — since the Obama presidency, and while the transfer provisions have been dropped in the House’s version of the NDAA this year, they have not been dropped by the Senate. House and Senate representatives are meeting soon to agree a final version of next year’s Act, and you can write to them here to urge them to drop the transfer prohibition, but Sen. Durbin’s amendment obviously goes much further.

Sen. Durbin began his speech by honoring “the life and legacy of US Army Major Ian Fishback, who spoke out against America’s inhumane treatment of detainees after 9/11,” and who, sadly, passed away last month at the age of 42. He was, as Sen. Durbin explained, “integral in rallying support for the torture amendment that Durbin led with the late Senator John McCain” in 2005, “which explicitly banned inhumane treatment of any prisoner being held by the US government — on American soil, or abroad.”

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I Discuss the Significance of WikiLeaks’ Release of ‘The Guantánamo Files’ in a Primary Sources Podcast with Clive Stafford Smith

“WikiLeaks and ‘The Guantánamo Files'”: a screenshot of the ‘Primary Sources’ podcast featuring Andy Worthington and Clive Stafford Smith in conversation with Chip Gibbons of Defending Rights and Dissent.

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I’m delighted to be sharing with you an hour-long podcast about the significance of the formerly classified military files from Guantánamo (the “Detainee Assessment Briefs”), which were released by WikiLeaks as “The Guantánamo Files” in 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner. I took part in the podcast along with Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, and both Clive and I were invited to speak with the podcast’s host Chip Gibbons because of our long involvement with Guantánamo, and because we had both testified on behalf of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange at his extradition hearing in the UK in October 2020.

Chip works for Defending Rights and Dissent, formed in 2016 through the merger of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (BORDC), founded in 2001 to resist the draconian post-9/11 Patriot Act, and the Defending Dissent Foundation, originally formed in 1960 as the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee. They describe their mission as being to “strengthen our participatory democracy by protecting the right to political expression.”

Defending Rights and Dissent recently set up a podcast series, “Primary Sources,” in which, over the last six months, Chip Gibbons has interviewed the “Pentagon Papers” whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, James Goodale, General Counsel of the New York Times when the “Pentagon Papers” were published, human rights attorney Carey Shenkman discussing the Espionage Act, whistleblower and attorney Jesselyn Raddack, whistleblowers Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, John Kiriakou and Matthew Hoh, and drone program whistleblowers Lisa Ling, Keagan Miller, Cian Westmoreland, and Christopher Aaron, and it was an honor and a privilege to be invited to join this extraordinary line-up of witnesses exposing the crimes of the US government over many decades.

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Former Guantánamo Prisoner Kidnapped in Yemen, Held at an Unknown Location

Abdulqadir al-Madhfari (identified by the US as Abdel Qadir Hussein al-Mudhaffari, and given the prisoner number ISN 40), in a photo taken at Guantánamo and included in his classified military file, 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.

In disturbing news from Yemen, reported by the Intercept, a former Guantánamo prisoner, who had only just been reunited with his family after 14 years in Guantánamo, and five subsequent years in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where he had been imprisoned despite having been promised his freedom, has been seized by Houthi militia, and is being held an undisclosed location.

The disappearance of Abdulqadir al-Madhfari (identified by the US as Abdel Qadir Hussein al-Mudhaffari, and given the prisoner number ISN 40) is one of the more depressing examples of how the “taint” of having been held at Guantánamo, despite never having been charged with a crime or put on trial, dogs former prisoners. It also provides a vivid example of the US government’s almost complete lack of interest in the welfare of men released after long years of unjustifiable imprisonment in the US’s notorious offshore prison in Cuba.

Al-Madhfari’s long ordeal began almost 20 years ago, when he was seized crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan. Whilst it was likely that the “young physician’s assistant who dreamed of becoming a doctor,” as the Intercept described him, had been a foot soldier with the Taliban, there was no reason to suppose, as the US alleged, that he had been part of what his captors described as the “Dirty Thirty,” a group of bodyguards for Osama bin Laden, because most of the men in question were young men, who had been in Afghanistan for only a short amount of time, and would not, therefore, have been trusted to guard Al-Qaeda’s leader.

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Majid Khan Describes Years of Torture and Abuse in CIA “Black Sites” and at Guantánamo in His Sentencing Statement (Part Two)

Guantánamo prisoner Majid Khan, photographed at the prison in 2009, after he had finally been allowed to meet with his lawyers, and to start making arrangements for the plea deal that he agreed to in 2012.

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.




 

Yesterday, I posted a transcript of the first part of the extraordinary statement that Guantánamo prisoner and CIA “black site” torture victim Majid Khan read out at his sentencing hearing two weeks ago, in which he recounted his early life, how he was preyed on by al-Qaeda supporters following the death of his mother, and the horrendous torture to which he was subjected in the “black sites,” despite having made it clear from the time of his capture that he intended to be as cooperative as possible.

Today, I’m posting the rest of his statement, which covers his time in his final CIA “black site,” another facility in Afghanistan, code-named “Orange,” where, despite having already cooperated with his interrogators, his hunger strikes in protest at his seemingly unending imprisonment without charge or trial, or access to a lawyer, were dealt with by what he describes as being “raped by the CIA medics,” who “inserted tubes or objects into my anus against my will.”

Majid explained how the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee report into the CIA torture program, released in December 2014, accurately described what happened to him as follows: “Majid Khan was then subjected to involuntary rectal feeding and rectal hydration, which included two bottles of Ensure. Later that same day, Majid Khan’s ‘lunch tray’, consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.” When the executive summary  was released, this was one of the new and shocking details that I picked up on in an article for Al-Jazeera. Majid proceeded to explain how this vile abuse led to him still experiencing “extreme discomfort from the hemorrhoids as a result of my treatment.”

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Majid Khan Describes Years of Torture and Abuse in CIA “Black Sites” and at Guantánamo in His Sentencing Statement (Part One)

Guantánamo prisoner and former CIA “black site” torture victim Majid Khan, photographed as a student before his capture, and shortly after his arrival at Guantánamo in September 2006, evidently suffering after over three years of torture.

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It’s nearly two weeks since Majid Khan, held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for over three years before his transfer to Guantánamo, where he has been held since September 2006, was allowed to read out a detailed statement at his sentencing hearing, held nearly ten years after he agreed to a plea deal in his military commission, in which, in exchange for assisting in a number of ongoing cases, both at Guantánamo and elsewhere, he was promised his eventual freedom. I wrote about his sentencing and his statement last week, in an article entitled, Is This Justice? After 18 Years of Torture, Isolation and Unprecedented Co-Operation, CIA and Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan Should Be Released in Feb. 2022.

Majid’s statement combined an account of his early life, including his life in the U.S. as a teenager and a young man, with a graphic account of his torture and abuse, and with effusive apologies on his part for having been recruited by Al-Qaeda when he was at a particularly low point in his life, distraught at the death of his mother, and it was noticeable that, at his sentencing, seven of the eight military jurors signed a hand-written letter to the commissions’ Convening Authority calling for clemency, decrying the torture to which he was subjected, which they compared to “torture performed by the most abusive regimes in modern history,” and clearly expressing disgust at how he was treated when, throughout his long imprisonment, he has made a point of being as cooperative as possible.

In the interests of keeping Majid’s testimony in the public eye — to expose the depravities of the torture program, and the way so much of its focus seemed to be on torture for its own sake, rather than for any practical outcome, and to contrast this with Majid’s own compliance, for which he doesn’t seem to have been adequately rewarded — I’m posting his entire statement in two articles; this and one to follow.

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‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’ — Mohamedou Ould Salahi and I Are Keynote Speakers at Brighton University Online Conference on Nov. 12-13

A screenshot from the website of the conference, ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After’, taking place on Nov. 12-13, 2021.

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.

I’m delighted to announce a two-day online conference about Guantánamo — ‘Guantánamo: 20 Years After‘ — on Friday November 12 and Saturday November 13, hosted by the University of Brighton, which I’ve been organizing with Sara Birch, a lecturer in law at the university and, like me, a longtime advocate for the prison’s closure.

Covid-19 has made the conference an online affair, but what it has also done is to allow us to bring together people who might not have been able to travel for a physical conference; in this case, in particular, former Guantánamo prisoners who, in common with everyone who has been released from the prison over the unforgivably long years of its existence, face restrictions on their ability to travel freely, either because they aren’t allowed to have passports, or because they face often insurmountable problems getting visas.

I’m honoured to have been asked to open the conference on Friday as a keynote speaker, followed by former Guantánamo prisoner and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Salahi, and on Saturday we’re delighted to have former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi and his collaborator Antonio Aiello — on Adayfi’s recently published memoir ‘Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo’ — as guest speakers.

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Is This Justice? After 18 Years of Torture, Isolation and Unprecedented Co-Operation, CIA and Guantánamo Prisoner Majid Khan Should Be Released in Feb. 2022

Majid Khan, photographed as a student in 1999, and in recent years at 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. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

On Thursday evening, in a military courtroom at Guantánamo Bay, Majid Khan, a Pakistani national who was held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for three years and four months after his initial capture in Pakistan in March 2003, and has been held at Guantánamo since September 2006, was finally allowed to tell the world the gruesome details about his treatment in the “black site” program, and at Guantánamo, in a statement that he read out at a sentencing hearing.

Some of the details of the torture to which Khan was subjected were made public nearly seven years ago, when the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report about the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program was made public — in particular, the shocking revelation that he was one of several prisoners subjected to “rectal feeding,” whereby, as the report described it, his “‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins was ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.”

In his sentencing statement, however, which, as his lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights explain, made him “the first so-called ‘high-value detainee’ at Guantánamo who has been able to speak publicly about the CIA torture program,” he revealed much more than was ever previously known publicly. As Vince Warren, CCR’s Executive Director, said, “We knew about some of the horrors he was subjected to, like the so-called ‘rectal feeding,’ from the Senate torture report, but the new details in his own words were chilling. From the ice-bath waterboardings to the ‘Torture Doctor’ who put hot sauce on the tip of his IV, the acts committed by our government shock the conscience — yet no one has ever been held accountable.”

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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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