Radio: I Discuss the Prospects for Guantánamo’s Closure Under Joe Biden with Scott Horton

The Scott Horton Show, and Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantánamo outside the White House on Jan. 11, 2020.

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On Friday, I was delighted to discuss the prospects for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay under Joe Biden with the indefatigable Scott Horton, who always, flatteringly, refers to me as “the heroic Andy Worthington.” Scott and I have spoken on many dozens of occasions since 2007, and you can find our latest interview here as an MP3 or below via YouTube.

“Indefatigable” has to be the most apt description of Horton, who has conducted over 5,500 interviews since 2003, and has also found the time to write two books, 2017’s “Fools Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” and the recently published “Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism.”

Nearly 20 years into Guantánamo’s existence, we ran briefly through the failures of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump to close the prison — with several minutes spent discussing the Obama years — before bringing the story up to date with Joe Biden, the fourth president to be in charge of the prison.

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24 Senators Send a Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close Guantánamo

Campaigners calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening (Photo: Susan Melkisethian via Flickr).

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.

In the long struggle to try to secure the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, there has rarely been adequate support from lawmakers, so it was extremely reassuring, on April 16, to see that 24 Democratic Senators — almost half of the Democrats in the Senate — have written a letter to President Biden urging him to close the prison once and for all.

Led by Senate Majority Whip and Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, and including Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the 24 Senators not only urged President Biden to close the prison, but also provided detailed proposals for how that can be achieved.

These proposals involve re-establishing the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure at the State Department, which we discussed in an article just last week, and also appointing a “senior White House official” to be “accountable for the closure process.”

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US Military Closes Camp 7, Guantánamo’s “High-Value Detainee” Prison Block, Moves Men to Camp 5

A Google Earth image of the secretive Camp 7 at Guantánamo Bay.

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In news from Guantánamo, the US military announced yesterday that it had shut Camp 7, the secretive prison block where Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other so-called “high-value detainees” have been held since their arrival at Guantánamo from CIA “black sites” in September 2006, and had moved the prisoners to Camp 5.

Modeled on a maximum security prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, Camp 5, which cost $17.5 million, opened in 2004, and its solid-walled, isolated cells were used to hold prisoners regarded as non-compliant. As the prison’s population shrank, however, it was closed — in September 2016 — and its remaining prisoners transferred to Camp 6, which opened in 2006, and includes a communal area.

Camp 7, meanwhile, which cost $17 million, was also built in 2004. Two storeys tall, it was modeled on a maximum-security prison in Bunker Hill, Indiana, and, as Carol Rosenberg explained in the New York Times yesterday, had “a modest detainee health clinic and a psychiatric ward with a padded cell, but none of the hospice or end-of-life care capacity once envisioned by Pentagon planners.”

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A Celebration of Guantánamo Activism Past and Present by Witness Against Torture’s Jeremy Varon

Witness Against Torture activists occupy the Smithsonian National Museum of American History on January 11, 2014, the 12th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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The following cross-posted article, with my introduction, was originally published on 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, we marked 7,000 days of Guantánamo’s existence as part of our ongoing photo campaign, with supporters sending in photos of themselves holding up posters marking how long the prison had been open, and urging President Biden to close it.

Since President Biden’s inauguration two months ago, his administration has thrown only a few crumbs of hope to campaigners for the closure of the prison, with which we have had to sustain ourselves — defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin telling the Senate that it’s “time for Guantánamo to close its doors,” and press secretary Jen Psaki announcing a “robust” review of the prison, in the 20th year of its operations, and the administration’s “intention” to close it.

As we await further news, we’re delighted that a great friend of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, Jeremy Varon, has written a detailed article for Waging Nonviolence, “an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world.”

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Video: Mansoor Adayfi, James Yee and I Discuss Guantánamo and Its Closure in a Zoom Event Organized by Veterans’ and Peace Groups in California

A screenshot of a Zoom event about Guantánamo, organized by veterans’ and peace groups, primarily in California, which took place on Feb. 21, featuring Andy Worthington, Mansoor Adayfi and James Yee as speakers.

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A week last Sunday, February 21, I was delighted to take part in a panel discussion about Guantánamo with former prisoner Mansoor Adayfi, a talented, Yemeni-born author, who was resettled in Serbia in 2016 (and whose memoir, “Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantánamo,” will be published this August), and James Yee, the former Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo, who, for two months in 2003, was wrongly imprisoned as a spy.

The meeting was organized by a number of activist groups in California — Veterans for Peace Los Angeles, the Peace Resource Center of San Diego, the Long Beach Area Peace Network, the MLK Coalition of Greater Los Angeles and ANSWER Los Angeles, as well as the national Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK: Women for Peace, and Close Guantánamo, which I co-founded with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012 to campaign for the prison’s closure, and it was streamed live on Facebook.

I’m pleased to discover that it has now been made available on YouTube, on the Veterans for Peace YouTube channel, and I’ve posted it below. I hope you have time to watch it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

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Radio: I Discuss the Possible Closure of Guantánamo under Joe Biden on the Peace and Justice Report on WSLR in Florida

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020.

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 Wednesday (February 24), I was delighted to talk for half-an-hour about Guantánamo with Bob Connors and Tom Walker on their show, the Peace and Justice Report, on WSLR 96.5, a community radio station in Florida. I’ve appeared on the show previously, in 2018 and 2019, after Bob and Tom came across my work, but both of those occasions were during the heavy miasma of despair of the Trump years, and so it was refreshing to talk in a post-Trump world in which there is, at least, some hope of progress on Guantánamo.

The interview is available on the WSLR archive here. Scroll down to “Wednesday, February 24, 2021 9:00 am,” where it’s available for the next two months.

We began by discussing Trump’s four dismal years as president, in which, even before he took office, he tweeted, “There must be no more releases from Gitmo,” and was true to his word, with the one exception of a Saudi prisoner who had previously agreed a plea deal that involved his repatriation to continued imprisonment in his home country.

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Biden Administration Announces “Robust” Review of Guantánamo, and “Intention” to Close the Prison

President Biden, and a screenshot of the Gitmo Clock website run by the Close Guantánamo campaign, founded by Andy Worthington and Tom Wilner in 2012, showing how long the prison has been open today, Feb. 15, 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.

On Friday (Feb. 12), campaigners hoping that the Biden administration will commit to the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay were further reassured when White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “[a]sked whether Biden would shut” the prison “by the time his presidency ends,” as Reuters described it, told reporters, “That certainly is our goal and our intention.”

“There will be a robust interagency policy,” Psaki added, also noting that “[t]here are many players from different agencies who need to be part of this policy discussion about the steps forward.”

The comments were the first to be made publicly by administration officials since defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Senate in written testimony during his confirmation hearing, “I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantánamo to close its doors,” although, as the Associated Press noted, “The announcement of a closure plan was not unexpected. Biden had said as a candidate he supported closing the detention center.”

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111 Organizations, Including Close Guantánamo, Sign A Letter to President Biden Urging Him to Close the Prison and End Indefinite Detention

President Biden and the entrance to Camp 6 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.




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.

We’re delighted that, two days ago, a letter we signed urging President Biden to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and to bring to an end the process of indefinite detention without charge or trial that has typified its aberrations over the last 19 years, was delivered to the White House, signed, in total, by 111 organizations.

We’re grateful to the Center for Constitutional Rights and the Center for Victims of Torture for initiating the letter, and to everyone who signed on, from old friends and colleagues including Amnesty International USA, CODEPINK, Reprieve US, Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and Witness Against Torture, to other organizations that are new to us.

As CCR and CVT explained in a press release, “The letter is signed by organizations ranging from those working to end anti-Muslim discrimination and torture to immigrant rights organizations and organizations working broadly on civil rights, civil liberties, and racial justice at the national and local level.”

The letter aptly describes Guantánamo as “the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law,” and “the most expensive prison in the world,” noting that, while the prison “continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there,” it also “continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma” both at home and abroad, as exemplified, under Donald Trump, by his proposal to send undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants,” by “his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism,” and by the “militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people.”

In conclusion, the letter urges President Biden “to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.”

Publicizing the letter, Scott Roehm, Washington director at the Center for Victims of Torture, said, “The president has supported closing Guantánamo since his days as a senator, and now he has the power to do it. This isn’t an intractable problem, but it’s also not one that lends itself to perfect solutions. If the president is determined to close the prison, he can, and in relatively short order. Unless and until he does, Guantánamo’s corrosive impact — both literally and for what it represents — will continue to deepen and spread.”

Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager at the Center for Constitutional Rights, added, “There is wide-ranging public support for President Biden to close Guantánamo. He must take bold and decisive action, and we will hold him accountable until he does.”

The letter is posted below, and we hope you have time to read it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

Letter to President Biden urging the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay by 111 NGOs

February 2, 2021

President Joseph Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear President Biden:

We are a diverse group of non-governmental organizations working at both the local and national level and on issues including immigrants’ rights, racial justice, and combatting anti-Muslim discrimination. We write to urge you to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to end indefinite military detention.

Among a broad range of human rights violations perpetrated against predominantly Muslim communities, Guantánamo — designed specifically to evade legal constraints, and where Bush administration officials incubated torture — is the iconic example of the post-9/11 abandonment of the rule of law. Nearly eight hundred Muslim men and boys were held at Guantánamo after 2002, all but a handful without charge or trial. Forty remain, at the astronomical cost of $540 million per year, making Guantánamo the most expensive prison in the world.

Guantánamo embodies the fact that, for nearly two decades following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States government has viewed communities of color — citizens and non-citizens alike — through a security threat lens, to devastating consequences. This is not a problem of the past. Guantánamo continues to cause escalating and profound damage to the men who still languish there, and the approach it exemplifies continues to fuel and justify bigotry, stereotyping, and stigma. Guantánamo entrenches racial divisions and racism more broadly, and risks facilitating additional rights violations.

For example, President Trump proposed sending undocumented immigrants to Guantánamo to be held as “enemy combatants.” He further built upon the discriminatory animus, policies, and practices that Guantánamo represents through his odious Muslim Ban, each iteration of which was explicitly promulgated under the false pretense of protecting the nation from terrorism. And the Trump administration’s militarized federal response to protests against the extrajudicial killings of George Floyd and other Black people was fueled by the war-based post-9/11 security architecture and mindset that Guantánamo epitomizes.

It is long past time for both a sea change in the United States’ approach to national and human security, and a meaningful reckoning with the full scope of damage that the post-9/11 approach has caused. Closing Guantánamo and ending indefinite detention of those held there is a necessary step towards those ends. We urge you to act without delay, and in a just manner that considers the harm done to the men who have been imprisoned without charge or fair trials for nearly twenty years.

Please contact Aliya Hussain at the Center for Constitutional Rights (ahussain@ccrjustice.org) and Scott Roehm at the Center for Victims of Torture (sroehm@cvt.org) with any questions or to discuss.

Sincerely,

Action Center on Race & the Economy
Adalah Justice Project
Advocate Visitors with Immigrants in Detention
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
American Friends Service Committee, Colorado
American Muslim Empowerment Network (AMEN)
Amnesty International USA
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture
Birmingham Interfaith Human Rights Committee
Black LGBTQ+ Migrant Project
Borderlands for Equity
Bridges Faith Initiative
Capital District Coalition Against Islamophobia, Albany, NY
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies
Center for International Policy
Center for Victims of Torture
Central American Martyrs Center
Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War
Centro de Trabajadores Unidos – IWP
Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America – CRLN
CLEAR project (Creating Law Enforcement Accountability & Responsibility)
Cleveland Catholic Worker, Ohio
Cleveland Jobs with Justice
Close Guantánamo
Coalition for Civil Freedoms
CODEPINK
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress Education Fund
Denver Justice and Peace Committee
Detention Watch Network
EarthSong
Going Beyond Sustainability
Government Information Watch
Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters, USA-JPIC
Hope House
Human Rights First
Immigrant Advocacy Project
Immigrant Defense Project
Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants
International Refugee Assistance Project
InterReligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF Cleveland)
Islamophobia Studies Center
Jews Against Anti-Muslim Racism
Justice for Muslims Collective
Kairos Community, NY
Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church
Louisiana Advocates for Immigrants in Detention
MADRE
MoveOn
Muslim Advocates
Muslim Justice League
Muslim Solidarity Committee
Muslim Solidarity Committee, Albany, NY
Muslims For Liberty
Muslims for Social Justice
National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
National Immigrant Justice Center
National Immigration Project (NIPNLG)
National Network for Immigrant & Refugee Rights
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Network in Solidarity with the People of Guatemala (NISGUA)
No More Guantanamos
NorCal Resist
North Carolina Stop Torture Now
Northern Illinois Justice for Our Neighbors
NWI Resistance
Oak Grove Church of God
Open Society Foundations
Pakistan Association of New York Capital District
Palestinian Rights Committee, Upper Hudson Peace Action
Peace Action
Peace Action: The New School
Peacemakers of Schoharie County, NY
Physicians for Human Rights
Project SALAM, Albany, NY
Project South
Provincial Council Clerics of St. Viator (Viatorians)
Reformed Church of Highland Park, NJ
Refugee Council USA
Reprieve US
Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment
Rural Awakening
School of the Americas Watch (SOA Watch)
School of the Americas Watch, Illinois Chapter
Sept. 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
South Asian Americans Leading Together (SAALT)
Southwest Asylum & Migration Institute (SAMI)
T’ruah
Tea Project
The Advocates for Human Rights
The Feminist Front (FF)
Tsuru for Solidarity
Transformations CDC
UC Davis Immigration Law Clinic
United Stateless
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)
USC Gould International Human Rights Clinic
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace, Chapter 10
Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc.
Washington Office on Latin America
Win Without War
Witness Against Torture
Witness at the Border
Witness for Peace Southeast
Women Against War
Yemeni Alliance Committee
Yemeni American Merchants Association

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

Seven Authors, All Former Guantánamo Prisoners, Urge President Biden to Close the Prison Before its 20th Anniversary

The books of the seven authors and former Guantánamo prisoners who have just written an open letter to President Biden, urging him to close the prison, which was published in the New York Review of Books.

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.





 

As the Biden administration settles in, and we await news of its plans for Guantánamo — after defense secretary Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Senate during his confirmation hearing, “I believe it is time for the detention facility at Guantánamo to close its doors” — it’s good to see the need for Guantánamo to be closed being discussed in the New York Review of Books by seven former prisoners who have all written books about their experiences.

The seven authors are Mansoor Adayfi, whose memoir Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo is being published this August, Moazzam Begg (Enemy Combatant, 2006), Lakhdar Boumediene (Witnesses of the Unseen: Seven Years in Guantanamo, 2017), Sami Al Hajj (Prisoner 345: My Six Years in Guantánamo, 2018), Ahmed Errachidi (The General: The Ordinary Man Who Challenged Guantánamo, 2013), Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Guantánamo Diary, 2015) and Moussa Zemmouri (Onschuldig in Guantánamo, 2010).

I’ve read all of the above — with the exceptions of Moussa Zemmouri’s book, which hasn’t been translated into English, and Mansoor Adayfi’s, which hasn’t been published yet  — and what I know from all of them is how eloquent the authors are, and how keenly they experienced and articulated the injustices of Guantánamo.

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In Trump’s Dying Days, Guantánamo Review Board Approves Yemeni Prisoner for Release

On the left: Said Salih Said Nashir (aka Hani Saleh Rashid Abdullah), a Yemeni prisoner at Guantánamo who has just had his release approved by a Periodic Review Board. The other men are Moath al-Alwi and Omar al-Rammah, who, unfortunately, had their ongoing imprisonment upheld by PRBs, nearly three and four years respectively since their hearings took place.

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.

In the three years and eleven months since Donald Trump’s inauguration, there has been — until now — no good news from Guantánamo. That first piece of good news, reported by NPR on December 11, is that Said Salih Said Nashir, a 46-year old Yemeni held at Guantánamo without charge or trial for 18 years, has been unanimously approved for release from the prison by a Periodic Review Board.

Consisting of a panel of military and intelligence officials, the Periodic Review Boards were established by President Obama, to review the cases of men held at Guantánamo who had not been recommended for release by Obama’s first high-level review process, the Guantánamo Review Task Force.

The task force’s report — recommending 156 prisoners for release, 36 for prosecution, and 48 for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial — was issued in January 2010, but by the time the PRBs took place, beginning in November 2013, just 41 of the 48 men recommended for ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial remained: two had died, and five others — high-ranking Taliban officials — were freed in a prisoner swap.

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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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