On the 17th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo, Please Write to the 40 Men Still Held, Donald Trump’s “Forever Prisoners”

Eight of the prisoners still held at Guantanamo, all of whom are eligible for the Periodic Review Boards that have been rendered toothless under Donald Trump. Top row, from L to R: Omar al-Rammah, Moath al-Alwi, Haroon Gul and Ismael Ali Bakush. Bottom row, L to R: Abd al-Salam al-Hilah, Mohammed al-Qahtani, Saifullah Paracha and Guled Hassan Duran.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 a year since I last encouraged you to write to the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay, to mark their first year of imprisonment under Donald Trump, and I’m asking you to do so again, to let them know that they have not been entirely forgotten.

I’ve been encouraging opponents of Guantánamo to write to the prisoners on a regular basis since June 2010, when I was first prompted to do so by two Muslim activist friends in the UK, who had initiated a project to get people to write to the prisoners still held at that time — 186 in total.

I repeated the letter-writing project in June 2011, and then did so again every six months or so until July 2015, with two further calls in 2016, the last being in the dying weeks of the Obama presidency. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Periodic Review Boards: The Escape Route Shut Down by Donald Trump

Four of the Guantanamo prisoners currently going through the Periodic Review Board process. Clockwise from top left: Omar al-Rammah, Moath al-Alwi, Mohammed al-Qahtani and Abd al-Salam al-Hilah.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.

 

Anyone paying close attention to the prison at Guantánamo Bay will know that its continued existence, nearly 17 years after it first opened, is largely down to the success of some wildly inaccurate claims that were made about it when its malevolent business first began — claims that it held “the worst of the worst” terrorists, who were all captured on the battlefield.

In fact, as my research, and that of other researchers has shown, very few of the 779 men held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002 can realistically be described as having had any meaningful involvement with al-Qaeda or the Taliban; perhaps just 3 percent, and certainly less than 5 percent. No one was captured on the battlefield, and the majority were either foot soldiers for the Taliban in an inter-Muslim civil war that predated 9/11, or civilians swept up in ill-advised dragnets. Many, if not most of those who ended up at Guantánamo were sold to the US by their Afghan and Pakistani allies for bounty payments, which averaged $5,000 a head, a huge amount of money in that part of the world.

Just 40 men are still held at Guantánamo, after George W. Bush released 532 men, and Barack Obama released 196. Nine men died, one was transferred to the US, to face a trial in which he was successfully prosecuted, and one more was reluctantly released by Donald Trump, or, rather, was transferred back to Saudi Arabia for ongoing imprisonment, as part of a plea deal negotiated in his military commission trial proceedings in 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners is Bad for Them – and US Security

Four prisoners released from Guantanamo who have ended up in very different circumstances following the closure by Donald Trump of the office of the Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure. Clockwise from top left: Abu Wa'el Dhiab, Omar Mohammed Khalifh, Abd al-Malik al-Rahabi and Ravil Mingazov.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, as “Guantánamo’s Lost Diaspora: How Donald Trump’s Closure of the Office Monitoring Ex-Prisoners Endangers U.S. National Security,” 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.

The presence of Donald Trump in the White House has been an unmitigated disaster for anyone concerned about the ongoing existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and any notion of justice regarding those held there, or, indeed, those freed from the prison over the years.

For Trump, the notion that there might be anything wrong — or un-American — about imprisoning people forever without any meaningful form of due process clearly doesn’t exist. Since he took office nearly two years ago, only one prisoner has been released, out of the 41 men still held at the prison when Obama took office; and that man, Ahmed al-Darbi, a Saudi, was only released, and transferred to ongoing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, because of a plea deal he agreed to in his military commission trial proceedings back in 2014.

Trump, clearly, has no desire to meaningfully continue the parole-type process — the Periodic Review Boards — that Barack Obama initiated to release lower-level prisoners who could demonstrate that they didn’t pose a threat to the U.S. Indeed, his contempt for the process is such that he has shut down any possibility of the two men whose release was approved by Obama’s PRBs, but who didn’t get released before Obama left office, being freed by shutting down the State Department office that dealt with resettlements — the office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure. Read the rest of this entry »

Just Updated: Parts 4-6 of My Six-Part Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List

Close Guantanamo protestors outside the Supreme Court, January 11, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.

 

Last month, I published an article linking to the first three parts of my six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, which I had just updated, and I’ve now updated the fourth, fifth and sixth parts — Part Four (covering prisoners with the Internment Serial Numbers 497-661), Part Five (covering prisoner numbers 662-928) and Part Six (covering prisoner numbers 929-10029). The six parts of the prisoner list provide details of all 779 prisoners held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened, with references to where they appear in the 2,232 articles I have written about Guantánamo over the last ten and a half years, and where their stories are told in my book The Guantánamo Files.

As I explained in my article last month, my book, published in 2007, was the result of over a year’s research and writing — as a full-time unpaid freelance researcher and author — in which I told the stories of the majority of the men held at Guantánamo, analyzing where they were captured, telling their stories, and, as I put it,  “demonstrat[ing] how few of them seem to have had any genuine connection to al-Qaeda or any form of international terrorism, and how they were overwhelmingly either just foot soldiers in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that preceded the 9/11 attacks, or, in many cases, civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, cynically picked off by officials or warlords looking to make some money off the US’s commitment to paying bounty payments for any Muslim who could be passed off as a ‘terror suspect.’”

Today the shameful prison at Guantánamo Bay — where 40 men continue to be held, mostly without charge or trial or anything resembling due process — has been open for 6,152 days — 6,152 days in what I described last month as a prison “set up to be beyond the reach of the rule of US law, where men could be — and were — tortured and subjected to human experimentation; where nine men have died, and where there is still no end in sight for this legal, moral and ethical abomination”, because of Donald Trump’s vileness and stupidity. Read the rest of this entry »

Just Updated: Parts 1-3 of My Six-Part Definitive Guantánamo Prisoner List

A Guantanamo prisoner photographed in Camp 6 in 2009 (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images).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.

 

Today the grotesque and unforgivable prison at Guantánamo Bay, on the grounds of the US’s military base in Cuba, has been open for 6,118 days — 6,118 days of denying foreign-born Muslim prisoners due process rights (the right to be charged with a crime, and put on trial), or the protections of the Geneva Conventions, in a place set up to be beyond the reach of the rule of US law, where men could be — and were — tortured and subjected to human experimentation; where nine men have died, and where there is still no end in sight for this legal, moral and ethical abomination.

Today I’m publicising the links to the first three parts of my six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, which I first compiled in 2009, and which I’ve just updated, for the first time since 2016 — Part One (covering prisoners with the Internment Serial Numbers 1-133), Part Two (covering prisoner numbers 134-268) and Part Three (covering prisoner numbers 269-496). The six parts of the prisoner list provide details of all 779 prisoners held by the US military at Guantánamo since the prison opened, with references to where they appear in the 2,230 articles I have written about Guantánamo over the last — nearly — ten and a half years, and where their stories are told in my book The Guantánamo Files.

That book, published eleven years ago, a year and half after I began working as a full-time unpaid freelance researcher and writer on Guantánamo, involved me researching and telling the stories of the men held there, and demonstrating how few of them seem to have had any genuine connection to al-Qaeda or any form of international terrorism, and how they were overwhelmingly either just foot soldiers in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that preceded the 9/11 attacks, or, in many cases, civilians caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, cynically picked off by officials or warlords looking to make some money off the US’s commitment to paying bounty payments for any Muslim who could be passed off as a “terror suspect.”

In adding new links to the prisoner list, and even seeking out some new photos to add, I was, perhaps unsurprisingly, reminded of what a long and horrible journey it has been to expose the truth about Guantánamo, and to try and get the wretched place closed down. It took me back to when we still didn’t know exactly who was held at the prison, because the US refused to tell the world for over four years until they lost a Freedom of Information lawsuit in the spring of 2006, releasing the names and nationalities of the prisoners, and 8,000 pages of supporting documents that formed the basis of my research.

Further revelations came in 2011, when WikiLeaks released the classified military files on all the prisoners (except 14 of them), as leaked to them by Chelsea Manning. I worked as a media partner with WikiLeaks on the release of those documents, and then spent nearly a year writing detailed analyses of the first 422 prisoners to be released (the plan was to complete analyses of all 779 prisoners’ stories (or rather the 465 that were available), but I ran out of steam — and, crucially, funding.

In updating the list, I also recalled how I have told the stories of 338 men released since 2007, including Shaker Aamer, who I campaigned for specifically, and whose entry takes up what appears to be around half of Part 3 of the list, but under Donald Trump, of course, all releases have essentially ground to a halt. Of the 41 men held when he took office 21 months ago, just one has been released — to continue serving a sentence in Saudi Arabia that was agreed as part of a plea deal in Guantánamo’s discredited military commission trial system.

I am about to update the stories of these men in a series of individual articles, because, as we have learned over the last 21 months, if the president — in this case, Donald Trump — doesn’t want to release anyone from Guantánamo, he doesn’t have to, and — military commission plea deals notwithstanding — there is no domestic or international mechanism that can force him to do so, and the men still he’d deserve to be heard from, to prevent them disappearing from memory their silent suffering drowned out in the tsunami of daily outrage that Trump’s presidency entails.

If you’re an attorney representing any of the prisoners still held, and you’d like to help me provide updates on the stories of the men, please get in touch. Otherwise, I hope these updates are helpful, and will post the final three parts in the next week or two.

If you appreciate what I’m doing, and have been doing since March 2006, please do feel free to make donation to support my work, which is almost entirely dependent on the generosity of benefactors — like you!

With thanks for your support as ever,

Andy Worthington
London
October 11, 2018

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, 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 (click on the following for Amazon in the US and the UK) 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new 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. Since August 2018 he has been 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.

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.

Guantánamo Judge Bans So-Called “Clean Team” Evidence in 9/11 Trial, Then Resigns

Col. James Pohl, the 9/11 trial judge, who has just announced his resignation, and the five Guantanamo prisoners (and former CIA "black site" prisoners) accused of involved in the 9/11 attacks.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.

 

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.

Last Friday, August 17, a ruling of potentially huge significance took place at Guantánamo in pre-trial hearings for the proposed trial by military commission of the five men accused of involvement in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, who include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. All five men have been held at Guantánamo since September 2006, and, before that, were held and tortured in CIA “black sites” for up to three and a half years. 

Yesterday, just ten days later, the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, 67, who has been the judge on the case since the men were arraigned in May 2012, announced that he will retire on September 30 and named Marine Col. Keith A. Parrella, 44, to replace him. Giving notice of his intention, he stated, “I will leave active duty after 38 years. To be clear, this was my decision and not impacted by any outside influence from any source.”

Astonishingly, it is ten and half years since the US government first filed charges against the five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in the military commission trial system, which had been ill-advisedly dragged from the history books by Dick Cheney and his lawyer David Addington in November 2001, but had been ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June 2006, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. The commissions were subsequently revived with Congressional backing, but struggled to establish any legitimacy throughout the rest of Bush’s presidency. Read the rest of this entry »

Abdul Latif Nasser’s Story: Imagine Being Told You Were Leaving Guantánamo, But Then Donald Trump Became President

A recent photo of Guantanamo prisoner Abdul Latif Nasser, as taken by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and made available to his family.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.

 

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.

“Close Guantánamo” has recently been on vacation, a short break punctured only by the latest episode in our ongoing photo campaign — 6,050 days of the prison’s existence, on August 4, and photos marking this latest bleak anniversary, featuring opponents of the prison’s continued existence.

Donald Trump doesn’t care, of course. While the president who set up Guantánamo (George W. Bush) eventually conceded it had been a mistake, and while his successor (Barack Obama) said he would close it but didn’t, Trump is an enthusiast for keeping it open, seems to care nothing about the law, would reintroduce torture and send new prisoners to Guantánamo if he could, and clearly has no intention of releasing anyone from the prison at all, even though five of the 40 men still held were approved for release by high-level government review processes under President Obama.

Three of the five had their release approved by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that Obama set up shortly after first taking office in 2009 to advise him on what to do with the 240 men he had inherited from George W. Bush (he was recommended to release 156 men, to try 36 and to continue to hold 48 without charge or trial), and two had their release approved by the Periodic Review Boards that subsequently reviewed the cases of 64 prisoners from the latter two categories from 2013 to 2016 on a parole-type basis. Read the rest of this entry »

Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Nomination, Has a Dangerous Track Record of Defending Guantánamo and Unfettered Executive Power

Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump and a close-up of Guantanamo prisoners photographed on the day the prison opened, January 11, 2002. The photo on the left is an edit of a photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images.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.

 

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.

Disgraceful though Donald Trump’s presidency is, it will at least be over at some point in the imaginable future, with the potential that his most outrageous policy changes, enacted in legislation by a Republican majority in Congress, can be reversed should Congress end up with a Democratic majority instead.

When it comes to interpreting the law, however, his impact will last for decades, through his nominations to the nation’s District Courts, appeals courts (the Circuit Courts), and, most crucially, the Supreme Court.

Shamefully, although Barack Obama successfully nominated two of the Supreme Court’s nine justices during his eight years in office (Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan), Congress — where Republicans had a majority, as they did throughout most of Obama’s presidency — refused to consider his third nomination, Merrick Garland, nominated in March 2016. Garland’s appointment would have given Democratic appointees a majority on the Supreme Court for the first time since 1970, but Garland’s nomination expired in January 2017, when Obama left office, and when Donald Trump took over he wasted no time in nominating Neil Gorsuch instead, a dangerous right-winger whose nomination was subsequently approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Read the rest of this entry »

Today Marks 6,000 Days of Guantánamo: Rights Groups, Concerned Citizens and Former Prisoner Shaker Aamer Urge Donald Trump to Close It

Former Guantanamo prisoner Shaker Aamer urges Donald Trump to close Guantanamo on June 15, 2018, the 6,000th day of the prison's existence.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.

 

Please join us in urging Donald Trump to close Guantánamo. Take a photo with a 6,000 days poster, either by printing it, or on a tablet or even on your phone, and send it to us to post on the Close Guantánamo website — or post it on Facebook and tag us, joining former prisoner Shaker Aamer, pictured here (click on the image to enlarge it), who says:

“Tell Donald Trump:
As long as Guantánamo is open, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is committing injustice, America will never be great again.
And as long as America has military posts all over the world, America will never be great again.
And as long as America is supporting and helping dictators all over the world, America will never be great again.”

Today, June 15, 2018, is a depressing milestone in the long history of U.S. detention at Guantánamo Bay. Today the Guantánamo prison, set up after the 9/11 attacks, has been open for 6,000 days.

Most of the men held at Guantánamo over the last 6,000 days (16 years, five months and four days) have been held without charge or trial, in defiance of international laws and treaties governing the treatment of prisoners. There are only two acceptable ways to deprive an individual of their liberty: either as a criminal suspect, to be tried in a federal court; or as a prisoner of war, held unmolested until the end of hostilities. The men at Guantánamo are neither. Instead, after 9/11, the Bush administration conceived of a novel category of prisoner — one without any rights whatsoever — and implemented this at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Ten Years Since the Supreme Court Granted Habeas Corpus Rights to the Guantánamo Prisoners, a Legal Triumph Until a Lower Court Took Them Away

Protestors with Witness Against Torture outside the Supreme Court calling for the closure of Guantanamo on Jan. 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the prison's opening (Photo: Andy Worthington).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.

 

Exactly ten years ago, I was briefly working for the human rights organization Reprieve, when a wonderful ruling came out of the US Supreme Court. In Boumediene v. Bush, the Court held that efforts by Congress to quash the habeas corpus rights that they had granted the prisoners in 2004, in Rasul v. Bush, had been unconstitutional, and asserted that the prisoners had constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights.

We were overjoyed with the result, and for good reason. Although the Rasul ruling had allowed lawyers into Guantánamo, a derisory response by the Bush administration — the Combatant Status Review Tribunals, administrative military reviews designed to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ blanket designation, on capture, as “enemy combatants” — and Congress’s obstructions, via the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, and the Military Commissions Act of 2006, had prevented habeas cases from proceeding to the courts, as I explained at the time in my article, The Supreme Court’s Guantánamo ruling: what does it mean?

In the ruling, Justice Anthony Kennedy, delivering the Court’s majority opinion, ruled that the “procedures for review of the detainees’ status” in the DTA “are not an adequate and effective substitute for habeas corpus,” and that therefore the habeas-stripping component of the MCA “operates as an unconstitutional suspension of the writ.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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.
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