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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Like a Wheedling Abuser, the US Makes Groundless Promises in Julian Assange’s Extradition Appeal

Campaigners in support of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange outside the High Court in London on October 28, 2021, the second day of the US government’s appeal against a ruling by a judge in January, preventing Assange’s extradition on mental health grounds (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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In January this year, when a British judge refused to allow Julian Assange’s extradition to the US, to face espionage charges — and a potential 175-year sentence — for the work of WikiLeaks in helping to expose US war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the groundless basis of most of the US’s supposed reasons for holding men indefinitely without charge or trial at Guantánamo, the US government should have backed down and allowed him to be freed to be reunited with his family.

Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s ruling, sadly, avoided the heart of the case — whether publishing damaging material in the public interest is a crime (which it isn’t, and mustn’t be allowed to be, if freedom of the press is to mean anything) — but homed in unerringly on the considered opinion of a psychiatrist that, if transferred to a maximum-security prison in the US, awaiting trial, Assange, because of his mental health issues, would take his own life.

The ruling was a valid condemnation both of the brutality of the US prison system in general, and of its particular unsuitability for those with mental health issues, and it was a vivid reminder that, back in October 2012, Theresa May, when she was home secretary, had refused to allow the extradition to the US of Gary McKinnon, a hacker with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, on the very same basis, and that the extradition of Lauri Love, another hacker with Asperger’s, had been refused by two High Court judges in February 2018.

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A Call to Free Julian Assange on the 10th Anniversary of WikiLeaks’ Release of the Guantánamo Files

A composite image of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, in British custody, and the logo for “The Guantánamo Files,” released ten years ago today.

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Ten years ago today, I was working with WikiLeaks as a media partner — working with the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, El Pais, Aftonbladet, La Repubblica and L’Espresso — on the release of “The Guantánamo Files,” classified military documents from Guantánamo that were the last of the major leaks of classified US government documents by Chelsea Manning, following the releases in 2010 of the “Collateral Murder” video, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, and the Cablegate releases.

All the journalists and publishers involved are at liberty to continue their work — and even Chelsea Manning, given a 35-year sentence after a trial in 2013, was freed after President Obama commuted her sentence just before leaving office — and yet Julian Assange remains imprisoned in HMP Belmarsh, a maximum-security prison in south east London, even though, in January, Judge Vanessa Baraitser, the British judge presiding over hearings regarding his proposed extradition to the US, prevented his extradition on the basis that, given the state of his mental health, and the oppressive brutality of US supermax prisons, the US would be unable to prevent him committing suicide if he were to be extradited.

That ought to have been the end of the story, but instead of being freed to be reunited with his partner Stella Moris, and his two young sons, Judge Baraitser refused to grant him bail, and the US refused to drop their extradition request, announcing that they would appeal, and continuing to do so despite Joe Biden being inaugurated as president. This is a black mark against Biden, whose administration should have concluded, as the Obama administration did (when he was Vice President), that it was impossible to prosecute Assange without fatally undermining press freedom. As Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation stated in April 2019, “Despite Barack Obama’s extremely disappointing record on press freedom, his justice department ultimately ended up making the right call when they decided that it was too dangerous to prosecute WikiLeaks without putting news organizations such as the New York Times and the Guardian at risk.”

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Video: The War on Journalism – The Case of Julian Assange

The poster for ‘The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange’, directed by Juan Passarelli, and released in August 2020, and a screenshot of Andy Worthington, one of the WikiLeaks experts interviewed for the film.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration. If you can help, please click on the button below to donate via PayPal.





 

In a prison cell in HMP Belmarsh, in south east London, which is supposedly reserved for the most violent convicted criminals in the UK, Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks and a non-violent individual who has not been convicted of a crime, awaits a ruling regarding his proposed extradition to the United States, to face disgracefully inappropriate espionage charges related to his work as a publisher of classified US documents that were leaked by US soldier Chelsea Manning.

The first stage of hearings regarding Julian’s extradition took place in February, and were supposed to continue in May, but were derailed by the arrival of Covid-19. In February, I had submitted as evidence a statement in support of Julian, based on having worked with him as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011. I expected to be questioned about my evidence in May, but, in the end, it wasn’t until September that the hearings resumed.

To coincide with the resumption of the hearings, a 38-minute film was released, “The War on Journalism: The Case of Julian Assange,” directed by filmmaker Juan Passarelli, for which I was interviewed, in the esteemed company of of John Pilger, UN torture rapporteur Nils Melzer, lawyers Jennifer Robinson and Renata Avila, Julian’s wife Stella Moris, journalists Barton Gellman, Margaret Sullivan, Iain Overton, Max Blumenthal and Matt Kennard, WikiLeaks’ editor in chief Kristin Hrafnsson, and Conservative MP David Davies.

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Radio: I Talk to Scott Horton About the Injustice of Julian Assange’s Extradition Case and the Importance of the Leaked Guantánamo Files

A supporter of Julian Assange outside the Old Bailey in London on October 1, 2020, the last day of his extradition hearing. The balloons were part of an initiative celebrating the 14th anniversary of the founding of WikiLeaks, on October 4.

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 week, during the fourth and last week of hearings regarding the proposed extradition to the US of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, two statements I made in his defence (via the tireless Gareth Pierce and her colleagues) were read into the evidence at the Old Bailey in London. The two statements were subsequently made available by Antiwar.com — the first, from February, is here, and the second, made last week, is here. A decision on the extradition case is expected to be delivered by Judge Vanessa Baraitser on January 4, 2021.

It took a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing in court to get my statements accepted, and for some time efforts were made to get me to testify in person, and to be cross-examined by the prosecutor, but — perhaps mercifully — the latter course of action didn’t eventually transpire, as the prosecutor, James Lewis, had, throughout the hearings, maintained “very systematic techniques of denigrating and browbeating” expert witnesses, according to the human rights activist (and former Ambassador) Craig Murray, who attended the hearings for the whole month.

My statements related to my work with WikiLeaks as a media partner on the release of classified military files from Guantánamo in 2011, in which I noted how much of the supposed evidence used to justify imprisonment at Guantanamo was, as I described it in my first statement, information extracted from “the Guantánamo prisoners’ fellow prisoners who had been subjected to torture or other forms of coercion either in Guantánamo or in secret prisons run by the CIA”, or information which was equally “unreliable because fellow prisoners had provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.”

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“The Use of Power and Ideology in Guantánamo”: New Academic Paper Focuses On My Book “The Guantánamo Files”

The cover of Andy Worthington’s 2007 book “The Guantánamo Files.”

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Imagine my surprise last week when a post popped up on Facebook, which I was tagged in, that read, “The Use of Power and Ideology in Guantánamo: A Critical Discourse Analysis of Andy Worthington’s The Guantánamo Files.”

Clicking through, I found that it was an entire academic article focusing on my 2007 book The Guantánamo Files, published in the latest issue (June 2020) of the European Journal of English Language and Literature Studies, a publication by EA Journals (European-American Journals), part of the UK-based European Centre for Research Training and Development, which is “an independent organisation run by scholars mainly in the UK, USA, and Canada.”

Written and supported by students and supervisors at GC University, in Faisalabad, Pakistan, the abstract explains that “[t]he research deals with the use of power and ideology in Andy Worthington’s The Guantánamo Files (2007) as the narratives (generally called Gitmo narratives) of the detainees show the betrayal of American ideals, [the] US constitution and international laws about human rights. Since its inception, Guantánamo Bay Camp is an icon of American military power, hegemony and legal exceptionalism in the ‘Global War on Terror.’”

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Supporting Whistleblower Chelsea Manning, Imprisoned for Refusing to Testify in Grand Jury Case Against WikiLeaks

Chelsea Manning, in a photo from a fashion shoot for Dazed on February 12, 2019, just 24 days before she was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks.

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.

It’s three weeks since Chelsea Manning was imprisoned for refusing to testify in a Grand Jury case against WikiLeaks, and I wanted to make sure that I expressed my solidarity with her, as, without her contributions to breaking through the US government’s deliberate secrecy surrounding the prisoners held at Guantánamo, we would know far less than we do about how weak so much of the so-called evidence is that has been used to defend the imprisonment without charge or trial of the men — and boys — held at Guantánamo without charge or trial since the disgraceful prison opened in January 2002.

It was while working as an intelligence analyst for the US Army in Iraq, in 2009, that Manning leaked to WikiLeaks nearly 750,000 classified — or unclassified but sensitive — US military and diplomatic documents, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring footage of a US Army helicopter gunning down a group of unarmed civilians in Iraq, including two Reuters journalists, the Afghan and Iraq war logs, a vast number of US diplomatic cables from around the world, and the classified military files from Guantánamo.

I worked as a media partner with WikiLeaks on the release of these documents in April 2011, and as I stated in an article in January 2017, when President Obama commuted the 35-year sentence that Manning had received after her court-martial in 2013:

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Life After Guantánamo: In Morocco, Younous Chekkouri’s Struggle to Rebuild His Life

Younous Chekkouri, photographed by Sudarshan Raghavan for the Washington Post.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.





 

Regular readers will know that I have been following the stories of the prisoners held at Guantánamo for over 12 years, first through the 14 months’ research and writing I did for my book The Guantánamo Files (which, I just found out, I completed exactly eleven years ago today!), and then through the nearly 2,200 articles I have written about Guantánamo over the last eleven years.

One story that leapt out at me while researching The Guantánamo Files was that of Younous Chekkouri (aka Younus Chekhouri), a Moroccan national who, as I discovered through the transcript of a cursory military review of his case, “strenuously denied having had anything to do with Osama bin Laden or al-Qaeda, whose philosophy he despised” (as I described it in an article in 2016, drawing on an interview with him in February 2016, after his release from Guantánamo in September 2015, that was published by the Associated Press).

The cursory military review was a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT), of which hundreds were conducted in 2004 before a tribunal of military officers who were meant to rubber-stamp the prisoners’ designation, on capture, as “enemy combatants’ who could be detained indefinitely without charge or trial. Read the rest of this entry »

For Christmas, Buy My Books on the UK Counter-Culture and Guantánamo and My Music with The Four Fathers

Andy Worthington's band The Four Fathers play Brockley Christmas Market on December 12, 2015 (Photo: Ruth Gilburt).If anyone out there hasn’t yet completed their Christmas shopping and would like to buy any of my work, I’m delighted to let you know that all three of my books — about Guantánamo and the UK counter-culture — are still available, as is the album “Love and War,” recorded with my band The Four Fathers and released just a few months ago.

From me you can buy my first two books, Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield.

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion is a social history of Stonehenge, interweaving the stories of the outsiders drawn to Stonehenge, primarily over the last hundred years — Druids, other pagans, revellers, festival-goers, anarchists, new travellers and environmental activists — with the monument’s archeological history, and also featuring nearly 150 photos. If you’re buying this from me from anywhere other than the UK, please see this page.  You can also buy it from Amazon in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

Life After Guantánamo: Attorney Tells the Story of a Father and Son Freed, But Separated By 1,850 Miles

Former Guantanamo prisoner Muhammed Khantumani is one of the four boys in this photo, taken many years before his eight-year ordeal in Guantanamo. The photo is a screenshot from an interview on Democracy Now with his lawyer, Pardiss Kebriaei of the Center for Constitutional Rights.Back in 2006, when I began working full-time on Guantánamo, researching the stories of the men held there for my book The Guantánamo Files, which was published in September 2007, the main research I undertook involved a detailed analysis of 8,000 pages of documents relating to the prisoners that had been released in 2006 as a result of freedom of information submissions and federal lawsuits submitted by the Associated Press.

The documents consisted primarily of unclassified allegations against the prisoners and transcripts of various review processes — the Combatant Status Review Tribunals (CSRTs) and Administrative Review Boards (ARBs) — that had been conducted from 2004 onwards, purportedly to establish the status of the prisoners, although these processes were so one-sided and what passed for evidence was generally so poor that, as the AP put it, all the transcripts generally revealed about the prisoners was “the often vague reasons the United States used for locking them up.”

Also included in the releases by the Pentagon were the first ever lists of the prisoners that had been made public, and, although all the files released required significant cross-referencing to create a coherent account of all the prisoners held at Guantánamo, past and present, I was able, over a period of 14 months, to do just that, producing the first — and still the only — comprehensive account of all the prisoners who, in such a cavalier and unsubstantiated manner, had been described by the Bush administration as “the worst of the worst.”

The overwhelming majority of the men held — I would say as many as 97 percent of the 779 men held throughout Guantánamo’s history (of whom 116 remain) — had no involvement with terrorism, and were either humble foot soldiers for the Taliban or civilians unlucky enough to be in the wrong time and the wrong place while the US was handing out substantial bounty payments to its Afghan and Pakistani allies for anyone who could be packaged up as being involved with al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban. 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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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