Andy Worthington, author of The Guantanamo Files, discusses Obama’s broken promise to close Gitmo within a year, the enthusiastic U.S. embrace of rendition and torture after 9/11, the extralegal indefinite detention of innocent prisoners, endemic racism that makes torture less objectionable and the dangerous legal precedents established by failing to prosecute Bush administration crimes.
Andy Worthington Discusses Obama’s Failure To Close Guantánamo On Antiwar Radio
Following up on my US tour promoting the new documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself) and my appearance on ABC News, plus the slew of developments in recent weeks regarding Guantánamo — federal court trials for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, Military Commissions for five other prisoners, and President Obama conceding that Guantánamo will not close by his deadline of January 22, 2010 — I was pleased to be invited to talk to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, for what, by my reckoning, is our eleventh interview, available here.
Scott was in a particularly indignant mood, fed up with the spinelessness of the Democrats when confronted by relentless Republican stupidity, and furious about the torture legacy of the Bush administration, and I was happy to run through the pressing issues just now: how the 9/11 trial is the right thing to do, but how the rest of the administration’s plans are a profound disappointment — Military Commissions for prisoners like Omar Khadr, the Canadian who was just 15 when he was seized after a firefight in Afghanistan, against whom the administration is less secure in its evidence, and no trials at all for those against whom the evidence is even weaker or tainted by torture; in other words, those against whom there is, in fact, nothing that resembles evidence, as District Court judges have been discovering in the prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions for the last 13 months.
I was also glad to have the opportunity to mention the case of Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian whose habeas corpus petition was granted last Friday by Judge Gladys Kessler (and was ignored by the mainstream media, with the exception of the Miami Herald). His victory brings to 31 the number of court victories secured by the prisoners (against just eight victories for the government), even though, of course, it means little or nothing, as over a dozen prisoners cleared by the courts are still at Guantánamo, and around 70 more, cleared by the administration’s own interagency Task Force, are also still held, as the administration fishes around for other countries prepared to take them, after failing to accept that it should have pushed to resettle them to the United States if no other country can be found.
There was much more in the half-hour show, as is clear from Scott’s description of it, which I leave as a final piece of bait to encourage you to listen in:
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses Obama’s broken promise to close Gitmo within a year, the enthusiastic US embrace of rendition and torture after 9/11, the extralegal indefinite detention of innocent prisoners, endemic racism that makes torture less objectionable, and the dangerous legal precedents established by failing to prosecute Bush administration crimes.
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009), and copies of the DVD are now available. For excerpts and extras, follow the links on the Spectacle website, and a short trailer is available here.
On ABC News, Andy Worthington Discusses New Film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”
This afternoon (UK time), I traveled to ABC News’ studios in west London for an interview with Rick Klein and David Chalian in Washington D.C. for ABCNews.com’s “Top Line,” to discuss the new Guantánamo documentary, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by Polly Nash and myself) and also to talk about the latest developments at Guantánamo. This was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the film, and I’m delighted that ABC News chose to show a particularly poignant clip from the documentary featuring former prisoner Omar Deghayes talking about how he was told that he and other prisoners would not leave Guantánamo until they were “broken wrecks.”
A video of the interview is available here (it starts a few minutes in):
Rick Klein also posted a blog entry about the film and the interview on “The Note,” described as “Washington’s Original and Most Influential Tipsheet,” under the heading, “’Top Line’ at the Movies: ‘Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,’” which also featured the following account/transcript of part of the interview:
Rick Klein: Worthington said President Obama is sorting through complicated baggage left by the previous administration:
“I think it’s a great thing that the people who are genuinely accused of these terrible atrocities are actually going to face justice in a federal court,” he told us. “I’m slightly less happy that the military commissions have been revived as what appears to be a second-tier justice system for people that the administration perhaps thinks it has less evidence against.”
Worthington, who joined us from London, based his film around extensive interviews with former Guantánamo detainees … Many detainees, he said, are caught in the same legal gray zone they were in under President Bush.
“Every day they wake up wondering when, if ever, they will be released. And this is still the same outcome of what the Bush administration set up, that it decided not to hold people as enemy prisoners of war or as criminals, but as this novel category of human being who really have no rights and can be held indefinitely — which is an extraordinary mental anguish.”
And Worthington said he’s disappointed that President Obama won’t meet his January 2010 deadline for closing Gitmo: “It seems that without some effort to set a new deadline and to put pressure on Congress, they could be languishing in Guantánamo for years. And we could be having this same conversation a year from now.”
A video of the show is also available here.
About “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo”
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a new documentary film, directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington (and inspired by Andy’s book, The Guantánamo Files). The film tells the story of Guantánamo (and includes sections on extraordinary rendition and secret prisons) with a particular focus on how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, how prisoners were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism (as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers, for example).
The film is based around interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes, who was released in December 2007), lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, Shakeel Begg, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (who is still held), Binyam Mohamed (who was released in February 2009) and Omar Deghayes — “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.
“Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” is a Spectacle Production (74 minutes, 2009).
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.