Guantánamo, Ten Years Later

Torture then, now, and in the future?
February 4, 2012
protesters in orange jumpsuits parade in front of whitehouse blanketed in snow.
The Awesome Authorities of the Secret Service
March 5, 2012

January 12, 2012, was the tenth anniversary of the Guantánamo Bay prison. In “honor” of this event, Truthdig interviewed Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files and co-director of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo.” He updated the various aspects of the prison’s history, pointing out that the US government is no closer to closing than it was five years ago.

In fact, it’s worse than it was five years ago. President Bush was pretty much free to come up with diplomatic arrangements with various countries to release prisoners. It was a pretty straightforward process once they made their decisions they didn’t want to hold people. It’s become incredibly complicated under President Obama… He first of all said: “Here’s an executive order, We’re going to close Guantánamo in a year.” And then he didn’t do anything.

According to Ramzi Kassem, counsel for the Guantánamo prison, of the 171 prisoners still there 89 are eligible for release. There are problems, however. As Mr. Worthington states,

(The simple answer is that about a third of them have no home that they can safely be returned to. Some of them, like the guys from China, are people from countries where it’s not safe for them to return, where they face the risk of torture. There may be a handful of those who have been cleared who are from countries where the Congressional restrictions apply. Part of the problem is that the United States, at every level of government, has refused to allow prisoners who can’t be returned home to live in the United States. The other problem is that the other two-thirds of the prisoners are Yemeni, and both President Obama and Congress have acted to stop Yemenis from being released.

But the crux of the problem, in my view, is the lack of the mainstream media’s marked lack of investigative journalism on the problem. Rather, they low ball the situation:

(Interviewer): While researching for this interview, I found an article that you co-authored with New York Times reporter Carlotta Gall. This then led me to an editor’s note released by the Times after they published the article, which said, in part, “The editors were not aware of Mr. Worthington’s outspoken position on Guantanamo. They should have described his contribution to the reporting instead of listing him as co-author, and noted that he had a point of view.” Have you ever talked to anyone about this incident? (Worthington): I once mentioned it to a whole load of veteran investigative journalists in the UK, who said, “Okay, well, it’s really of a badge of honor to be kind of spurned that way by the mainstream.” Now, clearly, The New York Times checked out who I was before they published it. And then, that afternoon – so, just a few hours after it came out – somebody got onto them, and I can only presume that it was from the Pentagon or somewhere in the Bush administration, saying, “We need you to pull this guy.” So, instead of saying, “Maybe he has a point of view because he’s done a lot of research and his conclusions were based on his research,” they caved and apologized for giving me a byline.

Obviously, until a very bright light is shined steadily on this egregious behavior by our government, and our media not be intimidated by the government’s bullying tactics, the prisoners will languish in limbo, possibly for the rest of their lives.