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Video: Close Guantánamo – Andy Worthington, Tom Wilner and Col. Morris Davis Lay into President Obama at the New America Foundation

Andy Worthington

January 16, 2013

On Friday, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, myself and the attorney Tom Wilner, the steering committee of the "Close Guantánamo" campaign, held our annual reunion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. with Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions, who resigned in 2007, the day after he was placed in a chain of command under William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s senior lawyer and one of the Bush administration officials most involved in developing the administration’s notorious torture program.

For three years now, we have gathered on the anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise to close the prison that he made on taking office in January 2009.

This year our call was more passionate, intense, and driven by righteous indignation than ever before.

I’m very pleased to report that the event, "America’s indefinitely detained," was broadcast by C-SPAN, so that it could reach as wide an audience as possible (and will remain available on C-SPAN’s website), and also that it was made available on YouTube, via the New America Foundation’s YouTube page. I have posted it below, and I do hope that, if you have an hour and half to spare, you will be able to watch the event.

The three us provided a detailed explanation of the particular horrors of Guantánamo today: the outrageous and completely unjustifiable detention of 86 prisoners (out of 166 in total), who were cleared for release by an interagency Task Force created by President Obama in 2009, and the outrageous and completely unjustifiable detention of 46 others, who were designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial in an executive order issued by President Obama two years ago. And hovering above these specific categories of failure, of course, is the failure of the President to fulfill his promise to close the prison in its entirety.

Although there have been significant obstacles raised by Congress, and the courts have also contributed to the problems, the ultimate responsibility for these failures lies with President Obama. To prevent him being regarded as a President defined by cowardice and laziness, who failed to fulfill his promise to shut down this monstrous prison because it was politically inconvenient, he needs to take the fight back to Congress, and to make the case that indefinitely holding men cleared for release is an affront to all notions of justice, and must be brought to an end. The clock is now ticking on his legacy, and if he fails to act the history books will show no sympathy for his lack of leadership on this issue.

This means overturning the ban on releasing any cleared Yemenis, which he himself put in place after the failed underwear bomb plot in 2009, and resuming the search for new homes — including in the US, if necessary — for other cleared prisoners who cannot be safely repatriated. Two-thirds of those cleared are Yemenis, so lifting the ban needs urgent attention, especially as one cleared Yemeni, Adnan Latif, died at Guantánamo last September.

Crucially, there must be no further excuses that it is acceptable to hold people, possibly forever, for being Yemeni, as though all Yemenis constitute a serious security threat, when Obama’s own Task Force of sober and serious government officials — including representatives of the intelligence agencies — concluded in 2009 that they do not constitute a serious security threat.

So twisted is the current situation that the word Kafkaesque fails even to do justice to it. Fair trials for the 30 or so prisoners designated for trials need to proceed, and a thorough and objective review of the cases of the 46 men officially designated for indefinite detention also needs to take place, for which we at "Close Guantánamo" — Tom and I — are both willing and able to meet with government officials to discuss the fundamental problems with the supposed evidence.

Immediately, however, something positive needs to happen, and that must be the release of cleared prisoners, some of whom — beginning with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison — can be freed immediately.

Note: After this event, the speakers traveled to the Supreme Court for a rally and march to the White House. See here for my photos, and see here for the video of my 4-minute speech outside the White House.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, "The Complete Guantánamo Files," a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new "Close Guantánamo campaign," and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donatio


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