February 2010 Newsletter
In this issue:
- Guantánamo Closure in an Election Year
- Grassroots Report: North Carolina Stop Torture Now releases "Scorecard on Torture"; Witness Against Torture holds 12-day vigil and fast for justice in Washington, DC
- What You Can Do; New Resources: Expanded video section features two former Guantánamo Bay guards; journalist Andy Worthington releases "Bagram: The Annotated Prisoner List" and catalogues four years of his blogs that have brought Guantánamo prisoners to life.
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Guantánamo Closure in an Election Year
Some politicians exploit public fears and divisions and distort facts. In an election year, those tactics can shift into overdrive, as we are seeing now, with Republicans in Congress fighting the following Obama administration plans for closing Guantanamo Bay prison:
- New York City as the site for the trials of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and his alleged co-conspirators
- Civilian trials for KSM and Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab
- The Obama administration's plan to move prisoners to U.S. prisons
- The allocation of funds for closing Guantánamo Bay prison.
But you and your peers spend far more time in your community than politicians do. You and a few friends equipped with key facts and true stories about current detainees can discredit the politically motivated talking points that may be confusing your neighbors.
Here are a few points you may use in your conversations with friends, local civic groups and religious bodies, on radio talk shows, or in opinion editorials and letters to the editor of your local newspaper. Please send us your own arguments for future issues, write a blog for our website
, or post your thoughts and links on our Facebook page
Regarding civilian trials—in New York City or elsewhere--and their cost and safety, here are some remarks made by Federal District Judge John C. Coughenour, who tried the case of Ahmed Ressam, the so-called “Millennium Bomber,” in Los Angeles. Ressam’s target had been the Los Angeles airport.
People express concern about how these cases can be tried in federal court in the United States, and they are apparently unaware of the fact that there have been about 195 such trials in the United States in the last seven or eight years. There hasn’t been a single … security incident regarding any of those trials.
Judge Coughenour also was startled by security cost estimates in the range of a billion dollars to try KSM and four co-conspirators. He said:
There was virtually no expenditure of funds by the local police in Los Angeles regarding the Ressam trial, and the marshalls tell me that their expenses could be measured in the thousands of dollars…. The LA police department did virtually nothing to enhance security surrounding the courthouse in Los Angeles, and we had no problems regarding the trial.
Regarding moving prisoners to the U.S. mainland, Judge Coughenour said:
People are so concerned about housing terrorists in the United States, they apparently are unaware of the fact that there are … hundreds of so-called terrorists that are being housed in federal prisons in the United States today. And there has never been a … security-related incident regarding any of those prisoners in the United States.
Finally, in response to Congress members’ unwillingness to allocate funds for closing Guantánamo Bay prison,
you can cite former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s report in 2005
that the Guantánamo facility cost roughly $100 million to construct and upgrade and $95 million a year to operate.
Much more important, however, is the prison’s cost in U.S. soldiers’ lives. According to Matthew Alexander (pseudonym), a former military interrogator in Iraq, in a video response
to statements made by former vice president Dick Cheney, “Torture and abuse” at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib have motivated thousands of suicide bombers, and “literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives in Iraq.”
February 1, North Carolina Stop Torture Now (NCSTN) releases “Scorecard on Torture.”
On February 1, NCSTN held a press conference in Raleigh to release its Scorecard on Torture: The Obama Administration’s First Year
(PDF). Since 2005, NCSTN, NMG’s North Carolina affiliate, has exposed and worked to end so-called “rendition” flights, or torture flights, originating from the Johnston County, NC, headquarters of Aero Contractors. The corporation's pilots transported German kidnap victim Khaled el-Masri and are also linked to the kidnapping of UK national Binyam Mohamed as well as transporting many prisoners to Guantánamo Bay. The press conference coincided with the Center for Constitutional Rights’ announcement
that they are appealing Canadian rendition victim Maher Arar’s complaint against former Attorney General John Ashcroft to the Supreme Court.
NCSTN is advocating for Guantánamo prisoner Saifullah Paracha
of Pakistan. While he was on a business trip in Thailand, the CIA kidnapped him using a plane operated by Aero Contractors and transported him to Bagram prison. After more than a year there, he was transferred to Guantánamo Bay, where he remains. Last November, NCSTN held a public forum and fundraiser in Raleigh to offset expenses incurred by the NC-based habeas team of NCSTN's second detainee, Sharifullah. One month later, the Obama administration returned Sharifullah to Afghanistan.
January 11-22, Witness Against Torture Daily Vigil and Fast for Justice, Washington, DC. In January, activists, attorneys and former prisoners around the world gathered to observe a period they had once hoped to mark with celebrations: the 12 days from the Guantánamo prison’s eighth anniversary (Jan. 11th) through President Obama’s self-imposed deadline for closing the prison within one year (Jan. 22nd). Around the country, local groups marked those dates with vigils, documentary film showings, and the publication of opinion editorials and letters in newspapers.
The largest and most visible program took place in Washington, DC, organized by Witness Against Torture
(WAT) with support from the Center for Constitutional Rights
(CCR), No More Guantánamos
, The World Can’t Wait
, and many other local, regional and national organizations nationwide. More than 150 people, including several members of NMG’s Pioneer Valley chapter, joined in the 12-day fast and converged on the nation’s capitol to participate in WAT’s multifaceted program.
On January 11th, prisoners’ habeas counsel joined fasters in orange jumpsuits and organizers for a moving demonstration in front of the White House, followed by a packed news briefing at the National Press Club organized by CCR. Former Guantánamo detainees Omar Deghayes and Lakhtar Boumediene joined (via videoconference and audio conference, respectively) panelists Vincent Warren, CCR’s executive director; Pardiss Kebriaei, staff attorney with CCR’s Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative; Frida Berrigan of WAT; and Stacy Sullivan of Human Rights Watch.
That evening, NMG founder and director Nancy Talanian joined Vincent Warren, Pardiss Kebriaei, and Matthew Daloisio of WAT on a panel moderated by Frida Berrigan at Georgetown University Law Center, followed by a conversation with the audience. Over the next two days, Nancy joined grassroots activists and attorneys on lobby visits to congressional staff, while demonstrators in orange jumpsuits, hands tied behind their backs, wearing prisoners’ names, performed “ghost walks”—taking slow, somber steps through the halls of Congress.
Later vigils targeted John Yoo’s book signing at a Washington, DC, restaurant sponsored by the Federalist Society; the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia; and the Pentagon, Department of Justice, and the Supreme Court, where the vigil focused on allowing cleared detainees into the U.S. On January 21, after Scott Horton’s Harper’s Magazine story
shared new evidence contradicting the Pentagon's conclusion that suicides caused three detainees’ simultaneous deaths in 2006, fasters held a memorial for the three men in the Capitol Rotunda. Forty-two demonstrators were arrested.
What You Can Do; New Resources
Use NMG's Updated Toolkit
Start a local coalition. Use our updated toolkit
with links to new materials you can download. If you already belong to a social justice group that would like to collaborate with NMG, contact us
and choose a detainee to support. There are several Guantánamo detainees and some Bagram detainees your group may choose from.
As you explore the step-by-step toolkit
you will find links to materials you can download, including flyers, a meeting agenda, public forum program, resolutions, opinion editorials, and sample cards and letters your group might send to detainees.
Expanded Videos Section Features Two Former Guantánamo Guards
In our Videos
section, we have added videos featuring two former Guantánamo Bay guards, Christopher Arendt
and Brandon Neely
, who talk about their experiences. Neely recently traveled to the U.K. to meet and personally apologize to two former detainees, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhel Ahmed, whom he previously guarded. Other videos on our website feature habeas counsel speaking about their detainee clients along with footage of some former detainees.
Andy Worthington Releases "Bagram: The Annotated Prisoner List"
For four years, British author and journalist Andy Worthington has done extensive research and writing on Guantánamo Bay prisoners past and present. Following the Pentagon’s recent release of the names of Bagram prisoners, to fulfill the ACLU’s request under the Freedom of Information Act, Worthington produced Bagram: The Annotated Prisoner List
. Worthington calls the list both a ‘work in progress’ and a ‘cooperative project.’ Expanding the annotations is a challenging task, since the Pentagon has listed only names without sharing their country of origin and the dates, locations, or reasons for their capture. Worthington asks his readers to share with him any information they have about the men.
Worthington has also recently updated his "definitive prisoner list" and has catalogued four years of blogs he has written about the prisoners at Guantánamo. NMG recommends Worthington's website
as an excellent source for prisoners' stories and a site for reliable information on all the prisoners. The updated list shows which prisoners have already been released and when, and of those still imprisoned, whether they have been charged or cleared. The list also provides links to more information about the men. Worthington's work deserves your support.
No More Guantánamos
P.O. Box 618
Whately, MA 01093
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