Yesterday, I made my way to a TV studio opposite the Houses of Parliament to take part in an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! — my first since last April, when the classified military files released by WikiLeaks, on which I worked as a media partner, were first published.
I was joined by Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney of the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative at the Center for Constitutional Rights, and I was delighted that the story was the main feature on yesterday’s show, and that so much time was devoted to it, and to analyzing the sweeping failures, across the entire US administration, that have led to a situation in which, although 87 of the remaining 169 prisoners have been cleared for release, only two prisoners have been freed in the last 18 months, and there are no signs of when — if ever — any of these 87 men will be released.
The interview, like my interview with RT on Monday, was scheduled last week, following the publication of my report, Guantánamo Scandal: The 40 Prisoners Still Held But Cleared for Release At Least Five Years Ago, but it assumed alarming new significance on Monday, when the Supreme Court refused to consider any of the appeals that had been submitted over the last year by seven of the 169 remaining prisoners in Guantánamo. It’s posted below, via YouTube:
My report highlighted the failures of the administration and Congress, pointing out that, of the 87 prisoners cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, but still held, shamefully, 40 were cleared at least five years ago, and some as long ago as 2004.
However, the Supreme Court’s failure to take up the Guantánamo prisoners’ appeals, which were dismissed without any further explanation, added to the prisoners’ woes, confirming that they have been abandoned by every branch of the US government.
Ironically, the Supreme Court’s decision to ignore the prisoners’ pleas came the day before the 4th anniversary of Boumediene v. Bush, when the Supreme Court — with the important contributions provided by Justice John Paul Stevens, who retired two years ago — granted the prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, paving the way for a number of successful hearings between October 2008 and July 2010 that led to the release of 28 prisoners.
For the last two years, however, no prisoners have had their habeas petitions granted, as the right-wing judges of the D.C. Circuit Court have intervened to prevent any prisoners from being released by demanding that the shockingly unreliable evidence put forward by the government — which the District Court judges had been challenging in an appropriate manner — should be regarded as accurate.
In discussing the distressing situation at Guantánamo — and in the corridors of power in the US — I was pleased to be asked by Amy about the case of Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, cleared by a military review board under President Bush in December 2006, and almost certainly cleared by Obama’s Task Force, who was also, effectively, cleared for release for a third time by the US courts when his habeas corpus petition was granted in July 2010. That ruling, however, was overturned by the D.C. Circuit Court last October, in a ruling in which two of the three judges demanded that intelligence reports produced in the field — in haste and under pressure, and never intended to be sober and considered assessments — should be given the presumption of accuracy, prompting serious dissent from the third judge, David Tatel. Of all the appeals turned down by the Supreme Court, this is the one that most alarmingly demonstrates the Supreme Court’s abdication of its responsibilities.
Allowing these rulings to stand puts the Supreme Court in the disturbing position of disowning Boumediene, and handing victory to the D.C. Circuit Court, led by Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who has been openly scornful of Boumediene and of the Supreme Court, and who, under George W. Bush, endorsed every outrageous stance on Guantánamo that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court.
That is self-evidently regressive — and, added to President Obama’s complete paralysis regarding the need to close Guantánamo, as he promised, and the cynical, fearmongering obstruction erected by Congress, which has acted to block every effort to release prisoners and to close the prison — it leaves us in a bleak place indeed.
I can only hope that the recognition of how terrible the current situation is will grow as the months pass and we approach the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, in January 2013, so that the pressure will build to get the prison closed, rather than allowing this disgrace to continue indefinitely.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.