Last Friday, while I was returning from a memorial service for my father in Norfolk, I was obliged to conduct a pre-planned interview with Michael Slate on KPFK Pacifica Radio in Los Angeles in the car park of a service station on a mobile phone that was running out of power.
Fortunately, the battery lasted for about 15 minutes of our planned 20-minute interview, and I was then delighted when Michael got in touch to ask if we could finish the interview as planned, so that the full 20 minutes, and all Michael’s planned questions, could be included in a podcast.
It’s always a pleasure to speak to Michael, whom I last spoke to in January, during my most recent visit to the US, to publicize the plight of the remaining Guantánamo prisoners on the 9th anniversary of the opening of the prison.
In this most recent interview, Michael efficiently encouraged me to run through the story of the classified military documents released by WikiLeaks eleven days ago, explaining what the documents are, and what they reveal — primarily, that “high-value detainees,” tortured in secret CIA prisons, and notorious informants in Guantánamo, coerced or bribed with the promise of better treatment, are responsible for a vast amount of the dubious information in these files that masquerades as evidence; and also that they include the stories of nearly a hundred innocent or thoroughly insignificant prisoners whose stories have never been publicly revealed by the US government, and who are part of 200 innocent or thoroughly insignificant prisoners released in the first two and half years of Guantánamo’s nine-year history.
I also hope to have explained the background to these documents, which is not, of course, revealed in the US military’s assessments, but is apparent from other sources — the extent to which prisoners were bought for substantial bounty payments from their Afghan and Pakistani allies, and the smokescreen created in the documents by claims that prisoners were sent to Guantánamo to be exploited for particular reasons, when, in fact, these reasons were grafted on afterwards, because, as a former interrogator explained many years ago, the military’s top brass issued orders stipulating that every single prisoner who came into US custody had to be sent to Guantánamo, and that no exceptions were allowed.
Amongst the other topics Michael and I discussed were the inclusion in these documents of the first official statements confirming what has been known for many years, but has never been acknowledged by the US government — that many dozens of “ghost prisoners,” including some who eventually ended up in Guantánamo, were rendered to torture prisons in other countries, including Jordan and Egypt, either before, during or after the time that the Bush administration established its own torture program in secret prisons run by the CIA. This program began immediately after the capture of the supposed “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah on March 28, 2002, although it was not approved by Justice Department lawyers until the notorious “torture memos” were issued on August 1, 2002.
In conclusion, Michael asked me what I hoped the release of these documents would lead to in the US — but in an attempt to encourage readers to listen to the show, I’m not going to tell you what I said, and ask you to listen to the interview instead! Michael’s a great host, and I’m confident that it will be worth your while.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.