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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 1/12/10

Happy 8th Birthday, Gitmo: an interview with watchdog Andy Worthington

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An interview with Gitmo watchdog Andy Worthington on the Eighth Anniversary of the Prison's Opening

The following interview, with Andy Worthington, author of The Guanta'namo Files< http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guantanamo-files/>, was conducted by email.

Elizabeth Ferrari: Andy, last week was a terrible week for lies and misinformation regarding Guanta'namo, particularly concerning the Yemeni prisoners and a Pentagon statement alleging that 1 in 5 released prisoners had engaged in terrorist activities. You wrote a number of articles about these topics (see here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/07/guantanamo-and-yemen-obama-capitulates-to-critics-and-suspends-prisoner-transfers/>, here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/08/yemenis-in-guantanamo-are-victims-of-hysteria/> and here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/08/guantanamo-recidivism-mainstream-media-parrot-pentagon-propaganda-again/>), and also discussed them on Democracy Now!< http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/8/after_years_in_guantanamo_prison_without> on Friday, and I was hoping in this interview to follow up on some of these stories.

As you mentioned, the Pentagon is still putting out misleading reports that inflate the numbers of released detainees who "return to the battlefield." The last one I read was even released by the same spokesman, Geoff Morrell, who did this under Bush and in the same dodgy language. This false report does undercut President Obama's project to close Guantanamo.

The right wing will go on and make their ridiculous claims, but more concerning is watching the Pentagon produce these reports at politically sensitive moments for Obama, and also for detainees who have been held without charge for years and years.

For those who missed your interview and your articles, could you run down how the Pentagon puts out these alarming reports and how Seton Hall and others have researched and refuted those claims?

Andy Worthington: Sure. The Pentagon has an alarming habit of releasing reports about alleged recidivists -- prisoners who have apparently "returned to the battlefield" -- at suspicious times. A claim about 61 recidivists, for example, was touted at a Pentagon press conference<http://www.defense.gov/transcripts/transcript.aspx?transcriptid=4340> just a week before President Obama took office last year, and researchers from the Seton Hall Law School, who have been studying these claims assiduously, issued a wonderful report in response (PDF<http://law.shu.edu/publications/guantanamoReports/propaganda_numbers_11509.pdf>), in which, along with copious amounts of research, they noted that this was "the 43rd attempt to enumerate the number of detainees who have returned to the battlefield" and that "In each of its forty-three attempts to provide the numbers of the recidivist detainees, the Department of Defense has given different sets of numbers that are contradictory and internally inconsistent with the Department's own data."

Last May, the New York Times<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/06/06/new-york-times-finally-apologizes-for-false-guantanamo-recidivism-story/> got in trouble when it published a front-page story based on another conveniently issued report, which claimed that 1 in 7 released prisoners -- 74 in total -- had returned to the battlefield. The problem was that the Pentagon had only provided names and "confirmation" for 27 of the 74 prisoners cited in the report, so that it was impossible to check any information about the other 47, and a week later, as I explained in my recent article:

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Elizabeth Ferrari is a San Francisco author and activist.
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