"Ron DeSantis's blind faith to the military in its worst moments doesn't bode well should he ever claim the title of commander in chief," warns Jasper Craven, "but that is clearly where his ambitions lie." Tom Fleener, a former defense lawyer at Gitmo, told him that "Ron knew where the bodies were buried, so to speak." 

One former detainee recollects that DeSantis was "with a group of the most vile officers that tortured us severely."

Guantánamo Bay prisoners are seemingly caught in a kaleidoscope hell with a two-faced Ron DeSantis gesturing good will on one side, and disgust on the other. Guards stand to attention around them. 

Illustration © Lucile Ourvouai

Survivor Mansoor Adayfi has written a book about his confinement and advocates shuttering the prison. Last year, after catching wind that DeSantis was a rising political star, he tweeted his hope that "Ron doesn't run Florida like he did at Guantánamo." Craven is rightly worried that DeSantis is taking cues from the likes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, "a fellow military veteran and master of doublespeak." The protégé of George W. Bush and other Republican forebears understands the appeal of strength and brutality to voters.

"We call on the US government to do more to prioritize the release of these 20 men," says Andy Worthingtom. "It is unforgivable that three of them (approved for release via the Guantánamo Review Task Force) have been waiting over 13 years (4,767 days) to be freed, and that one other man has been waiting 805 days, since he was approved for release by a Periodic Review Board towards the end of the Trump presidency...

"We are watching, and we will continue to highlight the plight of these men until they... are finally freed.


Wednesday, January 11, 1pm
Where: UC Berkeley Law School, Bancroft Way & College Ave., Berkeley
REGISTER Please: https://www.codepink.org
Meet at 12:45 at Cafe Roma on the corner of College & Bancroft and proceed together at 1pm to the Law School across the street. We have Yoo posters, some orange jumpsuits & hoods,  letter to Yoo, Dean Chermerinsky and the law school students. Picket, speakers, songs for Yoo (come sing!), join letter delivery asking Yoo to contribute to the Guantanamo Survivors' Fund Give to the Guantanamo Survivors Fund | No More Guantanamos.
Host: CodePink. Endorsers (list in formation): Berkeley No More Guantanamos, Progressive Democrats of America Oakland, Triple Justice, Extinction Rebellion Peace.
This action is on the 21st anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay and will highlight Professor John Yoo's complicity in U.S. torture. Yoo provided erroneous legal cover for the U.S. military and CIA to torture captured men, most of whom have never been charged with crimes, yet spent years at Guantanamo where they were treated inhumanely and tortured. There are less than 40 remaining prisoners. Professor Yoo should be prosecuted, not teaching law at our public university. We've invited Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky to speak. In 2014 Chemerinsky, then Dean of UC Irvine Law School, said in "Nation" magazine and in a KPFK interview that Yoo should be prosecuted:  "I think he [John Yoo] should be," Chemerinsky said. "All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future, except by criminal  prosecutions?"


A group of thought leaders and activists on the issue of Guantanamo discuss its dreadful history, how it clashes with America's stated ideals, and the prospects for its closure.

Joining longtime ICUJP member and "Close Guantanamo" event organizer Jon Krampner are the Rev. Ron Stief of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Mohammad Tajsar of the ACLU of Southern California, and Michael Rapkin, a member of the Guantanamo Bar.

Join the conversation with our speakers:

MOHAMMAD TAJSAR has been a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California since 2017. One of his areas of primary concentration is national security and counter-terrorism policy, with a particular focus on the impacts of national security law on Arab, Muslim, Middle Eastern, and South Asian communities.

MICHAEL RAPKIN, along with his son, is a senior partner in the Marina Del Rey law firm of Rapkin and Associates. He has been a real estate lawyer for 46 years and, since 2005, a member of the Guantanamo Bar. He had two clients in Guantanamo, both of whom were transferred out after undergoing torture and indefinite detention at the hands of the U.S. government. Charges were never filed against either of them.

REV. RON STIEF, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, is the executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, an interfaith organization of more than 325 religious organizations committed to ending U.S.-sponsored torture. He is a national leader and faith strategist on ending CIA torture and ending the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons.

JON KRAMPNER (moderator) has organized ICUJP's "Close Guantanamo" protest rally in front of the Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building for the last 12 years; before that he solo picketed there every January 11. His article "The Fog Machine," about the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" (torture taxi) program appeared in the summer 2016 issue of The Brooklyn Rail.

7:30 - 7:35  Log in and socialize
7:35 - 7:45  Welcome and introductions 
7:45 - 7:50  Reflection (5 min. maximum)
7:50 - 9:15  Program and Q&A
9:15 - 9:20  Announcements
9:20 - 9:30  Closing circle and prayer

Start your morning with us!

Facilitator: Dave Clennon
Zoom Host: Rick Banales

** Meetings begin promptly at 7:30 am Pacific. **

Thanks for this, Mansoor,


Remaking the Exceptional marks 20 years since the opening of the United States' extralegal prison in Guantánamo by examining local and international ramifications of state violence, while also uplifting acts of creative resistance. This [2022] exhibition highlight[ed] connections between policing and incarceration in Chicago and the human rights violations of the "Global War on Terror."

'The most shocking memo was authored by John Yoo who served as deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel between 2001 and 2003," writes Lisa Hajjar (http://www.firejohnyoo.net/cgi-bin/MTOS-5.2.13/mt-search.cgi?search=Lisa+Hajjar&IncludeBlogs=10) in her new book, 


The War in Court: Inside the Long Fight against Torture 

"Written for the CIA, this August 1, 2002 memo laid bare justifications for gruesome and violent tactics while emboldening the Bush administration to believe that using them would not violate any applicable laws. I started giving public lectures titled 'What's the Matter with Yoo?' The Nation invited me to review a bunch of books about the 'war on terror,' including several collections of the torture memos, which deepened my understanding of US torture and the law."


"Torture haunts U.S. politics like a ghost... hidden, repressed, denied and lied about," said sociology professor Lisa Hajjar, https://worldcantwait.net/index.php/torture/9029-this-is-not-america-this-is-not-who-we-are-except-it-is


Kind of a ridiculous question because your government has made sure you don't. The artists of Guantanamo are locked up and no longer allowed to send out their art. The latest few who have been actually released (as opposed to the 21 men "approved for release" who are still locked up) can't bring their art out with them.

Some of the prisoners' art is beautifully decorative, some evocative, some showing great skill. But it all conveys the humanity, emotion and spirit of the men in that torture camp, which is likely why, under Trump, they were no longer allowed to have their attorneys share it with the world. Outrageously, 21 months after Biden took office, that policy stands.

Journalist Andy Worthington's The Powerful Artwork Still Being Created by Prisoners at Guantánamo, and the Outrageous Ban on its Dissemination That is Still in Place brings the history and current situation to us:

The only time that creative expression flowered at Guantánamo, after Barack Obama became president, when, for a brief period, the prisoners living communally in Camp 6 (who, by that time, included Mansoor) were allowed art classes, and ended up prolifically turning the prison block into a living art gallery. We also discussed how two of those artists, Moath al-Alwi, who creates extraordinary ships out of recycled materials, and Khalid Qassim, one of Mansoor's closest friends, are still held, amongst the 14 remaining "forever prisoners" (out of 39 men in total who are still held) who have never been approved for release, despite never being charged with a crime or put on trial.

Three of nine candle paintings, made using gravel from the prison's recreation yard, that Khalid Qasim created in memory of the nine men who have died at Guantánamo since the prison opened in January 2002. Khalid was recently "cleared" to leave, but sits in prison: Profile of Khalid after 20 years at Guantanamo.

'Giant' by Guantánamo prisoner Moath al-Alwi, competed in 2015 and brought out of the prison by his attorney to be exhibited in NYC before a ban on any prisoner artwork being removed from the prison was enacted under Donald Trump. From a piece by Joel Gunther: "When he finished Giant's sails and fastened its rigging, 'the most beautiful thing happened,' al-Alwi said, in a conversation relayed by his lawyer. 'I felt as if I were in the middle of the ocean. I felt waves hitting the ship from every direction, and I felt I was rescuing myself.'"

The piece by Joel Gunther, Life after Guantanamo: 'We are still in jail' is so worth reading to understand how some released prisoners are still punished, interviews Sabry al-Qurashi, a Yemeni who spent nearly 13 years at Guantanamo before he was forcibly resettled to Semey, a small city on a former nuclear test site in far-eastern Kazakhstan which he is not allowed to leave.

"Al-Qurashi is often stopped by the police when he leaves his apartment, he said, and asked to produce ID he does not have. Sometimes he is taken to the police station and forced to wait seven or eight hours until someone from the ICRC comes to get him. He needs specialist medical care for damaged nerves in his face after he was punched by a plainclothes policeman for refusing to remove his jacket one day, he said, but he has been refused permission to travel to the capital to get it. 'I went to the police station to ask what happened to the guy who hit me, and they said, 'Shut your mouth, you are nothing here, go home.'"

Selections from two paintings by Sabry al-Qarashi, who began painting in Guantanamo

Here is how to write to the men still in Guantanamo, including some of these artists.

P.S. We just read this article published in The Guardian on Sunday.

Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait

"This is a massive victory," Jon Kay, who helped organize the petition, said. The 20-year-old GWU junior from South Orange, N.J., who is majoring in international affairs and philosophy, said he was surprised to learn of Thomas's withdrawal. Groups of students had been planning demonstrations in the fall, he said, on the assumption that Thomas would be teaching. "We are going to continue to work to make sure he doesn't come back in the spring semester," Kay said.

"Twisting the law to fit his nefarious agenda isn't new to Yoo," wrote Marjorie Cohn.

"When New Yorker writer Jane Mayer interviewed him, Yoo told her that Congress 'can't prevent the president from ordering torture'. When asked if any law prohibited the president from 'crushing the testicles of the person's child', Yoo responded, 'No treaty'. Mayer then asked him whether another law forbade it. Yoo said, 'I think it depends on why the president thinks he needs to do that'. But the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the U.S. has ratified, outlaws torture without exception."

A Week in America's Notorious Penal Colony
A journalist heads to the US naval base and detention center, seeking out truths we're not meant to see.

By Moustafa Bayoumi, July 11, 2022

Even if it's your first visit to Guantánamo, you will know that since January 11, 2002, the US government has imprisoned some 780 Muslim men and boys here (the youngest prisoner at Guantánamo was 13 years old). You will have read a 2006 study of the first 571 detainees, which found that 86 percent of them were not captured by US troops but were handed over to coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq in a cynical exchange for monetary bounties. You will also know that of the 780 total detainees, more than 730 have been released, the vast majority never having been charged with any crime. At the time of your visit, you will read that 38 men remain at Guantánamo (though the number is now 36, as one man, Sufiyan Barhoumi, was recently repatriated to Algeria and another, Assadullah Haroon Gul, was returned to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan). And you will know that of those 38 (now 36), 19 are being detained even though they have been cleared for release by the US government. Your wonder at this fact will be superseded by the knowledge that an additional five men are being kept in indefinite detention because the US government says they are still too dangerous to be released, but the government has not charged any of them with a crime. And you will know that 10 men are currently facing charges in a military commission system established to try "alien unprivileged enemy belligerents," as the Military Commissions Act of 2009 refers to the men. You've come to observe the pretrial-motion hearings for one of these 10 men.


You may recall the recently repatriated prisoner Mohammed al-Qahtani, who arrived at Guantánamo already suffering from schizophrenia, writes Bayoumi.  Al-Qahtani was the subject of what the government called the "first special interrogation plan" [as approved by Torture Memo author John Yoo] at Camp X-Ray. You think of the ways, while at X-Ray, that he endured the unendurable: 48 days of sleep deprivation, interrogations that lasted for 20 straight hours, forced nudity, forced grooming, sexual humiliation, religious humiliation, prolonged stress positions, beatings, threats with military dogs, and so much more. You find your mind isn't really capable of conjuring what such a combination of horrors would feel like. 

You will also recall an oft-repeated sentence from Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief of counsel for the United States during the Nuremberg trials in 1945: "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants today is the record on which history will judge us [and particularly Berkeley Law] tomorrow." And you will note that the Nuremberg trials took 10 months to complete.

"Eastman's appearance at the Jan. 6 rally alongside Trump lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani -- just as an armed mob was heading to the Capitol to unleash a violent attack aimed at stopping Congress from certifying the election results -- was the final straw for many faculty members," writes Teresa Watanabe. "More than 140, and three trustees, signed a letter calling for action against Eastman."

Berkeley Law's dean once called for the criminal prosecution of Eastman's pal John Yoo (who also counseled President Trump); "I think he should be,"  said Chemerinsky. "All who planned, all who implemented, all who carried out the torture should be criminally prosecuted. How else do we as a society express our outrage? How else do we deter it in the future--except by criminal prosecutions?"

Dean Chemerinsky, in the interests of his own career, now commends the 'Torture Professor': "I have very high regard for John Yoo as a scholar and as a teacher and I know that he's a terrific colleague," he said. "I look forward to being his colleague."

Meanwhile, the former law clerks watch their boss reach the "zenith of his influence to press his agenda."

In June 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13928 enabling sanctions against "officials, employees, and agents, as well as their immediate family members" working at the International Criminal Court (ICC), including potentially its judges. 

The move sparked an outburst of criticism from diplomats, jurists, and members of civil society across the United States and the international community. 

Amnesty International and others have pointed out that the E.O. is so vague and broadly worded that it might reach anyone providing any assistance at all to the Court, including expert witnesses, national human rights researchers, defense counsel, and state parties.

A group of 175 legal scholars, jurists, and lawyers pressed the Trump administration to rescind the E.O., including Ben Ferencz, the last surviving Nuremberg prosecutor, and staunch advocate for U.S. support for contemporary international justice efforts.* 

*Ferencz notably condemns Berkeley Law John Yoo's "enhanced interrogation" program and "torture memos" during the Bush administration. 

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