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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 12:28 PM
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DU Exclusive: Interview with Andy Worthington on Gitmo's 8th Birthday
An interview with Andy Worthington about Guantnamo, on the Eighth Anniversary of the Prisons Opening

The following interview, with Andy Worthington, author of The Guantnamo 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 Guantnamo, 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-... >, here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/08/yemenis-in-... > and here<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/08/guantanamo-... >), and also discussed them on Democracy Now!< http://www.democracynow.org/2010/1/8/after_years_in_gua... > 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 Obamas 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?tran... > 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/propa... >), 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 Departments own data.

Last May, the New York Times<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/06/06/new-york-ti... > 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:

he Times allowed Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the New America Foundation to write an op-ed<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/opinion/29bergen.html... > criticizing Bumillers article, in which they concluded, from an examination of the report (PDF<http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/guantanamo_recidi... >) that a more probable figure for recidivism -- based on the fact that there were 12 former detainees who can be independently confirmed to have taken part in terrorist acts directed at American targets, and eight others suspected of such acts -- was about 4 percent of the 534 men who have been released.

The Times then published an Editors Note<http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/us/politics/21gitmo.h... > apologizing for the story, but the damage had already been done, and another Seton Hall report (PDF<http://law.shu.edu/ProgramsCenters/PublicIntGovServ/CSJ... >) -- putting the real figure at around thirteen (or 2 percent) -- was, as a result, a kind of exercise in damage limitation.

So this latest claim -- unsubstantiated by any kind of supporting evidence whatsoever -- was typical behavior, but its timing, coming, as it did, the day after Obama announced that no more Yemenis would be released from Guantnamo in the near future, was incredibly suspicious, as it indicated that there were figures within the Pentagon -- Bush-era figures like Geoff Morrell, for example, and those pulling his strings -- who were capitalizing on the situation to pursue what was presumably their own agenda: doing all they could to prevent the closure of Guantnamo, and to derail further the Presidents already tattered plans to close the prison.

Elizabeth Ferrari: Who is setting the agenda at the Pentagon and, more broadly, in our national security establishment, that these reports are still being timed to contradict Obama? Could you speak to that? There seem to be any number of actors in this administration who are not on the same page as the president. Mr. Brennan is on the record supporting torture as a tool. Admiral Blair was involved in supporting the Church massacres in East Timor. Weve just heard that Secretary Gates will be around for another year and, even overlooking his long career of helping politicians skirt the law and his CIA background, he was accommodating of Bushs human rights violations. This crew is not a bunch of reformers.

Andy Worthington: Unfortunately, I have no idea, but either Obama is playing a devious game, pretending to want to close Guantnamo (which Ive heard suggested, but actually dont believe) or hes not entirely in charge of the Pentagon. Its long seemed to me that he kept Gates on because he and his close advisors literally didnt have anyone on board who had the background and the contacts to control the Pentagon, so perhaps thats it: hes stuck with Gates, and stuck with other players who have their own agenda.

If this is the case, its rather alarming, of course, as it suggests that the military-industrial complex has its own momentum and that the only pressure to shut it down -- or, at least, to scale back the profligate warmongering and spending that dominated the Bush years, and that is being repeated under Obama -- has to come from the people.

Elizabeth Ferrari: In your articles, and on Democracy Now! you pointed out that President Obama is not making the same mistakes Bush did in that he is being careful about who he releases, whereas Bush made some releases against the advice of the intelligence community, which later turned out to be problematic. Could you help us understand the story on Yemen right now and why the president has decided not to release more prisoners to that country?

Andy Worthington: Pure fear. Political pragmatism. The uproar about releasing Yemenis, because of the failed Christmas plane bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallabs alleged connection to a Yemeni group containing Saudi ex-prisoners from Guantnamo (the ones released by Bush) was so intense that he felt he couldnt take it on, and he did what he did last year<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/12/01/guantanamo-... >, when his counsel Greg Craig was planning to bring some of the innocent Uighurs from Guantnamo to live in the US, but the administration was taking flak for releasing the torture memos<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/21/ten-terribl... > and planning to release the photos of the abuse of prisoners<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/16/the-torture... > in Afghanistan and Iraq. He capitulated, pure and simple.

In defense of John Brennan, the former CIA man who is one of Obamas senior counter-terrorism advisors, I have to say that he put up a good fight when he appeared on the TV shows the previous weekend, defending how careful the administration has been in approving releases from Guantnamo, and generally putting on a great performance as a career official who appreciates how Obama has learned from and has rectified mistakes made by Bush, for whom Brennan also worked, of course.

To my mind, Obama should have gone with Brennan -- perhaps sending him out again to tackle some of those spreading hysteria and misinformation -- instead of caving in, because I think Brennans on his side and knows how to talk tough to the barking lunatics who are usually the only ones raising their voices. But it didnt work out like that, and Im disappointed, as Obama only loses more ground and more authority when he backs down, instead of taking on his critics in a manner they understand. I actually think that the failure -- or inability -- of senior Democrats to shout down their opponents is one of their major failings.

Elizabeth Ferrari: Weve been inundated with information -- or more precisely, with propaganda -- by the supporters of the War on Terror, and its very difficult to keep everything straight and clear. As I understand it, there is a group of detainees who had been cleared for release because they were found by a judge to be students in a guesthouse, not combatants in any way. They were going to be released to Yemen. Is it right that all of that has been tabled?

Why were they being released to Yemen and, if you can, can you give the numbers youve assigned to them so we can look them up in your Definitive Prisoner List<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2010/01/04/guantanamo-... >? It looks like these people are being held hostage to a political struggle in the United States. What will it take to get them released?

Andy Worthington: OK, so youre talking about Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, a student in a guest house in Pakistan, who triumphantly won his habeas corpus petition<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/14/judge-conde... > last May and was finally released by Obama<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/10/11/two-more-gu... > in October. There were around 15 other men<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/05/19/guantanamo-... > seized in that house -- eight of whom are Yemenis -- but although one was cleared for release by a military review board under the Bush administration (because he was only visiting on the night of the raid and didnt even live there), and although the judge in Ali Ahmeds case -- Judge Gladys Kessler -- stated that she thought it probable that the majority of the others seized in the raid were also students, none of them have won any court cases, because the habeas petitions move so slowly (largely through Justice Department obstruction<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/08/11/guantanamo-... >).

It may well be that they have been cleared for release after the deliberations of Obamas interagency task Force, which has been reviewing all the Guantnamo cases since last January, and has cleared around 40 of the remaining 86 Yemenis for release, but theres no way of finding out, as only the Task Force and the prisoners lawyers know, and the lawyers are prevented from discussing the Task Forces conclusions publicly.

As a result, I cant give you any specific prisoner numbers to look up in my list, but if you go through all four parts, youll be able to find the 86 Yemenis who havent been released, and to either follow links to their stories, or find where theyre discussed in my book The Guantnamo Files. Some were also cleared under the Bush administration, but were never released, and a few are amongst the 32 out of 41 prisoners who won their habeas corpus petitions last year, but have also not yet been released.

As for when any of these men will be released, your guess is as good as mine, after Obamas capitulation. I can only repeat what Ive said before, which is that someone in the administration needs to find some courage to stick to principles, as pragmatism is a slippery road.

Elizabeth Ferrari: It has been confirmed recently<http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2010/01/bla... > that Erik Prince is or was a CIA asset and that Blackwater has been involved in a multinational assassination program -- in Germany, perhaps in Pakistan. To your knowledge, has the CIA used Blackwater operatives at Gitmo or at any of their other prisons, black sites or at Bagram, for example? Blackwaters impunity in daylight is terrible enough. Its very concerning to wonder what they do in secret and if they have been involved with detainees of the United States. Have you found any fingerprints to this effect?

Andy Worthington: In a word, no, but only, Im sure, because I havent had the time to look. Contractors are all over the torture, extraordinary rendition and secret prison stories, so Id be very surprised if Blackwater wasnt involved somewhere along the line. I actually hope to do some more research into the secret prisons this year.

Elizabeth Ferrari: For those of us trying to follow these cases, what would you suggest tracking right now? What are you yourself looking out for?

Andy Worthington: Most of my time is still spent on the Guantnamo story, trying to publicize the horrendous crimes of the Bush administration -- and to highlight the incompetence of senior officials, as much as their cruelty. If readers want a useful avenue to pursue, it would be to look at the cleared prisoners<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/12/07/116-guantan... > who cant be repatriated because they face torture in their homelands -- dozens of prisoners from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia and Uzbekistan, as well as the last seven Uighurs -- and to look at the work that Nancy Talanian is putting together at No More Guantnamos<http://www.nogitmos.org/ >, trying to persuade communities across the States to pass resolutions specifically adopting certain prisoners and asking Congress to overturn its ban on accepting cleared prisoners into the US, following the example of Amherst, Massachusetts<http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2009/1105/massach... >.

Countries in Europe have taken a handful of these men, but theyre finding little reason to do so when the US wont take any itself, and my fear is that cleared prisoners will remain in Guantnamo -- or in some other hellhole in the States, if that project ever comes off -- for years, or for the rest of their lives, without concerted action to demand that the US government accepts responsibility for its own mistakes.

Otherwise, keep educated, spread the word, and keep an eye on the prison at Bagram airbase<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/09/15/is-bagram-o... >, which remains as much outside the law as Guantnamo was back in 2004, before the Supreme Court got involved, and lawyers were able to meet with prisoners to begin filing their habeas petitions, and to bring their stories of torture and abuse to the world. That process was derailed by Congress<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2008/06/13/the-supreme... > for another four years (although the administration failed to keep the lawyers out), but no lawyer has set foot in Bagram, and, although a District Court judge ruled last March<http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2009/04/06/justice-ext... > that foreign prisoners rendered to Bagram and held for up to six years have the same habeas rights as the Guantnamo prisoners, the Obama administration appealed, and the Court of Appeals is currently considering that appeal<http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20... >.

Bagrams also important because its where the war meets the detention policies, and I think we need to do all we can to bring together anti-war protestors, torture opponents, and opponents of the lawless detention polices of the last nine years, to try and get a new mass movement going at the start of this new decade.

Andy Worthington is a journalist and the author of The Guantnamo Files <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/the-guantanamo-files/ > (Pluto Press), the first book to tell the stories of all the prisoners in Guantnamo. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the new documentary, Outside the Law: Stories from Guantnamo,< http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/outside-the-law-storie... > and maintains a blog here. <http://www.andyworthington.co.uk /
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slipslidingaway Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 12:47 PM
Response to Original message
1. Thank you - reading now knr n/t
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 01:30 PM
Response to Original message
2. k*r WoW - outstanding interviewg
You really nailed it. Strongly recommended and I'll be kicking this one. It needs high visibility.

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 02:21 PM
Response to Reply #2
4. Andy has done very careful work on Guantanamo.
Considering that BushCo made it as difficult as possible to know what was going on there, he's done excellent and difficult work.
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autorank Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 08:35 PM
Response to Reply #4
17. Respect
I have a lot of respect for him just on that basis. Getting this type of information is a real
coup sincne the process is set up to "just say duh" to legitimate requests.

We pay for all this secret stuff. It impacts us. We have every right to know it all.

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inna Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 02:20 PM
Response to Original message
3. KR! Outstanding post.

:applause:

:yourock:
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 02:21 PM
Response to Original message
5. k/r
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Peace Patriot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 02:47 PM
Response to Original message
6. Than recidivism rate at Guantanamo--**2%**--ought to be banner headlines around the U.S.
Can our domestic prison system even come close to that?

That this is not well known is a TERRIBLE SHAME ON U.S. JOURNALISM.

-----------------------

Another thing that jumped out at me from this interview: "...or hes not entirely in charge of the Pentagon." (Andy Worthington re Obama)

I came to a similar conclusion--or a similar either/or--about Obama with regard to Honduras. Either he is a liar and a hypocrite or he is not really in charge of the Pentagon and the State Department.

It also seemed like Jim DeMint (Diebold touchscreen-selected, first term senator from SC) was the real Secretary of State and maybe even the real president.

In fact, in the first months of the rightwing military coup in Honduras, I toyed with the theory of an outright insurrection in the Pentagon or in its "Southern Command"** with Bushwhack commanders in cahoots with Bushwhack moles and leftovers in the diplomatic corps. DeMint was blockading all of Obama's appointments in Latin America, so it looked like a Bushwhack plan was in action, that they were trying to get accomplished, while DeMint held off the new crew of Obama-appointed diplomats. I also thought this might be why Obama/Clinton wouldn't call it a "military coup" (which it clearly was)--a "military coup" designation requires approval by Congress, and DeMint (whoever the fuck is this guy?) seemed to be lying in wait to hand Obama a big defeat, right off the bat, on Latin American policy.

However, when Obama's new appointee for Brazil, sent to mediate in Honduras, backstabbed President Zelaya, after all the BS delays in forcing an illegal coup government in a U.S. client state to step down, and they concocted the coup-run election under martial law, and anti-coup activists started turning up dead, I had to revise this opinion. I now think it's possible that Obama's collusion in this coup goes back to the beginning. Not sure. In any case, he and Clinton did everything they could to legitimize the coup, once it occurred. Maybe it was an insurrection, and they figured, 'Okay, this new thing is great for war profiteering and corporate rule--so let's go with it,' In short, Obama said one thing and did another. And the other thing was really bad.

Hugo Chavez remarked, during this period, that Obama "is the prisoner of the Pentagon." The disclosure of the huge U.S. military buildup in Colombia (adjacent to Venezuela) had just occurred as well. "Prisoner of the Pentagon" resonated with me--on Honduras, on Colombia, and other things. Is he a "willing prisoner"? I'm not sure--but I'm tending to think that he is (or has convinced himself to be? kind of a presidential "Stockholm syndrome"?). I never expected much from Obama on Latin American policy, because I read what he actually said about it. But I did not expect rightwing coups and rampant militarism. Thus far, he is worse than Bush.

I think we should be careful about projecting our progressive views--and our longings for a just and peaceful country--onto Obama, because he has considerable skill at inviting such projections. Projections are, by their nature, not real. They can be made conscious--whereby, for instance, you just constantly keep projecting good into another person, so that they feel good, and want what is good, but you know what you are doing. It's similar to good child-rearing. And it works. But blind, unconscious projection is something else. It is unreal. It is dangerous. And I think that it is particularly important to resist it with regard to our political figures, because of the generally delusionary state of our political life, which is already fraught with brainwashing and is already singularly lacking in reasonable discussion based on facts and our higher mental powers and ethics.

--------------

**(The plane carrying the kidnapped president of Honduras out of the country at gunpoint stopped at the U.S. military base in Soto Canto, Honduras, for refueling. The U.S. embassy in Honduras admitted knowing about the coup ahead of time. So, who gave the order to the U.S. commanders at Soto Cano to stand down, while Honduran democracy was overthrown?)

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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 02:51 PM
Response to Reply #6
7. It's really hard to know what the president is up against.
But imho, it's Kennedylike in the resistance and subtle undermining seeping out from both the Pentagon and from State. I hope that's just my BushCo PTSD talking.
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suffragette Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 03:04 PM
Response to Original message
8. Fantastic job on the interview by you and great investigative
work by Worthington.

K&R
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 06:47 PM
Response to Reply #8
15. We seem to be being sold a bill of goods about Yemen
so I thought it might be a good idea to as someone who doesn't have any agenda besides social justice.

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suffragette Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 09:19 PM
Response to Reply #15
18. It's an awful limbo that has been created and is being maintained
Thanks for shining light into that dark place.
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 03:15 PM
Response to Original message
9. So glad to read this informed interview with Andy Worthington.
He did a superior job in researching this essential book. One look at the contents of the book at Amazon can sell the book to anyone interested in the subject.

After reading your interview, checking the links, I had no choice but ordering the book immediately.

It's hard to dismiss his statement which rings absolutely true, that these people are being "held hostage to a political struggle in the United States".

Thank you for your initiative with the interview, and for sharing it here. Looking forward so much to getting hands on that book, and looking for more he has on this subject.

IF ONLY we can hope for an honorable, humane, respectable ending to this hideous situation.
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Tierra_y_Libertad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 03:30 PM
Response to Original message
10. Bravo to you and Andy Worthington. K&R
:applause:
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 04:41 PM
Response to Original message
11. Kick
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Tierra_y_Libertad Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 05:04 PM
Response to Original message
12. kick
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 05:38 PM
Response to Original message
13. There's a trailer for his video which was available last October at his website:
http://www.spectacle.co.uk/catalogue_production.php?id=...

Looks like something it would be good to get and to share.





~~~~~~~~~~~



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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 05:39 PM
Response to Reply #13
14. Oh, lord. Thank you, Judi Lynn.
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Wilms Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 07:29 PM
Response to Original message
16. Up we go. n/t
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Solly Mack Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Jan-11-10 10:51 PM
Response to Original message
19. Whoopsie Daisy...back up we go
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ConsAreLiars Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 12:38 AM
Response to Original message
20. Thank you! The embedded links make this an excellent resource
for the reality based community, (K&R)
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 12:41 AM
Response to Reply #20
21. I wish I could have made them look better but I'm not smart enough
to do that. lol

:hi:
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ConsAreLiars Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 01:27 AM
Response to Reply #21
22. The instructions are in the 'HTML lookup table' link that appears in the 'Reply'
page, but I often prefer seeing the sourcing info in the text rather than seeing a highlighted word. Not as pretty, but the source gets read with the text. In this interview the number of similar links weighs more in favor of the pretty alternative, but the value added by including the links outweighs the not-so-pretty downside by far.
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GreenMetalFlake Donating Member (102 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 05:43 AM
Response to Original message
23. k/r
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EFerrari Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 01:47 PM
Response to Original message
24. Now up at OEN and WNT. Thanks, everyone!
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Judi Lynn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-12-10 04:29 PM
Response to Reply #24
25. It's looking great. Good to see the photo added of author and book at 2nd link.
Also looking forward to reading the info. on Guantnamo I learned about from your O.P.

Thank YOU, EFerrari, great interview.
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