History of Attica

Tom Robbins talking:

An inmate rebellion that took place amid a very restless, political summer in Attica, inmates who were trying to petition the governor at the time for better conditions. They wanted more than one shower a week. They wanted more than one roll of toilet paper a month. They wanted the right to get letters that were sent to them by family members that were written in some language other than English, because the guards were throwing them all away. They wanted better education programs. They were asking for just sort of basic human rights.

And tensions within the prison that summer around those issues, because the governor and his corrections commissioner, Russell Oswald, didn’t respond, eventually spiked. And one small incident, as these things sometimes do, set off a riot on September 9th, that led eventually to—there’s a nexus of the—Antonio could describe it—these four tunnels, as they call it, that crisscross in the middle of this huge institution. They call it Times Square. And inmates who were being brought back from breakfast that morning rioted, and they assaulted a guard who was in charge of the bubble, they call it, right there, controlling the gates, and assaulted him. He was fatally beaten. He died a couple days later. His name was William Quinn. He was the father of three little girls. They then rampaged throughout the rest of the prison, took it over, took some 40 hostages initially. Some were released because of their injuries. But the standoff with the state police went on for the next four days, until Governor Rockefeller decided to send in the troops.

they were asking Governor Rockefeller to come. that was the big demand, was we want Rockefeller to come here. One of the former hostages that I interviewed, a guy named Mike Smith, who still lives just a few miles away from Attica, who had been a guard there, a young first-year guard, talked about how he had been a hostage at the time. And there was a camera crew that was allowed into the yard on Sunday night, before the Monday retaking. And Mike Smith was put in front of the cameras, and he said, “Governor, you need to get your ass here now.” Everyone could tell, apparently—I mean, if you read any of the accounts—Tom Wicker wrote a marvelous book called A Time to Die, that I commend to everyone. Everyone knew that this was going to end terribly unless someone intervened. And sure enough, there had been virtually no planning as to how to do it, we later learned.

In one of the most enormous lies that was ever told, after the retaking—and they had suffered these terrible casualties on their own side. They had managed to kill 11 of their own, and if—the official spokesperson for the Department of Corrections went before the press and said all of those victims died from having their throats cut. And they said that Michael Smith, who was then 22, one of the guard hostages, had had his testicles severed and shoved in his mouth by Frank Smith. None of it was true. It was one of the most amazing lies told. It went around the world. I’ll never forget the front page of the Daily News that day. And I picked it up. They slit throat. They made it up. Two hostages did suffer severe throat cuts, but they were not fatal. Everybody died of gunshot wounds. And the inmates did not have guns.

— source democracynow.org

Tom Robbins, reporter with The Marshall Project. His investigation, “A Brutal Beating Wakes Attica’s Ghosts: A Prison, Infamous for Bloodshed, Faces a Reckoning as Guards Go on Trial,” was published in collaboration with The New York Times.

World’s Oldest Twinkie

As the death knell rings for Hostess Brands Inc, the last batches of those caloric confections are flying off store shelves. And while some of these junk-food aficionados may be tempted to gorge upon their sudden stockpile of sugary snacks, perhaps justifying the gluttony to their concerned loved ones under the pretense of beating an expiration date, the truth is even more disturbing than the sound of someone trying speak through a mouthful of artificial sweetener: Twinkies are seemingly immortal.

Way back in 1976, George Stevens Academy science professor Roger Bennatti was leading a class discussion about the prevalence of chemical preservatives in processed foods when one of his students offered forth a Twinkie leftover from lunch to be used as an example. Little could Bennatti have realized then, but this lesson would mark the beginnings of an informal experiment that would outlast his career.

“How long do you figure this will last?” implored the professor, placing the Twinkie on top of an intercom box in his class. Nearly four decades later, the answer is still unresolved.

In 2005, Bennatti retired from teaching, undoubtably bearing the mark of age after a long and fruitful tenure. But surprisingly, maybe even mockingly so, that Twinkie, the world’s oldest, looked just about as good as new. So, before he left, Bennatti placed the fresh-faced Twinkie in a glass box and presented it to the Dean of George Stevens Academy, Libby Rosemeier, who had been a student in his class when the Twinkie was first introduced.

Now, 36 years later, the old Twinkie still looks as though it’s hardly aged — though you’d be hard pressed to find anyone brave enough to eat it. Then again, the desperation of the Twinkiepocalypse hasn’t quite set in yet.

— source treehugger.com

We harbor terrorists, but you should not

Noam Chomsky talking:

The U.S. has been at war with Cuba since late 1959. Cuba was—had been, essentially, a colony of the United States, a virtual colony. In January 1959, the Castro guerrilla forces took over. By late that year, around October, U.S. planes were already bombing Cuba from Florida. In, I think it was, March 1960, there was a formal decision internally to overthrow the government. John F. Kennedy came in shortly after, got the Bay of Pigs. After the Bay of Pigs, there was almost hysteria in Washington about how to punish the Cubans for this. Kennedy made some incredible speeches about how, you know, the future of the world is at stake in dealing with Cuba and so on. The U.S. launched a major terrorist war against Cuba. We kind of downplay it, and what you can get reported is CIA attempts, you know, to kill Castro—bad enough—but that was a very minor part of it. Major terrorist war is part of the background for the missile crisis, which almost led to a terminal nuclear war. Right after the crisis, the terrorist war picked up again.

Meanwhile, the sanctions have been very harsh sanctions against Cuba, right from the Eisenhower regime, picked up, extended by Kennedy, extended further under Clinton, who actually outflanked Bush from the right on extending the sanctions. The world has been totally opposed to this. The votes at the General Assembly—you can’t do it at the Security Council because the U.S. vetoes everything, but at the General Assembly, the votes are just overwhelming. I think the last one was 182 to two, you know, U.S. and Israel, and sometimes they pick up Papua or something like that. This has been going on year after year. The U.S. is utterly isolated, not just on this issue, many others.

Finally, notice that Obama didn’t end the sanctions. In fact, he didn’t even end the restrictions, many of the restrictions on travel and so on. They made a mild gesture towards moving towards normalization of relations. That’s presented here—the way it’s presented here is, we have to test Cuba to see if our long—as Obama put it, our efforts to improve the situation in Cuba have failed, right? Big efforts to improve the situation—terrorism, sanctions. The sanctions are really incredible. So, if, say, Sweden was sending medical equipment somewhere which had Cuban nickel in it, that had to be banned, you know, things like that.

Terrorism just—it went on into the ’90s. The worst part was under Kennedy, then picked up again in the late ’70s and so on. Major terrorists are provided refuge in Florida. The late Bosch is one, Orlando Bosch. Posada is another. You remember there was something called the Bush Doctrine, Bush II: A country that harbors terrorists is the same as the terrorists themselves. That’s for others, not for us. We harbor them and also support their activities.

But we have to test Cuba to see if they’re making successful gestures, now that our old policy of bringing freedom and democracy didn’t work, so we have to try a new policy. I mean, the irony of this is almost indescribable. The fact that these words can be said is shocking. It’s a sign of, again, a failure to reach a minimal level of civilized awareness and behavior. But the steps—I mean, it’s good that there are small steps being taken. It’s interesting to see what the Cuban intellectual community—there is a dissident intellectual community in Cuba—how they’ve been reacting to it. Actually, there’s an interesting article about it by my daughter, Avi Chomsky, who’s a Cuba specialist. But we don’t look at that. We don’t hear what they’re saying.

What they’re saying is approximately what I was just saying: You know, it’s a good step that the U.S. is beginning to move, but they’ve got to begin to face up to the reality of what’s been happening, which is that the U.S. has been attacking Cuba. And the reason for—the primary reason, probably, for Obama’s slight moves are that the U.S. was becoming completely isolated in the hemisphere. It’s not just that the world is opposed, the hemisphere is opposed. And that’s a remarkable development.

— source democracynow.org

Noam Chomsky, world-renowned political dissident, linguist and author. He is institute professor emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he has taught for more than 50 years. His forthcoming book, co-authored with Ilan Pappé, is titled On Palestine.

Balance of power in the region

Hillary Mann Leverett talking:

very important in terms of the balance of power in the region, you know, in the 1980s, the Israelis were not at all concerned about Iran’s nuclear program. They weren’t at all concerned about many of Iran’s other activities that they now profess concern about. In fact, in the 1980s, the United States wanted to impose sections on Iran for our concern about their connection to the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut. And the then Israeli government, in a live interview by the then Minister Ariel Sharon, said that Israel would oppose sanctions being—they would oppose sanctions being imposed on Iran. That changes in 1990, not because of any change in Iranian behavior, but because the Iraqi military was essentially taken out after the invasion of Kuwait and the U.S. routing of Iraq from Kuwait. Literally six months after that, in early 1992, you have the first visit to Washington by then Prime Minister Rabin, who’s considered more dovish than the current prime minister, Netanyahu, and it was then that Rabin started to raise concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and the prospect of sanctions. And it was then, in 1995, that the United States first imposes its comprehensive economic embargo on Iran. So I think it’s important to understand that even though Prime Minister Netanyahu’s rhetoric is very vitriolic, there is something deeper in terms of Israeli concerns about the rise of Iran in the region, that could check Israel’s, what I would call, reckless impulses vis-à-vis its neighbors.

With that said, I think the change in the balance of power is already happening in the region, and it’s something where, to me, it seems a bit underscored by the desperation in Netanyahu’s rhetoric and the desperation in the rhetoric of this letter by Senator Cotton. The balance of power in the region has already changed, where you have Iran’s influence in Iraq is now being recognized as not a bad thing by the American general, Dempsey, yesterday before Congress. Iran’s influence in countries as far afield from Iran as Yemen is now recognized and not seen as necessarily a bad thing. Some in Washington would prefer there to be Iranian influence in Yemen than al-Qaeda controlling Yemen. So there’s already a change in the regional balance of power, and around the world, that I think the United States is perhaps, in an unacknowledged way, going—accepting in some form.

That comes into play with the negotiations with Iran. Even though they appear right now to be very focused on the U.S.-Iranian part, they do very much include the other members of the permanent—of the Security Council plus Germany. And in the Security Council, I think two of the most important players on the Iran issue are Russia and China. Now, they haven’t been very vocal in terms of what their demands are in the negotiations, but they’re going to be critically important for Iran going forward, not because of some military or nefarious reason, but because, particularly for China, as China is looking to, in a lot of ways, re-establish their Silk Road and balance against the U.S. encroachment toward them in East Asia by trying to re-establish this Silk Road, looking west into Central Asia and toward Iran, Iran is critically important. And I think we’re going to see an historic visit by China’s President Xi to Iran in May. So there certainly are a lot of other players, important players, here. And I think Secretary Kerry, in some ways, is doing a good job trying to juggle all those pieces and re-orient the United States toward a fundamentally new world, where the balance of power in the Middle East is already changing, the balance of power around the world is already changing, and the United States must accommodate itself to that.

in a different balance of power, where the United States is not seeking hegemony and dominance in the Middle East, where we’re not seeking to impose political outcomes or regimes in these various countries, in that kind of scenario, where the United States is not seeking all-out dominance and hegemony, Iran has to be an important—not just an important player, but an important partner. And, you know, I think American administrations have recognized that before. They certainly recognized that under the Shah’s Iran. But the Shah’s Iran was fundamentally unstable because it wasn’t representative.

What’s so important about Iran today as the Islamic republic, that we, many in Washington, in particular, don’t like, but is so important, is that it is pursuing an independent foreign policy, and it has an indigenously created, and therefore much more legitimate, political order—with all its flaws. It’s indigenously created, and therefore has an inherent legitimacy that a lot of the other political orders don’t. The focus on foreign policy independence, it may sound counterintuitive, but that’s precisely what the United States needs. We do not need, as Senator Cotton was advocating, yet another puppet government portending to carry forth American interests that are really contrary to America’s real interests, which would be for peace and stability in the region.

— source democracynow.org

Hillary Mann Leverett, served at the National Security Council under presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. From 2001 to 2003, she was a U.S. negotiator with Iran on Afghanistan, al-Qaeda and Iraq, in which capacity she negotiated directly with Iran’s present foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. She is the CEO of the political risk consultancy firm Stratega. She will join Georgetown University as a visiting scholar next month. She is co-author of Going to Tehran: Why America Must Accept the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The threat to the people of the United States

Tensions between the United States and Venezuela are increasing after the Obama administration declared Venezuela to be an “extraordinary threat to national security” and slapped sanctions on seven top officials for alleged human right violations and corruption. On Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro asked the National Assembly for increased power to protect the country’s integrity and sovereignty from what he described as, “imperialist aggression.”

“President Obama has decided to put himself into a box with no way out, a box of failure. And he has decided that he wants to be remembered in the future like Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. President Obama will be remembered in the future for his decision today and the aggression against the Venezuelan people, the noble people, because the people of Venezuela are a peaceful people. President Obama, you don’t have a right to attack us nor to declare that Venezuela is a threat to the people of the United States. You are the threat to the people of the United States, you who decide to invade, to kill, to finance terrorism in the world” Maduro said.

Tensions between the United States and Venezuela have been escalating for the past few months. In December, President Obama signed legislation to impose sanctions on Venezuelan government officials accused of violating protesters’ rights during demonstrations last year when 43 people died, including demonstrators, government supporters and security officials. On February 19th, the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, was arrested for allegedly being involved in a U.S.-backed coup plot. Days later, Venezuela announced it had arrested an unspecified number of Americans for engaging in espionage and recruitment activities. Venezuela also announced a series of measures including visa requirements for U.S. citizens and restrictions and the downsizing of the U.S. Embassy in Caracas. This all comes as Venezuela is facing an economic crisis in part because of the plummeting price of oil in recent months.

Miguel Tinker Salas talking:

I think that it’s an unnecessary and a dramatic escalation of tensions between both countries. It comes on the heels of the fact that Obama, in December of 2014, issued the sanctions. But those sanctions come after the House approved sanctions against Venezuela. So it’s been an increase in tensions beginning since the time that Obama announced that he would begin to normalize relations with Cuba, so that, on the one hand, we have an effort, theoretically, to normalize relations with Cuba while we maintain an embargo, and, on the other hand, to create the image of Venezuela as the new Cuba, as the new country to be sanctioned. So, in many ways, it’s extremely counterproductive. On the one hand, we’re expected to believe a response to the interests of the U.S., particularly in terms of Obama and addressing the right in the U.S., but the reality is, how it’s read in Latin America is, once again, the U.S. and big stick diplomacy. It’s read in terms of intervention. And the notion that the U.S. does not support coups is ludicrous on its face, and we have the 2009 coup in Honduras, which you extensively covered, which was—very clearly the U.S. was involved. Same thing with Lugo in Paraguay a couple of years later. So, obviously, the U.S. seeks to increase Venezuela’s isolation, or to dramatically increase Venezuela’s isolation, and continue a Bush policy of trying to inoculate Latin America from Venezuela, leading to essentially its own destabilization.

U.S. policy falls apart when we talk about that precise example. In the case of Venezuela, the issue is made—and it’s, again, a very condemnable act, the death of 43 people in Venezuela in March—in February of last year during protests. All sides condemn the violence. But in that case, people died on both sides of the political spectrum. In fact, military officers and police were targeted by right-wing protesters. So those actions are condemnable. And again, they merit attention of Venezuela, and they should be prosecuted. But the reality is that in Mexico 43 students disappeared in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero, and hardly a peep from the U.S. It took weeks for the State Department to actually respond. So we have a duplicitous policy, on the one hand highlighting human rights issues in Venezuela, while on the other hand turning a blind eye to what is really a humanitarian crisis in Mexico, with over 80,000 dead, 40,000 disappeared and 15 million people being expelled from their own country, so that in that sense, when Latin America looks at U.S. policy, it seems rather duplicitous. And, in fact, it doesn’t hold up and increases the U.S. isolation in the region, particularly if we’re considering that in April we’re going to have the Summit of the Americas in Panama.

And we continue to have the belief that the U.S. does not—is not involved in unconstitutional change in Latin America. And as a historian, the record speaks just the opposite, from ’53 in Guatemala to the Dominican Republic, to Chile in ’73, and through the support of the Argentine military dictatorships and Brazil, and, if we want to go even closer, to 2002 in Venezuela, when the U.S. actually did support a coup against the democratically elected Hugo Chávez, the shortest coup in the world, and the coup that brought Chávez back to power, and then again in Honduras in 2009, and, not shortly thereafter, in Paraguay with Lugo, where they said it was a democratic transition, when in fact it was an unconstitutional shift in power. So, again, the notion that the U.S. has not supported both military coups directly or through what they call soft power is really ludicrous.

And, in fact, we should turn the question around. If they want to support democracy, I think the best thing the U.S. can do in the case of Venezuela and other countries is to pull back and let things develop on their own. I think you have a very strong opposition in Venezuela. It can speak for itself. You have a government force and other social forces that are organized in those countries. And I think the best thing, in the case of Mexico and in the case of Venezuela, is for the U.S. to stop intervening and to allow these countries to resolve their own—

there are fundamental economic issues in Venezuela which the government has to address. But the reality is that by the U.S. intervening in this way—and let’s be clear: The effort to sanction individuals is an intervention in Venezuela. And it’s not going to be read as simply the sanction against seven individuals; it’s going to be read as a sanction against Venezuela and the government of Venezuela and the country of Venezuela. And that’s unfortunate, because it detracts attention from the real economic issues. And the government is responsible for those issues, and it’s been slow to act.

But in many ways, this will now provide the context for what will happen at the Summit of the Americas, where the U.S. had expected that it was going to arrive and be celebrated for having opened up relations with Cuba, but now even Cuba is criticizing the U.S. and saying they will not be a part of any effort on the part of the U.S. to isolate Venezuela. And that seems to have been the strategy—open up with Cuba, while at the same time isolating Venezuela and making Venezuela appear as the bad boy of the left in Latin America. And I think that policy failed under Bush, and it’s failed under Obama, as well.

I think President Maduro has been very slow in responding to the crisis. I think that effort to retain an unworkable exchange rate, three different exchange rates, and protect the Venezuelan bolívar was untenable. I think that they took way too long to respond to that process. I think that may have exacerbated the crisis. There have been steps taken recently to let the Venezuelan bolívar float, to actually normalize that process. They should be able to provide greater access to dollars. Venezuela is—it consumes—it imports most of what it consumes. That’s been the sad reality since 1935, when Venezuela became the world second-largest exporter of oil and then became the world’s first-largest exporter of oil. And that happens to be part of the culture and society of Venezuela. Many Venezuelans have been raised with the notion that they’re a privileged country, that therefore they’re entitled to a set of benefits, from the cheapest gasoline in the world to subsidized food prices. And this government has been slow to respond to that. And with the drop in price of oil, that model became largely untenable. And I think that the government has not taken sufficient steps. It has acknowledged corruption. It has acknowledged bottlenecks in the distribution. It has acknowledged inefficiency. It has to address those issues. And Venezuelans need to hold them accountable to those issues. That’s why, in many ways, the U.S. issue becomes a distraction, because as the U.S. intervenes in this context, it simply becomes a side issue in what is largely an economic internal matter.

I think fundamentally that Venezuela has the world’s largest reserves on oil. And I think oil—I think I’ve always said, follow the oil, and you will be able to understand what is happening in Venezuela, what is happening in between Venezuela and the U.S., what is happening between Venezuela and the rest of the world. So I think that’s fundamental.

I think that the figure of Hugo Chávez is still the most powerful political figure in Venezuela. He represents a watershed in Venezuelan history, contrary to what María Corina Machado has indicated. Nonetheless, I think there is some truth to the fact that what Venezuela faces today is some of the excesses that occurred during the Chávez period and some of the issues that weren’t fully resolved during the Chávez period. And that is the dependence on oil. That is a nonfunctioning exchange rate. And that is the dramatic growth without at the same time a parallel growth in productive capacity within the country. Those remain some of the challenges the country faces, and it highlights the dependence that many Third World countries have on export products, particularly one as strategic as oil.

we’re talking about the Community of Latin America and Caribbean Nations, the CELAC; UNASUR, the Union of South American Nations. We’re talking about the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas. I think those are now institutionalized at many levels. But undoubtedly, the impact of the absence of Chávez has been felt. There is a vacuum of leadership in the region, one that has yet to be filled directly. Or maybe we shouldn’t expect it to be filled in much the same way. Increasingly, we have a collective leadership. We have the voices of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil. We have the voices of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador. We have multiple voices that are evident here.

But it’s also clear that they have been under attack. The U.S.’s resolution on sanctions on Venezuela, I think, seeks to promote fissures within those alliances. We’ve seen Biden traveling to the Caribbean, Biden traveling to Central America, trying to find fissures in the other institution, which was Petrocaribe. So I think that they have been under difficult conditions. I think that they have been tested. I think the U.S. is looking for fissures within those alliances by promoting the Pacific Alliance of nations that have bilateral trade relations with the U.S. and by promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. So I think that that looms large now in the context of the drop in oil prices and the drop of other export products. So the U.S. is clearly strategically testing that relationship. And we’re going to see how that carries out with the Summit of the Americas in April in Panama.

— source democracynow.org

Miguel Tinker Salas, professor at Pomona College, in Claremont, California. He is the author of The Enduring Legacy: Oil, Culture, and Society in Venezuela and the forthcoming book, Venezuela: What Everyone Needs to Know.

Jihadi John Unmasked

“Jihadi John” first came to prominence in beheading videos released by the Islamic State. We’ll have that clip for you in a moment. Last week, press accounts identified the man known as Jihadi John as a Londoner named Mohammed Emwazi who was originally from Kuwait. Emwazi moved to Britain as a child and studied computer science at the University of Westminster. The story has touched off a debate in Britain over policing and monitoring of potential threats. A big question remains over when and how Emwazi became radicalized. According to British government accounts, Emwazi was a member of a network in contact with one of the men convicted of trying to bomb the London Underground in 2005. He was also believed to be part of a group involved in procuring funds and equipment “for terrorism-related purposes” in Somalia.

But the prisoner advocacy group, CAGE, has presented a different side of the story. They say Emwazi became radicalized after years of harassment by British security agencies who attempted to recruit him as a spy. In 2009, Emwazi approached CAGE after he was detained and interrogated by the British intelligence agency, MI5, on what he called a safari vacation in Tanzania. In 2010, after Emwazi was barred from returning to Kuwait, he wrote, quote, “I had a job waiting for me and marriage to get started. But now I feel like a prisoner, only not in a cage, in London,” he wrote. CAGE posted audio of Emwazi recounting an interrogation by a British agent in 2009.

Asim Qureshi talking:

what we have to remember is that when Ethiopia invaded Somalia at the end of 2006, beginning of 2007, what happened was that the U.K. security agencies made some assumptions about the threats that might be posed to the U.K., so they started becoming worried about those people who hailed from the Horn of Africa region, but also those who were traveling to that region, as well. So what you saw was a large number of men, who were traveling to, for example, Kenya or Tanzania or other countries nearby, being stopped. For those Somalis who were even traveling to Somalia, young men, they were also getting stopped, as well, and questioned a great deal. What was happening on the streets of London was that MI5 and other kind of members of the security apparatus were going—combing through these communities, suggesting to these individuals that they thought they were extremists or that they thought that they had acquaintances that were problematic, but also trying to recruit them to spy, to turn—to become spies within their communities. So this was the environment that had been created post-2007.

Now, when Mohammed Emwazi and his two friends went to Tanzania, they went very much in that environment, as well. And while they were there in Tanzania, they’re detained by the Tanzanian authorities, who tell them that “We were told to stop you by the British and send you back.” They’re then deported back to Holland, where they had a transit, and then subsequently on to the U.K. But both in the Netherlands, where they were stopped, and in the U.K., they were questioned by British security officials from MI5. And, you know, a lot of those conversations were quite strange for these young men. So, in the case of Mohammed Emwazi, they were obviously trying to suggest that he was trying to go to al-Shabab in Somalia. Mohammed’s response was: “There’s an entire country, Kenya, that’s between Tanzania and Somalia. You know, like, how could you be suggesting such a thing about me?” I mean, this is obviously from what he was telling me.

But then, what I think really convinced Mohammed that this was some kind of fishing expedition and a way of trying to turn him as an individual, they said, “Look, Mohammed, we’ve spoken to your fiancée in Kuwait. We’ve spoken to her family. You know, we’ve met them, and, you know, they know about the fact that you’re on our radar,” and whatever else. So, MI5’s questioning resulted in his engagement having been broken off. But, I mean, specifically what it told Mohammed was that, well, actually, they knew all along that I had no intention to go to al-Shabab, because they knew that I was trying to build a future for myself, a life for myself in Kuwait.

And then, after this whole period where he comes back to the U.K., then what happens is that, you know, first, he tells me the story of what happened there with the deportation from Tanzania, but then he gets in contact because whatever efforts he’s making to build a life for himself in Kuwait are being stopped, you know, on the face of it, by the Kuwaiti authorities, but from information he received from Kuwait, it was at the behest of the British. At no point was he ever arrested or charged with any crimes. And, you know, at the moment, we still haven’t seen any actual evidence to suggest he had ever been involved in any wrongdoing.

once again, that correspondence, you know, we published it online on the CAGE website. You can see that he’s trying to use all the mechanisms of state in order to change the situation that he has. He was—he did work out in Kuwait for about an eight-month period. But when his father requested he come back to the U.K. for a week in order to help him with some family matters, when he tried to return to Kuwait, that’s when this block happened. So we put him in touch with lawyers. We put him in touch with politicians, to his embassy, you know, tried to encourage him to use diplomatic means to get this resolved. We even introduced him to a journalist in order to publicly raise awareness about, you know, the difficulties he was having. And what’s really, really interesting about all of that communication is how willing he is, in order to try and use the mechanisms of state, to bring about a change in his situation. You know, I think—and that’s something that hasn’t been really focused on here in the U.K., at least within the media. But this is a young man who didn’t just let it go. He was trying very, very hard to bring about a change in his situation within the confines of the law.

The reason why Mohammed and his friends first came to me was because they had seen our involvement in raising the profiles of other individuals within his community that had been harassed, for the reasons that I set out already. You know, so they came to us. And at that time, you know, speaking to them, meeting them, I found that these young men seemed to be very, very genuine about their indignation about the way that they had been treated. They genuinely were giving me the impression, at least, that a wrongdoing had happened against them. You know, it didn’t seem contrived at all, in any way. So this was, I think, quite important—for me, at least, anyway—that I felt like these were young men who needed help, they needed assistance, and who also wanted to register and log their story, because they had seen what was happening with others in their community, as well. So that was, you know, quite important.

And, you know, key to that was this idea that I never actually felt any kind of—them expressing any opinions or any beliefs that I thought, well, you know, that’s a bit controversial, or that’s unlawful in some way, or that might speak to a certain mindset, especially a mindset that would, you know, further down the line, potentially, go and join the Islamic State. I didn’t see any of those markers. And I’m somebody who’s dealing with the Muslim community all the time. People are very honest with me about their opinions, about what they believe in, even those who are sympathetic to ISIS and who are critical against the approaches that I take, which is to kind of work within the law and work within the system. They don’t have any difficulty in expressing their views and beliefs to me. So, you know, I don’t think that these young men were being contrived in any way.

But, I mean, going forward, that email communication happens for quite some time, until January 2012, which is the last time I met him. But, you know, I’m not sure why it is that he didn’t come back to me again after that, because it’s not until August 2013 that he actually leaves the U.K. But even in that one-and-a-half-year period, he’s still trying to make efforts behind the scenes, which I was to find out later from the family.

To deal with the statement by the London mayor, Boris Johnson, first, you know, we feel that our position hasn’t been understood. We have a great deal of indignation for anybody who has carried out acts of arbitrary detention, torture, rendition, extrajudicial killings, you know, wherever they—if that includes ISIS, then, yes, for them. If that includes Jihadi John, then, yes, you know, that is our position. But that includes everybody. Our work started with the orange jumpsuits in Guantánamo Bay and our desire to see an end to—you know, to see an end of the Geneva Conventions being flaunted by the U.S. government. So when we saw those same orange jumpsuits being used by ISIS in Iraq, we felt like we had a responsibility, as a consequence of the war on terror, to speak out where we felt that there were wrongdoings taking place. So I think that the London mayor has really tried to fudge the issue.

What we want to know about the security agencies is there is a period that Mohammed Emwazi is in the U.K. where he feels like he is constantly under threat, that he is constantly being harassed. And his communications, not only with me, but also with the reporter who he was having other email exchanges with, you know, they really show and speak to a certain mindset that, you know, increasingly, he was of the opinion that he had no place to belong in this society. And that’s the question that we at CAGE are asking, you know, that in this period, what is it about his interactions with the security agencies that made him feel like he did not belong? And the reason why we want to ask that question is because if that contributed to him leaving the U.K. and then trying to find a sense of belonging elsewhere—say, for example, with the Islamic State—then we want to learn lessons from that, so our youth here in the U.K. don’t repeat that process if they’re going through similar forms of harassment.

— source democracynow.org

Asim Qureshi, research director at the London-based prisoner advocacy group, CAGE.