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Guantanamo at 22

Jessica Murphy Speaks at Close Guantanamo Vigil

January 11, 2024

Good afternoon. I am here representing September 11 Families for Peaceful

Tomorrows, an organization founded by family members of those who died in the 9/11

attacks who advocate for alternatives to violence in counter terrorism. Our organization

was founded in the aftermath of the loss of our loved ones–– out of a concern that the

US response to 9/11 would lead to further civilian death. — a concern that tragically

became a reality.

On September 11, 2001, my father Brian Murphy was killed in the attacks on the World

Trade Center, along with nearly three thousand others. Just three months later, on this

day in 2002, the Bush administration established the detention center at Guantanamo

Bay to illegally and indefinitely detain Muslim men and boys with the purported goal of

counter terrorism. As we have heard today, these individuals have spent decades

unlawfully detained— an entire lifetime behind bars, the majority without any


I was five years old on 9/11 and was not old enough to understand the actions taking

place in the name of my father and other victims. As I grew older, I learned more about

the violence and torture that the US enacted in the name of the 9/11 victims–– in Iraq,

Afghanistan, at Guantanamo, and beyond.

In 2017, I discovered Peaceful Tomorrows and learned about atrocities that occurred at

Guantanamo Bay and beyond in the aftermath of 9/11. The following year, I traveled to

the naval base at Guantanamo to watch pretrial hearings in the 9/11 case, against five

men accused of planning the attacks.

My trip to Guantanamo confirmed my suspicions that the legal charades taking place —

for over 16 years with no end in sight — were no substitute for justice. I saw firsthand

that in addition to representing one of the major human rights abuses of our generation,

the torture enacted by our government actually delayed and ultimately prevented any

meaningful opportunity for justice or accountability for 9/11 victims.  

The prosecution claimed to represent people like me and my family; they claimed that

they are seeking justice. But all I saw was an attempt to justify what the U.S. did and to

avoid any accountability for its own crimes.

Today marks the 22nd anniversary of the opening of the Guantanamo Bay detention

center–– twenty-two years too many. We must be clear: war crimes by one do not justify

war crimes by another, especially when those who are targeted are also innocent.

We must learn from the legacy of 9/11 and its tragic aftermath. It is time for the US

government to acknowledge the torture that took place, take accountability for the racist

policies that enabled and justified it, and close Guantanamo once and for all. The case

against the 9/11 accused must reach a plea deal and the other detainees must be

released in order to move beyond and end the cycles of violence and war.

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