Women and US foreign policy |

Andrea Prasow

Andrea Prasow



This is a transcript of an interview Matthew Alan Hill conducted with Andrea Prasow for the Women and US Foreign Policy Interview Project at The Institute for the Study of the Americas, University of London.

Interviewee: Andrea Prasow (AP)

Employment positions referred to in interview:  Senior Counterterrorism Counsel and Advocate, and former defence attorney in the US Office of Military Commissions as habeas counsel for ten Saudi detainees at Guantanamo

Interviewer: Matthew Alan Hill (MH)

Date: August 3, 2011

Location: Washington, D.C., USA

Website profile: http://www.hrw.org/bios/andrea-prasow


General questions about your career [00:19 – 19:02]

Childhood ambition to be a lawyer; engagement with race relations in Toronto during high school; working with a women’s rights organisation during law school; impact of 9/11 on decision to shift focus to human rights; influence of parental peace activism; outsider identity a product of US-Canadian dual citizenship; working on pro bono cases for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP law firm in New York; dogged pursuit and stubbornness the keys to success; gender discrimination by male colleagues at law firm and her response; conversation with one of the male colleagues that discriminated against her; YouTube parody video of her after the death of Bin Laden; working as a civilian within the US Office of Military Commissions at Guantanamo; high rates of sexual assault on women in the military; rape of women in a US Forward Operating Base in Afghanistan by a contractor or US military person; difficulties in Afghanistan for a female US Military person who has been raped to have an examination to gather evidence; experience of gender discrimination by co-counsel during time at the Military Commissions office.

Non-gender specific issues and events you were involved in during your FP-related career [19:03 – 40:10]

Difficulties of representing detainees in Guantanamo; complications involved in representing Salim Ahmed Hamdan; powerlessness of detainees; structural difficulties in building relations with clients; Mr. Hamdan is released after serving sixty-six months and returns to Yemen; jury composition of Military Commissions made up of military officers; discussion of relationship with Guantanamo detainee Obaidullah; impact of work at Human Rights Watch (HRW) in influencing US executive and legislative branches; work on halting the Defense Authorisation Bill and its militarisation of counter-terrorism; unfairness of Yemenis in Guantanamo not able to transfer people to Yemen because of the instability in the country; high levels of influence with the State Department and some members of Congress; incentive for White House to keep HRW on side by listening to its concerns; abuse towards juvenile Afghan detainee Omar Khadr by US military officials; discusses HRW report Getting Away With Torture calling for Bush administration officials to be investigated for torture; questions over the constitutionality of the Military Commissions; negative impact of Military Commissions on the image of the US around the world.

Experiences and knowledge of US engagement with gender issues in foreign policy [40:11 – 51:17]

Examples of respecting the culture of Muslim clients; read books about cultural communications in order to respect a client’s beliefs; meeting with families of Saudi detainees; explaining to Salim Ahmed Hamdan that she wore different clothes in court representing him because of the expectations of the judge; mistaken as an Afghan when in Afghanistan; female military paralegal wearing a headdress and the difficulties she faced from a US Military guard; safety in Yemen by wearing the traditional female clothes; discussion on why women are not going to Bagram or Guantanamo detention centres.

Please note that the 41 seconds between 47:06 and 47:47 has been deleted.

Views on recent US foreign policy related issues [51:18 – 58:42]

Discussion of dangers in removing US civilian government agencies from pursuing someone and turning an investigation over to the US Military because they are determined a terrorist under the 2012 National Defence Authorisation Act; US criticises countries with military tribunals for civilians whilst employing them themselves; how illegal interrogations created justification for the 2003 Iraq invasion; impact of US conduct in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in legitimising Muslim peoples opposition to Western actions.

Please note that the 3 seconds between 58:01 and 58:03 has been deleted.

Andrea_Prasow_03.08.2011_audio.mp3 (to download right-click and ‘Save link as…’)