A New York City college is battling the Pentagon over artwork it has on display from suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.
John Jay College of Criminal Justice began displaying the art on Oct. 2 in an exhibit titled “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo Bay,” and includes an email address for anyone interested in purchasing the artwork, the New York Post reported.
The artwork was given to the college by Ramzi Kassem, the attorney for the prisoners, under a policy that allowed detainees to fill out a form and have their artwork reviewed and released to their attorneys before being forwarded to family members.
— Walkileaks (@walkileaks) November 26, 2017
— Moses Hawk (@MosesHawk) November 25, 2017
But the Pentagon has halted that program and does not appear to be happy with the John Jay exhibit.
In a statement to the Miami Herald, a spokesman for the Department of Defense said there are “questions remain on where the money for the sales was going.”
“Items produced by detainees at Guantanamo Bay remain the property of the US government,” Air Force Maj. Ben Sakrisson said. “The appropriate disposition of this property has been clarified with our staff at the detention facility and will be accounted for according to applicable local procedures in the future.”
— Andy Worthington (@GuantanamoAndy) November 23, 2017
— Fisher Art Gallery (@fishergallery) November 21, 2017
The bios for the prisoners make them sound more like trapped artists than monsters accused of horrid crimes against America.
“Detained and tortured by the CIA before arriving at Guantanamo, Rabbani has protested by undertaking years-long hunger strikes,” read the bio for Ahmed Rabbani who is suspected of having worked with 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
And the event curator, John Jay art crime professor Erin Thompson, appears to be more concerned about the art than the crimes the “artists” are accused of.
— Artsy (@artsy) November 19, 2017
— AAN Afghanistan (@AANafgh) November 2, 2017
“I hope that people will come visit the show and see the art, because, at this point, I don’t know what will happen to it,” Thompson told the Post. “It might go back to the artists — or it might go into an incinerator.”
“They created this art under strict regulations,” she said. “They cannot produce violent images or anything that might contain a hidden message. Every blank sheet of paper . . . had to be inspected and cleared for use.”
But families of 9/11 victims had bigger concerns.
“A lot of guys who passed away during 9/11 went to John Jay College, including my brother,” Michael Burke, whose brother, FDNY Capt. Billy Burke, was murdered on 9/11. “I can’t understand how this college in particular would allow such a thing. Where’s their decency? Where’s their dignity? They’re delivering the completely wrong message. It’s denying and softening what happened. What’s next, hanging up the art of John Wayne Gacy?”
“I feel completely betrayed,” Rosaleen Tallon, whose brother firefighter Sean Tallon, died on 9/11. “Someone’s job should be on the line for this. Using taxpayer money to hang the artwork of criminals in our college for criminal justice makes my blood boil. This is going way too far and is rubbing our noses in the loss we have to carry with us every day.”
Jim McCaffrey, whose brother, FDNY Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, was a victim of the 911 attacks, called it “a slap in the face.”
“Let them display that at Guantanamo, not here. It’s a terrible precedent to set,” he said.
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