Inside the Secret Interrogation Facility at Bagram

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) runs a classified interrogation facility for high-value detainees inside Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, defense and administration officials said, and prisoners there are sometimes subject to tougher interrogation methods than those used elsewhere.

Both the New York Times and the BBC reported that prisoners who passed through the facility reported abuse, like beatings and sexual humiliation, to the Red Cross, which is not allowed access. The commander in charge of detention operations in Afghanistan, Vice Admiral Robert Harward, has insisted that all detainees under his purview have regular Red Cross access and are not mistreated.

It has been previously reported that the facility, beige on the outside with a green gate, was operated by members of a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC)  group, allegedly outside of Harward's jurisdiction. But JSOC, a component command made up of highly secret special mission units and task forces, does not operate the facility.

Instead, it is manned by intelligence operatives and interrogators who work for the DIA's Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC). They perform interrogations for a sub-unit of Task Force 714, an elite counter-terrorism brigade.

Called the "black jail" by some of those who have transited through it, it is a way-point for detainees who are thought to possess actionable information about the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

Intelligence gleaned from these interrogations has often led to some of the military's highest profile captures. Usually, captives are first detained at one of at least six classified Field Interrogation Sites in Afghanistan, and then dropped off at the DIA facility -- and, when the interrogators are finished, transferred to the main prison population at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility.

"DoD does operate some temporary screening detention facilities which are classified to preserve operational security; however, both the [Red Cross] and the host nation have knowledge of these facilities," said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesperson. "Screening facilities help military officials determine if an individual should be detained further and assists military forces with timely information vital to ongoing operations." Whitman would not say who ran the facility or provide any details. A DIA spokesperson declined to comment, as did the White House, which referred questions to the Pentagon."In all our facilities the standard is humane treatment and all DoD detention facilities are required to be compliant with Common Article III, The Detainee Treatment Act, the Executive Order signed by the President last year, and the DoD Detainee Directive and the Army Field Manual," Whitman said.

Although the CIA's enhanced interrogation program was investigated and a Justice Department prosecutor is currently reviewing those files, the Defense Department's parallel activities have been given little scrutiny. To this day, the Department denies the existence of a "special access program," codenamed "Copper Green," which allegedly authorized military interrogators to use extremely harsh methods, including the infliction of sexual humiliation, on high-value terrorists.

Only about 200 military and civilian personnel were aware of Copper Green's existence before it was disclosed by the New Yorker's Seymour Hersh. The CIA's program, known internally by the acronym "GST," has been discontinued. Although "Copper Green" was disbanded, the Defense Department's detainee affairs section has set up a new special access program under which the rules for battlefield interrogations are established. It is classified Top Secret.

Presented by

Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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