Our Secret 'Black Jail' in Afghanistan

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Reports of a second, "black" prison attached to the notorious detention facility at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan is drawing fire from critics of President Obama's continuation of Bush-era detention practices. The New York Times reports that detainees are held at the site for extended periods without access to basic services or the International Red Cross. Both the Times and The Washington Post provide extensive interviews with former detainees at the site. The facility is run not by the CIA but by JSOC, the Joint Special Operations Command, a part of the military.

  • 'No Possible Excuse'  An anonymous lawyer at the liberal blog Unfogged writes, "There's no possible excuse for this -- it's not as if there's domestic political pressure that makes abiding by international law and norms of civilized behavior in this regard particularly difficult. No part of the public who would think of this as being soft on terrorists is paying enough attention to make it an issue. I would really like to be making excuses for the Obama administration as generally well intentioned on this sort of human rights issue, but I have no idea at all of how one could possibly justify this sort of thing."
  • America's Detention Problem  The Washington Independent's Daphne Eviatar argues, "the stories emphasize the point I’ve been making for a while now that even if President Obama manages to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center in the next several months (he’s already conceded he’s not going to meet his original January deadline), that’s not going to completely solve the United States’ image problem when it comes to prisoner mistreatment and abuse — because we still have Bagram," she writes. "[G]iven the secrecy that still surrounds the Bagram facility and its inmates, and the fact that the wing of the prison operated by Special Operations forces is even more secretive and closed to the ICRC, the Obama administration is going to have a hard time answering these latest claims."
  • Why Did Phil Carter Quit?  Mark Kleiman wonders. "Up until last week, my tendency was to brush off such accusations. As long as [Pentagon official] Phil Carter was in charge of detainee affairs, I had complete confidence that the right things were being done. This week Carter quit. For 'personal reasons.' I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach."
  • ...And Greg Craig  Digby is less uncertain. "I don't know if this information also had anything to do with the resignations of [Whit House counsel] Greg Craig and Philip Carter, the two men most associated with Obama's stated policy to end these practices, but you cannot help but wonder."
Despite being commander of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, McChrystal does not fully command JSOC forces, a cumbersome command relationship that McChrystal’s August strategy review discussed mitigating. But McChrystal comes out of the JSOC community, giving him more influence over JSOC operations than most theater commanders. And so does his new chief of detention operations, Vice Adm. Robert Harward, who was McChrystal’s deputy at JSOC. What’s more, McChrystal is the first commander in the Afghanistan war to treat the perspectives of the Afghan people as "strategically decisive," as he put it in his June confirmation hearings.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.