Saturday, February 6, 2010

Afghanistan US secret jails - OOOObama!!!

secret USA prisons in Afghanistan

Preparing For Surge, US Plays Shell Game With Prisons in

By: Jim White Friday February 5, 2010 7:23 am

The Obama administration is engaged in an attempt to
absolve itself of responsibility for illegal detentions
in Afghanistan, but its efforts appear to be nothing
more than a fairly simple shell game. In an article
published yesterday at Truthout, Andy Worthington
explains the two basic aspects of the deceit: the US is
transferring control of the Bagram prison, which is
publicly acknowledged, to the Afghan government while
continuing to maintain multiple secret detention sites.
Here is Worthington on the transfer issue:

This [new policy for reviewing a prisoner's status]
is depressingly close to the "new paradigm" of warfare
introduced by Bush and Cheney, and it is, perhaps, no
surprise that, as criticisms began to mount, the
administration strategically announced that it was in
the process of transferring control of Bagram to the
Afghan government. It remains to be seen how swiftly the
proposed transfer will occur, but it is unsurprising
that the announcement has been made, for two reasons:
firstly, because it diverts attention from current US
policy, and secondly, because, as with the Status of
Forces Agreement (SOFA) in Iraq, it allows the US
government to abdicate all responsibility for the
mistakes it has made. Signed in November 2008, the SOFA
in Iraq has led to the transfer of thousands of
prisoners in US control to the custody of the Iraqi
government, even though what awaits them is not a review
of whether their detention by US forces was a mistake,
but the chaos of the Iraqi judicial system.

The agreement on transfer of control of the Bagram
prison was signed on January 9 and could well represent
the outcome of a review process first discussed last

A sweeping United States military review calls for
overhauling the troubled American-run prison here as
well as the entire Afghan jail and judicial systems, a
reaction to worries that abuses and militant recruiting
within the prisons are helping to strengthen the

As Worthington points out, transferring control of
the publicly acknowledged prison at Bagram is an attempt
to deflect responsibility for occurrences at a prison
that is known to "strengthen the Taliban". The Times
article notes the known issues with prisons already
under Afghan control and points to efforts by the US to
provide training to improve conditions in the prisons.
Given the overall deficiencies known to exist in
recruiting and training Afghan defense and police
forces, it remains dubious whether any progress has been
achieved in training those in charge of Afghan prisons.

In the same article, Worthington presents new
evidence that the US maintains secret prisons in
Afghanistan (see this diary for a discussion of the
recent UN report on secret prisons and this article by
Anand Gopal for more): Late last year, a reliable Afghan
source informed a lawyer friend of mine that there were,
at the time, about two dozen secret facilities in
Afghanistan, including three or four in Herat, four or
five in northern Afghanistan, and three or four in
Kabul. According to this source, the majority were US
facilities, although a few were run by the National
Directorate of Security (NDS), the Afghan government's
domestic intelligence agency, and a few others were run
by the Afghan Army. The source added, "They are all
worse than Bagram. All contain a mix of combatants,
criminals and totally innocent persons. The main
difference is that those at the US prisons are fed
better. No one has any rights."

In addition, just last week, in response to my
recent articles, a military insider let me know that,
"Not only were there facilities in Bagram, but in
Kandahar and Salerno as well. Saw them firsthand between
2006 and 2009, but was told not to speak of the jails."
These, it was noted, were "unsanctioned facilities,"
which were off-limits to the International Committee of
the Red Cross.

Back in July, when the New York Times article linked
above first came out, I seized on the second paragraph
to note that Admiral Michael Mullen, Chair of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, was attempting to inoculate himself
against involvement in torture and illegal detention
with the statement he put out calling for proper
treatment of prisoners. I still think that was the case,
and an article this week by Jeremy Scahill provides
further information on why we would have the strange
situation of a Joint Chiefs Chair attempting to separate
himself from actions expected to be undertaken by forces
ostensibly under his control. Scahill is writing about
recent events in Pakistan, but this passage speaks to
the situation in Afghanistan as well:

With General Stanley McChrystal, who commanded JSOC
from 2003-2008, running the war, forces-and
commanders-accustomed to operating in an unaccountable
atmosphere now have unprecedented influence on overall
US military operations, opening the door for an
expansion of secretive, black operations done with
little to no oversight. "The main thing to take away
here is a recognition and acceptance of the paradigm
shift that has occurred," says the former CENTCOM
employee. "Everything is one echelon removed from
before: where CIA was the darkest of the dark, now it is
JSOC. Therefore, military forces have more leeway to do
anything in support of future military objectives. The
CIA used to have the ultimate freedom-now that freedom
is in JSOC's hands, and the other elements of the
military have been ordered to adapt."

Scahill's article also speaks to a Bush-era concept
of "preparing the

battlefield", continued by the Obama administration.
Although different from the process Scahill described of
sending in covert forces before sending ground forces,
the actions with regard to prisons in Afghanistan also
qualify as a preparation of the battlefield for
McChrystal's surge in Afghanistan.

The McChrystal/JSOC modus operandi is highly
dependent on detaining large numbers of prisoners (see
the Gopal article above for the effects on a family that
was subjected to a nighttime raid to detain a family
member). From the changes that have been announced in
advance of the Afghanistan surge, it appears that the
new detainees will be split between facilities under
Afghan control and the remaining secret prisons under
JSOC control, assuring that Mullen's caution to treat
prisoners according to international norms will be

If the surge does result in a large increase in
prisoners to be disappeared into secret JSOC prisons or
publicly transferred into poorly run Afghan prisons,
then the surge will increase violence rather than
decrease it. Avoid the rush and prepare now for a large
helping of "who could have expected" when the violence


Yes, note that the SOFA was used to "clean up" the
problem of the illegally detained prisoners, many of
whom were detained as a result of McChrystal/JOSC
operations. They're just trying to get ahead of the game
this time since they know it's coming.


Do any lawyers think this attempt by the Generals to
avoid blame will work in a war crimes court? Do American
Generals get a pass from arrest in NATO countries?


Good question. Especially given that Karzai is known
to have CIA connections (through his brother) and other
general claims that the Afghan government is a US


Thanks for doing this. I have a couple of
questions/comments. First is that the number of
temporary detention sites seems low. I was told in
2007/8 that the number was close to 100, but Andy
Worthington et al. are always saying a dozen or two.
Have some of the others become "above board" Afghan
jails, or has the number really changed?

Second, the International Justice Network is doing
the case Maqaleh v. Gates about the
habeas rights. What's really eerie is that Neal Katyal,
who argued on behalf of the Guantanamo inmates for
habeas rights in the Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision, is
argued against such rights for the government (he's now
deputy Solicitor General) in this one. This is the worst
of the worst in Afghanistan this prison network. It's
easily more important than any other change we could ask
out of the Obama administration. Or maybe out of the
Congress. It seemed, and still seems reading Anand
Gopal's article, that Congress needs to end the AUMF,
that provides justification for there being troops
outside of the purview of NATO in Afghanistan. And
outside of the purview of god knows what in Guantanamo,
Iraq, and everywhere else.

In response to ondelette @ 8

I can't account for the difference in the reported
number of temporary sites now compared to a few years
ago. I rely a lot on Worthington's reporting and have
found him very approachable. You might want to send him
an email with that question; I'm sure he'd answer within
a day or two. His email address is on his website.

I guess Neal Katyal is another one to add to the list
of folks who suddenly find lawbreaking just fine when
it's on Obama's watch instead of Bush's.

Yes, I agree that this shell game with prisons and
the JSOC secret network is as bad as it gets for the US
when it comes to abiding by the tenets of international
laws and treaties. Obama seems to have endorsed it
fully, though, so I don't see how we could get him or
Congress to change it or to rescind AUMF. The only thing
I could see changing it would be a huge international
outcry against our behavior that actually started to
affect our economy in a big way through sanctions and

for the original article WITH INTERNET LINKS search for
a phrase

"three or four in Kabul. According to this source"

in google

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posted by u2r2h at 5:02 PM


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