Afghan Prison Abuse: Who Gave the Orders?

The New York Times examines the case of John Boland, a military reserve officer from Cincinnati charge with abusing prisoners at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. First, the charged facts:

The report also said that Sergeant Boland shackled an Afghan named Dilawar, chaining his hands above his shoulders, and denied medical care to the man, a 22-year-old taxi driver, whose family said he had never spent a night away from his mother and father before being taken to the American air base at Bagram, 40 miles north of Kabul. The two detainees died there within a week of each other in December 2002.

Now, 21 months later, the Army has charged Sergeant Boland with assault and other crimes and investigators are recommending that two dozen other American soldiers face criminal charges, including negligent homicide, or other punishments for abuses that occurred more than a year before the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Who authorized these methods of interrogation? And why did the military first say the two detainees died of natural causes? And who authorized the CIA to keep their names off the prisoner roster to shield them from the Red Cross?

An upcoming report is expected to address these questions. One person whose account is sure to be called into question: Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, the commander of American forces in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld approved harsh interrogation methods for Guantanamo, but reportedly, not for Iraq or Afganistan. Yet, such methods were used.

"Interrogation techniques intended only for Guantánamo came to be used in Afghanistan and Iraq,'' a separate report by an independent panel, appointed by Mr. Rumsfeld and headed by James R. Schlesinger, a former defense secretary, found in August.

Read the accounts, they are disgusting. Was it Rumsfeld? Was it the CIA, acting on its own? Will we ever know the truth?

Background on the Bagram deaths and abuse is here, here here and here. Another Afghan prisoner's account of his torture is here. Human Rights Watch weighs in too.

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