U.S. "Black Jails" Still Operating in Afghanistan and Iraq

The New York Times reports on two "black jails" still being operated by the U.S. military in Afghanistan. It has interviewed several released detainees whose accounts are similar. They had no access to the Red Cross. One is a special unit at Bagram:

The site consists of individual windowless concrete cells, each lighted by a single light bulb glowing 24 hours a day, where detainees said that their only contact with another human being was at twice-daily interrogation sessions.

The jail’s operation highlights a tension between President Obama’s goal to improve detention conditions that had drawn condemnation under the Bush administration and his desire to give military commanders leeway to operate. ...While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, that order did not apply to this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

The other is at Balad Air Base in Iraq. An Obama Adminisration official says Obama's orders to close the black hole sites applied to those run by the CIA, not military Special Operations forces, and there are no plans to close these jails.

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    President Equivocate... (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Dadler on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 11:20:44 AM EST
    ...strikes again. And again, and again, and again.

    Since being denied (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by jondee on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 12:12:19 PM EST
    the all-out invasion of Cuba that the unhinged Joint Chiefs wanted in the early sixties, when, in the last forty + years, has ANY American president ever stood up and said no to whatever the Pentagon and CIA said they required?

    He hired McChrystal (5.00 / 4) (#3)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 12:23:02 PM EST
    So certain techniques never troubled him.

    Well, we do not know for sure how much (none / 0) (#7)
    by KeysDan on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 03:18:39 PM EST
    fortitude any had, but we do know that when a president does try to stand up to the CIA or Military, they run into trouble.  A case study is George H.W.Bush, who seemed to want to avoid hostilities with Panama, particularly with his old asset from his CIA days. But, soon he was labeled a "wimp", which was aided and abetted by the press.  The next thing we knew, "Operation Just Cause" was put into place and we invaded Panama in December 1989, just before the Carter-negotiated treaty was to transfer control of the Panama Canal from the US to Panama. Conflicting reasons were given for the invasion, but President Bush seemed to focus (as did his UN Ambassador Pickering) on the slapping of a serviceman's wife. Noriega rode around Panama City for several days in an old Plymouth, making calls from a Dairy Queen for asylum at the Vatican Embassy, which was granted However, he did give up after the Eminences could not take the high volume rock and roll music aimed at their sleeping rooms.  Bush was no longer a wimp, and went on to bigger and better wars.

    He can thread the needle, Can't he? (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by BrassTacks on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 02:29:35 AM EST
    I'd love to see him stop being wishy washy and man up to something instead of always trying to go down the middle to avoid criticism.  The reality is, he just irritates everyone with his equivocating.  

    While none of what I will (5.00 / 1) (#4)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 12:35:15 PM EST
    type will or can be considered an observance of basic human rights, I seriously doubt that anyone being held has been beaten since President Obama took over.  Of course recordings of beatings that prisoners can hear would be considered a useful tool and that tactic is probably not considered illegal by this administration, and sleep deprivation and isolation are of course completely on the table.  I am told though that even the black sites have double oversight when it comes to enforcing this administrations rules.  Who watches the watchers?  I dunno

    Plus ça change, (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Zorba on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 12:35:52 PM EST
    Plus c'est la même chose.

    My Sentiments Exactly (5.00 / 4) (#6)
    by The Maven on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 02:54:19 PM EST
    (although I was going to say it as "meet the new administration, same as the old administration").  Pretty much everything Obama has done as regards detainee policies at Guantanamo, Bagram and elsewhere has been as severe disappointment, though it becomes less surprising by the day.  From extensions for possibly shutting down Gitmo (maybe by 2011?), to selective access to actual criminal trials in regular courts, to reserving the right to indefinite detention without trial, to continued reliance on the abhorrent state secrets privilege to shut down entire cases rather then merely shield individual pieces of evidence, etc., etc.

    There has been distressingly little evidence of actual change, just some occasional talk of it with the hope that no one bothers to check later to see whether there was genuine follow-through.


    William F Buckley (5.00 / 2) (#8)
    by kidneystones on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 04:39:38 PM EST
    Pointed out during the Viet Nam debate that children are burned to death in all wars. That was certainly the case when 'good Dem' Harry Truman sanctioned the fire-bombing of Japanese cities from March, 1945. Something like 81 square kilometers of densely-populated urban areas burned to a crisp. There's an instructive NHK documentary on the fire-creation strategy employed by the USAF and on the new 'miracle' weapon: burning gelatin tested and employed against the civilian population of Japan.

    While loathe to cite Buckley, I fear he makes the only point that matters: war is by definition inhumane. Better and more efficient interrogation/torture techniques might make Dems now responsible for the abduction of suspects sleep better at night. The same cannot likely be said of those picked-up or their families.

    We all need to have a very clear idea of why we're willing to subject ourselves and the Afghan people to this sort of inhumanity. I'm willing to listen to the arguments. But if we do not have a clear set of realistic goals with identifiable benefits that can be achieved, then we need to ask ourselves just why we're setting the region and ourselves alight.

    Unbelieveably the bots at Orange (5.00 / 3) (#10)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 06:12:23 PM EST
    Would like to attempt to paint this as some sort of military coup.  I just can't believe it.  Does anybody there read Greenwald ever?  Have they paid absolutely no attention to anything militarily concerning Obama?  And they simply can't wait to blame this on soldiers gone rogue.  There is NOTHING rogue going on.  This is Obama policy.  And lefties wonder why a majority of the military are nauseated by them.  It is because soldiers are easy scapegoats to liberals, who often do it shamelessly when they can't deal with certain realities.

    The Cruelest Lie (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by kidneystones on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 09:56:26 PM EST
    Interesting, isn't it? How gullible Dems are! Just spent a bit reviewing some of my essays from April, 2008, before I pulled the pin on my support for the current gang and crossed over to the other side.

    I'd much, much prefer candor over any other virtue. Recall how much some Dems made of Obama's opposition to the Iraq invasion? Now, we have the same guy making a new set of promises about another war.

    The biting irony is that troops that actually make it out of Iraq this year or next look to be heading straight back to fight the same enemy in Afghanistan in an open-ended battle, without the requested number of troops or resources.

    That's change you can believe in.

    I'll be posting slightly more regularly on my own site and on the Twitter @kidneystones_, that's kidneystones with an '_'.


    Candor is all that anyone will (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 08:08:02 AM EST
    REALLY have at the end of any day.  I never overly worried about Obama worship.  It was an interesting phenom and sometimes even a funny one.  It is hard for me to stomach today though the blind denial, blaming this on the troops or a rogue military or a rogue CIA, or that these detainees are a bunch of liars (though everything they claim outside of the beatings is legal), while at the same time people are so proud that they don't read Greenwald.  How is such willful ignorance ever useful?  I think I did realize yesterday and today though that because of what a political junkie I am, and because I have a hard time dealing with certain realities in the combat zones and have a spouse right in the middle of the whole deal.....I seem to be one of a very few who didn't lie to myself about what the writing on the wall was as well as being willing to talk about it.  BTD always surprised me with his candor as well when discussing Preventive Detention.  God knows I respect that candor a lot more today too.  

    You have your (5.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 05:37:40 PM EST
    own blog? Can you post a link on your profile here?

    we had to disable that feature (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 11:11:07 PM EST
    due to spammers registering to use it for their websites. Sorry.

    A quick apology, Jeralyn (5.00 / 1) (#22)
    by kidneystones on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 11:30:39 PM EST
    I noted that one of my comments on the 'We had them at Tora-Bora thread was deleted. I'm an immense fan of what you're doing here, but can sometimes be a bit rude, I know.

    I'm not convinced, frankly, that the sensible people who post here get much of a hearing from the decision-makers in Washington and elsewhere.

    I do my best to keep my more strident critiques off this site. I'm convinced, however, that this administration is repeating (to my horror) virtually every bad decision we saw from the previous administration. I think you're far more socially liberal than I am, but I respect and admire your intelligence, commitment and passion.

    My not be enough to be in good-standing, but I'll take the content of TL over that of any other site this side of Duncan Black, and that includes Digby, who I respect.


    All about me (none / 0) (#16)
    by kidneystones on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 09:06:08 PM EST
    Inspector Gadget writes...

    I checked the profile part of TL and can't find any KOS type interface that allows for id info or links. I hope I'm not breaching any site rules by posting my blog info here:


    (dormant for a year and just up again)

    I posted at the Orange Satan back when it was truly evil and at Docudharma, where my essays can be found (for the few interested) under kidneystones. And at bhtv.

    Despite parting from the above on mostly good terms, I have tremendous respect and affection for many there, some of whom post here now. Fabian and Turkana, andgarden and trix all stood tall during the 'racists are them' debacle. BTD can be an inspiring and erudite essayist when, ahem, sober. There are lots of others over the years I read and respect, you among them.

    I enjoy the skepticism and the passion of the TL community very much. There are very, very few places on the web I know of that allow for this level of dissent while asking for common sense and civility. Anyway, I enjoy your comments very much and can't promise anything special at rattlesnakepoint. All are welcome.


    They're not soldiers (none / 0) (#18)
    by mcl on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 10:55:10 PM EST
    Someone who tortures people to death isn't a soldier. He's a torturer. Get your facts straight before you start distorting them.

    So why not use mass rape? (none / 0) (#19)
    by mcl on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 11:01:53 PM EST
    Your morally bankrupt "argument" (if such dishonestly sophistical casuistry can be called an argument instead of a pack of a stupid lies) leads to the conclusion that since war is by definition inhumane, hey...why not go for the gusto?

    So America should form rape squads. We should herd women in Afghanistan and Iraq together and rape 'em en masse.

    Why not impale babies?  Tell us where Al Qaeda is hiding or we'll impale your baby on this sharpened stake. War is inhumane, right?

    And since we're engaged in a "war on drugs," why, let's let those police loose!  They should be able to rape a drug suspect's wife and daughter until he confesses, right? It's a war!  On drugs!  And war is, by definition, inhumane!

    Why, there ya go. Let those cops use a butane torch and a pliers on that suspect's naked infant daughter until he confesses.

    How can you look in the mirror and stop from hanging yourself?  Do you know the meaning of the words common human decency?  Do you have any concept of the thing called a "conscience"?

    I'm ashamed to live in the same country as you. We hung people like you during the Numbemberg trials 65 years ago.


    please tone down your anger (5.00 / 1) (#21)
    by Jeralyn on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 11:13:06 PM EST
    This site is not the place for personal attacks. Thank you.

    Nuremberg (none / 0) (#23)
    by kidneystones on Sun Nov 29, 2009 at 11:43:27 PM EST
    mcl writes...

    Actually, we don't live in the same country. I live in the country Democrats fire-bombed. And as for your claim that you hung folks (like me?) at Nuremberg, you didn't. You hung a fraction of the guilty and put many of the guilty on the US payroll, working for the OSS and then the CIA.

    Anyway, apart from your historical errors, you make a much more fundamental and important mistake. Buckley, whatever his real faults, was arguing that war is by definition inhumane and should, therefore, be avoided at all costs. That's my own position.

    Those who firebombed children in Tokyo and Viet Nam no more set out to destroy those young lives than the pilots and fire-control officers operating in the US and Central Asia. Yet, in all three theaters children die. War should be avoided at all costs. And when wars are fought, we need to accept that the innocent, despite the best efforts of the best of us, are certain to be casualties. That's not a call for less care and caution, but a call for more.

    I hope I've made my position clearer to you.


    Torture, Orange Love and Sarah Palin (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by kidneystones on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 11:32:46 PM EST
    Digby links to Valtin's excellent diary on the Obama administration's abuse of Afghan prisoners and points out that Dems have good reason to be offended by the institutionalizing of policies we once deplored. I've always respected Valtin and thoroughly enjoyed his essay. So, I check the top of the rec list and guess what's on it?

    A large brief hit (legitimate, IMHO) on Palin followed by photo after photo of America's royal family. Real people. Like Palin's family and constituency aren't?

    What worried me, however, was the list of Kossacks recommending this tripe. There are a few, more than a few, I credit with real sense. And there they were drooling with the rest, like all the Sarah bashing and high-fiving was going to make Valtin's facts disappear.

    WTF? That's scary.

    Rules or no rules, there still seems to (none / 0) (#9)
    by Anne on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 04:57:49 PM EST
    be a mindset at work when it comes to the treatment of detainees; I don't think you wipe out years of a particular approach just because someone put pen to paper and changed those rules.

    Besides, if at the same time, you are going to make exceptions here and exceptions there, pretty soon everyone thinks their particular situation should be an exception, and they will proceed on that basis.

    I don't think anyone who has been following Obama's conduct on civil liberties is at all surprised at this news; Obama seems to be someone who can talk a good story but has no commitment to a position and therefore little in the way of follow-through.  Plus, he's got some real hard-liners in place, and I guess Obama's either afraid to get on their bad side, or he subscribes to a much more hard-line position than he's willing to state publicly.

    Obama had a chance to categorically reject the Constitution-shredding Bush years, but almost one year later, his embrace of them has given him flat-out ownership.

    Thanks a bunch, Obama!

    Yes, we know President Obama (5.00 / 1) (#11)
    by KeysDan on Sat Nov 28, 2009 at 06:14:08 PM EST
    inherited a car without an engine, but so far no new motor in sight, and I fear for the wheels.

    Wild rhetoric and bombast (none / 0) (#26)
    by kidneystones on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 04:28:37 AM EST
    You've certainly got the self-righteous virtue down. First, a question: I am still to be hung for my thought/speech crimes. I'd like to know if you've lifted your death sentence.

    As to your, ahem, charges. Unlike you, I do not believe for a second that the USAF set out to intentionally torch innocent women and children during the fire-bombings of Tokyo and other Japanese centers. I should mention, btw, that Japan is not my country. I reside here.

    In my initial post I directed the interested to an NHK documentary on the fire-bombings of Tokyo. Like it or not a large part of east and central Tokyo was home to small factories that played a key role in the Japanese economy. Was the attack on civilian targets a war-crime? Not according to Dem president Harry Truman. Dem darling Jon Stewart had to retract on camera, his remark that Truman was a war criminal.

    Unlike you, I've no idea whether Buckley dreamed of burning Asian children. I'd be shocked and astonished if he did. I certainly don't believe anyone in the US military entertains that sort of fantasy. I certainly don't believe Americans possess any special virtues, so I'm compelled to assume that we all (most of us, anyway) value life.

    From way, way, way up high on that little pedestal you've constructed for yourself, life must look pretty black and white. I expect you're simply taking time off from campaigning to end the American kidnapping of Afghans and the other 'not' war-crimes of this Dem president.

    Buckley has been dead for a while. His cold war world view put him on the wrong side of a great many issues. He regretted, in print, his support for the apartheid regime, as well he should.

    It's kidneystones, with an 's', btw. Not that it matters very much. I looked up Numbemberg to see if that was an alternate spelling for Nuremberg. It isn't.

    Your president, a Dem, is prosecuting precisely the same sort of war as Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson did before him.

    Rather than level unfounded and poorly-supported accusations at me and about the intentions of the long-dead, why not question your own peers and fellow citizens?

    Do you really believe Republicans love less than you? Cause a reading of your dipstick isn't registering much in the way of love.

    Have a hug!


    Sorry, Michael Moore wants (none / 0) (#27)
    by kidneystones on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 04:41:03 AM EST
    you to make a call.

    Fighting The Good War (none / 0) (#28)
    by melpol on Mon Nov 30, 2009 at 08:13:37 AM EST
    Making a good stew requires keeping the temperature right.  A good war is one that does not get too hot or cold. Wars are needed to keep defense workers employed. Sending in more troops will create a good war that will last for decades.