Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Black sites and blacker hearts

I think I first heard about this shipping-container massacre from a report on Jamie Doran's "Afghan Massacre: The Convoy of Death"; I've never been able to see the documentary myself but here's what Doran reported, back in 2002:
Taliban POWs herded into unventilated shipping containers, where many died of suffocation, thirst, or starvation. In the film broadcast on Wednesday, eyewitnesses are quoted saying some of the Taliban held in the containers for up to four days had taken to licking sweat off each other and even biting into the corpses lying next to them out of desperation. One witness said about 600 Taliban POWs who survived the shipment of the containers to the Shiberghan prison 75 miles away were taken to a spot in the desert at Dasht-e-Leili and executed -- in the presence of about 30 to 40 U.S. special forces soldiers.
The US denied it in 2002, maintaining "In no way did U.S. troops participate or witness any human rights violations." Well, today's front-page WaPo bombshell, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects in Secret Prisons" says diffr'nt! The excellent Dana Priest reports:
A month [after 9/11], the CIA found itself with hundreds of prisoners who were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan. A short-term solution was improvised. The agency shoved its highest-value prisoners into metal shipping containers set up on a corner of the Bagram Air Base, which was surrounded with a triple perimeter of concertina-wire fencing. Most prisoners were left in the hands of the Northern Alliance, U.S.-supported opposition forces who were fighting the Taliban. Then came grisly reports, in the winter of 2001, that prisoners kept by allied Afghan generals in cargo containers had died of asphyxiation. The CIA asked Congress for, and was quickly granted, tens of millions of dollars to establish a larger, long-term system in Afghanistan, parts of which would be used for CIA prisoners.
Please read Priest's report! She does an excellent job of following the paper-trail back to the White House. I've included more excerpts in the expanded portion of this post.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement. The secret facility is part of a covert prison system set up by the CIA nearly four years ago that at various times has included sites in eight countries, including Thailand, Afghanistan and several democracies in Eastern Europe, as well as a small center at the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba, according to current and former intelligence officials and diplomats from three continents.
[...] The existence and locations of the facilities -- referred to as "black sites" in classified White House, CIA, Justice Department and congressional documents -- are known to only a handful of officials in the United States and, usually, only to the president and a few top intelligence officers in each host country.
The CIA and the White House, citing national security concerns and the value of the program, have dissuaded Congress from demanding that the agency answer questions in open testimony about the conditions under which captives are held.
[...] Host countries have signed the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as has the United States. Yet CIA interrogators in the overseas sites are permitted to use the CIA's approved "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques," some of which are prohibited by the U.N. convention and by U.S. military law. They include tactics such as "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.
[...] The contours of the CIA's detention program have emerged in bits and pieces over the past two years. Parliaments in Canada, Italy, France, Sweden and the Netherlands have opened inquiries into alleged CIA operations that secretly captured their citizens or legal residents and transferred them to the agency's prisons. More than 100 suspected terrorists have been sent by the CIA into the covert system, according to current and former U.S. intelligence officials and foreign sources.
[...] Most of the facilities were built and are maintained with congressionally appropriated funds, but the White House has refused to allow the CIA to brief anyone except the House and Senate intelligence committees' chairmen and vice chairmen on the program's generalities.
[...] [After 9/11], the [CIA Counterterrorism Center, CTC] set up prisons under its covert action authority. Under U.S. law, only the president can authorize a covert action, by signing a document called a presidential finding. Findings must not break U.S. law and are reviewed and approved by CIA, Justice Department and White House legal advisers. Six days after the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush signed a sweeping finding that gave the CIA broad authorization to disrupt terrorist activity, including permission to kill, capture and detain members of al Qaeda anywhere in the world.
[...] A month [after 9/11], the CIA found itself with hundreds of prisoners who were captured on battlefields in Afghanistan. A short-term solution was improvised. The agency shoved its highest-value prisoners into metal shipping containers set up on a corner of the Bagram Air Base, which was surrounded with a triple perimeter of concertina-wire fencing. Most prisoners were left in the hands of the Northern Alliance, U.S.-supported opposition forces who were fighting the Taliban. Then came grisly reports, in the winter of 2001, that prisoners kept by allied Afghan generals in cargo containers had died of asphyxiation. The CIA asked Congress for, and was quickly granted, tens of millions of dollars to establish a larger, long-term system in Afghanistan, parts of which would be used for CIA prisoners.
The largest CIA prison in Afghanistan was code-named the Salt Pit. It was also the CIA's substation and was first housed in an old brick factory outside Kabul. In November 2002, an inexperienced CIA case officer allegedly ordered guards to strip naked an uncooperative young detainee, chain him to the concrete floor and leave him there overnight without blankets. He froze to death, according to four U.S. government officials. The CIA officer has not been charged in the death.
[...] The CIA program's original scope was to hide and interrogate the two dozen or so al Qaeda leaders believed to be directly responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, or who posed an imminent threat, or had knowledge of the larger al Qaeda network. But as the volume of leads pouring into the CTC from abroad increased, and the capacity of its paramilitary group to seize suspects grew, the CIA began apprehending more people whose intelligence value and links to terrorism were less certain, according to four current and former officials. The original standard for consigning suspects to the invisible universe was lowered or ignored, they said. "They've got many, many more who don't reach any threshold," one intelligence official said.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you think you'll make it sound true if you keep repeating lies? I absolutely know for a fact that this time you are repeating untruths. Figures.

11/04/2005 6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you "absolutely know for a fact" that this is a lie, care to provide some evidence? Just saying, "that's a lie" isn't terribly compelling.

11/05/2005 8:29 AM  

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