Karzai and US Fight over Who Gets to Run the Abusive Prisons

As I noted, President Obama reacted to the NDAA’s requirement that DOD actually review detainees’ cases to figure out if they should be held by claiming the authority to make our prison at Bagram largely exempt from the law.

At one level, having us hold detainees keeps them out of the Afghan prisons, where they’ll be tortured. But of course, the Afghans have at least managed to do what we claim to be unable to do–give these men trials.

Now, Karzai is upping the ante: demanding that the US turn over Bagram and its 3,000+ detainees next month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered the transfer of the U.S.-run Bagram prison to his government’s control within a month, citing human rights violations.

Karzai decided the transfer should be made after hearing a report on the prison from the Constitutional Oversight Commission that “details many cases of violations of the Afghan Constitution and other applicable laws of the country, the relevant international conventions and human rights,” the president’s office said yesterday in a statement.

And in response to Karzai’s claims of abuses (which appear to be about nudity), State Department’s spokesperson and former Cheney hack Victoria Nuland basically said the same thing the Bush Administration always said: Geneva comply blah blah blah.

QUESTION: And what about his charges that – violation of human rights in these prisons?

MS. NULAND: Well, you know that we take seriously any charges or allegations of detainee abuse. We respect the rights of detainees who are in facilities that the United States manages, and we ensure that all detainees in U.S. custody are treated in accordance with international legal obligations, including Geneva Common Article III. Any specific allegations of detainee abuse are investigated fully by the Department of Defense and by ISAF.

Coming from Nuland, such reassurances are little comfort.

But then, this is basically a pissing contest over who can run abusive prisons, so it’s not comforting in any case.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

9 replies
  1. Bob Schacht says:

    Thanks for this, EW.
    I just find it interesting that the only country, so far, to call the Obama administration’s human rights abuses on Bagram is… Afghanistan!

    Well, I suppose it takes one to know one. But maybe at least Karzai’s charges will get more attention for this issue.

    Bob in AZ

  2. MadDog says:

    The NYT’s article on this issue points out that not only does Karzai want the US to turnover the Bagram detention facility, but also the US’s Parwan prison which the US is using to hold its high value detainees:

    “…The statement made reference only to the “Bagram Prison.” Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said that meant the detention facility in Parwan, which in 2009 replaced the older prison at Bagram Air Base, one of the main coalition bases…

    [snip]

    The Parwan prison plays a small but important role in the strategy. NATO has been depositing almost all detainees it deems high value there since last summer, when the coalition stopped transferring prisoners to 16 facilities run by Afghanistan’s intelligence service and its police, because of evidence of torture collected by the United Nations.

    Although the coalition still transfers less valuable prisoners to other Afghan prisons, giving up control of the Parwan facility without a firm alternative plan in place could severely disrupt coalition operations, said the Western official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter…”

  3. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism which originally broke the story:

    “…Details of the Intelligence and Security Committee’s lobbying are found in a recent letter (7 page PDF) sent by chairman Sir Malcolm to the government’s National Security Adviser.

    Admitting that it has been approached by ‘certain interlocutors within the US intelligence community’, the ISC expresses concern that intelligence shared with the UK by other nations will be at risk unless the law is changed…”

  4. MadDog says:

    @MadDog: And from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s interview with Sir Malcolm Rifkind:

    “…One of the two suggestions that the committee puts forward is the equivalent of a ‘state secrets privilege’.

    We mention it. That’s what they do in the United States, and as you yourself said, in mentioning it we point out that this may not be acceptable. We mention it because we are trying to emphasise the importance the committee attaches to the control principle, that it’s not just an incidental part of the whole system.

    The United Kingdom benefits enormously from incredibly viable intelligence we receive, not just from the United States. The United States is the main source, but also from a number of other countries. And it’s very important that that should be not jeopardised…”

  5. liberalrob says:

    Why is “former Cheney hack Victoria Nuland” still employed as a spokesperson at the State Department? Is she one of the civil service “burrowers” we heard about?

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