The TWO Afghan Black Site Stories

We’ve long discussed that Obama’s orders regarding torture don’t apply to Bagram, as well as rules that allow the Red Cross some–but not enough–access to our prisons in Bagram. So the news reported in the NYT and WaPo today that we’ve still got black sites in Afghanistan are no surprise.

What I’m curious about is why now? Why did both the NYT and WaPo decide to publish this story on a holiday Saturday at the same time?

The NYT relies on the stories of three former detainees–who allege sleep deprivation but not physical beatings.

“The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place,” said Hamidullah, a spare-parts dealer in Kandahar who was detained in June and who, like some Afghans, doesn’t use a last name. “They don’t let the I.C.R.C. officials or any other civilians see or communicate with the people they keep there. Because I did not know what time it was, I did not know when to pray.”

Mr. Hamidullah was released in October, after five and half months in detention, five to six weeks of it in the black jail, he said.

Although his and other detainees’ accounts could not be independently corroborated, each was interviewed separately and described similar conditions. Their descriptions also matched those obtained by two human rights workers who had interviewed other former detainees at the site.

While two of the detainees were captured before the Obama administration took office, one was captured in June of this year.

All three detainees were later released without charges. None said they had been tortured, though they said they heard sounds of abuse going on and certainly felt humiliated and roughly used. “They beat up other people in the black jail, but not me,” Hamidullah said. “But the problem was that they didn’t let me sleep. There was shouting noise so you couldn’t sleep.”

Whereas the WaPo focuses primarily on two teen-aged former detainees who allege physical beatings and sleep deprivation there, though it uses the claims of two more detainees to corroborate their story.

The two teenagers — Issa Mohammad, 17, and Abdul Rashid, who said he is younger than 16 — said in interviews this week that they were punched and slapped in the face by their captors during their time at Bagram air base, where they were held in individual cells. Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother.

The holding center described by the teenagers appeared to have been a facility run by U.S. Special Operations forces that is separate from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility, the main American-run prison, which holds about 700 detainees. The teenagers’ descriptions of a holding area on a different part of the Bagram base are consistent with the accounts of two other former detainees, who say they endured similar mistreatment, but not beatings, while being held last year at what Afghans call Bagram’s “black” prison.

The NYT story references the WaPo story, so it is likely a response to WaPo’s decision to publish this today.

Others, however, have given accounts of abuse at the site, including two Afghan teenagers who told The Washington Post that they had been subjected to beatings and humiliation by American guards

Now maybe what happened is that the WaPo got the story of these two teenagers. And decided to go with the story (which they admit could not be independent substantiated). And not wanting to be scooped entirely, the NYT decided to go with the story of its interviews with former detainees.

But I can’t help but note that this story came out just weeks after the Center for American Progress’ Ken Gude floated sending military detainees from Gitmo to Bagram. And just after two of the Administration officials focused on doing the right thing with Gitmo left the Administration.

45 replies
  1. SmileySam says:

    Just the other day it was also reported that another American Built Prison is opening at a cost of Millions. One has to wonder how this one will be run and by whom ?

  2. tjbs says:

    So how will these fellows act back home?
    From Philly Inquirer 11/28/09 by Kathleen Brady Shen;
    Zachary W. Bare was detained but not arrested. Allegations that a trooper stomped the head of a Chester County man as he lay face down on a tile floor in handcuffs.
    The attack caused…forcing his teeth back up into his gums and breaking his nose from the inside out. Officer Jeffery McCloskey said he left Bare handcuffed and lying on his kitchen floor with “ an unknown Pennsylvania state trooper with a black mask over his face.
    Robert J. Donatoni said he’s representing Cruz ( the masked man , unmasked), whom he called a prolific and productive narcotics agent who has served several tours of combat in the Middle East.
    Kelly Cruz is not the type of trooper – in light of the training through the police and Military -who in front of another officer , would stomp a guy unless he perceived a danger to himself or others.

    The war’s coming home weather we like it or not. Torture it’s not just for the others in other countries.

    • fatster says:

      Shudder. The investigation has surely been dragging along, too. Interested in seeing what the outcome will be, since the victim ( Bare) is being portrayed in a very negative light in the newspaper and the stomper (Cruz) in a positive light. It seems it’s becoming acceptable to do horrific things to “the enemy”. What would Hegel make of this?


      • bobschacht says:

        It seems it’s becoming acceptable to do horrific things to “the enemy”.

        It’s a pretty simple two-step tango.
        First, you de-humanize the accused, pre-judging them as the enemy. This can be accomplished in any number of ways, such as calling them bloodthirsty killers, worthless scum, worst of the worst, etc.

        Then you say that in order to Keep America Safe (TM), they must be incarcerated without benefit of counsel or due process. God knows, we can’t risk trying them in our courts because, *horrible horrors*, they might not be found guilty. And after all, because we have pre-judged their guilt, we cannot risk being proved wrong.

        Bob in AZ

  3. Minnesotachuck says:

    This is somewhat OT, but on meta-topic.

    Nearly a year ago I read JFK and the Unspeakable: Why He Died and Why It Matters, by James Douglass. The author presents a compelling case that President Kennedy had come into office with a skeptical view of the Cold War theology of the times, and that the course of events while he was in office had so reinforced his apostasy that by the summer of 1963 rightest elements in the national security bureaucracy were determined he had to go. The assassination and its cover-up, Douglass asserts, were orchestrated by the CIA, with occasionally knowledgeable but largely unwitting support from other elements throughout the government and society at large.

    Reading this book, as well as my subsequent delving into some of Douglass’s sources, has coincided with the growing disappointment over the Obama administration’s reluctance to confront and reverse, where possible, the misdeeds and horrendously counterproductive policies of the Bush-Cheney cabal. This has got me to wondering whether the cause of the timidity might be that the men behind the curtain have made it known to Obama that if he seeks a major change in the heading of the ship of state as fundamental as Kennedy was attempting, he’ll face the same fate. I find it all but impossible to accept that this might be the case, because if it is we as a democratic nation are fucked.

  4. skdadl says:

    Both early and late, Partlow and Tate (WaPo) quote DoD spokespersons who affirm that department policy is to treat detainees humanely. But do we not know that JSOC isn’t exactly controlled by the DoD? So what’s the point of quoting the DoD on this story, at least without emphasizing (I do see a low-key mention) that they really wouldn’t know what was going on in the special facilities?

    Rashid said his interrogator forced him to look at pornography alongside a photograph of his mother.

    What earthly purpose could any interrogator have for doing this? What? How sick do you have to be to do that, much less believe it has any purpose at all?

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      What a dangerous, deceptive construction: “Departmental policy is to treat detainees humanely.”

      It says absolutely nothing about their actual treatment or explicit exceptions to such policy. It implies humane treatment while leaving a hole you could drive a Hummer through.

    • fatster says:

      Very sick and twisted, needless to say. And now I have a question for you.

      The WaPo article ends with this sentence: “Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, said the site fell into a legal limbo and was not clearly governed by the Geneva Conventions.” My question: Why does this “military detention camp” “run by military Special Operations forces” not fall under the Geneva Conventions?

      • skdadl says:

        Sheesh. I missed that first time around, so I went back, and this is how it reads now:

        Manfred Nowak, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on torture, said that the site fell into something of a legal limbo but that the Red Cross should still have access to all detainees.

        I’m sure the version you quote must have been an earlier one and mistaken. IANAIL (NAIL = not an international lawyer), but I’m sure we know that every living being is covered for the basics by Common Article 3 and by something in CAT, not to mention those unique clauses that apply to all humankind in everyone’s bills and charters and declarations.

        I wonder whether Manfred read your comment and immediately phoned up the NYT and demanded a correction?

        • fatster says:

          What a coincidence! Poof! and it’s gone. I’m sure, skdadl, that I didn’t make that up. I just did a routine copy and paste, that’s all. How very odd indeed. Are we at the point where we’re going to have to do screen captures all the time, too?

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        I was recently told about insurance that must be carried by lawmen ,called false arrest insurance.

        Wonder if this applies to detainees and rendition suspects outside the US?

        We know that AIG and ACE(Greenberg’s son’s insurance outfit) carry insurance for the US government under Defense Base Act.

        Any contractor using civilian employees in war zones must carry it.

  5. Gitcheegumee says:

    Have there been threads here on the black budget that funds these black operations?

    Where can I find them,if they have been done here?

    • thatvisionthing says:

      Colbert Conservatism
      David Sirota, November 26, 2009

      Now name the leader who said this:

      “(W)e cannot track $2.3 trillion in (Pentagon spending) … We maintain 20 to 25 percent more base infrastructure than we need to support our forces, at an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion … There are those who will oppose every effort to save taxpayers’ money … Well, fine, if there’s to be a struggle, so be it.”

      A: Donald Rumsfeld, September 10, 2001

  6. Gitcheegumee says:


    Fatster, thanks a mil!

    I seem to remember actually reading that article when it came out on Wired.I got to wondering how much of these black budget items MIGHT be insured by AIG?

    (I have been researching AIG lately, and was backtracking its ties to Saudi Arabia and DPW,among other things.

    Ya know, Maurice Hank Greenberg settled his lawsuit against AIG on this past Wednesday-AIG has enormous interests in Saudi Arabia.And ofcourse Dubai World has been sending tremors this past week in the financial markets. BCCI redux?)

  7. Gitcheegumee says:

    Black budget

    “The CIA has the unique legal ability among all US government departments and agencies to generate funds through appropriations of other federal government agencies and other sources ‘without regard to any provisions of law’ and without regard to the intent behind Congressional appropriations. Every year, billions of dollars of Congressional appropriations are diverted from their Congressionally sanctioned purposes to the CIA and DoD based intelligence agencies without knowledge of the public and with the collusion of Congressional leaders.
    The covert world of ‘black programs’ acts with virtual impunity, overseen and regulated by itself, funding itself through secret slush funds, and is free of the limitations that come from Congressional oversight, proper auditing procedures and public scrutiny.”

    The CIA black budget is annually in the vicinity of 1.1 trillion dollars – a truly staggering figure when one considers that the DoD budget for 2004 will be approximately 380 billion dollars.[12]


  8. Gitcheegumee says:

    Source: New York Times

    An American military detention camp in Afghanistan is still holding inmates for sometimes weeks at a time and without access to the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to human rights researchers and former detainees held at the site on the Bagram Air Base.

    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. In this case, that means isolating certain prisoners for a period of time so interrogators can extract information or flush out confederates.

    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.
    Read more:

    So, this wouldn’t come under the CIA black budget,right?

    Where is the funding coming from?

  9. skdadl says:

    What’s bugging me is that we don’t know where the JSOC connection in Washington is any more, do we?

    According to Hersh and Scahill, pre-Obama it was Cheney himself. When last we talked about this, earlier this month, EW was meditating on the power struggle between Panetta and Blair over covert operations. I realize that the prisons are a slightly different kettle o’ fish, but JSOC does both. So does that mean that the person responsible for the black prisons that remain, as at Bagram, would be Blair?

    I know this sounds confused. There’s a reason for that …

  10. Gitcheegumee says:


    bobthedrummer (1000+ posts) Sat Oct-04-08 03:33 PM
    Original message

    What was AIG “insuring” for all those black budget networks?
    Edited on Sat Oct-04-08 03:52 PM by bobthedrummer

    We’re not talking about the fictional James Bond Import/Export Ltd. here-components of AIG were/are black budget dedicated units. Lucy Komisar documented this in her November 17, 2004 Corp Watch AIG article below.
    “Cooking the Insurance Books” by Lucy Komisar

    This thread is a bit of speculation about known black budget funded operations (individuals and networks), based on open source info, that quite likely were using the services of AIG–which was nationalized by the criminal Bush/Cheney administration.

    I’ll start with a few categories-add your own and expand this thread since WE ALL have such a STAKE in AIG today.

    Saudi Royal interests?

    The Complete Saudi Primer (American June, 2004)

    “Dubai Ports completes sale of controversial US operations” (archived TomInTib thread started March 17, 2007)

    Privatization of world central banks?
    Bank Hapolin takeover bid (Haaetz archived article)


    The Bush Family that is involved in so many “private” black budget entities from The Carlyle Group to Tenet Health to Riggs Bank to Lehman Brothers to Cerebrus to God knows what else???
    example from Ted Kahl

    Here’s another background link
    “Untangling The Octopus” by Steve Mizrach

    So, DU-speculate on AIG black budget subjects in this thread over the weekend.____________________________________

    Specific enough ?

  11. Gitcheegumee says:

    You don’t miss your water until AIG turns the tap off.

    Somewhat off topic,but salient to AIG,excerpt:

    Bailed-Out AIG Forcing Poor to Choose Between Running Water and Food

    By Yasha Levine, AlterNet. Posted November 26, 2009.

    Thanks to AIG, some of the poorest residents of rural Kentucky learned you can always be made poorer by corporate villains.

    It seems that taxpayers in the poorest, most vulnerable parts of the county are getting plundered by the same institutions they bailed out. One example is AIG’s underhanded fleecing of residents of rural Kentucky.

    Life may be tough and most people live in poverty, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be made a little poorer. That’s the lesson locals learned after bailed-out insurance villain AIG took over their water utility and instantly raised rates to squeeze an extra $1 million in profits out of its new customers, forcing some to consider choosing between running water and food.
    A 50.8% raise is outrageous on anything. Please do not let this happen. It would mean the difference in bringing buying food and medicine or paying a high water bill to make someone else’s life easier.

    Here is how the AIG takeover went down: In 2005, flush with cash from its shady dealings in the mortgage derivatives market, AIG announced that it was in the process of acquiring Utilities Inc., a holding company that controlled scores of small water utilities across 17 different states. With just 300,000 customers, the company wasn’t huge, but it boasted of being the largest privately held water utility in the country.

    “We have long considered water infrastructure as an attractive investment opportunity and an excellent complement to [our] existing energy infrastructure portfolio. Utilities Inc. is a leader in this industry and we are pleased that [we have] the opportunity to acquire this business,” AIG Chairman and CEO Win J. Neuger gloated in a press release.


    Internally, Utilities referred to their revamp of the billing system as “Project Phoenix.” It sounded eerily similar to the CIA’s “Phoenix Program,” which was designed to terrorize, kill and torture uppity Vietnamese villagers into submission during the Vietnam War. One month after Project Phoenix started wreaking havoc on locals, AIG collapsed and took the first of over $150 billion in taxpayer bailout funds. That meant Project Phoenix could still go on terrorizing locals—which it did.Alternet

  12. alinaustex says:

    Why would the Treasury Dept under both Paulson & Geithner not want to reveal who the counter parties where at AIG ? And why were we made to pay for the entire counter party exposure -?

  13. Gitcheegumee says:


    Al,type in AIG and Goldman Sachs into your search engine.

    Then pour yourself a generous portion of your favorite adult beverage, and settle in for a L-O-N-G read!

  14. Gitcheegumee says:


    . AIG dominates the market for the insurance, which exploded from an $18 million a year business to more than $400 million per year after civilian contractors flooded into war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, the report said.

    AIG controls about 75 percent of the market, followed by Chicago-based CNA and Bermuda-based ACE Group. Together, the three firms collect 97 percent of all premiums paid by defense contractors for the insurance, the cost of which is reimbursed by the government.————–Propublica

    Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care …Sep 15, 2009 … Congress could save as much as $250 million a year through a sweeping overhaul of the controversial US system to care for civilian ……/pentagon-study-proposes-overhaul-of-defense-base-act-915 – Cached

    • fatster says:

      I’m not quite getting this, Gitchegumee. What exactly does the insurance cover? Very interesting what you’re finding.

      • Gitcheegumee says:

        Fatster, go over to the Seminal and scroll back on the blogroll thread titles,its a few pages back.

        There is a libby liberal thread there about Sanders single payer option.
        I have several posts about the insurance regarding civilian employes of contractors on this thread .

        There is some really informative stuff there.

  15. alinaustex says:

    [email protected]
    I understand the incestoues relationship btwn Goldman and Treasurey -but was AIG insuring some SAP/private contractor assets that may be at risk in pending lawsuits ? Why is AIG involved in black sites at all ?

    • skdadl says:

      Hey, no guilt trips from me — I believes ya! Our papers here do that all the time with their online stuff; they don’t signal updates at all except in a time stamp somewhere, so you can’t tell what’s new or corrected and when that happened — most annoying. It’s as though they want to pretend they had it right all along. *snerk*

      • fatster says:

        Hey, I had a Southern Gothic upbringing, so guilt-tripping is nothin’ new to me. (and a nice *snerk* backatcha).

  16. Gitcheegumee says:

    Single Payer Advocates To Help With Sanders’ S703 Amendment and HCR Updates!
    By: libbyliberal Tuesday November 24, 2009 2:17 am

  17. Gitcheegumee says:

    Defense Base Act – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
    The Defense Base Act (DBA), 42 U.S.C. § 1651–1654, is an extension of the federal workers’ compensation program that covers … – Cached – Similar

    Pentagon Study Proposes Overhaul of Defense Base Act to Cover Care …Sep 15, 2009 … Congress could save as much as $250 million a year through a sweeping overhaul of the controversial US system to care for civilian ……/pentagon-study-proposes-overhaul-of-defense-base-act-915 – Cached

  18. 4jkb4ia says:

    On Topic: Literally a dark place and also spiritually.

    We understand more clearly because of this article that McChrystal was appointed because he knew about these prisons /Nell

    I thought it was coming out to coincide with the OPR report. The OPR report should be front-page news when it comes out and at the very least readers will know that this issue is not rehashing Bush administration misbehavior.

    ALSO, it comes out very close to Obama’s Afghanistan speech so it may force him to address the issue in it.

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