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Lost Among the Findings in Syria

The Neocons have been pressuring Obama to do something in Syria. So it’s thoroughly unsurprising that we’re officially learning what we’ve known for months: the CIA has been involved in Syria. According to Mark Hosenball the Finding Obama signed authorizing such actions permits us to collaborate at a “secret” command center on or close to our air base at Incirlik.

A U.S. government source acknowledged that under provisions of the presidential finding, the United States was collaborating with a secret command center operated by Turkey and its allies.

[snip]

This “nerve center” is in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 60 miles from the Syrian border, which is also home to Incirlik, a U.S. air base where U.S. military and intelligence agencies maintain a substantial presence.

The Finding doesn’t authorize arming the rebels (though Hosenball’s sources seem unsure about the general scope of the Finding), but NBC has reported that the Saudis and Qataris have already armed them with shoulder-launched missiles.

It’s just like old times! The US partnering with Saudis to get shoulder-launched missiles into the hands of rebels with dubious loyalties. Whatever could go wrong with that?

There are two details about this that deserve notice.

What happened to the leak hawks in Congress?

First, this story is based on the leak of a covert Finding–precisely the kind of leak that Congress has gone on the warpath against. Hosenball attributes his reporting to US sources–an attribution that can (though doesn’t necessarily) refer to Congressional sources.

U.S. sources familiar with the matter said.

[snip]

A U.S. government source acknowledged

And while he notes–and names–the Senators who have been pressuring Obama to do precisely what he has been doing for months, Hosenball doesn’t name the members of Congress who are opposed to such an action.

Some U.S. lawmakers, such as Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham, have criticized Obama for moving too slowly to assist the rebels and have suggested the U.S. government should become directly involved in arming Assad’s opponents.

Other lawmakers have suggested caution, saying too little is known about the many rebel groups.

In short, chances are not insignificant that a Congressional source leaked the contents of a Finding authorizing covert operations.

And yet … crickets!

Those same Senate Intelligence Committee leak hawks who have authorized a range of stupid actions to prevent leaks seem unperturbed by a leak revealing information that is as sensitive as the leaks they’re demanding be investigated.

How does anti-Assad Finding relate to the Assad-cooperation authorized under the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification?

Then there’s this. In his description of all the things included in the Gloves Come Off Memorandum of Notification authorizing the war on terror, Bob Woodward said cooperation with Syria (and Libya) were included.

[George Tenet] called for initiating intelligence contact with some rogue states such as Libya and Syria that he said might be helpful in trying to destroy al Qaeda. For the CIA to obtain helpful information against the terrorists, they might have to get their hands dirty. (Bush at War 77)

We know the MON included such cooperation with Libya because liberated documents have reflected cooperation on renditions. And Maher Arar, who was rendered to Syria and tortured, can tell you all about what our cooperation with Syria entailed.

The thing is, the MON authorizing cooperation with Syria remains in effect. We know that to be true because Judge Richard Wesley, in enabling the government to keep all mention of this MON secret a few months ago, stated it pertained to “active intelligence activity.” Rather than writing a new MON–one that doesn’t give CIA carte blanche in deciding the limits of things like targeted killings–Obama is still relying on this MON for things like killing American citizens.

So does that mean the CIA is at once authorized to share intelligence with Bashar al-Assad (under the Gloves Come Off MON) and help rebels overthrow and probably kill him (under this new Finding)?

Probably, there is a very simple explanation for this (and for the fact that we helped to kill Moammar Qaddafi, as well). Probably, the new FInding (and whatever Finding authorized the activities our spooks engaged in in Libya) simply includes language canceling the prior language authorizing cooperation with Assad. So no big deal, really.

Still, doesn’t that give lie to the Administration’s seeming treatment of that 11 year old MON as inviolate? That is, if this Finding renders (heh) part of that MON meaningless, then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard for Obama to write a new MON, one that involved actual oversight.

McCain, Lieberman and Graham Attempt to Revive Mass Delusion on Afghan “Success”

Where is this "success" which McCain, Lieberman and Graham tout?

In yesterday’s post, I pointed out the craven political decision to delay a strategic reassessment of the war strategy in Afghanistan until after the election in November. Just in case that was not enough stupidity already emanating out of Washington regarding Afghanistan, today we have the collected wisdom of John McCain, Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham informing us that not only is there success in the war effort in Afghanistan, but the US must listen closely to them in order to sustain that success. In preparation for reading the recommendations from our trio of uninvited experts, it is useful to look once again at the accompanying chart, where we see the steady increase in violent events in Afghanistan. The surge of troops in early 2010 did not reverse the trend of increasing violence. In fact, violence jumped by an even larger amount in the first year of the surge than in previous years. No benefit of the surge accrued in 2011, either, as the number of violent events continued to increase.

But McCain, Lieberman and Graham would have us believe that there is “success”:

Significant military progress has been made in Afghanistan — progress that we have personally witnessed over repeated visits. Four years ago, southern Afghanistan was overrun by the Taliban, and our coalition lacked the resources and the strategy necessary to break their momentum. Today, that situation has been reversed, thanks to the president’s surge of forces, the leadership of talented military commanders, and the courage and perseverance of our troops.

Similarly, our effort to build the Afghan National Security Forces — which was under-resourced and disorganized four years ago — has been overhauled. Growing numbers of Afghan units are increasingly capable of leading the fight.

Of course, given the current clusterfuck that is reality in Afghanistan, our mentors of mendacity were forced to open their piece with a nod to the growing desire by most Americans to get out sooner rather than later:

A series of tragic events in Afghanistan has increased the desire of a war-weary public to end our mission there. As heart-wrenching as these events have been, they do not change the vital U.S. national security interests at stake in Afghanistan, nor do they mean that the war is lost. It is not. There is still a realistic path to success if the right decisions are made in the coming months.

And just what is the “realistic path to success” that is being offered for our consideration? Read more

Agreement in Principle Signed on Handover of Afghan Prisons, Night Raid Agreement to be Separate

Creating conditions dangerously close to those under which we have been warned that Lindsey Graham’s head will explode, the US and Afghanistan have signed an agreement in principle on the handover of prisons to Afghan control. The negotiations were carried out under the pressure of dual deadlines, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai having put today as his deadline for insisting on an agreement and President Obama declaring that an agreement had to be in place before the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago.

The agreement appears to use semantics to say that the prisons are being handed over today, but with the reality being that there will be a gradual process taking six months. From the New York Times:

The memorandum of understanding would officially hand over control of detainees to an Afghan official as of Friday, but would also allow for a six-month period of transition to full Afghan control of the American-held detainees, American officials said.

As a practical matter, American officials are expected to maintain day-to-day control over the 3,200 detainees, most of them suspected Taliban insurgents.

During the six months, custody of the American-held prisoners would gradually transfer to Afghan authority, with the first 500 prisoners to be transferred within 45 days, according to American military and diplomatic officials who spoke on condition of anonymity as a matter of policy.

The move is a major concession to the Afghans, but the Americans will retain ultimate veto authority over releases of any insurgent detainees as long as American troops are in Afghanistan, and will continue to monitor humane treatment of the prisoners, the American officials said.

With the US maintaining veto power over release of any prisoners, perhaps Senator Graham will have to hold off on throwing his next tantrum, as his major objection to the handover had been that the Afghans would release prisoners who would immediately attack US troops. It’s not clear how the US will be monitoring humane treatment of the prisoners, since it is US training that put the torture methods in place to begin with.

There is no indication in this Times article, or in articles from AP carried in the Washington Post or the Reuters article about the signing of the prison agreement on when an agreement on night raids is expected. The night raid issue appears to be the one remaining sticking point that needs to be addressed before the long term status of forces agreement can be established for laying out the ground rules after the expected US withdrawal from Afghanistan late next year. Presumably, the Obama administration will be pushing to have both the night raid agreement and status of forces agreement in place before the May NATO summit.

Oh, and those non-Afghan prisoners we’re holding at Bagram that the US wants us all to forget about? They stay under US control, of course.

Graham Throws Tantrum Over an Afghanistan With No Night Raids or US Control of Prisons

Proof from April, 2010 that we have trained the Afghans to manage their own prisons.

With most eyes yesterday on Super Tuesday and political wrangling over Iran’s nuclear technology, not many took notice of the update from Reuters Tuesday morning letting us know that an agreement on transfer detention faciliies to full Afghanistan control is expected by the end of this week. Lindsey Graham did notice the news,however, and chose to vent to Josh Rogin just before lunch.

Lindsey is not happy:

Graham, who has been one of the strongest congressional supporters for continuing the U.S. military mission in Afghanistan beyond 2014, said today that unless Karzai relents on his demands that the United States immediately hand over control of Afghan prisoners and end night raids against insurgents, there is no way the U.S. can achieve its objectives in Afghanistan and therefore should just end its involvement there.

“If the president of the country can’t understand how irrational it is to expect us to turn over prisoners and if he doesn’t understand that the night raids have been the biggest blow to the Taliban … then there is no hope of winning. None,” Graham said in the hallways of the Capitol Building just before entering the GOP caucus lunch.

“So if he insists that all the prisoners have to be turned over by March 9 and that we have to stop night raids, that means we will fail in Afghanistan and that means Lindsey Graham pulls the plug. It means that I no longer believe we can win and we might as well get out of there sooner rather than later.”

Graham gets so much wrong in his rant. He seems to think that the US is planning to hand over full control of the prisons on Friday. Reuters reports that the most likely agreement is for the process to start on Friday but take place over a six month period:

In a meeting Monday between Afghan President Hamid Karzai, U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. John Allen, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, the American side proposed a six-month timeline for the transfer.

Karzai was reported to have set a deadline of March 9 for the United States to hand over the detention facilities.

An Afghan official said that under one possible scenario, a transfer of prisons could start within the next few days and it may be completed within six months.

Next, Graham complains that the Afghans will merely turn insurgents loose to “start killing Americans again”, despite the fact that Afghanistan appears to hang onto some prisoners long enough to have built up quite a reputation for torture there.

And Graham seems to have forgotten that training has been a cornerstone of US policy in Afghanistan, presumably equipping the Afghans for the time when we could hand over prisons and other security arrangements to the Afghans so that we could go home. Read more

The Worst Part of the Signing Statement: Section 1024

As I explained here, Obama’s signing statement on the defense authorization was about what I expected. He included squishy language so as to pretend he doesn’t fully support indefinite detention. And he basically promised to ignore much of the language on presumptive military detention.

But there was one part of the signing statement I (naively) didn’t expect. It’s this:

Sections 1023-1025 needlessly interfere with the executive branch’s processes for reviewing the status of detainees. Going forward, consistent with congressional intent as detailed in the Conference Report, my Administration will interpret section 1024 as granting the Secretary of Defense broad discretion to determine what detainee status determinations in Afghanistan are subject to the requirements of this section. [my emphasis]

Section 1024, remember, requires the Defense Department to actually establish the provisions for status reviews that Obama has promised but not entirely delivered.

SEC. 1024. PROCEDURES FOR STATUS DETERMINATIONS.

(a) IN GENERAL.—Not later than 90 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall submit to the appropriate committees of Congress a report setting forth the procedures for determining the status of persons detained pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107–40; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) for purposes of section 1021.

(b) ELEMENTS OF PROCEDURES.—The procedures required by this section shall provide for the following in the case of any unprivileged enemy belligerent who will be held in long-term detention under the law of war pursuant to the Authorization for Use of Military Force:

(1) A military judge shall preside at proceedings for the determination of status of an unprivileged enemy belligerent.

(2) An unprivileged enemy belligerent may, at the election of the belligerent, be represented by military counsel at proceedings for the determination of status of the belligerent.

(c) APPLICABILITY.—The Secretary of Defense is not required to apply the procedures required by this section in the case of a person for whom habeas corpus review is available in a Federal court.

As I’ve noted, Lindsey Graham (and other bill supporters, both the right and left of Lindsey) repeatedly insisted on this review provision. Lindsey promised every detainee would get real review of his status.

I want to be able to tell anybody who is interested that no person in an American prison–civilian or military–held as a suspected member of al-Qaida will be held without independent judicial review. We are not allowing the executive branch to make that decision unchecked. For the first time in the history of American warfare, every American combatant held by the executive branch will have their day in Federal court, and the government has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence you are in fact part of the enemy force. [my emphasis]

And yet, in spite of the fact that Section 1024 includes no exception for those detained at Bagram, Obama just invented such an exception.

Section 1024 was one of the few good parts of the detainee provisions in this bill, because it would have finally expanded the due process available to the thousands of detainees who are hidden away at Bagram now with no meaningful review.

But Obama just made that good part disappear.

Update: I’m still trying to figure out where Obama gets the Congressional intent to let the Defense Secretary pick and choose which detainees 1024 applies to. The managers’ statement says this about 1024:

The Senate amendment contained a provision (sec. 1036) that would require the Secretary of Defense to establish procedures for determining the status of persons captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40), including access to a military judge and a military lawyer for an enemy belligerent who will be held in long-term detention.

The House bill contained no similar provision.

The House recedes with an amendment clarifying that the Secretary of Defense is not required to apply the procedures for long-term detention in the case of a person for whom habeas corpus review is available in federal court.

Because this provision is prospective, the Secretary of Defense is authorized to determine the extent, if any, to which such procedures will be applied to detainees for whom status determinations have already been made prior to the date of the enactment of this Act.

The conferees expect that the procedures issued by the Secretary of Defense will define what constitutes “long-term” detention for the purposes of subsection (b). The conferees understand that under current Department of Defense practice in Afghanistan, a detainee goes before a Detention Review Board for a status determination 60 days after capture, and again 6 months after that. The Department of Defense has considered extending the period of time before a second review is required. The conferees expect that the procedures required by subsection (b) would not be triggered by the first review, but could be triggered by the second review, in the discretion of the Secretary. [my emphasis]

This seems to be saying two things. First, DOD doesn’t have to go back and grant everyone they’ve given the inadequate review process currently in place a new review. The 3,000 detainees already in Bagram are just SOL.

In addition, this says DOD gets to decide how long new detainees will have to wait before they get a status review with an actual lawyer–and Congress is perfectly happy making them wait over six months before that time.

Obama seems to have taken that language and pushed it further still: stating that DOD will get broad discretion to decide which reviews will carry the requirement of a judge and a lawyer.

It sort of makes you wonder why the Obama Administration wants these men to be held for over six months with no meaningful review?

Pakistan Withdraws Cooperation From Key Border Posts, McCain and Graham Stir Pot

Pointy heads John ("Get Off My Lawn!") McCain and Lindsey ("Holy Hell!") Graham grab some microphone time in Kabul on July 5, 2010. (ISAFMedia photo)

Although it is now a week and a half since the November 26 NATO attack on two border posts that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, it appears that the barrage of official statements and official actions is not yet slowing. Despite a Sunday phone call from President Obama to President Zardari that was meant to emphasize cooperation, Pakistan withdrew its representatives today from two of three key border posts that coordinate communications between troops on both sides of the border region. And, as if things weren’t already bad enough with Pakistan boycotting the Bonn conference on the future of Afghanistan, Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham decided that they should issue their own set of demands for Pakistan.

On Sunday, President Obama made a phone call to Pakistan’s President Zardari.  Here is the statement on the call released by the White House:

Earlier today the President placed a phone call to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to personally express his condolences on the tragic loss of twenty-four Pakistani soldiers this past week along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  The President made clear that this regrettable incident was not a deliberate attack on Pakistan and reiterated the United States’ strong commitment to a full investigation.  The two Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to the U.S.-Pakistan bilateral relationship, which is critical to the security of both nations, and they agreed to stay in close touch.

Even though this statement ends by claiming both presidents “reaffirmed their commitment to the US-Pakistani bilateral relationship”, Pakistan followed that reaffirmation up by withdrawing its cooperation from key border posts that provide coordination and communication:

Pakistan is pulling out troops from two of the three border coordination units at the Pak-Afghan border set-up for communication between Nato and Pakistani troops in retaliation to the Nato November 26 attack, said a report by the The Associated Press. Read more

Lindsey Graham’s Independent Review for All Detainees in US Prisons

As I’ve said before, I think Carl Levin’s assurances that habeas corpus will prevent the Executive from holding people without cause under his new detainee provisions (and, frankly, under the status quo) is dangerously naive, because it ignores how badly the DC Circuit has gutted habeas.

That said, maybe this colloquy between Lindsey Graham and Carl Levin might help. (h/t to Lawfare for making transcripts available)

Mr. GRAHAM. If someone is picked up as a suspected enemy combatant under this narrow window, not only does the executive branch get to determine how best to do that–do you agree with me that, in this war, that every person picked up as an enemy combatant–citizen or not–here in the United States goes before a Federal judge, and our government has to prove to an independent judiciary outside the executive branch by a preponderance of the evidence that you are who we say you are and that you have fit in this narrow window? That if you are worried about some abuse of this, we have got a check and balance where the judiciary, under the law that we have created, has an independent review obligation to determine whether the executive branch has abused their power, and that decision can be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court?
Mr. LEVIN. That guarantee is called habeas corpus. It has been in our law. It is untouched by anything in this bill. Quite the opposite; we actually enhance the procedures here.

[snip]

Mr. GRAHAM. In this case where somebody is worried about being picked up by a rogue executive branch because they went to the wrong political rally, they don’t have to worry very long, because our Federal courts have the right and the obligation to make sure the government proves their case that you are a member of al-Qaida and didn’t go to a political rally. That has never happened in any other war. That is a check and balance here in this war. And let me tell you why it is necessary.
This is a war without end. There will never be a surrender ceremony signing on the USS Missouri. So what we have done, knowing that an enemy combatant determination could be a de facto life sentence, is we are requiring the courts to look over the military’s shoulder to create checks and balances. Quite frankly, I think that is a good accommodation.

[snip]

I want to be able to tell anybody who is interested that no person in an American prison–civilian or military–held as a suspected member of al-Qaida will be held without independent judicial review. We are not allowing the executive branch to make that decision unchecked. For the first time in the history of American warfare, every American combatant held by the executive branch will have their day in Federal court, and the government has to prove by a preponderance of the evidence you are in fact part of the enemy force. [my emphasis]

Not only does Graham insist the standard in habeas cases must be a “preponderance of the evidence” standard–something the DC Circuit has threatened to chip away at. But the language about courts having an obligation to make sure the government proves it case and courts looking over the shoulder sure implies a stronger review than Janice Rogers Brown understands it.

Furthermore, while Graham speaks explicitly at times about people caught in the US, his aspiration that “no person in an American prison … will be held without independent judicial review” would sure sound good the detainees in the American prison at Bagram, particularly taken in conjunction with Section 1036, which seems to suggest they get a review too.

Of course, passing a law stating that habeas corpus must consist of something more than a Circuit Court Judge rubber-stamping the government’s inaccurate intelligence files would be far better. But this language, showing legislative intent that habeas review remain real, is about all we get these days.

 

Administration Has Means to Sustain Civilian Primacy without Veto

As we all wait to see whether Obama will follow through on his veto threat tied to the detainee provisions in the Defense Authorization, I want to make an observation.

The Obama Administration has the means–short of a veto–to sustain civilian law primacy even if this bill is passed. But they will not use it.

As Lindsey Graham and Carl Levin repeat over and over when defending the detainee provisions–the detainee provisions require the Executive Branch to come up with procedures to determine whether someone qualifies as a covered person.

Not later than 60 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall issue, and submit to Congress, procedures for implementing this section.

The procedures for implementing this section shall include, but not be limited to, procedures as follows:

(A) Procedures designating the persons authorized to make determinations under subsection (a)(2) and the process by which such determinations are to be made.

With (a)(2) being whether or not the detainee was a Covered Person:

The requirement [for military detention] shall apply to any person whose detention is authorized under 1031 who is determined–

(A) to be a member of, or part of, al-Qaeda or an associated force that acts in coordination with or pursuant to the direction of al-Qaeda; and

(B) to have participated in the course of planning or carrying out an attack or attempted attack against the United States or its coalition partners.

Nothing in the bill allows Congress to override the procedures developed by the Administration; it only requires that Congress get a copy of them.

Which would seem to permit the Administration to issue the following procedures:

  1. The persons authorized to make determinations whether or not someone is a “Covered Person” are Article III jurors and/or jurists.
  2. The process by which it will be determined whether or not someone is a “Covered Person” will be a civilian trial.

That would seem to render the effect of the most noxious part of the detainee provisions minimal: rather than imprisoning convicted terrorists at Florence SuperMax, those terrorists will be detained at Leavenworth. But they won’t be transferred to military custody until after they get a civilian trial.

They won’t do this, mind you, not just because it would make the Republicans go apeshit and would tie their hands. But they like the power that comes from the ability to make up this shit as they go along, and would never put in writing that courts must be involved. (Indeed, today Jeh Johnson repeated the Administration’s prior assertion that courts are not authorized to review the Administration’s targeting decisions.

But it would be a way to dispense with this crappy bill.

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame and the Paper Trail Preventing Floating Ghost Prisons

Given the defeat of the Udall Amendment, it looks likely the Defense Authorization will include provisions mandating military detention for most accused terrorists (though the Administration has already doubled down on their veto threat).

So I’d like to look at an aspect of the existing detainee provision language that has gotten little notice: the way it requires the Administration to create a paper trail that would prevent it from ghosting–disappearing–detainees. In many ways, this paper trail aspect of the detainee provisions seems like a justifiable response to the Administration’s treatment of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame.

The Administration unilaterally expanded detention authorities in its treatment of Warsame

As you recall, Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame is a Somali alleged to be a member of al-Shabab with ties with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. When the Administration detained Warsame, al-Shabab was not understood to fall under the 2001 AUMF language. The Administration effectively admitted as much, anonymously, after he was captured.

While Mr. Warsame is accused of being a member of the Shabab, which is focused on a parochial insurgency in Somalia, the administration decided he could be lawfully detained as a wartime prisoner under Congress’s authorization to use military force against the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, according to several officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters.

But the administration does not consider the United States to be at war with every member of the Shabab, officials said. Rather, the government decided that Mr. Warsame and a handful of other individual Shabab leaders could be made targets or detained because they were integrated with Al Qaeda or its Yemen branch and were said to be looking beyond the internal Somali conflict.

And while he had no problem extending the AUMF to include al-Shabab in the war on terror detention authorities, one of the big SASC champions of these detainee provisions, Lindsey Graham, clearly believed Warsame was not included in existing detention authorities.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in an interview that he would offer amendments to a pending bill that would expand tribunal jurisdiction and declare that the Shabab are covered by the authorization to use military force against Al Qaeda.

So to begin with, Warsame was detained under AUMF authority that one loud-mouthed, hawkish member of the SASC didn’t believe was actually included under it.

And then there’s the way the Administration ghosted Warsame for 2 months.

The US captured Warsame on April 19, then whisked him away to the amphibious assault ship, the Boxer, where he was interrogated by members of the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (which, remember, includes DOJ, Intelligence, and military members) for two months. Read more

Senate Armed Service Committee Celebrates Agreement to Spend 32 Times More on Detainees

As Josh Gerstein and Adam Serwer lay out, the Senate Armed Services Committee just passed a new version of the Defense Authorization mandating military detention for terrorists. The language on detention includes the following two paragraphs:

Except as provided in paragraph (4) [which is a national security exception], the Armed Forces of the United States shall hold a person described in paragraph (2) [an Al Qaeda related terrorist] who is captured in the course of hostilities authorized by the Authorization of the Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) in military custody pending disposition of the war.

[snip]

No amounts authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2012 may be used to construct or modify any facility in the United States, its territories, or possessions to house any individual detained at Guantanamo for the purposes of detention or imprisonment in the custody or under the control of the Department of Defense unless authorized by Congress.

In other words, unless the government has a really good reason, they have to put accused terrorists caught during the AUMF-authorized war in military custody. And DOD can’t build a prison in the US specifically to house those detainees.

That makes it much more likely we’re going to put terrorist detainees at Gitmo, where as Carol Rosenberg recently reported, we spend 32 times as much holding prisoners as we spend in civilian prisons in the United States.

The Pentagon detention center that started out in January 2002 as a collection of crude open-air cells guarded by Marines in a muddy tent city is today arguably the most expensive prison on earth, costing taxpayers $800,000 annually for each of the 171 captives by Obama administration reckoning.

That’s more than 30 times the cost of keeping a captive on U.S. soil.

It’s still funded as an open-ended battlefield necessity, although the last prisoner arrived in March 2008. But it functions more like a gated community in an American suburb than a forward-operating base in one of Afghanistan’s violent provinces.

[snip]

It’s a slow-motion Berlin Airlift — that’s been going on for 10 years,” says retired Army Brig. Gen. Greg Zanetti, a West Point graduate who in 2008 was deputy commander at the detention center.

Alternately, we could put them in Bagram, the population of which has been ballooning under Obama’s Administration.

Today, there are more than 3,000 detainees at Bagram, or five times the number (around 600) when President Barack Obama took office in January 2009. There are currently 18 times as many detainees at Bagram than at the U.S. military prison at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base, whose prisoner population has dwindled from a peak of 780 to 170.

[snip]

DOD is now reviewing bids from contractors to expand the facility to house up to 5,500 detainees. The project is expected to cost another $25 to $100 million when it is completed by the end of 2012.

It’s unclear what Bagram costs, per detainee.

But we do know it costs almost $1.2 million a year to keep a single troop in Afghanistan, for some of the same reasons it costs so much to keep Gitmo running, supply costs. The average federal prison guard in the US is paid about $55,000 (so figure $71,500 with benefits). Just the cost of the prison guard alone makes Bagram 16 times more expensive than a federal prison in the US, and that’s before you count the $60 million we’ve already spent on expanding the prison at Bagram and the $25 to $100 million we’re already planning on spending. And all those costs are based on a logistics chain through Pakistan, which is getting more and more questionable these day.

Meanwhile, the scary Underwear Bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab spent 21 months of pre-trial detention in a low security prison in MI. Not only did no one get hurt with him in low security custody in the US, but no one nationally even noticed!

This is ridiculous. The Republican insistence that we use military law when civilian law is better and cheaper is going to bankrupt this country. And it’s not going to keep us any safer.