The lede came from Max Fischer, of the Atlantic Wire:
In November, the New York Times and Washington Post reported the existence of a secret "black site" prison at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The site, unconfirmed by the military and separate from the main prison at Bagram, was reported based on interviews with human-rights workers and people who claimed to be former detainees.
The BBC just confirmed the site's existence:
Nine former prisoners have told the BBC that they were held in a separate building, and subjected to abuse.
If the BBC was able to interview nine former prisoners, you can be sure that there are many more. And many who almost certainly aren't former prisoners. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, who is in charge of U.S. detentions in Afghanistan, has denied the site's existence, and the U.S. military previously claimed that Bagram contains only one prison. But the BBC says the military now will look into these allegations. It might be a good idea for someone more objective to do the same. Someone such as Congress.
Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent interviewed Harward:
"All detainees under my command have access to the International [Committee of the] Red Cross." According to the ICRC, that’s been the case since August 2009 (which precedes Harward’s November arrival in Afghanistan). But how long was Tor open before detainees had ICRC access?
Jeff Kaye, a psychologist who works clinically with torture victims at San Francisco's Survivors International:
Last month, BBC reported on conditions at the main Parwan facility. The scenes as described were right out of the iconography of Guantanamo. Prisoners in handcuffs and leg shackles, "moved around in wheelchairs" with blackout goggles and headphones "to block out all sound." This was the treatment for a prison population that even the U.S. military admits is far and away not made up of serious terrorists. Meanwhile, the number held at Bagram has swelled to approximately 800 prisoners.
But we don’t know how many are in the other, "the Black Hole." We don’t know because the U.S. still insists that no second prison exists.
Think about that. If Shock Doctrine torture techniques are being used at the main facility- the facility about which there is public knowledge- what could be going on at the secret facility?
The BBC's Hilary Anderson:
In recent weeks the BBC has logged the testimonies of nine prisoners who say they had been held in the so-called "Tor Jail".
They told consistent stories of being held in isolation in cold cells where a light is on all day and night.
The men said they had been deprived of sleep by US military personnel there.
And in a separate article, Anderson recounts one former prisoner's claim:
Mirwais was watering his plants one night when American soldiers came to get him.
He is still missing half a row of teeth from the beating he says he got that night and he says he cannot hear properly in one ear.
Josh Rogin, of Foreign Policy, sets the context of Afghan "President" Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington:
One request that Karzai and friends brought to town is that the Obama team confirm and then speed up their promise to hand over control of the Bagram prison to the Afghan government. Bagram, sometimes called "Obama's Guantanamo" because of the secretive procedures use to detain and interrogate prisoners there, held 645 prisoners captured on the battlefield as of September 2009.
This, from the guy who last year threw his country into crisis by stealing an election; has been accused of endemic corruption that President Obama continually warns him to end; who so respects President Obama that not only does he not end the corruption, he effectively mocks the president's regional goals; and who even recently was reported to have threatened to join the Taliban. And now he wants control of the prison where torture already is taking place.
Marc Ambinder promotes the idea that this abuse produces valuable actionable intelligence, but he also has some details:
According to other officials, personnel at the facility are supposed to follow the Army Field Manual's guidelines for interrogations. When he took office, President Obama signed an executive order banning the Central Intelligence Agency and the military from using techniques not listed in the manual. But he has a task force studying whether the expressly manual-approved tactics are sufficient.
However, under secret authorization, the DIA interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out "restricted" interrogation techniques.
Under certain circumstances, interrogators can deprive prisoners of sleep (four hours at a time, for up to 30 days), to confuse their senses, and to keep them separate from the rest of the prison population. The Red Cross is now notified if the captives are kept at the facility for longer than two weeks.
And it gets worse:
Defense officials said that the White House is kept appraised of the methods used by interrogators at the site. The reason why the Red Cross hasn't been invited to tour it, officials said, was because the U.S. does not believe it to be a detention facility, classifying it instead as an intelligence gathering facility.
These allegations need to be thoroughly and openly investigated, and until they are, this prison should not be turned over to a man who undoubtedly will only make things worse. But this is our nation's responsibility, and if these allegations are true, they are taking place in our nation's name. Kaye offers the bottom line:
Many liberals have been in denial over the poor record of President Obama on the issue of torture and detention policies. The President began his administration with a big series of presidential orders that supposedly ended the Bush administration’s policy of torturing prisoners, and shut down the CIA’s black site prisons.
But as we know now, not all the black site prisons were shut down. Nor was the torture ended. Whether it’s beatings and forced-feedings at Guantanamo, or the kinds of torture described at Bagram, it’s obvious that torture has not been rooted out of U.S. military-intelligence operations. In fact, by way of the Obama administration’s recent approval of the Bush-era Army Field Manual on interrogations, with its infamous Appendix M, which allows for much of the kind of torture practiced at Bagram, the White House has institutionalized a level of torture that was introduced by the previous administration, but which has been studied and devised over the last fifty or sixty years.
The Shock Doctrine. Still. Today. Now.
We need full, fair, and transparent investigations. Any such abuses must be stopped. Anyone responsible for such abuses must be held accountable.