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Entries in Central Intelligence Agency (6)


Middle East/Iran (& Beyond) Revealed: US to Expand Covert Activities (Mazzetti)

Moments before we posted Sharmine Narwani's provocative analysis, "How the US Lost the Middle East and Iran", we read this investigative report from Mark Mazzetti of The New York Times. We leave it to readers to draw conclusions:

The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

Middle East/Iran Analysis: How the US Has Lost (Narwani)

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries.

In broadening its secret activities, the United States military has also sought in recent years to break its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant American troop presence.

General Petraeus’s order is meant for small teams of American troops to fill intelligence gaps about terror organizations and other threats in the Middle East and beyond, especially emerging groups plotting attacks against the United States.

But some Pentagon officials worry that the expanded role carries risks. The authorized activities could strain relationships with friendly governments like Saudi Arabia or Yemen — which might allow the operations but be loath to acknowledge their cooperation — or incite the anger of hostile nations like Iran and Syria. Many in the military are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.

The precise operations that the directive authorizes are unclear, and what the military has done to follow through on the order is uncertain. The document, a copy of which was viewed by The New York Times, provides few details about continuing missions or intelligence-gathering operations.

Several government officials who described the impetus for the order would speak only on condition of anonymity because the document is classified. Spokesmen for the White House and the Pentagon declined to comment for this article. The Times, responding to concerns about troop safety raised by an official at United States Central Command, the military headquarters run by General Petraeus, withheld some details about how troops could be deployed in certain countries.

The seven-page directive appears to authorize specific operations in Iran, most likely to gather intelligence about the country’s nuclear program or identify dissident groups that might be useful for a future military offensive. The Obama administration insists that for the moment, it is committed to penalizing Iran for its nuclear activities only with diplomatic and economic sanctions. Nevertheless, the Pentagon has to draw up detailed war plans to be prepared in advance, in the event that President Obama ever authorizes a strike.

“The Defense Department can’t be caught flat-footed,” said one Pentagon official with knowledge of General Petraeus’s order.

The directive, the Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order, signed Sept. 30, may also have helped lay a foundation for the surge of American military activity in Yemen that began three months later.

Special Operations troops began working with Yemen’s military to try to dismantle Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, an affiliate of Osama bin Laden’s terror network based in Yemen. The Pentagon has also carried out missile strikes from Navy ships into suspected militant hideouts and plans to spend more than $155 million equipping Yemeni troops with armored vehicles, helicopters and small arms.

Officials said that many top commanders, General Petraeus among them, have advocated an expansive interpretation of the military’s role around the world, arguing that troops need to operate beyond Iraq and Afghanistan to better fight militant groups.

The order, which an official said was drafted in close coordination with Adm. Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command, calls for clandestine activities that “cannot or will not be accomplished” by conventional military operations or “interagency activities,” a reference to American spy agencies.

While the C.I.A. and the Pentagon have often been at odds over expansion of clandestine military activity, most recently over intelligence gathering by Pentagon contractors in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there does not appear to have been a significant dispute over the September order.

A spokesman for the C.I.A. declined to confirm the existence of General Petraeus’s order, but said that the spy agency and the Pentagon had a “close relationship” and generally coordinate operations in the field.

“There’s more than enough work to go around,” said the spokesman, Paul Gimigliano. “The real key is coordination. That typically works well, and if problems arise, they get settled.”

During the Bush administration, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld endorsed clandestine military operations, arguing that Special Operations troops could be as effective as traditional spies, if not more so.

Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress, although Pentagon officials have said that any significant ventures are cleared through the National Security Council. Special Operations troops have already been sent into a number of countries to carry out reconnaissance missions, including operations to gather intelligence about airstrips and bridges.

Some of Mr. Rumsfeld’s initiatives were controversial, and met with resistance by some at the State Department and C.I.A. who saw the troops as a backdoor attempt by the Pentagon to assert influence outside of war zones. In 2004, one of the first groups sent overseas was pulled out of Paraguay after killing a pistol-waving robber who had attacked them as they stepped out of a taxi.

A Pentagon order that year gave the military authority for offensive strikes in more than a dozen countries, and Special Operations troops carried them out in Syria, Pakistan and Somalia.

In contrast, General Petraeus’s September order is focused on intelligence gathering --- by American troops, foreign businesspeople, academics or others — to identify militants and provide “persistent situational awareness,” while forging ties to local indigenous groups.

US "War on Terror" Math: Guantanamo Shutdown = More Pakistan Drone Strikes

From the first days of the Obama Administration, we've how US agencies --- especially the Pentagon --- have waged a campaign to prevent the President's promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison from becoming reality. This, however, may be the most creative line....

If we close Guantanamo, we will have to kill many more people with drone strikes in Pakistan.

This week Adam Entous of Reuters posted an article, "How the White House Learned to Love the Drone", with revelations such as, "An analysis of data provided to Reuters by U.S. government sources shows that the CIA has killed around 12 times more low-level fighters than mid-to-high-level al Qaeda and Taliban leaders since the drone strikes intensified in the summer of 2008." (The article also notes that even more civilians than "fighters" --- 20 to 150% more --- also die.)

These paragraphs jump out:
Some current and former counterterrorism officials say an unintended consequence of these decisions may be that capturing wanted militants has become a less viable option. As one official said: "There is nowhere to put them."

A former U.S. intelligence official, who was involved in the process until recently, said: "I got the sense: 'What the hell do we do with this guy if we get him?' It's not the primary consideration but it has to be a consideration."

Of course, there is a boiler-plate denial from a "senior US official", who claims, "Any comment along the lines of 'there is nowhere to put captured militants' would be flat wrong. Over the past 16 months, the U.S. has worked closely with its counterterrorism partners in South Asia and around the world to capture, detain, and interrogate hundreds of militants and terrorists."

The cold fact remains that President Obama has not tolerated the drone strikes --- he has embraced and increased them.

Now to the colder political question on the other side of the world. Even though the Guantanamo shutdown = more strikes rationale is flimsy --- where is the evidence that those released from Camp X-Ray would be dashing off to Pakistan? And what of the alternatives such as actually trying these supposed terrorists in a civilian courtroom? --- that doesn't mean it will disappear.

So, under the rationale that its existence means the US won't kill quite as many people in Pakistan (even American officials say that only 39 of 500 killed by the drone strikes were "high-" or "mid-level" targets), will Guantanamo still be standing as global testimony to US justice this time next year?

Afghanistan & Pakistan Analysis: Obama on a Road to Ruin? (Englehardt)

Tom Englehardt writes for TomDispatch:

On stage, it would be farce.  In Afghanistan and Pakistan, it’s bound to play out as tragedy.

Less than two months ago, Barack Obama flew into Afghanistan for six hours -- essentially to read the riot act to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whom his ambassador had only months before termed “not an adequate strategic partner.”  Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen followed within a day to deliver his own “stern message.”

Afghanistan-Pakistan Revealed: America’s Private Spies

While still on Air Force One, National Security Adviser James Jones offered reporters a version of the tough talk Obama was bringing with him.  Karzai would later see one of Jones’s comments and find it insulting.  Brought to his attention as well would be a newspaper article that quoted an anonymous senior U.S. military official as saying of his half-brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, a reputedly corrupt powerbroker in the southern city of Kandahar: “I'd like him out of there... But there's nothing that we can do unless we can link him to the insurgency, then we can put him on the [target list] and capture and kill him."  This was tough talk indeed.

At the time, the media repeatedly pointed out that President Obama, unlike his predecessor, had consciously developed a standoffish relationship with Karzai.  Meanwhile, both named and anonymous officials regularly castigated the Afghan president in the press for stealing an election and running a hopelessly corrupt, inefficient government that had little power outside Kabul, the capital.  A previously planned Karzai visit to Washington was soon put on hold to emphasize the toughness of the new approach.

The administration was clearly intent on fighting a better version of the Afghan war with a new commander, a new plan of action, and a well-tamed Afghan president, a client head of state who would finally accept his lesser place in the greater scheme of things.  A little blunt talk, some necessary threats, and the big stick of American power and money were sure to do the trick.

Meanwhile, across the border in Pakistan, the administration was in an all-carrots mood when it came to the local military and civilian leadership --- billions of dollars of carrots, in fact.  Our top military and civilian officials had all but taken up residence in Islamabad.  By March, for instance, Admiral Mullen had already visited the country 15 times and U.S. dollars (and promises of more) were flowing in.  Meanwhile, U.S. Special Operations Forces were arriving in the country’s wild borderlands to train the Pakistani Frontier Corps and the skies were filling with CIA-directed unmanned aerial vehicles pounding those same borderlands, where the Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other insurgent groups involved in the Afghan War were located.

In Pakistan, it was said, a crucial “strategic relationship” was being carefully cultivated.  As The New York Times reported, “In March, [the Obama administration] held a high-level strategic dialogue with Pakistan’s government, which officials said went a long way toward building up trust between the two sides.”  Trust indeed.

Skip ahead to mid-May and somehow, like so many stealthy insurgents, the carrots and sticks had crossed the poorly marked, porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan heading in opposite directions.  Last week, Karzai was in Washington being given “the red carpet treatment” as part of what was termed an Obama administration “charm offensive” and a “four-day love fest.”

The president set aside a rare stretch of hours to entertain Karzai and the planeload of ministers he brought with him.  At a joint news conference, Obama insisted that “perceived tensions” between the two men had been “overstated.”  Specific orders went out from the White House to curb public criticism of the Afghan president and give him “more public respect” as “the chief U.S. partner in the war effort.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton assured Karzai of Washington’s long-term “commitment” to his country, as did Obama and Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal.  Praise was the order of the day.

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, interrupted a financial reform debate to invite Karzai onto the Senate floor where he was mobbed by senators eager to shake his hand (an honor not bestowed on a head of state since 1967).  He was once again our man in Kabul.  It was a stunning turnaround: a president almost without power in his own country had somehow tamed the commander-in-chief of the globe’s lone superpower.

Meanwhile, Clinton, who had shepherded the Afghan president on a walk through a “private enclave” in Georgetown and hosted a “glittering reception” for him, appeared on CBS’s “60 Minutes” to flay Pakistan.  In the wake of an inept failed car bombing in Times Square, she had this stern message to send to the Pakistani leadership: "We want more, we expect more... We've made it very clear that if, heaven forbid, an attack like this that we can trace back to Pakistan were to have been successful, there would be very severe consequences."  Such consequences would evidently include a halt to the flow of U.S. aid to a country in economically disastrous shape.  She also accused at least some Pakistani officials of “practically harboring” Osama bin Laden.  So much for the carrots.

According to the Washington Post, General McChrystal delivered a “similar message” to the chief of staff of the Pakistani Army.  To back up Clinton’s public threats and McChrystal’s private ones, hordes of anonymous American military and civilian officials were ready to pepper reporters with leaks about the tough love that might now be in store for Pakistan.  The same Post story, for instance, spoke of “some officials...weighing in favor of a far more muscular and unilateral U.S. policy. It would include a geographically expanded use of drone missile attacks in Pakistan and pressure for a stronger U.S. military presence there.”

According to similar accounts, “more pointed” messages were heading for key Pakistanis and “new and stiff warnings” were being issued. Americans were said to be pushing for expanded Special Operations training programs in the Pakistani tribal areas and insisting that the Pakistani military launch a major campaign in North Waziristan, the heartland of various resistance groups including, possibly, al-Qaeda.  “The element of threat” was now in the air, according to Tariq Fatemi, a former Pakistani ambassador, while in press reports you could hear rumblings about an “internal debate” in Washington that might result in more American “boots on the ground.”

Helpless Escalation

In other words, in the space of two months the Obama administration had flip-flopped when it came to who exactly was to be pressured and who reassured.  A typically anonymous “former U.S. official who advises the administration on Afghan policy” caught the moment well in a comment to The Wall Street Journal.  “This whole bending over backwards to show Karzai the red carpet,” he told journalist Peter Spiegel, “is a result of not having had a concerted strategy for how to grapple with him."

On a larger scale, the flip-flop seemed to reflect tactical and strategic incoherence --- and not just in relation to Karzai.  To all appearances, when it comes to the administration's two South Asian wars, one open, one more hidden, Obama and his top officials are flailing around.  They are evidently trying whatever comes to mind in much the manner of the oil company BP as it repeatedly fails to cap a demolished oil well 5,000 feet under the waves in the Gulf of Mexico.  In a sense, when it comes to Washington’s ability to control the situation, Pakistan and Afghanistan might as well be 5,000 feet underwater.  Like BP, Obama’s officials, military and civilian, seem to be operating in the dark, using unmanned robotic vehicles.  And as in the Gulf, after each new failure, the destruction only spreads.

For all the policy reviews and shuttling officials, the surging troops, extra private contractors, and new bases, Obama’s wars are worsening.  Lacking is any coherent regional policy or semblance of real strategy -- counterinsurgency being only a method of fighting and a set of tactics for doing so.  In place of strategic coherence there is just one knee-jerk response: escalation.  As unexpected events grip the Obama administration by the throat, its officials increasingly act as if further escalation were their only choice, their fated choice.

This response is eerily familiar.  It permeated Washington’s mentality in the Vietnam War years.  In fact, one of the strangest aspects of that war was the way America’s leaders -- including President Lyndon Johnson -- felt increasingly helpless and hopeless even as they committed themselves to further steps up the ladder of escalation.

We don’t know what the main actors in Obama’s war are feeling.  We don’t have their private documents or their secret taped conversations.  Nonetheless, it should ring a bell when, as wars devolve, the only response Washington can imagine is further escalation.

Washington Boxed In

By just about every recent account, including new reports from the independent Government Accountability Office and the Pentagon, the U.S. mission in Afghanistan is going dreadfully, even as the Taliban insurgency gains potency and expands.  This spring, preparing for his first relatively minor U.S. offensive in Marja, a Taliban-controlled area of Helmand Province, General McChrystal confidently announced that, after the insurgents were dislodged, an Afghan “government in a box” would be rolled out. From a governing point of view, however, the offensive seems to have been a fiasco.  The Taliban is now reportedly re-infiltrating the area, while the governmental apparatus in that nation-building “box” has proven next to nonexistent, corrupt, and thoroughly incompetent.

Today, according to a report by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), the local population is far more hostile to the American effort.  According to the ICOS, “61% of Afghans interviewed feel more negative about NATO forces after Operation Moshtarak than they did before the February military offensive in Marja.”

As Alissa Rubin of The New York Times summed up the situation in Afghanistan more generally:
Even as American troops clear areas of militants, they find either no government to fill the vacuum, as in Marja, or entrenched power brokers, like President Karzai's brother in Kandahar, who monopolize NATO contracts and other development projects and are resented by large portions of the population. In still other places, government officials rarely show up at work and do little to help local people, and in most places the Afghan police are incapable of providing security. Corruption, big and small, remains an overwhelming complaint.

In other words, the U.S. really doesn’t have an “adequate partner”, and this is all the more striking since the Taliban is by no stretch of the imagination a particularly popular movement of national resistance.  As in Vietnam, a counterinsurgency war lacking a genuine governmental partner is an oxymoron, not to speak of a recipe for disaster.

Not surprisingly, doubts about General McChrystal’s war plan are reportedly spreading inside the Pentagon and in Washington, even before it’s been fully launched.  The major U.S. summer “operation” --- it’s no longer being labeled an “offensive” -- in the Kandahar region already shows signs of “faltering” and its unpopularity is rising among an increasingly resistant local population.  In addition, civilian deaths from U.S. and NATO actions are distinctly on the rise and widely unsettling to Afghans.  Meanwhile, military and police forces being trained in U.S./NATO mentoring programs considered crucial to Obama’s war plans are proving remarkably hapless.

McClatchy News, for example, recently reported that the new Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), a specially trained elite force brought into the Marja area and “touted as the country's best and brightest” is, according to “U.S. military strategists[,] plagued by the same problems as Afghanistan's conventional police, who are widely considered corrupt, ineffective and inept.”  Drug use and desertions in ANCOP have been rife.

And yet, it seems as if all that American officials can come up with, in response to the failed Times Square car bombing and the “news” that the bomber was supposedly trained in Waziristan by the Pakistani Taliban, is the demand that Pakistan allow “more of a boots-on-the-ground strategy” and more American trainers into the country.  Such additional U.S. forces would serve only “as advisers and trainers, not as combat forces.”  So the mantra now goes reassuringly, but given the history of the Vietnam War, it’s a cringe-worthy demand.

In the meantime, the Obama administration has officially widened its targeting in the CIA drone war in the Pakistani borderlands to include low-level, no-name militants.  It is also ratcheting up such attacks, deeply unpopular in a country where 64% of the inhabitants, according to a recent poll, already view the United States as an "enemy" and only 9% as a “partner.”

Since the Times Square incident, the CIA has specifically been striking North Waziristan, where the Pakistani army has as yet refrained from launching operations.  The U.S., as the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill reports, has also increased its support for the Pakistani Air Force, which will only add to the wars in the skies of that country.

All of this represents escalation of the “covert” U.S. war in Pakistan.  None of it offers particular hope of success.  All of it stokes enmity and undoubtedly encourages more “lone wolf” jihadis to lash out at the U.S.  It’s a formula for blowback, but not for victory.

BP-Style Pragmatism Goes to War

One thing can be said about the Bush administration: it had a grand strategic vision to go with its wars.  Its top officials were convinced that the American military, a force they saw as unparalleled on planet Earth, would be capable of unilaterally shock-and-awing America’s enemies in what they liked to call “the arc of instability” or “the Greater Middle East” (that is, the oil heartlands of the planet).  Its two wars would bring not just Afghanistan and Iraq, but Iran and Syria to their knees, leaving Washington to impose a Pax Americana on the Middle East and Central Asia (in the process of which groups like Hamas and Hezbollah would be subdued and anti-American jihadism ended).

They couldn’t, of course, have been more wrong, something quite apparent to the Obama team.  Now, however, we have a crew in Washington who seem to have no vision, great or small, when it comes to American foreign or imperial policy, and who seem, in fact, to lack any sense of strategy at all.  What they have is a set of increasingly discredited tactics and an approach that might pass for good old American see-what-works “pragmatism,” but these days might more aptly be labeled “BP-style pragmatism.”

The vision may be long gone, but the wars live on with their own inexorable momentum.  Add into the mix American domestic politics, which could discourage any president from changing course and de-escalating a war, and you have what looks like a fatal --- and fatally expensive --- brew.

We’ve moved from Bush’s visionary disasters to Obama’s flailing wars, while the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq continue to pay the price.  If only we could close the curtain on this strange mix of farce and tragedy, but evidently we’re still stuck in act four of a five-act nightmare.

Even as our Afghan and Pakistani wars are being sucked dry of whatever meaning might remain, the momentum is in only one direction -- toward escalation.  A thousand repetitions of an al-Qaeda-must-be-destroyed mantra won’t change that one bit.  More escalation, unfortunately, is yet to come.

Afghanistan-Pakistan Revealed: America's Private Spies

During the Bush years, authors such as Jeremy Scahill and Tom Engelhardt documented how the US Department of Defense turned to private companies for intervention and occupation. The most notorious of these cases were the activities of Blackwater and the "outsourcing" of interrogation and torture to private companies at Abu Ghraib in Iraq. Beyond this was a systematic increase in the place of private firms in day-to-day military and covert operations: it has been estimated that half of the US forces in Afghanistan are employed by private concerns.

You might think, given the public declarations of the Obama Administration that it is distinct from its predecessors, that this approach would have been curtailed.

Afghanistan Analysis: Diplomatically Clinging to Guns and Counterinsurgency (Mull)

You are wrong.

On Sunday, Mark Mazzetti wrote in The New York Times:
Top military officials have continued to rely on a secret network of private spies who have produced hundreds of reports from deep inside Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to American officials and businessmen, despite concerns among some in the military about the legality of the operation.

Earlier this year, government officials admitted that the military had sent a group of former Central Intelligence Agency officers and retired Special Operations troops into the region to collect information — some of which was used to track and kill people suspected of being militants. Many portrayed it as a rogue operation that had been hastily shut down once an investigation began.

But interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials and businessmen, and an examination of government documents, tell a different a story. Not only are the networks still operating, their detailed reports on subjects like the workings of the Taliban leadership in Pakistan and the movements of enemy fighters in southern Afghanistan are also submitted almost daily to top commanders and have become an important source of intelligence.

The American military is largely prohibited from operating inside Pakistan. And under Pentagon rules, the army is not allowed to hire contractors for spying.

Earlier revelations by The Times led to an investigation of a contractor network run by Michael D. Furlong. Mazzetti updates:
A review of the program by The New York Times found that Mr. Furlong’s operatives were still providing information using the same intelligence gathering methods as before. The contractors were still being paid under a $22 million contract, the review shows, managed by Lockheed Martin and supervised by the Pentagon office in charge of special operations policy....

A senior defense official said that the Pentagon decided just recently not to renew the contract, which expires at the end of May. While the Pentagon declined to discuss the program, it appears that commanders in the field are in no rush to shut it down because some of the information has been highly valuable, particularly in protecting troops against enemy attacks.

So what's the big deal here? After all, you can always fly the flag of "protection". Well, there could be the issue of accountability:
In general, according to one American official, intelligence operatives are nervous about the notion of “private citizens running around a war zone, trying to collect intelligence that wasn’t properly vetted for operations that weren’t properly coordinated.”

And although no one seems to have considered it in the Mazzetti article, there might be some Afghans and Pakistanis --- not all of them bad guys --- who are nervous as well.

Afghanistan: Revealing the US "Black Site" Prison at Bagram (Fisher)

Max Fisher writes for The Atlantic:

In November, The New York Times and The 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.

Afghanistan Analysis: Is the “Kandahar Offensive” Crumbling? (Porter)

Now the BBC reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross has confirmed the site's existence with the military. The US official in charge of Afghanistan detention, Vice Admiral Robert Harward has denied that the prison, reportedly called the Tor Jail after the Urdu word for "black," exists. What do we know?

  • Tor Jail Conditions BBC's Hilary Andersson reports, "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." The cells are filled with a constant noise and guards regularly wake prisoners to prevent them from sleeping.

  • Tor Jail Detainee Speaks: Andersson records an account from one detainee. "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. US troops accused him of making bombs and giving the Taliban money."

  • The Sketchy Timeline: The Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman explores, "Months ago, I asked Vice Adm. Robert Harward, the chief U.S. military officer responsible for detentions operations in Afghanistan if all detainees had access to the Red Cross, and he answered, '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?"

  • Karzai Already Emphasizing Bagram: Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin notes the timing: Afghan President Hamid Karzai is in Washington to meet with Obama. "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."

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.