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The Intelligence Factory
December 13, 2009 9:36 PM   Subscribe

A journalist tries to track down the truth about a recent terror detainee.
posted by smoke (18 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
Great story, and incredibly well written.
posted by empath at 11:22 PM on December 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


imagine how cool it would have been if harpers had the cash to keep her in pakistan for another week. sigh.

anyway yeah, not helpful to present something so fascinating to me while im trying to sleep, dangit.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:43 PM on December 13, 2009


The only thing surprising here is that the US intelligence is letting this person walk free.

The reporter, I mean.
posted by rokusan at 12:55 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


SURELY THIS
posted by JHarris at 1:51 AM on December 14, 2009


Dr Aafia Siddiqui - The Prisoner 650 may be The Gray Lady of Bagram
posted by adamvasco at 2:12 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Everyone involved seems to have a different, conflicting story. There are few points of agreement, even on the simplest things.

One thought that comes to mind is that perhaps she agreed to work for the CIA and was released, and then the relationship went sour.

That is one intensely strange story, whatever the hell is going on. I hope we can get to the bottom of it, but I have barely more faith in the Obama administration than I did in Bush's. Obama makes great speeches, but when the rubber actually hits the road, it's business as usual. I think there will be no substantive investigation on his watch, and probably never.
posted by Malor at 5:17 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


As a related aside, Obama apparently continues to operate secret prisons in Afghanistan, and is covering up for Bush-era war crimes.

From that link:
The Obama administration "has gutted the hard-fought victories in Nuremberg where lawyers and judges were often guilty of war crimes in their legal advice and opinions," Turley said. "Quite a legacy for the world’s newest Nobel Peace Prize winner."
I doubt very much if any actual truth about this matter will be forthcoming in the next 3.1 years.
posted by Malor at 5:24 AM on December 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Let me get this straight. Following the Truthout article back to its NY Times source, here's what I find.

While Mr. Obama signed an order to eliminate so-called black sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency in January, it did not also close this jail, which is run by military Special Operations forces.

Okay, so first, let's get one fact straight: The administration did shut down all the CIA's black prisons. This is not a CIA site. It's a military facility.

In August, the administration restricted the time that detainees could be held at the military jails to two weeks, changing previous Pentagon policy. In the past, the military could obtain extensions.

...So the administration has effectively been curtailing detentions at the site, by preventing prolonged detentions at the facility. (It can't be a very 'black' black prison if the population is regularly being cycled into the general detainee population or released. If they aren't holding detainees any longer than two weeks anymore, then they're not exactly holding masses of secret prisoners, are they?

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."


So of the three witnesses who've come forward on the record about this military prison, only one of them was captured since Obama became president, and all three of them say that they were not themselves physically abused during their time in the prison.


A Defense Department spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said Saturday that the military routinely sought to verify allegations of detainee abuse, and that it was looking into whether the two Afghan teenagers who spoke to The Post had been detained.

Without commenting specifically on the site at Bagram, which is still considered classified, Mr. Whitman said that the Pentagon’s policy required that all detainees in American custody in Afghanistan be treated humanely and according to United States and international law.


Two Afghan teenagers have also come forward with claims of having been beaten by guards at the site (no indication in the reports if this allegedly happened before or after the executive order banning abusive interrogation, or even if the alleged beatings happened while the teens were detainees). Officials are investigating those charges and claim the prison is now in compliance with the executive prohibitions on inhumane treatment. If that isn't true, the military officials running the place could be made to face courts martial because the intent of the executive order couldn't be more clear.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:01 AM on December 14, 2009


Fascinating, if horrifying, article; read a piece about her in the Guardian last month, which looks like it was mostly cribbed from this one. I think this is the most realistic assessment of the whole bizarre situation (from the Harper's piece):
Perhaps the most believable account came from Ali Hasan, senior South Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch, whom I visited at his home in Lahore. “My professional view,” he said, “is they’re all lying. Siddiqui’s family is lying, the husband is lying, the Pakistanis are lying, the Americans are lying, for all I know the kids are lying. And because they’re all lying the truth is probably twenty times stranger than we all know.”
The stuff about the outsourcing of intelligence gathering was interesting as well. Again, from the article:
Just as thousands of political dissidents, suspected criminals, and enemies of the state were “disappeared” from Latin America over the course of several decades of CIA-funded dirty wars, so too have hundreds of “persons of interest” around the world begun to disappear as a consequence of the global war on terror, which in many ways has become a globalized version of those earlier, regional failures of democracy.

...

The governments that did the outsourced work of U.S. intelligence agencies in previous dirty wars—in Argentina and Chile, Guatemala and Uruguay—eventually were toppled by popular protest, in large part because the people became aware that their leaders had profited from their suffering. Pakistanis today appear no less aware that this type of transaction is occurring in their country. Indeed, a recent poll found that the only nation they find more threatening than India, whose nuclear missiles point directly at them, is the United States. And they have begun to hold their leaders accountable for the association.
I think that this, maybe even more then the Iraq disaster, or even the current campaign in Afghanistan, will prove to be the most enduring and significant – not to mention toxic – legacy of the last nine years' War On Terror. The American-directed extrajuducial kidnap, disappearing, torture and (most probably) murder of ordinary citizens of a variety of Middle Eastern and Asian subcontinent countries will most likely have consequences far beyond the here and now, and the campaign's visibility to ordinary people on the street in Pakistan and elsewhere makes it a much more concrete reality than an abstracted war being waged hundreds or thousands of miles away, whether that war is "against Islam" or not.

Pakistan's already pretty factionalised and unstable, and the possibility of the government being forcibly ousted thanks to their pro-Americanism isn't zero. In a country which has nuclear weapons, and whose security service is basically a law unto itself (with historical links to the Taliban for a bonus), this is pretty fucking scary. The next half a century is going to be interesting, to say the least.
posted by Len at 7:28 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Okay, so first, let's get one fact straight: The administration did shut down all the CIA's black prisons. This is not a CIA site. It's a military facility.

We don't know any of that. We don't how many prisons they had, and we don't know whether they were closed. All we have is him saying, "trust us, they're gone". The prisons we DO know about, however, are all still open.

Remember, the CIA does one thing exceptionally well: they lie. That's their job.

So of the three witnesses who've come forward on the record about this military prison, only one of them was captured since Obama became president, and all three of them say that they were not themselves physically abused during their time in the prison.

But they could clearly hear other people being abused. Those being abused are probably still in there, and can't exactly talk about it in front of the cameras, now can they?

the Pentagon’s policy required that all detainees in American custody in Afghanistan be treated humanely and according to United States and international law.

"We don't torture", redux.

Remember, this is the same President who said that during his campaign that it was against American law and custom to hold people indefinitely, and gave us an apparently-heartfelt promise to fix the problem.

But when he actually got around to proposing a solution, it was to try to change the law to make indefinite detention legal. When Congress didn't like that idea much, he just retreated to the Bush position, that he can lock up anyone he wants, anywhere on the planet, for any reason he chooses, without bringing charges or allowing the accused to examine the evidence against him.

Oh, but it's all different now, because Obama promises that he won't be as evil.

FUCK that shit.
posted by Malor at 8:39 AM on December 14, 2009


In other words... all the positive things you just said about the Obama administration were based almost entirely on their verbal testimony, plus your imagination of what that testimony means.

The fact that they claimed to have closed down all secret CIA prisons in no way proves, or really even implies, that we no longer have secret prisons; even if they're telling the literal truth, we may have just outsourced the prisoners to new entities, possibly private ones. They may be in even worse shape now than they were then. Or we might just have killed everyone in those holding facilities to prevent inconvenient testimony.

Isn't it awfully funny that nobody held in the black prisons has come forward since Obama took office, even though we've now admitted those prisons existed? We "closed them down", so WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED TO THE PEOPLE THAT WERE IN THEM?

All we can really run on is the facts we can actually see, and what's visible has barely changed. All the flagrant violations of due process and the rule of law remain in place. We may -- MAY -- be slightly less savage in our treatment of acknowledged prisoners, but the rest of the visible structure is almost entirely unchanged.

But his speeches are so lovely. So what if the people in the black prisons have just mysteriously disappeared? He's got rhetoric, man. He can't be evil!
posted by Malor at 8:54 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


But when he actually got around to proposing a solution, it was to try to change the law to make indefinite detention legal. When Congress didn't like that idea much, he just retreated to the Bush position, that he can lock up anyone he wants, anywhere on the planet, for any reason he chooses, without bringing charges or allowing the accused to examine the evidence against him.
Which is exactly why i'm not setting a foot on US territory in the foreseeable future*.

* i'm not a terrorist, mind you, but i *may* have downloaded a copy of the anarchist cookbook from the Internets in my youth, plus i *definitely have* worked along people with muslim names.. And i don't want to be another "asset", disappeared in a "black site" somewhere, telling a bunch of scary people whatever they want to hear so i can get a few hours of sleep, or please please stop the waterboarding, of course my atheist father is a terrorist and he has a dark plan to blow up the sun.
posted by vivelame at 8:56 AM on December 14, 2009


In other words... all the positive things cynical things you just said about the Obama administration were based almost entirely on their verbal testimony, plus your imagination of what that testimony means.

funny how this works both ways. it's like a little rhetorical pocket mirror.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:59 AM on December 14, 2009


Fantastic article, the sort that makes me think print journalism is worth surviving. I love how ambiguous it is, the conclusion of "I have no idea what happened to her either". What a mess.
posted by Nelson at 9:00 AM on December 14, 2009


Attorney General Eric Holder Begins Criminal Investigation After Report Cites U.S. Torture

Now you can spin this as a weak, halfhearted effort on the part of Holder's DOJ all day and all night, and I won't complain too much, but the process hasn't concluded yet, and it's more than just a little grandiose to base claims on one's presumed fore-knowledge of outcomes that are still pending.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:10 AM on December 14, 2009


In other words... all the positive things cynical things you just said about the Obama administration were based almost entirely on observations, plus your conjecture of what that observation means.

funny how this works both ways. it's like a little rhetorical pocket mirror. giant pot of chili.
posted by fuq at 9:25 AM on December 14, 2009


...the “body armor” was a bulletproof vest for his uncle, a big-game hunter in Karachi.

What does he hunt? Lions with AK-47s?
posted by rusty at 9:38 AM on December 14, 2009


funny how this works both ways. it's like a little rhetorical pocket mirror.

No, saulgoodman. I'm basing my opinion on evidence, not testimony. What I can actually see of our intelligence and military operations is business as usual. I see few real changes. There's a couple of little bright spots, like trying a few terrorists in a real court, but nothing truly substantial. Virtually all of the claimed improvements are hidden, while all the visible things are largely unchanged. Hell, we can see his Attorney General arguing vehemently against cases that would help reveal the abuses of the prior administration.

I doubt very much that Obama would have invented this shit on his own, but he sure seems to be trying hard to keep it.

and it's more than just a little grandiose to base claims on one's presumed fore-knowledge of outcomes that are still pending.

Come on. Get real. We know there were war crimes committed by the US government; it's clear and obvious even to a layperson. We have motive, we have method, we have opportunity, and we have extremely strong evidence of the exact players involved, like that Stanford law professor, whatever the heck his name is. (was it John Wu? I'm too lazy to go look it up.) And in your evidence link just now, they're going after some flunkies, more patsies like Lynndie England.

You know how bad it was, I know bad it was, and OBAMA knows how bad it was, but the vast majority of the evidence suggests that he supports what they did.

You can listen to what he SAYS, or you can look at what he DOES. I'm a big, big proponent of actions being the best proof of real intent.

Now, I like to think that a man that can give such amazing speeches really is trying to do good. But even if his motives are the best in the world, the damage he's doing, by forever enshrining these noxious codes into our system, will outweigh anything good he'll do in his entire life.
posted by Malor at 9:51 AM on December 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


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