“Black jail” in Afghanistan

Not under Bush. Now.
This isn’t good.

Weeks of detention without access to the Red Cross.
Windowless cells with lights that never go off.
Accusations of beatings.

Not under Bush. Now.

Up until last week, my tendency was to brush off such accusations. As long as Phil Carter was in charge of detainee affairs, I had complete confidence that the right things were being done. This week Carter quit. For “personal reasons.”

I have a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

7 thoughts on ““Black jail” in Afghanistan”

  1. If Carter was bothered enough by this to quit, why do you think that he was not bothered enough by it to come clean as to why he quit? Does merely quitting clear his conscience? Or maybe he thinks that it would be more effective to work behind the scenes; maybe he is the source of the NY Times' report.

  2. If this report is true, then one reason that Obama does not want to prosecute Bush for his war crimes may be that Obama does not want to open himself up for prosecution. Of course, Congress could impeach him, but Congress' failure to impeach Bush effectively made the President above the law, and that is unlikely to change. Our form of government has changed in fundamental ways, as the President now has not only the power to declare war (he's had that since Korea), but has the power to declare a permanent state of war that is not against a sovereign state, and to engage in any act he wishes, including indefinite imprisonment, torture, and murder, in carrying it out.

  3. "Weeks of detention without access to the Red Cross.

    Windowless cells with lights that never go off.

    Accusations of beatings."

    But enough about my office. Let's talk about the conditions of confinement in Afghanistan.

    (NB: this is just a benign, possibly lame joke, and is not intended as an apologetic after the neocon style.)

  4. The story seems thin gruel to me. Some people have been mistakenly detained. That's terrible and they should be compensated, but it's unavoidable, and orthogonal to the issue of mistreatment; that the story mushes them together to try to make a stronger case that we're doing something unlawful isn't a recommendation of the author's clarity of thought or intention. The people interviewed by the Times say they weren't beaten. They said that the experience was scary and humiliating. No doubt being held in solitary confinement and interrogated repeatedly is scary and humiliating. That doesn't make it illegal.

  5. "Mistakenly"? Do you mean that U.S. officials didn't know, or forgot, that they had left the Afghans in solitary confinement, with a light bulb on 24 hours a day, for weeks at a time? No, you can't mean that, because they interrogated them twice a day. So you must mean that it was a mistake because the prisoners were innocent. But there are two things wrong with that interpretation. First, who decided whether they were guilty or innocent? They were given no due process. Second, even if they had been found guilty after having been given due process, it was still wrong to treat them that way, and to hide it from the Red Cross. I presume that it was also illegal, though I will leave that to someone more expert than I to address that question.

  6. Henry, I should have mentioned that the article's extensive discussion of our prior misbehavior in not giving detainees' names to the Red Cross, while acknowledging in passing that this is no longer our policy, was another example of the kind of conflation that made me less inclined to find the whole thing believable, because it contributes (intentionally, obviously) to an overall sense that we are doing something wrong now even though it has no bearing on that issue.

    An article on whether the level of "due process" (if any) in this prison violates our treaty obligations or laws would be very important. This article wasn't that.

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