Hilary Anderson at BBC has been following the Bagram prison story closely. Today, she reports that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has confirmed the existence of a second prison site at Bagram. The presence of a second site has long been suspected, a prison the Afghans call Tor Prison, or the "Black" Prison.
The US military says the main prison, now called the Detention Facility in Parwan, is the only detention facility on the base.
However, it has said it will look into the abuse allegations made to the BBC.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since August 2009 US authorities have been notifying it of names of detained people in a separate structure at Bagram.
Obama Tortures, Too
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. Prisoners held at Tor, according to investigations by BBC, are tossed into cold concrete cells, where the light is kept on 24 hours. Noise machines fill their cells with constant sound, and prisoners are sleep deprived as a matter of policy, with each cell monitored by a camera, so the authorities will know when someone is falling asleep and come to wake them.
Prisoners are beaten and abused. According to BBC’s article last month, one prisoner was "made to dance to music by American soldiers every time he wanted to use the toilet."
Both the Washington Post and the New York Times reported late last year on conditions at the black-site prison, believed to be run by U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). Each of these reports noted that prisoners were subjected to abuse. One prisoner, a 42-year-old farmer named Hamidullah told the New York Times about his stay in the Tor prison, June through October 2009:
I can’t remember the number of days I spent there because it’s hard to tell days from nights in the black jail, but I think every day they came twice to ask questions.
They took me to their own room to ask the questions. They beat up other people in the black jail, but not me. But the problem was that they didn’t let me sleep. There was shouting noise so you couldn’t sleep….
The black jail was the most dangerous and fearful place. It is a place where everybody is afraid. In the black jail, they can do anything to detainees.
Together with the BBC investigation and the ICRC confirmation, we can see that the military is lying through their teeth when they claim there is no second Bagram facility, or that no abuse takes place at Bagram. (For more on Bagram and the issue of indefinite detention, see this recent diary by Jim White.)
The presence of sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, brutality, isolation and the like at the U.S. prison complex has not been a matter of protest among U.S. progressives, many of whom still support the administration of President Barack Obama. 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.
Furthermore, in a June 2009 Air Force document reported on last July, it was noted that the personnel responsible for some of the torture program deriving from the SERE schools were still allowed "psychological oversight of battlefield interrogation and detention." Are SERE psychologists involved in the Special Operations at torture at Tor and Parwan? Given the close relationship between SERE’s parent group, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, and JSOC, I think there’s a high possibility of just such involvement.
A question hangs heavily over the U.S. political scene: how long will denial exist among liberals and progressives over the persistence of an aggressive military policy and the concomitant crimes against humanity that come with it? How long will the supporters of Barack Obama maintain their studied indifference to the crimes against humanity done in their name? The shine is off this new president, and underneath it all we can discern the same old game of lies covering for crimes. Enough is enough.