Thursday, June 04, 2009

True Lies from Bagram

On Wednesday morning Dina Temple-Raston resurrects a very old story about one of the first senior Army interrogators at the infamous Bagram Air base in Afghanistan. Temple-Raston tells us that her guest is Christopher Mackey and that his name is "the pseudonym for a highly trained Army interrogator. He arrived in Afghanistan in December 2001 — just three months after the Sept. 11 attacks." (The pseudonym stuff is pretty silly, since Mackey is most likely Chris Hogan mentioned here and here.)

Temple-Raston opens the story with this bit of framing:
  • "Mackey....was not just a witness, but a participant in tinkering with interrogation techniques that could work against a new kind of enemy."
  • "Mackey...was taught methods more suitable for the Cold War....didn't really work with religiously motivated al-Qaida detainees....That's why Mackey and the interrogators working with him ended up having to, in his words, 'adapt.' "
The only bad thing Mackey and his team supposedly did was to develop "monstering," a technique of sleep-deprivation in which a prisoner was kept awake only as long as one interrogator could also stay awake with him. According to Temple-Raston "Mackey said the technique worked." [Mackey] "We certainly had the best results when we had to get immediate, actionable intelligence for the battlefield commander, when we engaged in this concept of monstering."

There is so much that is disturbing about NPR's delivery of this story. Not one bit of context is given as to what was happening to detainees seized and sent to Bagram during the time that Mackey was there - Dec. 2001 to August 2002.

How prisoners were seized (according to Human Rights Watch):
On a night in late July 2002, U.S. forces raided the home of Ahmed Khan, a resident of Zurmat district in Paktia province....During the raid, Ahmed Khan was arrested along with his two sons, aged 17 and 18 years.14 A local farmer died from gunfire during the arrest operation, and a woman in a neighboring house was wounded. Human Rights Watch spoke with several neighbors and other witnesses to the raid.
In late May 2002, U.S. forces raided two homes in the village of Kirmati, near Gardez city, and arrested five Afghan men, all of whom were later released and returned to Gardez. During the raid, U.S. forces reportedly used helicopters and airplanes to patrol the area and lay down suppressing fire. The raid took place in an entirely residential area, and there is no evidence that U.S. forces met any resistance.
According to HRW arrest was just the beginning, for example - the five men in the May 2002 raid were sent to Bagram. According to one of the detainees, at Bagram:
"They threw us in a room, face down. We were there for a while. Then they stood me up and led me somewhere, and then they took off my blindfold....I was the only prisoner. I was on the ground, and a man stood over me, and he had a foot on my back....They made me take off my clothes, so that I was naked. They took pictures of us, naked....A man came, and he had some plastic bag, and he ran his hands through my hair, shaking my hair. And then he pulled out some of my hair, some hair from my beard, and he put it in a bag. . . . The most awful thing about the whole experience was how they were taking our pictures, and we were completely naked. Completely naked. It was completely humiliating."
Mother Jones also reported on Mackey and Bagram back in 2005 and noted the case of Hussain Youssouf Mustafa arrested in Peshawar, Pakistan and sent to Bagram in May of 2002. Mother Jones reports:
"During his imprisonment at the compound, Mustafa estimated that he was interrogated about 25 times. Sometimes, he said, the soldiers forced him to kneel on a concrete floor with a bag over his head. Other times they woke him from sleep or interrupted him in prayer. He said he occasionally heard detainees screaming and concluded that they were being beaten. Then one day, he recalled, 'an American soldier took me blindfolded. My hands were tightly cuffed, with my ears plugged so I could not hear properly, and my mouth covered so I could only make a muffled scream. Two soldiers, one on each side, forced me to bend down, and a third pressed my face down over a table. A fourth soldier then pulled down my trousers. They rammed a stick up my rectum.' "

From Temple-Raston's report we get nothing of the extreme violence and intimidation used in rounding up detainees - and the fact that most were probably rounded up for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. We get nothing of beatings and sexual abuse and humiliation occurring at Bagram when Mackey was there. We get nothing of the lack of adequate translators and complete ignorance of cultural norms on the part of the interrogators. Yes, these were indeed a "new kind of enemy" alright.

In the report we are expected to believe Mackey's reporting of the "success" of his method's without any supporting evidence.

And we are supposed to believe that Mackey had no idea of the abuses already occurring at Bagram during his tenure there. For someone in intelligence he is awfully ignorant about things that were going on right under his nose - or he is simply lying.


Anonymous said...

Mackey is a quack.

And so is the NPR reporter.

Unlike Mackey, Matthew Alexander is a true professional and says torture is highly counter-productive:

"The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans."

Matthew Alexander led an interrogations team assigned to a Special Operations task force in Iraq in 2006.
From washington Post

Maine Owl said...

I guess Temple-Raston forgot to look into how the interrogators had learned to handle the prisoners at Bagram by late 2002. The story of the taxi driver, Mr. Dilawar, even got the New York Times briefly off the reservation in 2005. Surely a good reporter would want to have a peek at the "2,000-page confidential file of the Army's criminal investigation into the case" for context and questions for "Mackey".

gopol said...

I remember hearing this and thinking that we really must be the United States of Amnesia, as far as most NPR listeners are concerned, it seems. Does anybody remember the "American Taliban" and what happened to him?

WarOnWarOff said...

Yes, and poor Dilawar was captured at first by an Afghan warlord, who, as it turned out, was responsible for the very rocket attacks he was accused of! "Monstering" indeed.

Porter Melmoth said...

Temple-Raston is in competition with Garrels.

Thing is, one of NPR's jobs is to propagate the 'clean war' myth that is so appealing to the Homeland. Context is not acknowledged. Collective damage is not considered. Selectivity of truthoids is carefully monitored. Result: propaganda at its purest and most subtle.

Goebbels remains the king of propagandists, but he was not subtle. His successors have learned sneakier ways to infiltrate and influence.

Porter Melmoth said...

Bagram is an even better site for misconduct than under-the-microscope Gitmo. If al-Qaeda could run training camps there, if the poppy industry can flourish, just think of what the Homeland can accomplish out in this New Kind of Wild Wild West!

gopol said...

Where do these reporters come from? Mary Louise Kelly graduated from Harvard in 1993. Just in time for the Contract On America to usher in fellow Harvard grad Keven Klose as President of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, an acknowledged arm of CIA/Pentagon propaganda.

This morning Mary Louise Kelly had a piece on how Predator drone attacks are cause for guarded optimism that we may yet kill Osama Bin Laden, whom, you may recall Benazir Bhutto claimed was murdered by the double agent Omar Sheik (about 6 minutes into the interview), just before she herself was murdered. It seems that killing (rekilling?) the straw man OBL has been a preoccupation of MLK (no, not *THE* MLK) for some time. In her pursuit she has made acquaintance with a large number of CIA ops:

"The trail for bin Laden was allowed to get stone cold over seven years," says CIA veteran Bruce Riedel.

Juan Zarate, the top counterterrorism official in President Bush's White House, says, "The administration smells blood here. I think al-Qaida is on its heels."

And of course she's intimately familiar with Ullysees S. Offishalls:
"Predator attacks have killed 11 out of 20 on the Pentagon's most-wanted list along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, say U.S. officials."

Not to be left unnamed, Hank Crumpton:
"a career CIA officer who led the agency's Afghan campaign after Sept. 11. He says Predator strikes are useful on two fronts: They have disrupted terrorist attacks, and they help in the hunt for bin Laden.

'Using the Predator and other drones, it gives us an opportunity to create a great deal of uncertainty, a fear among enemy leaders. It forces them to communicate more, forces them to move more, which provides other opportunities,' he says."

It's so sickening to be invited for an inside seat on the biggest kabuki charade on the planet.

MLK ends with this classic bit of ... what's the word for it when you do the thing that you say you would never do? As in, w"e would never even suggest guarded optimism."

larry, dfh said...

Didn't hear the stupid piece, fortunately. Did they ever get around to mentioning the Gray Lady of Bagram? Or is she to be relegated to 'Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow' status? And thanks for the dirt on m.l.k. Always nice to know the agency personnel out there.

gopol said...

I had never heard of the Gray Lady of Bagram. I thought maybe it was the NYTimes Bagram version...

Mytwords said...

I'd like to move your comment on MLK and make it a post. Could you email me?

Anonymous said...

.A man came, and he had some plastic bag, and he ran his hands through my hair, shaking my hair. And then he pulled out some of my hair, some hair from my beard, and he put it in a bag. "

That may sound odd, but it is precisely what you would do if you needed DNA "evidence" to frame someone.

In other words, you plant the hair at a crime scene and then say "look, the DNA we found at the crime matches that of prisoner X".

There is no other possible reason for taking locks of hair.

If one were merely trying to obtain a DNA sample for comparison purposes, a simple swab of the mouth would suffice.

Anonymous said...

"Temple-Raston is in competition with Garrels."

No competition there.

Garrels wins hands (shackled) down.