No Comment — May 17, 2010, 5:35 pm

DIA and the Black Jail at Bagram

Marc Ambinder reports that the secret prison at the periphery of Bagram is actually operated by the Defense Intelligence Agency:

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) runs a classified interrogation facility for high-value detainees inside Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan, defense and administration officials said, and prisoners there are sometimes subject to tougher interrogation methods than those used elsewhere…

It has been previously reported that the facility, beige on the outside with a green gate, was operated by members of a Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) group, allegedly outside of Hayward’s jurisdiction. But JSOC, a component command made up of highly secret special mission units and task forces, does not operate the facility. Instead, it is manned by intelligence operatives and interrogators who work for the DIA’s Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center (DCHC). They perform interrogations for a sub-unit of Task Force 714, an elite counter-terrorism brigade.

Ambinder also reports that the rough interrogation techniques used at the prison are taken from the notorious Appendix M to the Army Field Manual, which the Pentagon itself acknowledges is not compliant with the Geneva Conventions standards for prisoners of war.

So the jail is not a JSOC operation? It’s not so simple as that. Task Force 714 was headed by two successive JSOC commanders, Stanley McChrystal and then William McRaven, and it has often been tied to the blackest of the JSOC black ops. Here’s what Spencer Ackerman had to say about it in a piece posted last year:

McRaven runs a secretive detachment of Special Forces known as Task Force 714 — once commanded by McChrystal himself — that the NSC staffer described as “direct-action” units conducting “high-intensity hits.” In an email, Sholtis said that because Task Force 714 was a “special ops organization” he “can’t go into much detail on authorities, etc.” But the NSC staffer — who called McRaven “McChrystal Squared” — said Task Force 714 was organized into “small groups of Rangers going wherever the hell they want to go” in Afghanistan and operating under legal authority granted at the end of the Bush administration that President Obama has not revoked.

It’s true that JSOC relies on other branches of the vast Defense Department intelligence community for support, and I don’t doubt Ambinder’s reporting, but I still believe based on everything I have heard that this is, at its heart, a JSOC operation. Regardless, it’s time to ask Secretary Gates why he’s decided to put DIA in charge of a prison operation that looks almost identical to the one that President Obama outlawed back on January 22, 2009, and why he’s giving them free rein to employ the non-Geneva compliant techniques found in Appendix M.

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