Please, No US Gulag

Back in May we learned of allegations of excessive violence in a CIA-run secret prison and about the CIA's successful move to exempt itself from any restraints on questioning methods that might apply to the armed forces. (Then we learned about the various Torture Memos, which cast doubt on whether those restraints existed….)

Just yesterday we learned about one, then another, Rumsfeld-approved 'ghost' detainee, unpersons, hidden from the Red Cross, in violation of the 4th Geneva Convention. Oh, wait, it's today now, make that 13 ghost detainees.

It remains unclear how many of CIA prisons exist, how many prisoners they hold or have held, what the casualty rate is, and whether it’s a one-way trip or if people are ever released from them. Until now I had not seen an attempt to list the military prisons either.

Thanks to a report released yesterday, we now have a start on some numbers.

In Ending Secret Detention (.pdf), Human Rights First (formerly the Lawyers' Committee for Human Rights), compile a list of the US world-wide prison empire, a list dominated by military-run camps in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Consider it a first approximation. It's still a long list:



  • Collection Center at the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram.
  • Detention facility in Kandahar (an “intermediate” site, where detainees await transport to Bagram).
  • Approximately 20 “outlying transient sites” (used to hold detainees until they may be evacuated either to Kandahar or Bagram).


Detention facilities in:

  • Asadabad*
  • Kabul*
  • Jalalabad*
  • Gardez*
  • Khost*
  • CIA interrogation facility at Bagram
  • CIA interrogation facility in Kabul (known as “the Pit”)

*These sites may be part of the approximately 20 “outlying transient sites.”



  • U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay



  • Abu Ghraib (near Baghdad)
  • Camp Cropper (near the Baghdad Airport)
  • Camp Bucca (near Basra)
  • Nine facilities under division or brigade command
    • Facilities run by military divisions:

    • 1st Infantry Division DIF (Tikrit)
    • 1st Marine Expeditionary Force DIF (Al Fallujah)
    • 1st Cavalry Division DIF (Baghdad)
    • 1st Armored Division DIF (Baghdad)
    • Multi-National Division-South East (Az Zubayr)

      Facilities run by military brigades:

    • Dayyarah West (Multi-National Brigade – North)
    • Tal Afar (Multi-National Brigade – North)
    • Al Hillah (Multi-National Division – Center South)
    • Wasit (Multi-National Division – Center South)

In addition, there are a number
of “brigade holding areas in division sectors” where detainees may be
held up to 72 hours before transfer to Division facilities.

Ashraf Camp. Ashraf Camp is a detention facility for Mujahideen-E-Khalq
(MEK), an Iraqi based organization seeking to overthrow the government
in Iran. Ashraf Camp was disclosed as a detention site for MEK
detainees in February 2004, but as of June 11, 2004, the Coalition
Press Information Center (CPIC) refused to discuss the status or
location of the MEK detainees.



  • Kohat (near the border of Afghanistan)



  • United States and United Kingdom officials deny repeated news
    reports indicating that at least some individuals are being detained on
    the British possession of Diego Garcia, including, at one time, the
    leader of the Jemaah Islamiyah, Hambali (Riduan Isamuddin).



  • Al Jafr Prison (CIA interrogation facility)



  • Naval Consolidated Brig (Charleston, South Carolina). This facility
    is where the U.S. Government is detaining at least three individuals as
    “enemy combatants”: two U.S. citizens, Jose Padilla and Yaser Hamdi, as
    well as a Qatari national residing in the United States, Ali Saleh
    Kahlah al-Marri.


  • U.S. Naval Ships: USS Bataan and USS Peleliu.

The Report — which is really excellent by the way — also takes a stab at estimating how many people are being detained in these camps. Big numbers in Iraq, Guantanamo, and several hundreds here and there as well.

The Report concludes with some sensible recommendations to the Administration, although there's not a bat's chance in hell it will adopt them:

Human Rights First … calls on the Bush Administration to take the following critical steps:

1. Disclose to Congress and the ICRC the location of all U.S.-controlled detention facilities worldwide, and provide a regular accounting of: the number of detainees, their, nationality, and the legal basis on which they are being held.

2. Order a thorough, comprehensive, and independent investigation of all U.S.– controlled detention facilities, and submit the findings of the investigation to Congress.

3. Take all necessary steps to inform the immediate families of those detained of their loved ones' capture, location, legal status, and condition of health.

4. Immediately grant the ICRC unrestricted access to all detainees being held by the United States in the course of the global “war on terrorism.”

5. Publicly reject assertions by administration lawyers that domestic and international prohibitions on torture and cruelty do not apply to the President in the exercise of his commander-in-chief authority.

6. Investigate and prosecute all those who carried out acts of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of U.S. and international law, as well as those officials who ordered, approved or tolerated these acts.

7. Publicly disclose the status of all pending investigations into allegations of mistreatment of detainees and detainee deaths in custody.

(News account of the report spotted via the Yin blog.)

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One Response to Please, No US Gulag

  1. Russ Abbott says:

    Given this information, “a few” now seems like a bit of an underestimate, but I still believe that the bad apples currently running our government don’t represent the real America.

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