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From Gitmo to Bagram: From Bad to Worse?

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December 2, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend’s big national security story was the continuing operation of a “black jail” at Bagram, where detainees are held for weeks in completely secret detention. Not even the Red Cross is notified about or given access to prisoners and their families, and have no idea where they are. Marcy Wheeler writes:

…I can’t help but note that this story came out just weeks after the Center for American Progress’ Ken Gude floated sending military detainees from Gitmo to Bagram. And just after two of the Administration officials focused on doing the right thing with Gitmo left the Administration.

Valtin also notes at Daily Kos that the news also came a few days before last night’s speech by President Obama announcing troop escalation in Afghanistan. And Spencer Ackerman reports that Gen. Stanley McChrystal will testify on Capitol Hill next week about the new strategy.

Rumors that a group of detainees from Guantánamo might be moved to Bagram are troubling, to say the least. The Guantánamo problem cannot be solved by moving prisoners from indefinite detention in one location to indefinite detention in another location.

The secrecy that continues to shroud the government’s detention operations at Bagram is a real problem. We still don’t know basic facts like who is held at Bagram (or this “black jail”), where they’re from, what basis the government has for holding them, their conditions of confinement, and other basic details we have sought in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request we filed last April. So far, the Defense Department refuses to release this important information. Given this avalanche of Afghanistan news from the Obama administration, it’s even more crucial that the government shine some light on its detainee policy at Bagram.

In September we filed a lawsuit to enforce our FOIA request. We’re still waiting for documents. But we do know this: to move prisoners from Guantánamo to Bagram would be a step backwards for due process and accountability. We can’t solve the Gitmo problem by creating a new one.

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