This week the International Committee of the Red Cross confirmed the existence of a secret prison facility within the larger Bagram prison complex in Afghanistan. This followed in-depth reports by the BBC and The New York Times detailing specific allegations of abuse at the facility that some prisoners referred to as the "Black Jail." There has been speculation and reporting indicating that the prison was run by the Joint Special Operations Command, the elite of the elite of US special forces.
Today Marc Ambinder has a big scoop over at The Atlantic. According to defense and administration sources, Ambinder reports, the "classified interrogation facility for high-value detainees" is actually run by the Defense Intelligence Agency'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 writes. "Intelligence gleaned from these interrogations has often led to some of the military's highest profile captures. Usually, captives are first detained at one of at least six classified Field Interrogation Sites in Afghanistan, and then dropped off at the DIA facility -- and, when the interrogators are finished, transferred to the main prison population at the Bagram Theater Internment Facility."
The DCHC, according to Ambinder, "has absorbed staff from the the now largely disbanded Strategic Support Branch, which provided CIA-like intelligence services to ground combat units. The DCHC also performs some of the work that the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), which was accused of spying on American political groups, used to do. Many of the staff, civilian and military, as well as many contractors, previously worked with CIFA."
President Obama, upon taking office, issued an executive order requiring the CIA and military to adhere to the Army Field Manual's guidelines for interrogations. "However, under secret authorization, the DIA interrogators use methods detailed in an appendix to the Field Manual, Appendix M, which spells out "restricted" interrogation techniques," reports Ambinder:
"Under certain circumstances, interrogators can deprive prisoners of sleep (four hours at a time, for up to 30 days), to confuse their senses, and to keep them separate from the rest of the prison population. The Red Cross is now notified if the captives are kept at the facility for longer than two weeks.
"When interrogators are using Appendix M measures, the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence, Gen.James Clapper (Ret.) is the man on the hook. Detainees designated as prisoners of war cannot be subjected to Appendix M measures."
Ambinder reports that the White House is "kept appraised of the methods used by interrogators at the site." Ambinder's whole post is here. You can also follow him on Twitter: @marcambinder