The Associated Press today ran a harrowing report on the U.S. military's treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan. Detainees are kept in secret facilities for up to nine weeks at a time, it said, and while some of the most extreme interrogation techniques of the Bush era are no longer used, prisoners are still deprived of sleep, made to undress in public, and otherwise intimidated or humiliated.
But this is far from the first news of such dark sites operating in Afghanistan, so why does the AP get to call it an "exclusive?" Because its reporter, Kimberly Dozier, finally got someone in the U.S. government to talk.
The Pentagon has previously denied operating secret jails in Afghanistan, although human rights groups and former detainees have described the facilities. U.S. military and other government officials confirmed that the detention centers exist but described them as temporary holding pens whose primary purpose is to gather intelligence.
The Pentagon also has said that detainees only stay in temporary detention sites for 14 days, unless they are extended under extraordinary circumstances. But U.S. officials told the AP that detainees can be held at the temporary jails for up to nine weeks, depending on the value of information they produce. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the program is classified.
A few other outlets have been chasing this story since at least last February. That's when Anand Gopal's lengthy article on the topic ran in The Nation, including interviews with 24 former detainees. The BBC's Hilary Andersson has also run a few stories on the secretive sites, getting former detainees as well as Red Cross officials on the record, primarily about a particularly nasty dark site near the Bagram air base.
But getting U.S. government officials to talk, even anonymously, is a real coup for Dozier. There's probably going to be a lot of explaining going on in the Pentagon and in Kabul today.