Tara McKelvey

Tara McKelvey, a senior editor at the Prospect, is a research fellow at NYU School of Law's Center on Law and Security and the author of Monstering: Inside America’s Policy on Secret Interrogations and Torture in the Terror War.

Recent Articles

The Military's War on Journalists.

People in the Army have long been wary of journalists, but rarely do soldiers actually kill them. It does happen, though. David Finkel , a Pulitzer-Prize winning Washington Post reporter, describes the killings of two Reuters journalists in Baghdad in 2007 in his new book, The Good Soldiers . “The Reuters photographer and driver were carrying cameras and walking with a group of Iraqi men, some of whom appeared to be armed, when a U.S. helicopter crew mistook them for insurgents,” wrote Ann Scott Tyson in a Washington Post article about the subject. Reuters has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get documents and images of the killings from the military so they can find out more about the deaths of the two men, a staff photographer named Namir Noor-Eldeen and a driver, Saeed Chmagh . Meanwhile, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told The Washington Post : "We think the safest way to cover these operations is to be embedded with U.S. forces." It is a sobering reminder for journalists – and...

Convenient Untruths

A 9/11 Commission lawyer catalogues the deceptions that mounted in the attack's wake.

Government officials lied about 9/11. Not in a terrible, devastating way, of course -- but through various, small details that twisted the story and made it seem like they had done a better job than they really did. In The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11 , John Farmer, who served as a senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, shows how the mendacities unfolded: Officials claimed that they were surprised by the attacks on the World Trade Center but that they barely missed intercepting the American Airlines jet as it crashed into the Pentagon "at a speed of 530 miles per hour." Additionally, White House representatives said that they had known about United Airlines 93, which had taken off from Newark Liberty Airport in the morning only to be hijacked -- and that Air Force fighter jets were prepared to shoot it down if it approached Washington. At least this was the story told by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Vice President Dick Cheney, and other...

Journalists Who Paved the Way for Torture.

According to The New York Times , Osama bin Laden has apparently spoken again, addressing Americans in an audiotape in which he explains some of the reasons why Al Qaeda attacked the United States and talks about “injustices against the Muslim world.” After the 2001 attacks, President Bush began considering a new set of interrogation policies for detainees, and this month Andrew Sullivan wrote an Atlantic cover story that is “an open letter to President George W. Bush,” asking him to take responsibility for the torture and abuse of prisoners. It is worth pointing out that it was not only the president who had discussed methods of torture. Other people were also weighing the possibility: Mark Bowden wrote an October 2003 Atlantic piece, “The Dark Art of Interrogation,” in which he examined the possibility of “torture lite” such as sleep deprivation, exposure to heat and cold, and other forms of mistreatment: “Although excruciating for the victim, these tactics generally leave no...

Commando Troops Caused Death of Afghan Interpreter.

After New York Times reporter David Rohde escaped from the Taliban, Sultan M. Munadi , who had worked as an interpreter for The Times , sent him an email: “Oh my God! I’m really really happy for this great news. I’ll thank billions of times the God for this freedom.” Today, Rohde wrote Munadi's obituary. Munadi was the latest fixer/interpreter to be killed in Afghanistan, one of the scores who have died while assisting reporters in Afghanistan and Iraq. Their work is invaluable, since in both wars American soldier and journalists have entered into conflicts and countries where they do not speak the language. They rely extensively on people like Munadi to help them understand the culture and navigate their world. Munadi had been studying for a master’s degree in Germany for the past year and had come back to Afghanistan to visit his family, and he was killed in a commando raid to save him and Times reporter Stephen Farrell from the Taliban. Afghan journalists are now blaming...

Counterinsurgency in Afghanistan.

A NATO air strike in Afghanistan this morning killed at least 80 people, and demonstrates the pitfalls of the American strategy in that country. Theoretically, the U.S. is protecting civilians in an enlightened counterinsurgency campaign: As Spencer Ackerman writes in The Washington Independent , “At a Pentagon press conference, Defense Secretary Bob Gates said that he took ‘seriously’ the idea that the ‘behavior’ of U.S. troops in Afghanistan was to some degree more important than the simple size of the troop component.” Nevertheless, U.S. troops continue to kill large numbers of civilians, particularly through air strikes, and they are alienating people throughout the region and are also causing more people to take up arms and fight the U.S. troops. Meanwhile, Americans back home are getting worried about the possibility of sending more troops to Afghanistan and wondering if it is possible to succeed in such an ambitious undertaking. Ann Scott Tyson writes in The Washington Post...

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