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

First Responder

As a former U-2 spy plane pilot and war journalist, Espinoza had seen plenty of death and destruction over the years. But Hurricane Katrina, she says, was different. Two weeks after the storm hit New Orleans, she and her partner, Ellen Ratner, traveled to Mississippi to help people living in flood-damaged areas. Here, she talks about the red-state/blue-state divide, disaster relief, and obstacles faced by Gulf Coast residents trying to rebuild their lives. Where were you when the disaster happened? I'm a United Airlines pilot, and on September 1, I had a 13-hour layover in Fort Lauderdale. I was in a hotel room, and I turned on the television. I was up all night watching what was happening in New Orleans and later I had dreams about the families and kids. When I saw the images on television, I felt real shame. “These are my people. This is my country,” I thought. “How could this possibly happen?” And I felt anger. I began to feel as though our priorities in this country were wrong --...

The Unaccountables

One December night in 2003, Adel L. Nakhla, a chunky, broad-shouldered Egyptian American interpreter with a soft, almost feminine voice, went to Cell 43 in Abu Ghraib's Tier 1A. He was accompanied by Army Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., a reservist convicted in January 2005 of abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, to the cell where a former Baath Party member, A.A. (his attorney asked that his name not be used for safety reasons) was lying on a mattress. A.A. had been classified as a “high-value target” because of suspected terrorist activities. Officials had departed from custom when A.A. arrived at Abu Ghraib the month before and had not issued him an identification number. He was placed under the supervision of the OGA -- an acronym that stands for Other Government Agency but in practice means the CIA. Officially, A.A. was a “ghost detainee”; he did not exist. “Get up, you criminal. You're pretending to be asleep,” A.A. later recalled the man he recognized as Nakhla saying. Then he...

Boundary Issues

Anthony Lewis calls himself a “process man.” And these days, Lewis, the author of the bestselling Gideon's Trumpet and former Times columnist, is keenly interested in the process of presidential decision-making and what happens when presidents overstep the boundaries of their office. On a recent Tuesday, Lewis thumbs through a speech he's written on a typewriter (“I'm the last typist!” he says) in an NYU adjunct-faculty lounge and talks about “Presidential Powers,” which was the theme of last month's day-long symposium sponsored by New York University School of Law's Center on Law and Security. What role do you think Congress has played in the increase in presidential power? The fact that it's an all-Republican government is very influential. I think today it's not a function of the usual desire for power, which all people -- especially politicians -- have. With this administration, it has become a matter of philosophy. They seem to want power for power's sake. They have a whole...

A Zbig Deal

On a rainy November afternoon, Zbigniew Brzezinski, author, most recently, of The Choice: Global Nomination or Global Leadership , outlines a new Democratic strategy from his Center for Strategic and International Studies office on K Street. Some Democrats, such as Senator Joseph Biden, say they regret their decision to support the Iraq war. What do you think Democrats overall should be saying and doing? The Democrats have a responsibility vis à vis the American people: to act as an alternative and to provide a vision of a strategy that avoids the pitfalls of what the Bush administration has created. The fact of the matter is that Democrats failed to do that during the grand debate over whether or not to go to war in Iraq. To be sure, some Democrats can rationalize their decisions by saying they gave the president contingent authority, and he pushed much further and acted unilaterally. Nonetheless, the fact is Democrats, tacitly at the very least, and explicitly in some cases, went...

Picture This

It's pouring rain outside American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) staff attorney Jameel Jaffer's office on an October afternoon, making the room dark and chilly, and Jaffer holds up a legal document so a visitor can get a better look. In the document, a 23-page affidavit filed on July 28 in the U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York in Manhattan, General Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explains why releasing additional Abu Ghraib photos through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a bad idea. Yet there's little to be seen of Myers' argument on the page -- regardless of the lighting in the room. In fact, whole sections of the affidavit filed in the civil suit, ACLU v. Department of Defense -- and in particular pages 16, 17, and 18 -- are blank except for ghostly, dotted lines and the words “Redacted” and “[SEALED].” Another affidavit, filed in the federal court on the same day and signed by a former State Department deputy assistant secretary,...

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