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

A Great Escape in Somalia.

Earlier this week, a Frenchman named Marc Aubrière escaped from his kidnappers, who were members of an extremist Islamist group. He then miraculously “appeared on the streets of Mogadishu,” according to The New York Times . He sneaked past sleeping guards, walking barefoot so he would not wake them, and then managed to get free, following the example of Times reporter David Rohde . Earlier this summer , Rohde escaped from his his kidnappers, members of the Taliban who had held him in a mountainous area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Nevertheless, rumors circulated about both of those incidents -- there's been speculation as to whether or not the kidnappers were in fact paid a ransom for the release of the men, and that stories about the escapes of Aubrière and Rohde were concocted to cover up the truth. There seems to be no real evidence that a ransom was paid for either of the two men, but it is also not surprising that people have wondered about the escapes. Negotiating with...

Following the Torture Narrative.

As the CIA inspector general’s 2004 report shows, the abuse of detainees was systematic and brutal and as exacting as a lawyer’s brief: “In 2004, when Daniel B. Levin , then the acting assistant attorney general in the counsel’s office, sent a letter to the C.I.A. reauthorizing waterboarding, he dictated the terms: no more than two sessions of two hours each, per day, with both a doctor and a psychologist in attendance,” wrote Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti in The New York Times . The details about the interrogation program are chilling and reveal the extent to which government lawyers were involved in its execution. Up until now, the role of attorneys in the scandal has been well-known and -- typically for lawyers -- also well-documented. This is particularly the case since John Yoo , the author of the infamous August 2002 “torture memo,” has been publicly defending the work of the Bush administration and its interrogation program. But facts about what the lawyers actually did have...

THE 'TORTURE WORKS' ARGUMENT.

"Interrogators got results, could face charges." That is a banner headline in today’s print edition of The Washington Times , and it neatly captures the conservative argument for President Bush 's so-called enhanced interrogation program. In this version, the American officers who had waterboarded the terrorists were doing a nasty job, but somebody had to do it, and it is not fair to punish them for carrying out their patriotic duty. It would be easy to dismiss such claims as the views of right-wing ideologues, except that nearly a decade after the terrorist attacks, the argument continues to capture people’s imagination. The New York Times reports that “the interrogations obtained critical information to identify terrorists and stop potential plots,” which sounds encouraging for aspiring torturers everywhere. Yet a closer look at the information provided by the CIA reveals a more complicated story: One of the CIA reports, which was apparently released in response to the inspector...

BOMBS OVER AFGHANISTAN.

Admiral Mike Mullin , the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Sunday on NBC’s Meet the Press that, “I believe we’ve got to start to turn this thing around from a security standpoint in the next 12 to 18 months.” To that end, American commanders want more troops. Given that Afghanistan has 40,000 villages, however, the number of troops would have to be around 480,000, as Dan Ford writes . More troops will surely end up going, but in far fewer numbers than that. Meanwhile, one of the most important signs of progress in Afghanistan (and an element that is crucial to keeping the support of the American public, which, according to polls cited in The New York Times , has already started to turn against the war), is reducing the level of enemy fire and protecting civilians from the fallout. This has been one of the main goals of General Stanley A. McChrystal , the top commander in Afghanistan, and he has his work cut out for him. As Marc Garlasco , a Human Rights Watch senior...

WHEN CONTRACTORS DO THE DIRTY WORK.

For weeks, people in Washington had wondered what had shocked CIA director Leon Panetta so much that he decided to expose the exploits of a 2004 government program to assassinate high-level Al Qaeda members. As Mark Mazzetti reports in today’s New York Times , it was Blackwater USA that convinced him, since the private security contractors had been hired to assist with the operations: “Bringing outsiders into a program with lethal authority raised deep concerns about accountability in covert operations.” The fact that Panetta spoke publicly about the program has been a positive move, shedding light on the illicit work and helping to restore a more judicious approach to what Americans are doing in the world. But anyone who was in Iraq at the time that the program was being discussed could hardly be surprised by news of Blackwater's involvement. The company’s scurrilous activities in Iraq have been scrupulously chronicled by Jeremy Scahill in his book on the subject and currently on his...

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