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 LAW IN CHINA.

Chinese lawyer Xu Zhiyong , who is known for his work in defending migrant workers, has been detained by Chinese authorities, shaking up the country’s “nascent legal rights movement,” according to The New York Times . Lawyers who push for change in China have long put themselves at risk, but nevertheless the legal movement, despite its pitfalls, seemed like the most promising way to secure rights for Chinese citizens and to bring their country closer to democracy -- or at least this was the argument that American lawyers made. Last spring, I traveled with a group of journalists on a trip sponsored by the National Commission on U.S.-China Relations and met with several Chinese lawyers in a conference room with a view of downtown Beijing. It was a May afternoon, and the sky was uncharacteristically clear and blue, and we talked about the ways that they were using legal means to prod the government into cleaning up the air and the water. True, they also talked about the way that other...

MEASURING SUCCESS IN AFGHANISTAN.

It is still not clear what we are doing in Afghanistan, or why we are there, or what we hope to achieve, as shown by the fact that President Obama still does not have a credible way of measuring success in that country and that a review of the metrics is now underway, as The New York Times reports . Nevertheless, people do not seem all that bothered by it. Andrew Exum has posted an open letter to his readers, saying that support for the war has dropped off, “especially in progressive circles,” and asks readers for their views on the conflict. And yet the truth is that the war has few high-profile critics: Andrew J. Bacevich , a Boston University history professor and author of The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism , and Rory Stewart ( The Places In Between ) notwithstanding, most public intellectuals are okay with it. This is partly because there is a new person, Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal , in charge of Afghanistan, and he has brought with him a surge of...

FIGHTING THE RUSSIANS.

Americans may have been surprised by the war between Russia and Georgia, which unfolded a year ago this week, but there were early signs of trouble. In fact, the decisions that led to the war date back to 1999, wrote Quentin Peel in the Financial Times today, citing the work of Andrei Illarionov , a former economic adviser to Putin . In an essay in the recently published book The Guns of August 2008 , Illarionov described how Russians attempted to “weaken, undermine and destroy the Georgian side through non-military means” for several years, until last August when they sent in tanks. (The Russians also apparently engaged in cyberwar, striking at Georgian government websites, as I read in TheTerrorWonk Plus.) Yet long before the war broke out, Georgian leaders had been “asking for trouble,” wrote Peel. “I have never heard another leader talk to the Russian president with such a lack of respect,” said one senior Russian official, describing Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili ...

OBAMA AND SECRETS.

A recent Supreme Court filing from Obama 's lawyers included a section about the state-secrets privilege, arguing that it was rooted in the Constitution in much the same way that Bush-era lawyers had once done. The passage was not an important part of the filing itself, but it reflected the position of Obama administration lawyers and was troubling for many liberals. “On the campaign trail and in more recent statements, President Obama has indicated that he wants to limit the use of the state secrets privilege,” wrote Adam Liptak in today’s New York Times . In courtrooms, however, there has been little evidence of a new approach.” Liberals have a right to be concerned. As anyone in Washington knows, the rules change, but bureaucracies remain the same. Obama is so different from his predecessor that it is hard to imagine that he would do the kinds of things in office, yet many of the people working for him either worked for Bush or do not see the need for change. Earlier this year,...

MISSING PILOT FOUND IN IRAQ.

The body of Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher has been discovered in a grave in a remote part of Anbar province, the area where his jet went down in January 1991 at the onset of the Persian Gulf War. The story of his disappearance and the nearly two-decades long search for him captures the enduring myth of conspiracy and cover-up in this country, keeping false hope alive about his fate and -- in this case -- apparently serving the interest of a military eager to stoke enthusiasm for the second Iraq war. In late 2002, military officials announced that Speicher, who had been listed as a fatality in 1991, was actually “missing / captured.” ”Some speculated that it was part of a broader campaign inside the Pentagon to drum up support for the war,” wrote Greg Jaffe in The Washington Post . When I was in college, I wrote for a Washington City Paper editor named Jack Shafer , who is now a Slate columnist, and he told me that the world could use more conspiracy theories. Years later, he...

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