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 REAL HURT LOCKER.

Two homemade bombs went off near a sidewalk in Sadr City, reports The Times , in a series of explosions that killed at least 15 people in Iraq and engulfed one vehicle traveling in a U.S. military convoy in flames. The attack serves as a reminder that the IED, or improvised explosive devise, is one of the most horrific aspects of the war. This sort of scene is currently playing out on theater screens: The Hurt Locker , a new movie about Iraq, traces the lives of the men who are responsible for defusing the bombs. It seems super-realistic and authentic, even with its flaws (Tom Ricks on The Best Defense recommends the movie, but has pointed out quite a few of them). In truth, however, the experience of bomb-defusing in the summer of 2004, when the movie takes place, was quite different for a lot of the people who were actually involved in the undertaking. On Sunday, I interviewed a former Marine who had been a bomb-defuser in Anbar Province during that time. We were sitting at a table...

TRUTH-TELLING IN MOSCOW AND GROZNY.

Reporting on human-rights and corruption can be a treacherous business: Anna Politkovskaya , a Moscow-based journalist who wrote about Chechnya, was murdered in 2006, and last week human-rights worker Natalia Estemirova ’s body was found by the side of a highway in Ingushetia. The New York Times ’ Andrew E. Kramer , reported on the disappearance of an aspiring imam who had spoken about the abuses, underscoring the dangers of living in a land governed by Ramzan A. Kadyrov , aka “a small Stalin .” A Forbes article describes the violence and terror: There is no serious attempt to bring the killers to justice. Most ominously, when underlings involved in the killing of journalists are charged in trials that go nowhere, they turn out to have a maze of connections to the security services themselves. The people who write about sensitive issues understand the risks, just as Estemirova did when she was looking into cases of abductions in Chechnya. Last year, she explained to a reporter that in...

<i>The Hurt Locker</i> as Propaganda

For a supposedly anti-war film, Kathryn Bigelow's Hurt Locker serves as a remarkably effective military recruiting tool.

An Iraqi butcher holds a cell phone as he stands near the site of a bomb -- or an improvised explosive devise (IED), as it is known in The Hurt Locker , the critically acclaimed new movie about soldiers in Iraq. The Americans shout at the butcher to put the phone down and point their guns; he smiles and waves back, nodding his head reassuringly to show them everything is fine. Then he presses a button on the cell phone and detonates a bomb, killing one of the soldiers. From that point on, you, as viewer, sympathize with the soldiers as they travel along dangerous roads and walk through Baghdad's narrow allies, seeing all of the Iraqi men, women and children around them as potential terrorists. Just as American horror movies shifted at some point in time and invited the moviegoer to take on the point of view of the killer tracking down the victim, rather than the perspective of the victim fleeing from a psychopath, The Hurt Locker places the viewer squarely in the mindset of a soldier...

THE CIA AND AL QAEDA.

So the CIA was planning to assassinate Qaeda leaders, as we have learned in The New York Times (and in The Wall Street Journal , too). It was an ambitious program, and it seems to confirm the spirit, if not the actual findings, of a new book called Guidance on the Ruling of the Muslim Spy , written by an Al Qaeda field commander in Afghanistan and described on Secrecy News . Somehow, though, both accounts – the CIA’s own plans to carry out the assassinations of Al Qaeda leaders and the notion that Western intelligence officers are everywhere, recruiting Muslims like mad -- seem far-fetched. This is Hollywood stuff, and it is also great propaganda for Afghanistan-based terrorists. Meanwhile, in “the real world of espionage,” things were less glamorous, as T.J. Waters suggests in Class 11 , his book about the first class of CIA officers trained after 9/11. During an exercise in Alexandria, Virginia, for example, one of the CIA students walked through the Torpedo Factory on the Old Town...

OBAMA IN MOSCOW.

Russians and Americans can get along, President Obama cogently explained at the graduation ceremony for students at the New Economic School in Moscow: "The pursuit of power is no longer a zero-sum game." His words are meant to reassure Russians that their progress is being applauded, even encouraged, by people in the United States and that their success is also our gain. Cordial relations between Obama and Dimitri Medvedev -- and with Putin , too -- of course, are a welcome development. So is the new agreement to reduce the nuclear arsenal of both countries (at least in theory; Joshua Pollack looks in detail at Medvedev and Obama's joint statement on missile defense issues, showing some potential problems in the statement itself as well as in the overall agreement). There are other issues, too, such as the fact that Russia, which harbors the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, may not be the best caretaker. Some of Russia’s nuclear weapons, for example, are stored in...

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