Detention

The United States government has detained hundreds of thousands of people in the ten years since 9/11, both in “theaters of war” and around the world.

In Iraq, over 100,000 prisoners have passed through the American-run detention system, with prisoners not having any effective way to challenge their detention.[1][2] In the first years of the war, many detainees were processed through the notorious Abu Gharaib prison facility, which housed over 8,000 prisoners at its peak in 2004. Hidden facilities continue to be identified and do not comply with International Red Cross requests for site visits. 

In Afghanistan, the United States has operated approximately 25 detention facilities since the war began in 2001 (according to Human Rights First). In the first three years of the war, the U.S. detained 50,000 people, holding up to 11,000 at one time during the peak of the insurgency in March 2004.[3] Many sites, such as the infamous “Salt Pit” located north of Kabul’s business district, are designated by the United States as “host-nation facilities” but are reportedly financed largely by CIA funds. In August 2009, the Obama Administration informed the International Committee of the Red Cross of an already-existing second prison located at Bagram,[4] and many other reports have emerged of additional “black jails” in Afghanistan, where detainees were secretly held without the International Red Cross oversight required by the Geneva Conventions. Afghani prisoners have reportedly had no access to lawyers and have been unable to challenge the basis for their imprisonment.

Internationally, the United States has secretly stolen away suspects to other CIA-run hidden “black site” prisons or passed them to foreign countries with more lax human rights standards to be interrogated via the seizure process known as “extraordinary rendition.” Published data suggests facilities have been located in more than 28 countries.[5]  The U.S. government has never released the numbers of persons subjected to “extraordinary rendition,” but a 2007 resolution by the Council of Europe found that the CIA had operated 1,245 flights, many to locations where prisoners could face torture or mistreatment.[6]

Significant numbers of detainees in Afghanistan and Iraq have been found innocent and some were released.  However, their unjust detention and mistreatment has helped to foment mistrust towards the United States throughout the Middle East.  Anti-American sentiment will linger for another generation in the children who observed their fathers, brothers, uncles and cousins taken away by Americans without trial to meet an unknown fate.

[1] U.S. has Detained 83,000 in Anti-Terror Effort, MSNBC, Nov. 16, 2005, available at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10071594/ns/us_news-security/
[2]
 Amit R. Paley, In Iraq, ‘a Prison Full of Innocent Men,’ Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2008, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/05/AR2008120503906.html
[3]
 Final Report of the Independent Panel to Review DOD Detention Operations at 11. Aug. 24, 2004.
[4]
 Hilary Andersson, Red Cross Confirms ‘Second Jail’ at Bagram, Afghanistan, BBC News, May 11, 2010.
[5]
 Sherwood Ross, Rendition and the “Global War on Terrorism: 28 Nations Have Supported the US in the Detention and Torture of “Suspects,” Global Research, Apr. 1, 2010, available at http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=18419 (According to the report, countries with secret U.S. prisons include: Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Libya, Lithuania, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Somalia, South Africa, Thailand, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen, and Zambia.)
[6]
 EU Endorses Damning Report on CIA, BBC News Online, Feb. 14, 2007, available at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6360817.stm
[7] Paley, In Iraq, ‘a Prison Full of Innocent Men,’ Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2008, supra note ().
[8] Jackie Spinner, U.S. Prisons in Iraq Nearly Full with Rise in Insurgent Arrests, Washington Post, Jan. 21, 2005, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24875-2005Jan20.html
[9]
Paley, In Iraq, ‘a Prison Full of Innocent Men,’ Washington Post, Dec. 6, 2008, supra note ().
[10]
Jackie Spinner, U.S. Prisons in Iraq Nearly Full with Rise in Insurgent Arrests, Washington Post, Jan. 21, 2005, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A24875-2005Jan20.html
[11]
Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor, US Accused of Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships, The Guardian, Jun. 2, 2008, available at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/jun/02/usa.humanrights