19 July 2004

An idiot's guide to starting your own prison

The New York Times today reports that 3 people from the US (Jack Idema, Ed Caravallo and Brent Bennett) are accused of running their own private jail in Afghanistan. In addition, the court accuses them of "robbing, beating and torturing their detainees." Some news writers (e.g., Nick Meo) have cast Idema as a soldier of fortune. For his part, Idema claims that he was in fact working with "a secret counterterrorist unit directly responsible to the Pentagon"--although this is denied by Afghan and American officials. 
When I read this, I'm trying my best to imagine any possible scenario in which a small group of Americans would decide that they had nothing better to do than head over to some dangerous area and open their own private jail. I mean, I'm just as much of an adventurer as the next bloke, and I can imagine tossing a knapsack on and heading off into the sunset for freewheeling fun, but would I go to Afghanistan to start my own jail. Is it just me, or is there something terribly fishy about this story? My guess is that the trio is, in fact, a CIA-backed group that has been formed to get beyond the scrutiny of governmental and civilian oversight (particularly, in the wake of Abu Ghraib), but that the group's secrecy ended up getting them in trouble since the local authorities had no idea who they were.  The lesson I think is that powerful intelligence agencies like the CIA that operate in the black are intrinsically inimical to democracy. The People, after all, cannot evaluate government actions and choose whether or not to support such actions if these actions are secret.
Black Coffee blogs the following:
Last December I wrote a very complimentary review of a book called 'Task Force Dagger: The Hunt For Bin Laden." It followed the war against the Taliban as led by several small groups of Green Berets.
It's principal author was Robin Moore, but he had two other contributors, including J.K. Idema who "is a Green Beret who fought with the Northern Alliance for ten months in Afghanistan and had extensive experience with the British SAS in the 1970s and 80s."
JB's Sanctuary provides some info on Idema's background:
According to some in SF he was never SF Qualified but was a Rigger in 11th group (A national guard SF unit that was deactivated in the early 90s). He was also involved in some shady things that got him thrown in jail. His claim to fame is finding videos by Al Qeada.

A Special Forces website also recounts some rumors, etc., about Idema.

There are related articles in the Khaleej Times Online and Aljazeera. The Liberty Forum has both an article and extensive reader comment.

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