U.S. Prison Grows Beyond Capacity in Afghanistan : NYT

U.S. Prison Grows Beyond Capacity in Afghanistan
By TIM GOLDEN, New York Times, January 7, 2008

WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration struggles for a way to close the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a similar effort to scale down a larger and more secretive American detention center in Afghanistan has been troubled by political, legal and security problems, officials say.

The American detention center, established at the Bagram military base as a temporary screening site after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, is now teeming with some 630 prisoners — more than twice the 275 being held at Guantánamo.

The administration has spent nearly three years and more than $30 million on a plan to transfer Afghan prisoners held by the United States to a refurbished high-security detention center run by the Afghan military outside Kabul.

But almost a year after the Afghan detention center opened, American officials say it can hold only about half the prisoners they once planned to put there. As a result, the makeshift American site at Bagram will probably continue to operate with hundreds of detainees for the foreseeable future, the officials said.

Meanwhile, the treatment of some prisoners on the Bagram base has prompted a strong complaint to the Pentagon from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only outside group allowed in the detention center.

In a confidential memorandum last summer, the Red Cross said dozens of prisoners had been held incommunicado for weeks or even months in a previously undisclosed warren of isolation cells at Bagram, two American officials said. The Red Cross said the prisoners were kept from its inspectors and sometimes subjected to cruel treatment in violation of the Geneva Conventions, one of the officials said.

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