A very lengthy and chilling article in the New York Times describes what the US is doing at its Bagram base in Afghanistan. Currently roughly 500 inmates are held there indefinitely, without charge or trial, but unlike inmates at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without even theoretical recourse to legal advice. As many as 600 have been held there at times during the past year. Unlike Guantanamo it is rigorously closed to visitors, with the sole exception of the Red Cross. Conditions there, according to one Defense Department official quoted in the New York Times, are worse than at Guantanamo: "Anyone who has been to Bagram would tell you it's worse."
The prison at Bagram was apparently originally designed as a 'screening facility' for those who would in due course be moved elsewhere, for example to Guantanamo itself. However since the US Supreme Court ruled in June 2004 that detainees at Guantanamo could launch claims against their captivity before a US federal judge, the Pentagon has effectively ceased to add new detainees there and seems instead to have substituted Bagram because it is currently beyond the reach of the US judicial system as no cases have so far been brought before a US court in an attempt to contest such detentions.
I have been wondering what fall back options had been planned by the US Administration since the June 2004 US Supreme Court ruling, which it fought tenaciously to prevent - now we know! And let us not assume naively either that the US has ceased to 'render' (aka kidnap) alleged terrorist suspects across international frontiers to destinations unknown simply because of the PR exercise that has been mounted to counter the protests against such a practice when it was alleged to invlove European nations both in the transits and possibly in the detentions. The US Administration is almost certain to have found other ways to replace the routes through Europe theoretically (I hope!) no longer open to it.
The US must now be regarded as in some respects a rogue nation. And the really important fact about the US is that it is completely capable of doing more or less whatever it wants - unlike other 'rogue nations' such as Iran and North Korea, and whilst we may be justifiedly fearful of what they might do, the ability of these nations to ride roughshod over the interests of the whole of the rest of the world pale into insignificance when compared with the US. I have spoken before about the new Age of Authoritarianism that I fear we are entering into; well this news about the continuation and expansion of the deplorable methods the US seems to have no qualms about using to hold detainees indefinitely is just one more sinister sign of the way the world is moving.